#1
Hi, hope everyone's doing well. You guys know that I write electronic music (my style is rather unique) and play bass. I've also been thinking about trying my hands at baroque style counterpoint. I'm curious if anyone has any tips on writing a slow melody that can be used as a Cantus firmus? I'm okay at faster melodies but slow (utilizing tons of half notes but using little 8th and 16th notes) is something new for me. Advice would be appreciated.

Sorry if this is yet another useless topic ...
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#2
I noticed with myself improvising, soloing, and writing melodies that trying to go slower showed me how much I was covering up my poor sense of melody by going fast. When you slow things down it forces you to really pay attention to what you're doing. When I started working on that I felt like I was having to almost relearn a lot of stuff. I don't really know much about formal counterpoint stuff, I've just never had the patience to learn it, but I have messed around with it some in a much looser fashion and just came up with a melody which I guess would be the cantus firmus - I didn't know that - then I just added in the other parts and tried to keep the voices separate. I'd say don't think about the counterpoint so much when writing the initial melody, just try focus on that melody and then when you add stuff in around it later you can tweak it as needed.

When writing melodies think about mood and such of course, but also pay attention to where your high notes and low notes fall, where you want the melody to indicate harmony and where it's more ambiguous. Think about tension and resolution, consonance and dissonance, accents, rhythm, and dynamics. Most of all, try to hear in your head where you want it to go next and then try to play that. Just take it a section at a time but don't be afraid to go back and change something. When you're writing something fast it's easy to ignore these things and just lay down a bunch of notes, so it really helps to slow things down and pay attention. Sometimes I find it helpful to start with something extremely simple, like an outline, and then go back and alter and add until I find something I like. Just try out different methods and ideas and keep writing melodies. Practice makes perfect! (or at least better )
#3
Counterpoint isn't necessarily slow. It's a style of writing applicable to any tempo. The exercises you get in a basic counterpoint lesson are written in whole and half notes because dissonance/consonance is the focus, and introducing rhythm makes the exercise way too complex for beginners.

Anyway, there are literally tons of books on counterpoint. You can probably find a few in your library and see what it's al about.

Remember that Counterpoint is a specific style with a specific sound, and what you study in a book is going to sound extremely traditional. It's the foundational concept for most "classical" music up til Beethoven (even though post-Baroque music is often analyzed in terms of functional tonality, which was a much later development).


A "good" cantus firmus in that context is not necessarily something that will translate directly to good sounding melody in other styles. What you need is to develop an understanding in the traditional counterpoint, and then take the broader concept to other kinds of music. Whether something is a good cantus firmus (or bass line) depends entirely on whether you can make a sensible counterpoint melody for it.
Last edited by cdgraves at Nov 4, 2015,
#4
This is a really good question Ron! And Cantus Firmus is a great place to start learning composition, because it ingrains in you the basics of melody writing. You can also use the Cantus Firmus you've written to practice species counterpoint. I'll post something to help you out when I get home later tonight.
#5
http://www.listeningarts.com/music/general_theory/species/cf.htm

I tinkered a little with this stuff but nothing really serious. Like the4thHorseman I tended to get the basic idea and stray a little bit from the rules.

Of course species counterpoint is not really about rules to write good music but about rules for learning to write music - there is a distinction. In that respect I wish I had the discipline. In practice the rules around species counterpoint are not followed but studying them can be very beneficial (at least according to some genius musicians throughout history).
Si
#6
^The thing about the counterpoint rules that people tend to over look is that the rules are NOT there to tell you how to write music. They are there to tell you how to make two melodies INDEPENDENT.

Breaking the rules of counterpoint doesn't mean the music's wrong, it just means that the melodies aren't going to be as independent as they could be.

Again, like anything, exceptions abound. But that's why counterpoint has all those silly rules.
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#7
I know species counterpoint isn't a guide to writing good music (just writing a certain style) and that counterpoint can be any speed (I've heard the cantus Firmus is generally slower than the accompaniment). I usually use tons of 8th notes in my music so it would help my melodic skills. I'm asking about how to make a slow melody that sounds good and/or a cantus firmus.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#8
http://www.listeningarts.com/music/.../species/cf.htm

Since you don't seem to want to look at the link here is the outline...

