Any suggestions on improving my "medieval" music?

• Aug 15, 2022 - 12:23

The topic started here:
So, here is my draft of the song (the 1st attachment). The horn party sounds good for me. But I'd like to get any suggestions how to improve this tune to make it sound more medieval - either by altering some notes (their pitches but not the rhythm which is dictated by the lyrics) or by adding more instruments. I tried to add recorder and mandolin by just copying the same notes, but did not like the result. Unfortunately, I have no experience and no knowledge of writing music where parties of different instruments differ much (unless it is unpitched percussion ;))
The second attachment is my idea of a medieval dance. I think it is good, but again, if you can make it better, you are welcome :) I still used thirds and chords in some places and I hope it's not a mortal sin ;) (especially if it is, say, 16th and not 12th century)
If you post your versions, please save them as music xml for MS2 compatibility.

Attachment Size
medievdraft.mscz 27.74 KB
opus26.mscz 22.66 KB


In reply to by bobjp

Thanks! Yes, with Baroque Oboe (or English horn) it sounds a bit too baroque ;) so I'll keep French horn for the main party but will use your bass and mandolin parties. But can you explain me how to write them for other stanzas and other tunes? I don't understand the principle. I hear they make their own (simpler) melody, but how does it correlate with the main? It even goes down when the main goes up and vice versa in some points.

In reply to by etsenberg

This is why you should listen to a lot of the music you are trying to replicate. Often melody was on double reeds. Shawms and racketts and the like. Brass tended to be only for special occasions. Often there would be drone parts. And everything based on two or three chords. Make the melody have a direction, a purpose. Simple is fine.

In reply to by bobjp

My taste may be spoiled by movies and games, but for me brass horn sounds perfect for a soldiers' song, especially as it starts with the phrase "Heralds are loudly winding horns." However, English horn which you used as "Baroque Oboe""still sounds not bad if lowered by a fifth. Do you think it's a good idea?
Listening to authentic music is of little help for me as I cannot transcribe it :( I need to see scores and to have an algorithm or a set of rules. I read about drones(never heard this term outside of aviation before). They say it often was a single note (or chord) lasting/repeating for the whole melody, and tonic or dominant of the main part was often used. OK, but I don't like the idea of a single note. You used 3 notes for the bass part (G, A and once E). I am not sure what is the tonic of my main part. If it is C because in ends in C then dominant is G. But how did you select two other notes? I think you did not just write "some"simple 3-notes/chords tune, but related it to the main part? I don't understand that relation. Or does really ANY 2 or 3 notes tune work as a drone part?

In reply to by etsenberg

You, of course, can use whatever instruments you want. But a horn capable of playing your melody did not exist in medieval times. At that time they were mostly used in hunting and where mostly straight instruments three or four feet long. They indeed heralded the approach of hunters. But could only play 6 or seven notes. Only in the late Renaissance and Baroque periods where they curved and out fitted with crooks to allow them to play in different keys. And have an extended range. Some of the greatest horn music ever written was played on these horns without valves.
I confess to only listening to one or two examples and then loosely applying some things to your example. Again, I suggest that you listen to examples so that you can get the sound in your head. You don't need to transcribe anything. You can't emulate something if you don't know what it sounds like. Composers don't try to copy someones else's work. But they do try to write music similar to styles they admire.
I pulled Baroque oboe out of the hat. Could be any double reed instrument. I used a "drone" because that's what I listened to did. I added a mandolin because I wanted to. None were in the examples. I used the chords I did because they seemed to fit your melody. Especially after I changed a note or two. If you are trying to do this with a minimum of music theory, you have a tough row to hoe, as they say.
The drone in the example I listened to was indeed one note. Oh well.
Think of bagpipe music. An open fifth ( I believe) all the way though.

