Counterpoint in modern music

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moggadeet
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Post 27 Oct 2019

Hi everyone,

I am looking forward to improve my composition techniques, but no music school will take me in :lol: I am looking at counterpoint in particular these days: can anyone recommend an introductory book on the topic?

Thanks in advance!

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BRIGGS
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Post 27 Oct 2019

Counterpoint is where the magic happens! Sorry, I can't recommend a book. I study counterpoint by experimentation and online articles. Mostly experimentation. :puf_smile:
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guitfnky
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Post 27 Oct 2019

yeah, experimentation is where it’s at. not just for counterpoint, but for anything musical. one thing I love to do is start with something super simple, like a guitar line with two or three sparse single notes, and then pick another instrument/sound to play another few notes off that. maybe do it more, and you can get some really interesting stuff, often resulting in lots of unexpected points/counterpoints.

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selig
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Post 27 Oct 2019

Sounds more like you want arranging/orchestrating techniques, no? Composing doesn't take any training, you either have good ideas for melodies or you don't. Sure, you can refine technique, and you can learn techniques. But being "creative" is difficult to teach IMO!

I was fully convinced that music theory was all I needed to know in order to learn to compose. But I found theory actually made it more difficult to compose, because I kept looking for a "rule" to tell me what note or chord should come next. And that just shut down all creativity for me - maybe it would be different for others.

So what I did was started over with composing, and just recorded what I felt. From there you can use theory to create harmonies (but sometimes it's better to just "hear" stuff, or just try stuff until you find something that works). Counterpoint has rules too, but you don't need to know them to just start trying stuff and learning how different approaches make you feel.

IMO, what's important about composition is learning how to express your feelings, and how to make your listener "feel" something when listening to your music. No music school can teach how to do this, in my experience!
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moggadeet
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Post 28 Oct 2019

Thanks for your thoughts on the topic :puf_smile:

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guitfnky
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Post 28 Oct 2019

selig wrote:
27 Oct 2019
Sounds more like you want arranging/orchestrating techniques, no? Composing doesn't take any training, you either have good ideas for melodies or you don't. Sure, you can refine technique, and you can learn techniques. But being "creative" is difficult to teach IMO!

I was fully convinced that music theory was all I needed to know in order to learn to compose. But I found theory actually made it more difficult to compose, because I kept looking for a "rule" to tell me what note or chord should come next. And that just shut down all creativity for me - maybe it would be different for others.

So what I did was started over with composing, and just recorded what I felt. From there you can use theory to create harmonies (but sometimes it's better to just "hear" stuff, or just try stuff until you find something that works). Counterpoint has rules too, but you don't need to know them to just start trying stuff and learning how different approaches make you feel.

IMO, what's important about composition is learning how to express your feelings, and how to make your listener "feel" something when listening to your music. No music school can teach how to do this, in my experience!
I vehemently disagree with the thought that creativity is hard to teach. it’s something I’ve been thinking about for 20+ years now, and it’s something that *doesn’t* get taught, but that may be because it’s ridiculously easy/unnecessary to teach. want to be creative? be curious, and experiment.

that’s literally it.

I’ve met so many people who’ve told me “I’m not creative. I could never do that.” I want to shake them and tell them they’re lying to themselves. 😆

creativity isn’t something only certain people have access to. creativity is an action—a choice.

it’s a lot like saying “basketball is hard to teach,” based ok knowing that someone’s probably not going to be very good the first time they play. once you have a fundamental understanding of the game, you either play it, or you don’t. whether you’re good or not is irrelevant. creativity is the same way, except the only fundamental rule you need to know is that you must end up with something that wasn’t there before (and it doesn’t even have to be tangible—even thoughts count!).

either you do it, or you don’t.

teaching how to create “good” art (or be a good basketball player) is a different question, since that’s subjective, but if you know that creation is an action, and you know what you like, even that becomes easy (from the individual creator’s perspective).

kinkujin
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Post 28 Oct 2019

To get started with counterpoint listen to alot of Bach. If you are into notation and music theory you can literally spend a lifetime with this topic and Bach. Anyhow, if you search for Bach/Counterpoint you'll find many resources. Best of luck with your study!