Cantus Firmus
Josephus RonaldPoe: I come to you, venerable master, in order to be introduced to the rules and principles of music. Fux, Gradus ad Parnassum (1725), 19.
A cantus firmus is a melody to which one or more contrapuntal parts are added. Since this melody is the sine qua non of a satisfying contrapuntal exercise, particular care must be taken to craft it beautifully. Here are the requirements for an effective cantus firmus:

1. The cantus firmus is traditionally written in alto clef, a member of the movable clef family known as "C" clefs. C clefs include the alto clef, the tenor clef (both still in use today), and the soprano clef. In all C clefs, middle C is located where the arms of the clef meet (example 1).

2. The cantus firmus begins and ends on the tonic of the key or the final of the mode. The penultimate note should be the note a step above the tonic or final (the second tonal or modal degree).

3. All notes are of equal length; the whole note is the traditional value.

4. Notes are usually not repeated immediately (although, in treatises of the 16th and 17th centuries, examples can be found which contradict this).

5. The range of the melody is generally limited to an octave. This range is occasionally stretched as far as a 10th. Most cantus firmi move within a much smaller range; some are confined to a 6th or even just a 5th above the tonic.

6. Only diatonic notes are used in the cantus firmus.

7. The melody consists of from eight to thirteen notes.

8. Conjunct (stepwise) movement should predominate, interspersed by three or four judiciously employed leaps.
If the leap is greater than a 3rd, it must be followed immediately by motion, preferably by step, in the opposite direction to that of the leap. This opposite conjunct motion is called "recovering the leap."

9. The melody should be conceived in terms of what can be sung easily by the average musician (example 2).

10. The following melodic intervals are permitted in the cantus firmus: major and minor 2nds, major and minor 3rds, perfect 4ths, perfect 5ths, minor 6ths (ascending only), and perfect 8ves.
There is some difference of opinion in the modern literature about the admissability of ascending major 6ths --this is largely a matter of taste and will be left to your own discretion.
All other melodic intervals are forbidden. The tritone (A4 or d5) is to be avoided, even when it is outlined through conjunct motion (example 3).
The chromatic half step (a half step between two notes with the same letter name) is not used (example 4).

11. Two successive leaps in the same direction are to be avoided, since they suggest an empty space in the line (example 5).

12. Repetition of groups of notes (a), and sequences (b), are generally forbidden (example 6).

13. The cantus firmus should have a climax on a high note, which should be melodically consonant with the first and final notes (i.e. at a distance of a major or minor 3rd, perfect 4th or 5th, major or minor 6th, perfect 8ve, or major or minor 10th). Do not repeat this climactic note, since this detracts from its commanding effect (example 7).

14. There should be a good balance between ascending and descending motion; the cantus firmus should possess a pleasing shape and should change direction several times.

As you can see, cantus firmi are highly specialized melodies. While it is easier to write a counterpoint to a given melody than it is to compose a good cantus firmus, it is important to develop a sense of what makes a melody work. Furthermore, your contrapuntal lines, which you will add to cantus firmi, share many characteristics with a cantus firmus. Therefore, you will experiment with writing your own cantus firmi, but you will also have a library of cantus firmi composed by others, to use when you begin to write your contrapuntal lines.
Si
#9
20 Tigers, Thanks for the outline. It's less that I don't want to look at the link and more that it was too wordy and needed to be a bit clearer (more beginner friendly). I wrote a brief Cantus Firmus (mostly whole note movement for 8 measures in C Major) but I'm not sure if it's any good. Should I share it?
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#11
Quote by Jet Penguin
^The thing about the counterpoint rules that people tend to over look is that the rules are NOT there to tell you how to write music. They are there to tell you how to make two melodies INDEPENDENT.

Breaking the rules of counterpoint doesn't mean the music's wrong, it just means that the melodies aren't going to be as independent as they could be.

Again, like anything, exceptions abound. But that's why counterpoint has all those silly rules.

So much this. Do not trap yourself within the rules of counterpoint, etc. You only need those when you want independence

Having said that, I find learning all the counterpoint/four part harmony concepts have helped me a lot as a musician. Even if you only write homophonic music, it will still be useful. Even that homophonic accompaniment is 50 times better when it has proper voice leading and isn't full of parallels.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Nov 12, 2015,
#12
Hmmm...pretty sure that counterpoint exercises were specifically written to teach people how to write music...could be mistaken
Si
#13
Here's my attempt at Cantus Firmus. It was originally in whole note but there seems to be a minor issue with the processing. I followed most of the rules except it's in a treble cleff and I think it's okay.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bw9vEs6SALd5bjJKVWZkek9rVXM
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#14
You need to make the file accessible.

