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Pitch aspects of melody

These are the rules and exceptions that could be applied regarding melodic pitch; they are available in the Set Style window when doing Free Counterpoint. These principles apply to each melodic line, independent of the other voices. In the ideal polyphony each melody is of equal value and "makes sense" on its own. In practical music it is also true that some voices will in fact be more important than others.

As with all style 'rules' in Counterpointer, each rule or exception can be turned on or off as needed to produce the desired style.

Avoid leaps greater than a fifth. This should be self-explanatory.

Except ascending 8va. The ascending octave is probably the easiest large interval to reach in singing, assuming the higher note is not out of range.

Except descending 8va. A descending octave is a little harder to sing accurately than the ascending one.

Except ascending m6th. The ascending minor sixth is the interval formed by rising from the major third of the key to the tonic (in the key of C, from E up to C). It also appears in other strong and easy to sing positions, such as (in C) between A and the F above.

Except ascending M6th. The ascending major sixth is also not a difficult interval, though it and the 7th would be unusually large skips in vocal polyphony.

Except ascending m7th. Without using notes outside the scale this interval appears only between the dominant and subdominant in a major key (G-F in key of C) or between the subtonic and submediant in a minor key (G-F in a minor). Leaps of an ascending seventh are unusual but not unknown in the style of Palestrina.

Except descending dim7th. The descending diminished 7th has a strong leading effect, since both of its tones are a half-step from notes of the probable following harmony.

Avoid leaps greater than an octave. These are not permitted in the strict style.

Some writers have permitted these exceptions to the octave rule, though they must be considered to be special effects:

Except ascending 9th.

Except ascending 10th.

An octave leap should be both preceded and followed by notes within the octave. In the interest of balance.

Avoid successive leaps. Jeppeson notes (p.86) that it is wrong to completely forbid successive leaps in the Palestrina style, though stepwise movement should predominate.

Allow if direction changes.

Allow if outlining a triad. Triadic leaps are easier to sing and more internally consistent than non triadic leap pairs.

Allow if values are a beat or more. Rules limiting leaps tend to be more strict for quicker notes.

Allow if they total less than an octave.

Limit allowed successive leaps to two

Limit allowed successive leaps to three

The following exception is useful in setting up an instrumental style:

Allow if values are a beat or more

In three notes ascending, a leap should be followed by a smaller interval; in descending the smaller should precede. For example:

Allow the contrary if values are a beat or more

Allow the contrary if the first note is offbeat

Avoid ascending leaps from accented notes "Accented" means any note that is metrically accented, such as the first of a pair of equal notes in duple time, or the first note of any measure. This is a characteristic of the Palestrina style (see Jeppeson, p. 87), who observes that in the strictest sense this applies only to short notes.

Allow if values are a beat or more.

Compensate leaps of a 4th."Compensate" means to move in the opposite direction immediately following the leap, usually by step. Example:

Not required if descending. That is, if the leap is descending.

Not required if values are a beat or more.

Compensate leaps of 5th or more. This is generally more important that compensating small leaps.

Leaps of 5th or more compensate by step only. Usually compensation by step will be more desireable.

Compensation of 5th and larger not required if values are a beat or more.

Ascending leaps of 6th or more must compensate by step only.

This allows a stricter standard for leaps greater than a fifth.

Not required if values are larger than a beat.

Avoid chromatic movement."Chromatic movement" is a term often misunderstood. It means moving by an augmented or diminished interval. Examples would be different forms of the same letter name (e.g. G to G#) or a leap of an augmented fourth (F to B). But A to Bb is not chromatic; it's a diatonic halfstep. Examples:

Allow chromatic halfstep (aug. or dim. unison). Bach and Mozart often use the chromatic halfstep, but it is not typical of the Palestrina style.

Allow ascending aug. second. Most commonly found in the minor mode between the natural sixth and the raised seventh degrees. This interval was traditionally considered exotic, and avoiding it is the reason for the "melodic" form of the minor scale.

Allow descending aug. second.

Allow diminished leap if compensated by step (except for tritone). (See below about tritones)

Allow descending dim. 7th from minor 6th degree.

Avoid outlining a tritone or diminished 5th in melody. The tritone (augmented fourth, made of three whole tones) is the famous diabolus in musica, considered harsh and difficult to sing, and strictly avoided in the Palestrina style. This includes the inverted form of the tritone, the diminished fifth. By "outlining" a tritone is meant writing any passage in which several notes fill in a tritone but change direction so that the tritone is emphasized. For example:

Avoid upper auxiliary tone (upper neighbor tone) unless note of return is longer than others and a beat or more. Jeppeson (p.124 f.) provides evidence that Palestrina often used the lower auxiliary tone, though Fux does not include it. The upper auxiliary, however, is rare in the style of Palestrina except when it precedes a longer note. Examples:

Avoid repeating a pitch consecutively (i.e. don't write D, E, E, G, etc.) Too much repetition will of course detract from melodic progression.

Allow if no more than two consecutively.

Allow two only if they're inner voices.

Allow if no more than three consecutively.

Allow three only if they're inner voices.

Allow if values are a beat or more.

Allow in case of anticipation approached from above. The anticipation is an unaccented dissonance that sounds the same pitch as the following consonance. Palestrina uses it only from above (Jeppeson, p. 94) but his contemporary Netherlanders and early Italian composers also use it from below. Examples:

Avoid consecutive pitch pairs (e.g. CDCD, DFDF) unless rhythm changes. Something like the following would be too repetitive:

Tessitura limit. Tessitura is the interval between a melody's lowest and highest notes. Non-soloist vocal music tends to have a narrow tessitura.

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