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Reasonable man
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Post 28 Oct 2019

moggadeet wrote:
27 Oct 2019
Hi everyone,

I am looking forward to improve my composition techniques, but no music school will take me in :lol: I am looking at counterpoint in particular these days: can anyone recommend an introductory book on the topic?

Thanks in advance!
Rick Beato's youtube channel. He also has a book i believe. Pretty sure he woud have covered the niche topic of counterpoint at some stage. If not im pretty sure if you sent him an email he would specifically do a video for you on that subject (he must be running out of topics to cover by now!)
Rick is bang on the money ...can't say a bad word about him tbf

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Chizmata
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Post 28 Oct 2019

guitfnky wrote:
28 Oct 2019
teaching how to create “good” art (or be a good basketball player) is a different question, since that’s subjective
on that id like to add: if you create a piece that you appreciate yourself in any form, you know its theoretically also appreciable for other human beings, since you are one of those too - and therefore the piece has the potential be considered "good art". it does also have that potential if you dont appreciate it in any way at all, because other people might have other preferences or highlight elements you arent even aware of, but you wouldnt have any guarantees for that.
Last edited by Chizmata on 28 Oct 2019, edited 1 time in total.

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guitfnky
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Post 28 Oct 2019

Chizmata wrote:
28 Oct 2019
guitfnky wrote:
28 Oct 2019
teaching how to create “good” art (or be a good basketball player) is a different question, since that’s subjective
on that id like to add: if you create a piece that you appreciate yourself in any form, you know its theoretically also appreciable for other human beings, since you are one of those too - and therefore the piece has the potential be considered "good art". it does also have that potential if you dont appreciate it in any way at all, because other people might have other preferences or highlight elements you arent even aware of, but you wouldnt have any guarantees for that.
I couldn’t agree with that more. this goes right to the heart of the “is it possible for music to be objectively bad?” thread from a couple of weeks ago, and is why the answer to that question is objectively “no”. :)

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Noplan
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Post 28 Oct 2019

guitfnky wrote:
28 Oct 2019


I vehemently disagree with the thought that creativity is hard to teach. it’s something I’ve been thinking about for 20+ years now, and it’s something that *doesn’t* get taught, but that may be because it’s ridiculously easy/unnecessary to teach. want to be creative? be curious, and experiment.
I agree with you both. Creativity is simply the ability to combine what you have learned to create something new. Music theory is really only a small part of it. A helpful tool to express your own creativity in a culture. In this sense, it is learning, but at the same time you can not teach one's personal creativity, because each person makes their own individual experiences in life. There really needs to be only the enthusiasm for abstractly combining knowledge and experience. And that is always a personal thing.

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ravisoni
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Post 29 Oct 2019

guitfnky wrote:
28 Oct 2019


I vehemently disagree with the thought that creativity is hard to teach. it’s something I’ve been thinking about for 20+ years now, and it’s something that *doesn’t* get taught, but that may be because it’s ridiculously easy/unnecessary to teach. want to be creative? be curious, and experiment.

that’s literally it.
I'm sure creativity increases just by experimenting and such (certainly happened with me with my percussive projects and mixing techniques) but I've been 12 years into making music and I still can't make a melody that sounds good or catchy for even 4 bars. I wonder if there are certain things you just can't be that creative at. I'm trying to learn music theory (Selig, don't roll your eyes, haha), learn a melody instrument and just practice covers of my favorite songs to perhaps comprehend the existing creativity and understand what about it makes it sounds appealing.
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guitfnky
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Post 29 Oct 2019

ravisoni wrote:
29 Oct 2019
guitfnky wrote:
28 Oct 2019


I vehemently disagree with the thought that creativity is hard to teach. it’s something I’ve been thinking about for 20+ years now, and it’s something that *doesn’t* get taught, but that may be because it’s ridiculously easy/unnecessary to teach. want to be creative? be curious, and experiment.

that’s literally it.
I'm sure creativity increases just by experimenting and such (certainly happened with me with my percussive projects and mixing techniques) but I've been 12 years into making music and I still can't make a melody that sounds good or catchy for even 4 bars. I wonder if there are certain things you just can't be that creative at. I'm trying to learn music theory (Selig, don't roll your eyes, haha), learn a melody instrument and just practice covers of my favorite songs to perhaps comprehend the existing creativity and understand what about it makes it sounds appealing.
you’re conflating creativity with subjective quality. you may not like what you’re hearing, but that doesn’t mean you’re not being creative.

