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Fourth Species in Counterpoint

Fourth Species in Counterpoint

Among all the species of Counterpoint, this species is the one that all piano students can relate more as it relates to suspensions. As pianists, it is for sure you have played suspended chords. In Jazz theory, they are known as sus2 or sus4; but these beguiling chords have their origin hundreds of years ago in Renaissance Music.

What is the most appealing feature of this species? The movement of the voices in an "oblique manner." That is to say, the note that produces the dissonance is then resolved down a step to a consonance, but after you have heard the clashing with the cantus firmus (CF) so if you can imagine, the note on the cantus firmus played first and then the resolution, the feeling is always in diagonal or oblique because there is no vertical clash whatsoever with the dissonance on the strong metric position on which the CF is.

The study of Harmony and Counterpoint will give you a strong foundation either to compose music, analyse it or merely understand it when memorising long pieces of music; The latter becomes crucial when you advance in piano music, as the pieces are longer and the memorisation becomes more and more challenging. Knowing what happens in the music is a very useful advantage. All piano tutors know this for certain.

The key here is to grasp the concept of the fourth species: how to treat the dissonance (unstable interval) and at the same time creating a movement forward by producing an expectation on the listener when the dissonance is prolonged over the CF (that moment is called "the suspension") to then resolving on the consonance, but not played at the same time of the CF; this creates a movement, a feeling of permanent flow that has been used for centuries by the most famous and renowned composers in the Western world.

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