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Counterpoint: Origin and Purpose

What is Counterpoint?



Counterpoint for all piano students is something that even without knowing, they play on their programmes. The best example is Johann Sebastian Bach, the Baroque composer. He elevated this technique to its maximum expression to the extent that nobody could improve it further in hundreds of years.


Counterpoint is the technique they might be familiarized for piano teachers, but to be honest, for the majority, it is complete unknown; it remains just a word connected to the Baroque period and Bach, but that is the extent of their knowledge. Even for some musicians that have been playing for years, Counterpoint is often associated with a particular style, the Baroque period, just because of J.S.Bach. In reality, it is a compositional technique that has a vast story, and it has been used for nearly one thousand years.


Let's start from the basics, according to my definition, "the word comes from Latin "punctum contra punctum", which means "point against point". This term was coined in the beginnings of the XIV century in Europe."


It started in Medieval Europe and has extended through centuries around the globe.

This particular technique deals with the "voice leading", that's to say, the horizontal and vertical management of the musical discourse; This means that it takes care of not only the melodic part but also the vertical, which is the way melodies interact with each other, giving shape to an organic whole.


For every student that is serious about music, and especially in composition and analysis, Counterpoint is the most important technique to study as it covers every aspect: the harmonic and the melodic.


It is worth saying that harmony came second in music history, and it has its foundation in Counterpoint, making it essential and compulsory for every student to undertake.


Click on the link aforementioned to learn all about Counterpoint and the different species. A series of articles I created for WKMT Followers and students.

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