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selig
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Post 30 Oct 2019

guitfnky wrote:
28 Oct 2019


I vehemently disagree with the thought that creativity is hard to teach. it’s something I’ve been thinking about for 20+ years now, and it’s something that *doesn’t* get taught, but that may be because it’s ridiculously easy/unnecessary to teach. want to be creative? be curious, and experiment.

that’s literally it.
Maybe we're defining "creativity" differently. This is just what I've observed working with creative people (and trying to be one myself) in my life. And I'm also seeing this from a professional angle - a creative professional is what I'm talking about, if that makes any difference.

I didn't mean to imply creativity cannot be cultivated - but if you don't have the concept in your DNA, it's difficult to bring it out and enhance it. What most folks teach (what they call creativity) is ways to work around creative blocks, and techniques for finishing projects on a deadline when creativity is nowhere to be found. These are valuable techniques, but they are not "creativity".

Voice is another example - all the voice lessons in the world won't make me a singer. Just not gonna happen. I CAN improve in some areas, but I simply don't have the foundation to build on to become a successful singer.

So yea, creativity can be cultivated, but you can't grow a plant from a rock - you need a proper seed, and the seed you start with determines the plant you get in the end. We don't all start out in life with the same "seeds", that's all I'm saying.


So yea, counterpoint: to the OP, do you have examples of counterpoint you would like to learn?
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guitfnky
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Post 30 Oct 2019

selig wrote:
30 Oct 2019
guitfnky wrote:
28 Oct 2019


I vehemently disagree with the thought that creativity is hard to teach. it’s something I’ve been thinking about for 20+ years now, and it’s something that *doesn’t* get taught, but that may be because it’s ridiculously easy/unnecessary to teach. want to be creative? be curious, and experiment.

that’s literally it.
Maybe we're defining "creativity" differently. This is just what I've observed working with creative people (and trying to be one myself) in my life. And I'm also seeing this from a professional angle - a creative professional is what I'm talking about, if that makes any difference.

So yea, creativity can be cultivated, but you can't grow a plant from a rock - you need a proper seed, and the seed you start with determines the plant you get in the end. We don't all start out in life with the same "seeds", that's all I'm saying.
in that case, I'd argue that you're not talking about creativity--you're talking about quality and productivity.
selig wrote:
30 Oct 2019
I didn't mean to imply creativity cannot be cultivated - but if you don't have the concept in your DNA, it's difficult to bring it out and enhance it. What most folks teach (what they call creativity) is ways to work around creative blocks, and techniques for finishing projects on a deadline when creativity is nowhere to be found. These are valuable techniques, but they are not "creativity".
if we're talking about quality, your seed example makes sense, insofar as each person's capacity for quality is different. still though, like any endeavor, one's ability increases with practice. quality is relative. ideally, it shouldn't be seen as relative to what everyone else is doing, but relative to what the creative individual has done in the past.

"I can't be creative" is defeatist. these people have written off the thought of practicing at it, and will likely not get much better at it as a result.

"I'm having trouble being creative" is different. that's what the OP seems to be asking about (obviously specifically around the subject of counterpoint).

therefore, the only roadblock to enhancing one's creativity is a lack of willingness to do so (unless you've already reached your 'creative cap', if you will).

and of course technique <> creativity. you use techniques to achieve creativity, but obviously they are not the same thing.
selig wrote:
30 Oct 2019
Voice is another example - all the voice lessons in the world won't make me a singer. Just not gonna happen. I CAN improve in some areas, but I simply don't have the foundation to build on to become a successful singer.
again, this conflates an action (singing) with being good at that action (becoming a successful singer). the only thing you need to do to be a singer is to sing.

the problem with looking at creativity through a 'professional' lens is that you're forced to start thinking in terms of quality right off the bat. if you don't feel comfortable with your level of musical creativity, for example, thinking about getting into music production thinking about it from a professional perspective is likely going to frustrate you and convince you to give up before you get very far.

creativity is supposed to be fun. it's not supposed to be a paycheck.

