Counterpoint orchestration


Audio: counterpoint orchestration (0:16)

Counterpoint orchestration
Figure: counterpoint orchestration

counterpoint orchestration plays three part modal counterpoint by a pop band. The counterpoint orchestration figure shows the score:

  • The soprano part is played by synth strings.
  • The middle part is played by a lead guitar.
  • The bass part is played by a bass guitar, naturally.
  • The drums play a contrasting syncopated rhythm.

Counterpoint has a lot of orchestration options.

Sung counterpoint is orchestrated using SATB. Four part vocal counterpoint is invariably orchestrated as SATB. Two part counterpoint is usually orchestrated for soprano and bass. There is a lot of flexibility orchestrating three parts. In SAB and STB one of the outer parts will stand out from the other two so this is a good option to choose to achieve a contrast between the voices. SAT and ATB are smoother options as the three parts are adjacent to each other.

Instrumental counterpoint is written for all sorts of string and wind quartets and larger orchestras. Pop bands rarely perform counterpoint, although it is not too difficult to do, as counterpoint orchestration demonstrates.

Solo counterpoint is eminently suited to the piano and keyboards. The two upper parts are played by the right hand and the two lower parts by the left. It is no coincidence that many counterpoint writers are pianists and that a lot of counterpoint music is written for the piano.

Solo counterpoint is difficult to play on a guitar. It requires the skill to play fingerstyle guitar, a technique for plucking strings with the individual fingers of the playing hand, and it requires a strong fretting hand because the fingering is physically difficult. Many a guitarist will struggle to play two part counterpoint on a guitar let alone in three or four parts. Some practical suggestions are to limit the music to two parts, write within a range of two octaves so that fingering is doable, and write in a key such as G that has plenty of open strings to ease the fingering.