In reply to by bobjp

I did not say I haven't listened to medieval and stylized music. I said it gives me no knowledge what instruments are used and especially how to emulate them in MS. There are no shawms nor racketts nor crumhorns nor sorduns there. E,g. you used baritone sax for bass shawm and English horn for baroque oboe (which is also too late for, say, 16th century when my song may "take place" ) I can stay with English horn if it emulates medieval woodwinds good enough and if you don't have better ideas.
I asked twice (actually, trice as it was in my original post, too) and still did not get the answer: how to write a drone part (ot whatever you call it). which is NOT a single note/chord, for the main melody? How to derive it from the main part? How to make it fit the main part? Are there any rules? I don't know how to ask it simpler :(

In reply to by etsenberg

Yes there are rules. In some cases, very strict rules. Lots of them. Rules that tell someone just by listening, If a piece is major or minor. What meter. What key. What time period. What instruments. Rules for 16th century counterpoint (for example) are so strict that it is possible to write four part harmony without ever hearing what you are writing. Just following the rules.
The MuseScore default font does not have any Medieval sounds. You can search the internet for them. The sounds I used were as close as I could get. If you have a Polyphone account, there is an early music font.
And what kind of music are you trying to write? You said it is a song. Is this a song that might have been performed on a street corner? Or in a royal Court? Keep in mind that the recordings we hear today are based on often sparsely sketched out scores. Musicians played their music so often that they seldom used sheet music and made up new stuff all the time. What instruments to use was not always spelled out. They used what they had.
Your melody has a pretty wide range. That's your choice. Is that the type of thing you heard? Just asking.
And I'm not saying that my rendition is all that authentic. Just trying to give you some ideas.
So I encourage you to write what seems to sound right to you. The sounds you use can help sell it to the listener. Consider how different Beatles music sounds when played by a string quartet.
Western music no matter the period is basically not all that different from each other. Of course there are things that set various periods apart. But it is still Western music. As apposed to Eastern or Asian styles.

I can harmonize a melody. Partially because of my music ed degree. But mostly because I'v done it all my life. But I don't write melodies first then go back an create an accompaniment. I write both at the same time. One helps direct the other. For me it is a way to make them part of each other.

In reply to by bobjp

"Rules for 16th century counterpoint (for example) are so strict that it is possible to write four part harmony without ever hearing what you are writing. Just following the rules." - That's what I am looking for! Tell me that rules, I am asking for the 4th time! At least for the example of my certain melody if the topic is too big and complex in general.

I never asked for medieval fonts and notation, my question was what instruments available in MS to use in the role of the medieval ones. I cannot make my own estimation because I don't know. I know something about the Middle Ages as a writer (but I write fiction and not historical books) but not much about its music. Most medieval music I listened to was probably stylization.

I've said, my song is a soldier song, so it is not a royal court music ;) Most often it "was" sung at taverns and campfires, by a chorus of definitely non-professional singers, but I want to present a "polished" instrumental version not their hoarse vocal. The melody is loosely based on some stylization I've heard before. I don't have a time machine and I don't pretend it to sound perfectly authentic, but it still must have some medieval spirit.

Again, I have no idea how to write a harmony, neither simultaneously with the lead part nor after it, and I am asking you to explain me the basic rules/principles! Especially if they are strict (at least for some periods and kinds of music) as your said. Don't say I should just listen to other music and follow my own ideas. You cannot paint a portrait by just looking at human faces (or other portraits) if you don't know the rules of painting, right?

In reply to by etsenberg

I don't know. There's plenty of art out there that looks like the painter never studied how to paint.

Anyway, there aren't a few rules or steps for you to learn to do what you want. When I went to college (50 years ago), I had to have three years of theory before I could take a composition class. One of the many books we studied was 133 pages with hundreds of specific examples of rules for 16th century counterpoint. Then, of course there was modern counterpoint. And all my books have been out of print for some time. There is no magic formula. No shortcuts. You have to put some study time in. Composing is hard. Though not impossible.

Your first phrase sounded like an A minor chord fit most of it. The second phrase sounded mostly G major. How did I figure that out? I have learned how to listen. For one of my college finals, the instructor played several measures of four part harmony. We had to write it down. The only clue we got was the first chord, though not the inversion. He played it several times and then the test was over. All in about 15 minutes. My freshman theory class filled a medium lecture room. By senior year, we could have meant in a broom closet.

In reply to by bobjp

There are lots of teens who never went to a music class, never become professional musicians and are not even very smart (some of them are typical "white (or not white) trash"). But they play guitar and can find chords for a song (i.e. create a harmony for the vocal lead) w/o any study of music theory. Maybe they do it not the best way, but still the way that works. (I don't know any of them and cannot ask them for help ;)
Also, music is mathematics. Notes sound in consonance when they meet specific ratios. So, there must be formulas. You say there are hundreds of rules for 16th century counterpoint - OK, can you give me at least one (the simpler the better)?

