The Fourth Species of Counterpoint

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The fourth species features syncopation: the added voice is written in half-notes with ties across the bar lines, except where such tying would cause violation of one or more of the procedural rules (see below, 8).


  1. The intervallic requirements for the beginning are the same as those of the first, second, and third species.
  2. The first bar of the counterpoint begins with a half-rest.
  3. Main Body

  4. The counterpoint again strives for melodic fluency and equilibrium, and is therefore subject to the same rules and tendencies as the c.f.
  5. The half-note on the upbeat of each bar must be consonant with the c.f.
  6. The half-note on the downbeat may be consonant with the c.f. If consonant, it may move ahead in any manner consistent with the general rules for horizontal motion (see the c.f.)
  7. The half-note on the downbeat may, provided that it is tied to the consonance on the preceding upbeat, be dissonant with the c.f. In this case it is called a suspension. The dissonant tone must proceed downward by step to a tone consonant with the c.f. The consonant upbeat that precedes the dissonant suspension is called its preparation; the consonant upbeat that follows it is called its resolution; the dissonance is said to be prepared by the consonance that precedes it and to resolve to the consonance that follows it. The possible suspensions in the upper voice are ^2 - 1, ^4 - 3, ^7 - 6, and ^9 - 8; and in the lower voice, ^2 - 3, ^4 - 5, and ^9 - 10. The suspension ^7 - 8 in the lower counterpoint is not usable. 
  8. Two perfect consonances of the same numerical name (that is, two unisons, fifths, or octaves) must not be separated only by a dissonant suspension. Examples:
  9. Sometimes tying across the barline will produce results that violate either rule 6 or rule 7. In that case the added voice may, by exception, move ahead at the downbeat rather than tying across. This is called "breaking species." When the species is broken, the downbeat tone that is not tied to (and thus prepared by) the preceding upbeat must be consonant (see rule 6). Breaking species is a "license" that should be used only when necessary, and not more than once or twice in an exercise.
  10. The unison may occur on either the upbeat or the downbeat. (If species is broken after a unison on the upbeat, the two voices must leave the unison by contrary motion.)
  11. Tone-repetition is prohibited.
  12. Ending (Cadence)

  13. In the penultimate bar the upper counterpoint is required to have a 7 - 6 suspension and the lower counterpoint a 2 - 3 suspension. The added voice, therefore, will have a suspension that resolves to the leading tone. The last note of the added voice must be a whole-note at either the unison or 8ve of the c.f.

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Copyright © 1995 by John Rothgeb