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Sinfonia in A minor (3 part Invention)


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I think the counterpoint could use a lot of work. For example measure 4 where the second voice is introduced. 4ths usually need to be handled a little differently when in 2 voices, since it's considered a dissonance. Often it would be fine to have a 4th as a passing interval (often to a 3rd or a 6th, etc) but here the 4th comes up as the first interval between the two voices and that's very harsh-sounding. Also the second voice then jumps down to the octave of the first, so you get a really strange 4th -> 8th movement and then you get parallel 5ths right after, so it sounds really harsh.

 

Parallel 5ths were usually avoided because they sound quite harsh, but also because it reminds people of a much older style of counterpoint where a lot of parallel 5ths and octaves were used. There's parallel 5ths again on the beginning of measure 6 and then in measure 10 there's a 5th -> 4th movement.

 

The main idea of this kind of instrumental counterpoint is to minimize the harshness, but also to focus on certain aspects of the music itself. What do I mean by that? Well, a good rule of thumb to have when writing 3 or 4 voices like this, specially in a fugue-like piece like this, is that you want to have multiple rhythms going on simultaneously. That is to say, one voice is playing 16th notes, one is playing 8ths and one is playing 4ths, for example. This way you can avoid overloading the listener by constantly having too much going on to be really audible. This is clearly evident if you try to write 18th century counterpoint entirely in 16th notes, for example.

 

So, the more "similar" things are happening at the same time, the less focused things sound. For example measure 9 is unnecessarily busy, you could've tied the F# in the bass but also simplified the rhythm to make more emphasis on the implied harmony. Also the counterpoint itself isn't very elegant as it jumps between 5ths and octaves, making it all rather harsh even if you're trying to use contrary motion and similar motion to hide it. At the end of the day, there's only so much you can do with the voice leading if your intervals aren't up to par.

 

As for the harshness, prefer always 6ths and 3rds, then 5ths and at the end you can have your octaves. Don't ever consider 4ths acceptable intervals to use in anything but passing (and usually never on the beat of the measures.) Also, like in measure 10, remember that if a note is held on then the focus should be on the new notes played on top of it. This is why that 4th in the right hand voices is so harsh.

 

And finally, tempo. I know this may sound a little weird, but a great way to hear how the counterpoint is doing is to slow it down to half tempo and just listen to it. All the harshness is going to pop out since you will have plenty of time to hear the intervals. I think good counterpoint sounds good no matter the speed it's played at. Fast tempos tend to hide a lot of the problems, even if they're still audible, things become little smoother by virtue of things getting by so fast.

 

Anyway, keep up the good work.

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3 hours ago, SSC said:

I think the counterpoint could use a lot of work. For example measure 4 where the second voice is introduced. 4ths usually need to be handled a little differently when in 2 voices, since it's considered a dissonance. Often it would be fine to have a 4th as a passing interval (often to a 3rd or a 6th, etc) but here the 4th comes up as the first interval between the two voices and that's very harsh-sounding. Also the second voice then jumps down to the octave of the first, so you get a really strange 4th -> 8th movement and then you get parallel 5ths right after, so it sounds really harsh.

 

Parallel 5ths were usually avoided because they sound quite harsh, but also because it reminds people of a much older style of counterpoint where a lot of parallel 5ths and octaves were used. There's parallel 5ths again on the beginning of measure 6 and then in measure 10 there's a 5th -> 4th movement.

 

The main idea of this kind of instrumental counterpoint is to minimize the harshness, but also to focus on certain aspects of the music itself. What do I mean by that? Well, a good rule of thumb to have when writing 3 or 4 voices like this, specially in a fugue-like piece like this, is that you want to have multiple rhythms going on simultaneously. That is to say, one voice is playing 16th notes, one is playing 8ths and one is playing 4ths, for example. This way you can avoid overloading the listener by constantly having too much going on to be really audible. This is clearly evident if you try to write 18th century counterpoint entirely in 16th notes, for example.

 

So, the more "similar" things are happening at the same time, the less focused things sound. For example measure 9 is unnecessarily busy, you could've tied the F# in the bass but also simplified the rhythm to make more emphasis on the implied harmony. Also the counterpoint itself isn't very elegant as it jumps between 5ths and octaves, making it all rather harsh even if you're trying to use contrary motion and similar motion to hide it. At the end of the day, there's only so much you can do with the voice leading if your intervals aren't up to par.

 

As for the harshness, prefer always 6ths and 3rds, then 5ths and at the end you can have your octaves. Don't ever consider 4ths acceptable intervals to use in anything but passing (and usually never on the beat of the measures.) Also, like in measure 10, remember that if a note is held on then the focus should be on the new notes played on top of it. This is why that 4th in the right hand voices is so harsh.

 

And finally, tempo. I know this may sound a little weird, but a great way to hear how the counterpoint is doing is to slow it down to half tempo and just listen to it. All the harshness is going to pop out since you will have plenty of time to hear the intervals. I think good counterpoint sounds good no matter the speed it's played at. Fast tempos tend to hide a lot of the problems, even if they're still audible, things become little smoother by virtue of things getting by so fast.

 

Anyway, keep up the good work.

 

Thank you for the feedback! I appreciated it and I'll keep in mind what you said!

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