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Counterpoint -Guidelines to understand the technique

For all the piano students out there whose piano tutors teach them Baroque pieces, especially from Johann Sebastian Bach and their Inventions and Fugues, knowing how Counterpoint techniques works are vital for understanding what they are playing.

One of the primary devices composers have when composing pieces using Counterpoint is to use what is called "Invertible Counterpoint".

This device is often used when the main motive (a term we use with Inventions or Sinfonias) or Subjects (the terminology we use in Fugues). The main purpose of using invertible Counterpoint is to show the motive or subject in different positions; sometimes it can appear in the upper voices with other melodies underneath, or also we can have the case of the same tune in the lower voices, with the same countermelody in the upper part; this way of moving the melodies around is called "inversion", and it was widely spread in the Baroque era, although it started during the late Renaissance period, as this music did not use tonality as we know it, probably most of the students don't know it, or they are not aware because of the lack of contact with this specific musical style.

The composer has to double-check all the rules that apply to this technique before they start the exposition of any piece, as if something does not comply with the laws, it will undoubtedly have to be changed. Once that happens, it is nearly impossible to correct the notes as the way it is supposed to function in a piece that uses the contrapuntal technique is that everything is connected and dovetailed.

Just a note of warning: this device should not be confused with the contrary motion technique.

Some theorists tried to replace the term (that in truth can be slightly confusing) with "interchangeable Counterpoint" but unfortunately never came into general usage, although it is certainly more straightforward.

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