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Thread: Is this some kind of counterpoint?

  1. #1
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    Is this some kind of counterpoint?

    I'm working on an intro for a song where there's a clean guitar playing an ascending melody while a distorted guitar and the bass are playing the same melody, but descending so that the parts are unison but go in different directions. This makes it sound sinister. Is this some kind of counterpoint?

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Simultaneous melody lines moving in opposite directions is known as "contrary motion". (Lines in harmony moving in the same direction is "parallel motion", and when one stays on the same note and the other line moves, that's "oblique motion".)
    Your lines are not in "unison", because that means "on the same note". (They're not actually the "same melody" either, if they're moving in different directions!) I'm guessing what you mean is that they are synchronised rhythmically, moving together.

    Anyway, they would be in a kind of counterpoint - defined broadly - because that just means "[point] against point" (punctus contra punctus), i.e. one note related to another simultaneously, in "intervals". (Classic Counterpoint has all kinds of rules defining which intervals can and can't be used, and which evolved into the later art of Harmony; but in modern pop or rock those don't apply.)

    The "sinister" sound won't just be down to the contrary motion, however. It may be partly due to the use of dissonant or unexpected intervals between the two lines, but more likely it's down to other aspects of the music: tempo, rhythm, intensity, instrumental tone and timbre (eg, distortion), reverb or other recording effects.
    Imagine if those lines were played on other instruments: eg something sweet and undistorted like flute, or ukelele. Would they still sound "sinister"? If not, then that effect is not down to the "counterpoint"!

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    There are some intervals that are enhanced by the contrary motion. Thanks for the reply!

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bass2guitar View Post
    There are some intervals that are enhanced by the contrary motion.
    Well, yes, maybe. It depends what you mean by "enhanced", but any interval will gain additional meaning from its context (just as words or phrases gain meaning from a broader context.)

    There's the notions of tendency and voice-leading to consider.
    An interval on its own may be consonant or dissonant (tense). A tense interval will want to resolve, but with no other context it might resolve in more than one way.

    Once you have a context (eg an established key, or a preceding interval or two), that will probably point the way the tense interval will resolve.

    But also, once you have a melody leading in a particular direction, especially up or down steadily by step (in a scale or chromatically), the expectation is probably that it will continue in that direction (up to a point).
    So when looking at intervals, you always need to consider not only the nature of the interval itself (major, minor, perfect, etc), but the intervals either side. (And maybe in relation to any chords present. A chord is a combination of at least three intervals: 1-3, 1-5, 3-5.)

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    I've not heard the term before, but I'm guessing it's a division of the octave into 5 equal parts.
    I.e., western pentatonics divide the octave into 12ths, and our pentatonics select 5 of those: usually 2+2+3+2+3 (major pentatonic), or 3+2+2+3+2 (minor pentatonic). So there are two kinds of step in those scales: a whole step (major 2nd), or whole+half (minor 3rd).
    :*RosE*:

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