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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink Counterpoint. Can someone explain it?

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I've seen reference to counterpoint in song writing. Can someone explain what it is, and how I can utilise it?

Probably some examples would be useful, essential, even.

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http://thewaterboarders.bandcamp.com/

Listen to Bach, especially the Two Part Inventions. Counterpoint is essentially two independent melody lines going on at the same time, usually all tones from the same scale and little or no dissonance. How to use it? Think of a Rolling Stones solo section where Woods and Richards play independently and weave in and out of each others lines.

A lot of Bambi Molester songs feature that technique. It's very tricky to pull off.

Danny Snyder

aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party
aka El Viejo Gringo of Combo Tezeta

Please check out our latest album FUTOURISM, it's a deluxe box set with original artwork from 10 artists and a bonus download sticker.

Right. Thanks for that. So it's not something that's done with one melody line.

Writing one melody is hard enough!

www.thewaterboarders.net
http://thewaterboarders.bandcamp.com/

DannySnyder wrote:

A lot of Bambi Molester songs feature that technique. It's very tricky to pull off.

Danny, in terms of examples, are the 2 interactions that Dinko & Dalibor are playing in "Point Break" relevant? Or is that just the nature of the song structure & I'm thinking of something else?

Smile

Wes
SoCal ex-pat with a snow shovel

DISCLAIMER: The above is opinion/suggestion only & should not be used for mission planning/navigation, tweaking of instruments, beverage selection, or wardrobe choices.

Counterpoint can be a very complex subject, way beyond the scope of a forum post, and there are strict rules for it.

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Well, defined simply, "counterpoint" is generally assumed to mean combining two (or more) melodic lines that "work together in harmony" HOWEVER "maintain their independence.

The "rules" spoken of above evolved over time to aid in this pursuit - for example, contrary motion is preferred becuase too much parallel motion means one melody line becomes "reliant upon" another melody line (or subsumed by it, etc.)

Counterpoint may be used for an entire composition, but it can also be used for all kinds of portions.

A simple example is "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" by The Monkees, where the bass line ascends E - G - A (C) and the melody (one of them) descends E - D - C# - also happens similarly in "For Your Love" by The Yardbirds.

This is "contrary motion" the bass ascends while the melody descends.

While Bach's examples like the Two and Three Part Inventions (as well as various Fugues, etc.) are contrapuntal forms and are basically exclusively counterpoint, there are many many examples where the principle is in play merely as a tool for creating an interesting sound.

Pure counterpoint for any length of time in popular music is rare as it really sounds "classical" to most people - so only if people are trying to emulate that do they write "real" counterpoint.

However, popular music does have contrary motion and "counter melodies" as well as "imitation" which are also tools used in other music including contrapuntal music.

A lot of popular music actually relies on parallelism (or planing) which is sort of the antithesis to counterpoint - but as we know, rockers were rebels and didn't want to be caught dead doing anything that sounded "too classical"!

But as a songwriting technique, it usually refers to a vocal melody that is in counterpoint to some other melody, either a secondary vocal melody or instrumental melody, or a bass line, etc.

The words is also commonly misused where it's really simply just contrary motion, and it's not really worth calling it counterpoint other than to spout off academic terms...

Great post Steve! You're right of course, modern music rarely has true counterpoint, but I think it is easier to understand the idea of counterpoint than saying contrary motion.

Danny Snyder

aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party
aka El Viejo Gringo of Combo Tezeta

Please check out our latest album FUTOURISM, it's a deluxe box set with original artwork from 10 artists and a bonus download sticker.

At a loss for what to call it, I've always referred to the bridge of Atlantic Waltz to be 'counterpoint' at just about the 1'00" mark: https://theverb.bandcamp.com/track/atlantic-waltz

I don't participate in any of these moments... but my favorite part to be a fan of and to listen to my band is when we do moments like that. There are quite a few scattered.

Thanks for providing the musical theory background that explains why I love these two songs in particular Smile

Ran

stevel wrote:

A simple example is "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" by The Monkees, where the bass line ascends E - G - A (C) and the melody (one of them) descends E - D - C# - also happens similarly in "For Your Love" by The Yardbirds.

