Species Counterpoint: A Study Plan
Species counterpoint is a pedagogical method that breaks the learning task into well-defined graduated stages. Species counterpoint is mostly associated with Johann Joseph Fux, who presented the five species in his Gradus Ad Parnassum (Steps to Parnassus) in 1725. Though a prominent composer of his day, Fux is now known chiefly for his book, one of the most influential teaching systems ever devised.

The student should treat the species as did young Joseph Haydn, who as Mann observes, perfectly matched Fux's description of a student "lacking means and a teacher." Haydn began with the First Species and went carefully through all the exercises recommended by Fux. What Haydn lacked was what you, dear reader, have in Counterpointer: a tireless mechanical assistant who can notice errors you might miss and will never complain about being asked to check your 2nd, 3rd or 4th revision of an exercise. This assistant will also play the music for you with your choice of instrument sounds, so with any luck you can do better than poor Haydn.

The basic principles already mentioned will be enough to get you started, though we assume that you already know how to read music, and that you have some familiarity with the concepts of interval and scale. That preparation can be received through Practica Musica if needed. You'll also find tables of rhythms, intervals and scales at the end of this section. As you work, Counterpointer will point out any errors with red marks, and if you click on an error box you'll see a more detailed explanation of what needs fixing.

We suggest that you begin with First Species and write accompaniment to Fux's cantus firmi (fixed melodies) in 2, 3, and 4 parts. Then move to Second Species, and take the remaining species in numerical order. Each exercise has a link to the instructions page for that species of counterpoint, and you can also reach those instructions through the table of contents. The exercises using generated cantus firmi are there to provide endless variety in case you tire of the same six melodies: the generated melodies may sometimes be a little quirky but will almost always be different, and can be of any length you desire.
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