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ravisoni
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Post 30 Oct 2019

Great points, guitfnky, but I don't find it wrong to conflate creativity and quality. Often times we pursue quality and expect the outcome to be pleasant after having used creativity towards that purpose. Creativity (which I sometimes also associate with uniqueness) as a standalone surely is enjoyed by almost everyone who partakes in any it; any creation we engage in is pleasurable. But a lot of us desire something more to come off our creativity/experimentation, be it quality music (regardless of what your baselines for quality are) or something else. Maybe people are not using the technically correct definition of creativity, perhaps that's why we're having this discussion, but I feel it is an incomplete discussion if you divorce quality from creativity. In order for someone to call me creative, they would have to find my work either interesting or unique or insert your own adjective here, and be pleased by it. A professional pianist may put together a composition, and a 3 year old may play with the keyboard too, and to them both they were creative, but when taken in the context of relativism, the person who knew how to weave together non discordant notes together will be considered both creative and quality-laden. And I think that's what a lot of people are after, even if they don't approach it from a sharing-with-others perspective. Sometimes they want their own creativity to be on par with something highly experimental they heard or something highly pleasing they heard. And they're simply not able to match that level in a lifetime regardless of their skill or training (especially true if music came to them later in their lives, as a matter of science).
I'm with you in that almost anything you do is creative, but whatever comes off that creativity will inevitably be compared to a known good. And that's fine, maybe even required, to keep pushing your own bounds in both creativity and quality.
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Timmy Crowne
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Post 30 Oct 2019

This is a fascinating discussion and all of the above commenters bring valuable perspectives. I believe that learning compositional techniques like counterpoint doesn’t have to stifle creativity. On the contrary, it can provide you with a framework in which to explore ideas that wouldn’t normally be called forth from you. Studying music theory isn’t necessary, but it’s useful. This site has a clear and practical breakdown of counterpoint among other things:

http://openmusictheory.com/contents.html

It may be true that music has no rules, and so music theory is ultimately descriptive instead of prescriptive, but there can be value in choosing to accept an arbitrary structure as provisionally valid before rejecting it. Wouldn’t soccer be better if you could just pick the ball up and throw it? Wouldn’t basketball be better if the hoop was twice as wide? No. The art is in the creativity required to generate something beautiful within the limitation.

The forms, harmonic systems and genres described in music theory are like games that can be fun to learn and create within. After all, we all carry with us our own innate music theory anyway. We constantly update it to account for changing tastes, whether those of our own or others. We are all inventors of our own games. Studying formal music theory with an open mind can accelerate the broadening of our perspectives, effectively teaching us new games to play.

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guitfnky
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Post 30 Oct 2019

ravisoni wrote:
30 Oct 2019
Great points, guitfnky, but I don't find it wrong to conflate creativity and quality. Often times we pursue quality and expect the outcome to be pleasant after having used creativity towards that purpose. Creativity (which I sometimes also associate with uniqueness) as a standalone surely is enjoyed by almost everyone who partakes in any it; any creation we engage in is pleasurable. But a lot of us desire something more to come off our creativity/experimentation, be it quality music (regardless of what your baselines for quality are) or something else. Maybe people are not using the technically correct definition of creativity, perhaps that's why we're having this discussion, but I feel it is an incomplete discussion if you divorce quality from creativity. In order for someone to call me creative, they would have to find my work either interesting or unique or insert your own adjective here, and be pleased by it. A professional pianist may put together a composition, and a 3 year old may play with the keyboard too, and to them both they were creative, but when taken in the context of relativism, the person who knew how to weave together non discordant notes together will be considered both creative and quality-laden. And I think that's what a lot of people are after, even if they don't approach it from a sharing-with-others perspective. Sometimes they want their own creativity to be on par with something highly experimental they heard or something highly pleasing they heard. And they're simply not able to match that level in a lifetime regardless of their skill or training (especially true if music came to them later in their lives, as a matter of science).
I'm with you in that almost anything you do is creative, but whatever comes off that creativity will inevitably be compared to a known good. And that's fine, maybe even required, to keep pushing your own bounds in both creativity and quality.
I agree with a lot of this. it's certainly not "wrong" to link creativity and quality (since "wrong" is a subjective judgment in itself).