This is "contrary motion" the bass ascends while the melody descends.

bamboozer wrote:

Listen to Bach, especially the Two Part Inventions. Counterpoint is essentially two independent melody lines going on at the same time, usually all tones from the same scale and little or no dissonance.

Bach uses an awful lot of very dissonant pitch combinations to make his music so damn interesting. His technique is derived from the earlier tradition of Renaissance Polyphony which existed before chordal relations were 'rationalized' by those who came after Bach, utilizing his equal temperment system.
Bach's music is so fascinating because the simultaneous combinations of tones (chords) that occur in the working out of the independent melodies
are often so ambiguous and challenging to a very chordal sense of theory. Composers who came after him abandoned his free polyphony to further rationalize the chords, because it was the sprit of their age to seek clarity rather than explore ambiguity. What was lost was the 'gothic' feel and angularity of JSB's complexity.
What we call 'counterpoint' is music that adheres to the rules that were formalized after JSB. A trip to the music library will yield plenty of instructional manuals on Counterpoint style.
There are other examples of polyphonic counterpoint in world music traditions, that work according to different rules. Georgian vocal polyphony is particularly awesome in its use of three independent voices - and they don't all use the same pitch sources (scale) - the bass is typically in a key a 5th away from the upper voices. I think Brian Wilson wrote some bass lines like that - don't know were he got the idea though.

Squink Out!

Here's an example from a song of mine where I tried my hand at 2 simultaneous melodies...

Danny Snyder

aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party
aka El Viejo Gringo of Combo Tezeta

Please check out our latest album FUTOURISM, it's a deluxe box set with original artwork from 10 artists and a bonus download sticker.

JObeast wrote:

bamboozer wrote:

Listen to Bach, especially the Two Part Inventions. Counterpoint is essentially two independent melody lines going on at the same time, usually all tones from the same scale and little or no dissonance.

Bach uses an awful lot of very dissonant pitch combinations to make his music so damn interesting. His technique is derived from the earlier tradition of Renaissance Polyphony which existed before chordal relations were 'rationalized' by those who came after Bach, utilizing his equal temperment system.
Bach's music is so fascinating because the simultaneous combinations of tones (chords) that occur in the working out of the independent melodies
are often so ambiguous and challenging to a very chordal sense of theory. Composers who came after him abandoned his free polyphony to further rationalize the chords, because it was the sprit of their age to seek clarity rather than explore ambiguity. What was lost was the 'gothic' feel and angularity of JSB's complexity.
What we call 'counterpoint' is music that adheres to the rules that were formalized after JSB. A trip to the music library will yield plenty of instructional manuals on Counterpoint style.
There are other examples of polyphonic counterpoint in world music traditions, that work according to different rules. Georgian vocal polyphony is particularly awesome in its use of three independent voices - and they don't all use the same pitch sources (scale) - the bass is typically in a key a 5th away from the upper voices. I think Brian Wilson wrote some bass lines like that - don't know were he got the idea though.

That’s interesting, because Pipeline actually does something similar. The accompanyment is in Em, but the melody is from a Bm pentatonic tone center. I think it gives the melody an ethereal relationship to the song, like it was coming from far away.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
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Dead Thread

I'm confused. Isn't there a part where Dan Akroyd calls Jane Curtain an ignorant slut?

mj
bent bass playing for benter results
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Cool

Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 14:38:33

JObeast wrote:

Brian Wilson wrote some bass lines like that - don't know were he got the idea though.

The Beach Boys used The Wrecking Crew on their albums.

Bass lines would've been played by jazz aficionado/ace W-Crew session member goddess Carol Kaye.

The bass line on Good Vibrations:

I’ve seen interviews of Carol Kaye where she stated that the bass line for Good Vibrations was written out by Brian Wilson. She remarked on how sophisticated his bass part was.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

synchro wrote:

I’ve seen interviews of Carol Kaye where she stated that the bass line for Good Vibrations was written out by Brian Wilson. She remarked on how sophisticated his bass part was.

Here's the clip. Collaboration? Brian gives props to Carol.

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