I don't see Am or G chords in your version. Both are third+third, and you use fourth+third (BTW, I read that they used fifth+fourth for drone parts and replaced them this way - still sound OK), and their base is neither A nor G

Alright, I just copied the same bass and chords for the second stanza and then for the rest of the song. Sounds OK for me. Do you agree?

In reply to by etsenberg

OK, I give up. IF you 1) believe that "white trash" guitar players can come up with anything even remotely like what you want, 2) think that music is merely mathematics, and 3) can't tell that the first chord in my mandolin part is A minor, then I can't begin to help you. You do what you think is best.

In two part writing, the intervals between parts were always consonances. The perfect fourth was a dissonance and never used. Neither were augmented or diminished intervals. Composers avoided Lydian mode because of the difficulty of getting cadence on the final.

In reply to by bobjp

I give up, too. You pretend to be a great pro, but even I know (and every thematic website will confirm it) that Am chord is A-C-E. while your first chord is E-A-C. and that the perfect fourth is a consonance. as good as the perfect fifth, because perfect fourth+perfect fifth=octave!
And the intervals between parts cannot always be consonances because a longer note in the harmony part cannot be in consonance with every shorter note in the lead if they are not in consonance with each other (e.g. differ in a second). That's one of the problems I don't know how to solve.
If anybody less snobbish visits this thread, I still would like to get an advice.

In reply to by etsenberg

For the record, an A minor chord consists of the notes A, C, and E in any order. So whether they are A-C-E or E-A-C, it's still an A minor chord. Depending on what note is in the bass, it is considered an "inversion" of the chord, but it's still the same chord. But, merely rearranging the upper voices doesn't create an inversion - only what happens in the bass. So, absolutely, bobjp's first chord is A minor, and in root position, since the bass is A.

Perfect fourths are traditionally considered dissonant when they occur above the bass voice, especially in early music. This fact comes as a surprise to a lot of modern musicians, true, but it was absolutely unquestioned in pre-Baroque music, and really, continues to be considered true today in tonal music. That is because a perfect fourth above the bass generally indicates a second-inversion chord or a suspension, both of which create tension with strong resolution tendencies. Definitely not "as good as the perfect fifth", and any text dealing with classical or early music should make this clear.

It's true that when moving parts exist, there will be dissonances formed. These are completely expected and welcomed, as long as they are approached and resolved in accordance with the traditions of the genre. For most music, that means, by step. And pre-Baroque, it means the dissonances would pretty much exclusively not be simultaneous - only in places where one note sustains and the other moves.

Tritones would never be used melodically. And leaps would not generally be used as freely as you are, either.

Rhythmically, the melody appears to be off by a beat pretty much throughout - the downbeat is pretty clearly the half notes.

There is definitely much to learn about music theory in order to write convincingly in this style. Lots of great resources exist. I'm sure you can find some on your own, but FWIW, here is my own online course:

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

  1. In the previous topic I was advised to use intervals bigger than a third. Now you are telling the opposite. I am totally confused,
  2. I got you on chords, but I understood nothing on fourths, Probably because English is not my first language, and terms you used have too many meanings. Anyway, fourth and fifth are actually the same interval, only taken from the opposite sides of the octave. A fourth from bottom is a fifth from top and vice versa. Since octave is an ideal consonance. they are absolutely symmetrical. If a chord with a base note transposed an octave high is still the same chord, than a fifth from an octave-high note cannot be worse than a fifth from an octave-down note.
    Also, wiki says they used quint-octaves (not sure for its English name, but it's 5th+4th chord) for drone parts.
    Can you proof your point with an example of a melody (score)?
  3. " the dissonances would pretty much exclusively not be simultaneous - only in places where one note sustains and the other moves." - you mean, if a longer note in one part covers several notes in the other part, it may be in dissonance with some of them but not with all of them? That's pretty obvious (if I got you right). The question is, with which note it should be in consonance? (For the pre-Baroque,)
  4. Never thought they had a taboo on tritone (or any melodic interval). My idea was to use only natural notes, that's why I used tritones instead of fourths, Too late to change this. I am done with this song (finished the clip for it). Will take into account for the future. And leap is any melodic interval bigger than a second, right? They definitely used them!
  5. "Rhythmically, the melody appears to be off by a beat " - you mean not how it sounds but how it is written? A measure must start with a downbeat? Never thought it matters. But it was corrected in bobjp's version (which I mostly accepted).
  6. Trying to sell me anything is the wrongest idea (if only you knew my financial situation!), but I'll be grateful for any links to a free reading on topic.

