Counterpoint Fundamentals [TUTORIAL]

Counterpoint Fundamentals [TUTORIAL]

A practical guide for piano improvisation

What you’ll learn:

  • Improvise two-part Inventions
  • Learn the fundamental principles of harmony
  • Employ intervals for developing melody and harmony
  • Invent polyphonic music at the piano
  • Apply the principles of voice-leading
  • Improvise coherently with either hand, separated or together
  • Appreciate counterpoint as a strategy for improvisation and composition
  • The three main categories of Counterpoint: Homorhythm, Polyphony, Ornament
  • How to integrate coherently melody and harmony


  • Intermediate Piano Proficiency
  • Familiarity with major/minor scales
  • Familiarity with music notation

The goal of the course is to introduce students to the technique of Counterpoint as a way to make music intuitively and creatively.It is a practical course: students will learn through improvisation the principles behind two-part invention and polyphonic voice leading by exploring Counterpoint at the piano.Each module will explore an aspect of Counterpoint: rather than being a presentation of different kinds of Counterpoint, each class adds to the principles discussed in previous classes and guides the student to slowly master them at the piano. By mid-course students can therefore expect a significant raise in the level of complexity: I therefore encourage to practice the material covered in a class extensively before moving on to the following module. Two or three days (2-3 hours of practice) is the minimum time suggested between classes.The course will guide through the 3 main stages of Counterpoint invention: homorhythm, polyphony (counterpoint species), ornamentation. We will start from the theory of Intervals, the principles of effective melodic conduct, the relationship between the parts; we will then start exploring harmonic combinations and improvise appropriately; we will introduce the different species of Counterpoint and investigate the creative boundaries within them; we will discuss best practices and preferred solutions to common problems, by looking at a variety of examples from the existing repertoire; we will explore creative options and develop new musical ideas based on counterpoint principles; in the final modules we will create a full two part invention step by step.The course is intended to music students who have an intermediate proficiency in piano and familiarity with music notation: although much of the course is designed for practical purposes there will be musical examples to read and musical exercises to write.


Section 1: Course Overview

  • Lecture 1 Overview
  • Lecture 2 Fundamentals

Section 2: Two Part Invention: First Steps

  • Lecture 3 Introduction of the 3rd
  • Lecture 4 Introduction of the 6th
  • Lecture 5 Combining 3rd and 6th

Section 3: Creative Intermission n. 1

  • Lecture 6 Creative Intermission

Section 4: The Music Develops: adding rhythm and other intervals.

  • Lecture 7 Introduction of Rhythm
  • Lecture 8 Repertoire Examples
  • Lecture 9 Last intervals: the 5th and the 8ve

Section 5: The Invention grows. The 2nd Species Counterpoint.

  • Lecture 10 2nd Species Counterpoint: 2 notes against 1
  • Lecture 11 Practical strategies for creativity

Section 6: Finalizing your Invention: the Creative Touch

  • Lecture 12 Creative Intermission n. 2
  • Lecture 13 Completing a counterpoint, step by step

Pianists who wish to make music in an intuitive way, by mastering the underlying principles of harmony.,Musicians/students who wish to develop practically their understanding of classical music style composition, as a strong foundation for all other styles.

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