Third species counterpoint


Audio: third species counterpoint (0:09)

Third species counterpoint
Figure: third species counterpoint

third species counterpoint plays third species counterpoint in the key of A natural minor. The upper part, the fixed melody, is sung by a soprano and the lower part, the contrapuntal melody, is played by a bassoon. The third species counterpoint figure shows the score.

Third species counterpoint extends the theme of rhythm to cover four notes in one part against one note in the other part.

Third species counterpoint rhythm is quadruple meter or 4/4 time. There are four notes in the counterpoint for every single note in the fixed melody. The first note in the contrapuntal melody always forms a consonant interval with the note in the fixed melody, which is exactly the same as in first and second species. The other three notes can form consonant or dissonant intervals.

Third species counterpoint positively encourages stepwise motion in the contrapuntal melody. You can move by step up and down to your hearts content and the resulting pattern of consonant and dissonant intervals will always be OK. Leaps up to a fifth are still allowable too, so there is plenty of scope to write an interesting melody.

Third species introduces the technique of cambiata shown in the third species counterpoint score. A cambiata occurs when the second note in a bar forms a dissonant interval and leaps by a third to a consonant interval. It is a handy trick for achieving a step turn.