In reply to by etsenberg

Using some larger intervals is good. But they would normally be resolved by step.

Regarding fourths, I'm not sure what you've studied, but every single reference ever published is very clear on this: a perfect fifth is constant, a perfect fourth is not when it occurs above the bass. And yes, this is true despite the fact that the intervals are inversions of each other. You will not find a single reputable book or article about classical and early music that says otherwise, so whatever website you end up finding, should confirm this. But for example, try this: and look at the example 13 - the table of "harmonically consonant and dissonant intervals". Then also to understand more, see… and in particular, the section called "The elusive perfect fourth".

Regarding which notes can be dissonant in this style, start with that last article on species counterpoint and start reading from there. Basically, you'll find that anywhere two notes are sounded together. they need to be consonant. Anywhere one voice moves while the other stays constant, the moving voice may create a dissonance, and it normally then resolves it by step. Occasionally the moving voice actually holds its ground and the other voice then moves to resolve the dissonance. That's called a suspension, and it's a huge part of Renaissance music. Not sure about medieval, though.

Regarding melodic intervals, see the first article I linked. And yes, there are definitely intervals that were not sued. This is fundamental to the sound of the music. Introduction of a tritone in this context is the surest way to make something not sound like early music - probably not single thing you could do would be more obviously out of character for the style.

Regarding rhythm, yes, I mean, it's written wrong.

There's tons of free info out there, but the trick is finding someone to help to week through the sheer enormity of it all and present things clearly step by step in a way you can understand. That's always the challenge, and why so much confusion exists about music theory despite people having access to tons of info - no good way to sift through it all to form a coherent plan of study. But I wish you luck!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for the links! Some rules I wanted at last ;) I am still reading, but I see that the definition of consonance and dissonance in your source way differs from mine! In mine, consonance is "sounding good"(in concordance) and dissonance in "sounding bad". And it sounds good when it fits Pythagorean ratio of (N+1)/N (the lower N, the better) Octave is ideal (2/1), followed by P5 and P4 (3/2 and 4/3). followed by ma3 (5/4) and mi3 (6/5). Inversions are equally good (or bad) because of the symmetry - the same ratio from top and bottom of the octave. So, there are 3 categories of consonance:
ideal - P1, P8
perfect - P5. P4
imperfect - major and minor thirds and sixths
All the rest is dissonance.
Simple and logical. Inversions always belong to the same category, and saying that P4 is dissonance is absurd. It means saying that a(bc) is not equal to ( ab)c.
And that's what I hear. P4 sounds just as good as P5 (but still worse than octave).
But your source defines consonance as "stable" and dissonance is "unstable". I have no idea what it means. I know that resolving is ending with a note which sounds good as a final point, and these notes are I, III and V steps of the scale (mode). Do you (I mean English speaking musicians) call them "stable"? Even if so, I don't understand. A note cannot be stable or unstable per se, but only in the context of a melody (its mode). But a harmonic interval is consonance or dissonance per se.
I also don't know what " resolve by step" means, but maybe it is explained further.

Too bad on tritones. Will take too much time to find and change them all. I guess there is no way in MS to find/highlight all F–B and B-F sequences?

In reply to by etsenberg

It is not absurd to say P4 and P5 have different properties - this is what every single book, article, tutorial, or course ever produced on music theory will tell you. If you have trouble understanding the source I gave you, feel free to consult others. I have no idea where you got your information from previously, but if is some sort of website produced by a random person who claims that P4 and P5 are treated identically "because math", best to not consult it further - it's just misinformation produced by someone who doesn't understand music. Their math knowledge may be decent enough, but the definition of consonance is not exclusively about math - it's about the actual practice of actual composers in different genres. If you wish to learn about, best to concentrate on sources created by eople who are actually experts on that subject. That is, as mentioned, the danger of relying on random web searches - lots of absolute nonsnese out there. Best to stick with ones actually recognized as autoritative.