you bring up a good point. engaging in the act of creation can be rewarding in itself, as an act--that's often true, even if the creation itself isn't satisfying. case in point; jamming with friends. I can't count the number of times I've enjoyed a jam session, despite being less than indifferent to the actual music I was making.

that's ultimately my main point. putting so much pressure on ourselves to create well can be deflating, especially early on in the process (just learning a new art form, etc.). you're absolutely right that one's creativity will undoubtedly be compared to other works, but if we want to be creative--to improve at it, and become comfortable with it--we should be comparing it to our own known good--what we've done before--not comparing to others' commercial successes, before we're ready.

one point I do disagree with is the thought that in order to be considered creative, your art must somehow be interesting or unique (or, as you say, any other adjective). I can acknowledge that Nickelback are creative, even if I think their music is neither interesting, or unique. :lol: I don't think they're good at being creative, but they are creative.

I think your professional pianist vs. three-year old analogy is interesting to think about... what is it about the professional pianist that is inherently creative? I would say nothing--not inherently, anyway. are they a concert pianist, only concerned with recreating the creations of someone else? that, to me is not a creative pursuit, though we may quibble over the degree of expression they allow themselves to insert into the performance. a jazz pianist, improvising music on the fly, though, is undoubtedly creative. a professional composer? certainly. a three-year-old, though...I would expect that anything a three-year-old does is almost creative by definition, for perhaps obvious reasons. the quality also would be nearly nonexistent, but to me, no less creative. that said, it does mean I should concede that a distinction must be made between conscious and unconscious creativity.

and if we don't separate creativity from quality, we can't accurately define either term, since we're linking two things, one of which is subjective. who defines quality? if quality is a part of creativity, then the same question applies to both.

it reminds me of a couple of painters whose art I used to vehemently dislike--Rothko and Pollack. Rothko painted nebulous rectangles of various colors, and Pollack did splatter paintings. I used to say things like "that takes zero talent," (questioning the quality) and "how is this 'art'?" (questioning the creativity). I said them to my ex girlfriend, who really loved Rothko, even going so far as to recreate what I thought was a particularly bland painting to hang in her house. the question is, which one of us was right?

and the three-year-old...she probably thinks what's she's doing is the bees' knees, at the time. if she hears a recording of it when she's twenty, chances are, she'll likely no longer think it's good. is three-year-old her right, or is twenty-year-old her right? at what point along the way did she change from being right to being wrong?

sorry, everyone, for getting carried away with this discussion. :lol: I love discussions like this, centered on the philosophy of things. :D

mcatalao
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Post 30 Oct 2019

Theory is great for the rules. It's really important for musicians talking the same language, and it's the solid base of the craft.
So learn the rules, but notice... You'll get more fun when you start breaking them!

mcatalao
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Post 30 Oct 2019

So, on subject...

Well, if you talk to 20 guys they will tell you 20 books, on any matter.
I lurk a bit on the Orchestration group, and over there they talk about Keenan, and some others... But most generally they say "Stay away from Walter Piston's book. It's over complicated...).

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FIW023O/re ... frK2Upc_f0

It was also there i found Alan Belkins Video series on Youtube:




But imho, the best way to learn counterpoint is from the masters, and i don't mean just hear it. If you have some proficiency at an instrument, specially keyboard, start by learning some Bachs inventions and study them or stuff from the Well Tempered Keyboard. With a book it is better, because you can connect the examples to the sound and written stuff.

These are great times with internet. If no school will take you, just get on forums, download stuff from IMSLP, and start reading it and playing it on the keyboard or making mockups on reason.

But like i said, these will help you build foundations for your work. Then on top of that you must find your own craft.

