Counterpoint consists of simultaneous contrasting melodies.
The aim of counterpoint is contrast. Counterpoint creates harmony through the interaction of two or more melodies which differ from and contrast with each other.
Counterpoint is taught in a form known as species counterpoint or strict counterpoint. There is some debate whether species counterpoint is a standalone approach to writing music or whether it is a learning tool. Whatever it is, it is still widely taught today in universities and colleges.
Species counterpoint was documented in 1725 by Johann Joseph Fux in his book Gradus Ad Parnassum. It is structured as a discourse between Aloysius, the venerable master, and Josephus, the keen young grasshopper student. The book is pithy, practical and eminently readable. Fux ends the Foreword with the resplendent phrase: I would rather be understandable than seem eloquent. Farewell, profit and be indulgent.
Would that all writers were so humble.
Species counterpoint is a graded approach to writing counterpoint. There are five species:
This section provides all the tools necessary to write counterpoint. Most of it concentrates on writing counterpoint in two parts. Multipart counterpoint is covered at the end along with some ideas for orchestration.