Resolving a dissonance means, following it by a consonance. By step means, one or both of the voices moves by step as opposed to leap. Resolving a leap by step just means, following it with a step - normally in the opposite direction.

Tritones are not just B-F/F-B . Many of the ones in your examples are Bb-E or E-Bb. It would be possible to write a plugin for detect this.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I am not using "random sites", It's a site on music theory created by musicians (while not world-known). And what they say is logical and mathematically ground, while what you say sounds like a religious dogma ("So the books say!") OK, I checked wiki (in my language). The problem does exist, and it is more comp;ex than you may think. There are different approaches and definitions of consonance and dissonance, and they varied with tine (even your link says "These categorizations have varied with .milieu"; also, you said P4 is considered dissonance when over bass, and your link says the opposite - actually, both approaches were used). And the question why people tend to perceive P4 as "tension"while Ir's mathematically as perfect as P5, is still unresolved. An idea of Grundton, or root, was invented to explain this, but it has it's own weak points.

One passage from your second link shocked me
"Make sure to avoid:
when two parts start an octave apart and both move in the same direction by the same interval to also end an octave apart
: when two parts start an perfect fifth apart and both move in the same direction by the same interval to also end a perfect fifth apart
Also try to avoid:
when two parts begin any interval apart and move in the same direction to a perfect fifth or octave
unisons at any point in the exercise other than the first and last intervals" .

I don't know how to write MS plugins. Anyway, I am done with this song "(

In reply to by etsenberg

Feel free to post the link to the site; I'd be curious to read what they are saying for myself. Could be you're simply misunderstanding it. Just as you must be misunderstanding the site I referenced if you think it is not confirming that P4 is considered dissonant over the bass. Could be a language issue, I don't know, but I assure you - that site is not saying anything different from what I or anyone else who has studied music theory would tell you. Their exact words are "the interval of a perfect fourth is dissonant when it involves the lowest voice in the texture". This is precisely what I have been saying as well.

Anyhow, what I am saying isn't "dogma" - I am not telling you that you must follow the same principles that others have for centuries. I am saying that (if* you wish to write convincingly in older styles, you will need to work within the same frameworks that those composers did. And indeed, as I have said, it's not that P4 is forbidden dissonance, it's just treated rather differently from P5, in the ways I've stated. Also in another important way - when not above the bass, consecutive P4's are actually quite common (i.e., as the upper voices in parallel first inversion triads), whereas consecutive P5's are avoided almost religiously by all composers in this era, and going forward until just within the past 100 years or so.

This is in fact exactly the principle you say is shocking to you, but it is absolutely a central tenet of music theory - the avoidance of parallel fifths and octaves in any contrapuntal texture. Again, all sources on the subject will tell you this, and they will all give reasons why composers have tended to follow this advice for centuries. It's actually kind of hard to explain really well, but you might find this handout from my course to be useful in understanding:

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

  1. Of course, when stylizing, the rules of the style MUST be followed like a religious dogma (if they are that strict). That's an obvious axiom which I would never discuss. My surprise was about treating P4 as dissonance in general, regardless the stylization If you want a link to my primary (but not the only) source - well, if you can translate it (the definition of cons. and diss. intervals):…
  2. You say: "P4 is considered dissonant over the bass."
    Your link says: "Basically, the interval of a perfect fourth is dissonant when it involves the lowest voice in the texture, but it is consonant when it occurs between two upper voices."
    These are just directly opposite statements!
  3. "It's actually kind of hard to explain really well" - your article explains it pretty simple: as perfect consonance sounds better (or at least differently) than imperfect one, it highlights the points where it occurs and should be avoided if we don't need such highlighting. But it is OK to use it for the whole phrase - or for the whole melody as I did when I knew nothing about counterpoint. Maybe such parallel parts (for different instruments) should not be called counterpoint (which I never did), but they still have a right to exist. Correct? (While for me, EVERYTHING which sounds good has a a right to exist when not pretending to follow a specific style.)

In reply to by etsenberg

Google translate shows that page as saying perfect fourths are consonance. Which does mean, I'm afraid, that either this site is not produced by experts in music, or they deliberately oversimplified things because they dond't want to overwhelm people with details like how the P4 is actually treated. Either way, it means you probably need additional sources of information to clarify things that they are glossing over. That's what I'm providing.