Good Luck,
MC

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moggadeet
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Post 31 Oct 2019

I do not have any example of it sorry, I consider it to be an interesting direction to direct my attention to in order to grow as musician. I struggle always when in a given piece I am writing I come up with the idea "in this section, I will add strings" and then have no idea how to proceed with writing for strings. My melodies and harmonies are still quite simple and bland, which is ok given that I have been working at it for less than 2 years. The (quite humorous) video that gave me the idea about looking into counterpoint:


And for more context, I DJ and produce electronic dance music, but not the standard EDM you might be familiar with, but for a couple-dance style called Kizomba.

mcatalao
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Post 31 Oct 2019

moggadeet wrote:
31 Oct 2019
(....)
And for more context, I DJ and produce electronic dance music, but not the standard EDM you might be familiar with, but for a couple-dance style called Kizomba.
1 - This should be called Britney Spears great Escape. Just because this is a fugue and she simply disappeared... Interesting stuff though, it's quite a good example of something very simple that can be reconstructed in a quite exquisite manner and be more interesting for some. Others might thing this ruined the song. Right?

2 - I've done a couple kizombas, I'm from Portugal and i know the style very well... African music styles are not so easy to do as most people would think. One of the things i find more most difficult on Kizomba is the bass positioning. It is usually out of the first beat, quite soft but felt.

I've done one kizomba for a client, and i created another 2 that are more or less on the shelf, because I'm not very fond of the ideaof cultural appropriation, though music styles, have their roots, but they are universal.

Kizomba is a fun, dance-able rhythm! I really like African styles... i also hear Semba, Kuduro, Mornas, Culaderas and Funana's from Cabo Verde, Kwela from South Africa, i grew up listening to all sorts of music on the radio and TV and Duo Ouro Negro, Dany Silva, Cesária Évora, etc, were on the TV a lot. But I'm as white as they come... So i don't know. But i really like the rhythms and some of the songs, and if i get more clients, I'll keep doing it.

TBH, knowing these styles, and obviously imho, i think counterpoint at this level is hard to apply without deriving too much from the style. But it can be surreptitiously done, like if you push some lines to different instruments, and so on. I mean, a lot of the logic behind counterpoint is applied on pop techniques, and we even don't think about it.

So, learn it, do it. If it doesn't work no harm done!

BTW, where are you from? Was just hoping to find another Portuguese speakers over here!!!!

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moggadeet
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Post 01 Nov 2019

mcatalao wrote:
31 Oct 2019
moggadeet wrote:
31 Oct 2019
(....)
And for more context, I DJ and produce electronic dance music, but not the standard EDM you might be familiar with, but for a couple-dance style called Kizomba.
1 - This should be called Britney Spears great Escape. Just because this is a fugue and she simply disappeared... Interesting stuff though, it's quite a good example of something very simple that can be reconstructed in a quite exquisite manner and be more interesting for some. Others might thing this ruined the song. Right?

2 - I've done a couple kizombas, I'm from Portugal and i know the style very well... African music styles are not so easy to do as most people would think. One of the things i find more most difficult on Kizomba is the bass positioning. It is usually out of the first beat, quite soft but felt.

I've done one kizomba for a client, and i created another 2 that are more or less on the shelf, because I'm not very fond of the ideaof cultural appropriation, though music styles, have their roots, but they are universal.

Kizomba is a fun, dance-able rhythm! I really like African styles... i also hear Semba, Kuduro, Mornas, Culaderas and Funana's from Cabo Verde, Kwela from South Africa, i grew up listening to all sorts of music on the radio and TV and Duo Ouro Negro, Dany Silva, Cesária Évora, etc, were on the TV a lot. But I'm as white as they come... So i don't know. But i really like the rhythms and some of the songs, and if i get more clients, I'll keep doing it.

TBH, knowing these styles, and obviously imho, i think counterpoint at this level is hard to apply without deriving too much from the style. But it can be surreptitiously done, like if you push some lines to different instruments, and so on. I mean, a lot of the logic behind counterpoint is applied on pop techniques, and we even don't think about it.

So, learn it, do it. If it doesn't work no harm done!

BTW, where are you from? Was just hoping to find another Portuguese speakers over here!!!!
Oh nice! Another kizomba producer, I never thought I would meet anyone using Reason for that hahaha. I am actually Spanish but learnt to dance Kizomba five years ago from Tony Gomes, Angolan teacher. I DJ kizomba, ghetto zouk, semba, tarraxinha mostly but some kompa, coladeira and caribean zouk too. Do you have a link for the piece you composed?