Quote by 20Tigers
Hmmm...pretty sure that counterpoint exercises were specifically written to teach people how to write music...could be mistaken

Pretty bang on tbh.
#15
Sorry here's a mediafire link and it's just the basic midi.
https://www.mediafire.com/?116g8xx8szmwaix
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#16
You could have just posted a pdf of the score? Now I have to download the MIDI, import it to Sibelius before I can even look at it. Making stuff annoying for people is a great way for them NOT to help you.
#18
Sorry GoldenGuitar, I thought the best way for people to judge a melody was for them to listen. It'd be kinda hard for me to convert it to PDF now (I'd might as well recompose it at that point). Next time I'll remember to get a zip with both the midi and PDF in it. Since it's just a short melody (only 8 bars total), it would be very stupid to upload it to Soundcloud (I also like to get things at least somewhat ready before I upload them there anyway).

jazz_rock_feel, what is it (my Cantus Firmus couldn't have been that bad)?
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#19
It's the best thing by you I've heard so far.

Now, write a countermelody (or 3, of which 1 is the bass line. ONLY ONE. JUST_ONE_GODDAMN_BASS_LINE_OKAY?!?!! DO YOU HEAR ME?) to it or try to harmonize it with chords.
#21
This is more about learning the rules, not writing something that sounds good. It's quite common to learn counterpoint on paper only.

EDIT: Look at rule 8, for starters.
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Last edited by rockingamer2 at Nov 14, 2015,
#22
If I remember the rules correctly, the second note and you penultimate note should be a diatonic step above of below your starting note. It's been years since I've done Cantus Firnus, so check up on the rules first.
#23
Quote by GoldenGuitar at #33683038
If I remember the rules correctly, the second note and you penultimate note should be a diatonic step above of below your starting note. It's been years since I've done Cantus Firnus, so check up on the rules first.

Half-right:
Quote by Fux via 20T
2. The cantus firmus begins and ends on the tonic of the key or the final of the mode. The penultimate note should be the note a step above the tonic or final (the second tonal or modal degree).


Agreed with rockingamer2, though: F-C followed by a B below C is a party foul by rule 8. Go the opposite way.
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Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
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you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#25
Eliontasokas, I heard your harmonization and it's ... really good (I like it). It sounds like the theme for a court jester in an RPG. I was originally intended this for either a tribute to cartoon sorcerers or Luxord from Kingdom Hearts 2. I'd like some tips on what you did and stuff like that.

Also I never said my cantus firmus was proper/good (this was my first attempt at one after all) ...
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#26
That F-C-B also outlines a tritone which is forbidden. You could avoid the tritone outline by either changing the B to something else (for example D) or continuing from B to A. Or you could change the F to something else or add a G before the F.

The melody changing direction after a leap is a "soft rule", not a "hard rule". So it's not 100% forbidden to continue to the same direction, it's just a thing you want to avoid. (Though it may also have to do with how big the leap is, I'm not sure...)


I also noticed that your melody is quite sequence-ish. I mean the C-E D-F - that's a sequence. Same with C-B D-C. You want to avoid that (see rule #12 in 20T's post). Not 100% forbidden, but something you want to avoid.


These rules of course only apply if you are writing a CF. If you just want to write a good melody, it doesn't need to follow any rules. If it sounds good, it is good. But it is not necessarily a good CF.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Nov 15, 2015,
#27
Quote by RonaldPoe
Eliontasokas, I heard your harmonization and it's ... really good (I like it). It sounds like the theme for a court jester in an RPG. I was originally intended this for either a tribute to cartoon sorcerers or Luxord from Kingdom Hearts 2. I'd like some tips on what you did and stuff like that.

Also I never said my cantus firmus was proper/good (this was my first attempt at one after all) ...

Every exercise in the Fux book and harmonized tons of Bach chorales (given the harmony aka. chords in either roman numerals or figured bass)

The rest I figured out by ear and common sense.

I had a program called "Counterpointer" telling me about my mistakes, though. That helped A LOT.

(I improved it, btw. I think it has a better sense of polyphony between the clarinet and oboe now)

------------------

Mind you, the species counterpoint exercises will sound nothing like my example. My example is 100% tonal harmony based and the species counterpoint exercises are not.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Nov 15, 2015,
#28
Got any good links or tips that might help me understand this better. I'd lke to try and harmonize a melody the way you did my mediocre Cantus Firmus.

Know any good Cantus Firmus that I could study?
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).