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moggadeet
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Post 01 Nov 2019

mcatalao wrote:
30 Oct 2019
So, on subject...

Well, if you talk to 20 guys they will tell you 20 books, on any matter.
I lurk a bit on the Orchestration group, and over there they talk about Keenan, and some others... But most generally they say "Stay away from Walter Piston's book. It's over complicated...).

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FIW023O/re ... frK2Upc_f0

It was also there i found Alan Belkins Video series on Youtube:




But imho, the best way to learn counterpoint is from the masters, and i don't mean just hear it. If you have some proficiency at an instrument, specially keyboard, start by learning some Bachs inventions and study them or stuff from the Well Tempered Keyboard. With a book it is better, because you can connect the examples to the sound and written stuff.

These are great times with internet. If no school will take you, just get on forums, download stuff from IMSLP, and start reading it and playing it on the keyboard or making mockups on reason.

But like i said, these will help you build foundations for your work. Then on top of that you must find your own craft.

Good Luck,
MC
Thanks for the videos, I will go through them.

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DParris
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Joined: 09 May 2019

Post 04 Nov 2019

Great discussion everyone! I just wanted to add a little bit about the "rules" of counterpoint (or any musical procedure) and whether or not they're useful in this case.

One thing that happens a lot when we discuss topics like counterpoint is that we confuse the objective and subjective aspects of music and the listening experience. In a very real and objective sense, we can learn to understand why certain styles of music sound a certain way, and we can learn to replicate that sound. What we call the "rules" of Western Classical Counterpoint and Harmony are really just a distilled group of stylistic characteristics. Theorists and commentators looked at a bunch of music from the Common Practice Era of European music and noticed that it tends to do some things regularly, other things less regularly, and a few things almost never. They then codified these characteristics for pedagogical purposes (i.e. training young composers). The idea was that if you follow these guidelines, then with some practice you can eventually learn to make music that sounds similar, music that is "good" according to a narrow definition.

Trouble happens when we take this definition of "good" that applies only to a very narrow window of time and geographical locale (roughly 16th through 19th century Europe) and start applying it to all music, or even worse, start using objective analyses of stylistic features to determine whether or not we should enjoy a certain piece of music. Enjoyment is personal, and belongs to the subjective realm of the listening experience. Statements like "good music follows these rules," or "this music is bad because it breaks these rules," or "you can't make good music because you haven't learned the rules" are mixing up objective style, enjoyment, and "quality" in the larger sense.

A famous example of this disconnect is the music that happened in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Claude Debussy used a technique called "planing" or parallel harmony, which contributes heavily to the sound of his music. Parallelisms like his are a big no-no for Western Counterpoint. Was Debussy "bad" for breaking the rules? Well, if his goal was to make contrapuntal music that sounded like Bach, then yes. But of course that wasn't his intention. His music sounds totally different, and in a sense those parallelisms became a new kind of "rule" of their own. If you want to learn to replicate turn-of-the-century French Colorism or Impressionism, parallel harmony is something you should learn how to do. If you want to replicate Baroque counterpoint, it's something you should avoid.

To summarize, the rules are really just stylistic features. They are objectively useful. They will help you to make music that sounds like the music from which they were distilled. They will result in objective quality within a narrow stylistic definition, but they will not preclude quality in music that operates according to a different set of stylistic principles.

Oh, and to the OP's question: in my undergraduate years, we used Kent Kennan's textbook on Counterpoint, which I enjoyed. In grad school, I was a TA for a Counterpoint seminar, and the professor of that class went straight to the source: Fux's "Gradus ad Parnassum." Finally, for the two years that I taught adjunct at university, I chose the Kostka-Payne "Tonal Harmony," which is very straightforward and easy to understand. It's a complete course on Harmony, but includes a useful chapter on two-part counterpoint. All of the above are good choices. And by the way, keep trying with music school! Ask questions and find out why schools have been reluctant to accept you, and see if you can rectify those issues. I was once in your shoes. I nearly failed my entrance exams. I scraped by and faked it till I made it, and 10 years later I was the one teaching the courses.

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