As for the two sentences that you say are somehow in conflict with each other, here I guess maybe it is a language issues. Those two statements are perfectly 100% in agreement. Maybe the point of confusion is, you might not realize that "upper voices" means "voices other than the bass"? It does - "upper voices" means, all voices other than the bass. Or maybe you are misinterpreting the statement "dissonant over the bass" to mean "dissonant when it's in two voices that are each above the bass"? That not what it means. It means, dissonant if the interval itself involves the bass and one higher voice.

So again, to be 100% completely clear:

If the bass has a G, then any voice that has a C is dissonant against that bass note. But it's consonant if two other notes that are not the bass have a perfect fourth between them. So, above that G in the bass, if two voices about that are B and E, that perfect fourth is consonant.

The reasons for this are complex, but as I suggested, it has to do with the fundamental harmonic tendency of the sonory. If the bass is a G, then the C above it either indicates a suspension that will resolve to B, or it suggests a second inversion triad (G-C-E), which is also considered unstable and would normally resolve by step.

Again, this is not some weird thing I just made or only believed by one or two crackpots. This is what every single book every published on music theory for the last five centuries will tell you.

Your summary of the whole parallel octave thing is good: it's fine as a texture for an entire phrase. It's usually avoided a more momentary thing for just a note or two, precisely because it causes the texture to change noticeably at that point, which would normally not be what one wants.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

" Or maybe you are misinterpreting the statement "dissonant over the bass" to mean "dissonant when it's in two voices that are each above the bass"? That not what it means. It means, dissonant if the interval itself involves the bass and one higher voice." - I could never guess you meant that!!! "Above" means "higher" and not "higher or equal to" Moving above ground is not rolling but flying.
What is "sonory"? I don't find such a word in dictionaries.
What are "inversion triads"?

In reply to by etsenberg

Like I said, could just be a language issue, I think the phrase "dissonant over" would be perfectly understandable to a native speaker. If I say I'm flying two miles over Detroit, I mean, I myself am literally two miles above Detroit, not that me and some other unnamed person are two miles apart at some unspecified distance above Detroit. It's just about me and Detroit - just the two of us, no other person or city involved. So similarly, if I speak of something being dissonant over a given bass note, I mean, literally those two notes - no other note involved. Could be important to keep this language idiom in mind as you study music theory further.

"Sonory" was a typo, I meant "sonority". Basically, a fancy word for sound, but specific, normally implying the sound of multiple notes heard at once. It's a more general term than "interval" or "chord".

"Inversion triad" is not a thing, but that's not what I wrote - I said "second inversion triad". In other words, a triad in second inversion, which is defined as a triad with its fifth in the bass. A C triad with C in the bass is root position; a C triad with E in the bass is in first inversion; a C triad with G in the bass is in second inversion. Second inversion triads are treated very specially in music theory, not used freely like root position and first inversion. And this has everything to do with the fourth above the bass.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

OK, let's discuss language ;) I think (and the dictionary confirms) there is no difference in the meaning of "above" in our languages, and as a US certified private pilot I know pretty well the term "above" in English, too. If you are 2 miles over Detroit, it's you above Detroit but not the interval between you and Detroit is above Detroit. When a plane is 2 miles AGL (above ground level), both the top and the bottom of the plane are above the ground. But when it is rolling the runway, only its top is above the ground, but its bottom (the wheels) are ON the ground - and that's why the plane as a whole is NOT above the ground (and the difference between being above the ground and on the ground is the matter of life and death!). The same is true for any interval, An interval above bass (or any note) means both notes of that interval are above it, not only one of them. Maybe there is a musician slang which uses the term "above" differently, but it is incorrect and confusing, making it impossible to distinguish 2 very different cases. "Involving the bass" should be the correct term, just as in your link. Or, if it is not bass, which is always the lowest, but some note "X" - "an interval with X at its bottom" (or maybe "up from X" or "X-rooted" to say it shorter).
I am finishing reading "Species Counterpoint". A lot of useful info, but still it solves the opposite task - writing a more complex harmony to a simpler part (cantus firmus, which has very strict rules - whole notes only, stepwise motion etc.) I am interested in writing a simpler harmony (something like cantus firmus) to a complex lead which may have notes of different duration, any leaps, any melodic intervals. It's like integrating; vs derivation in math (I need to integrate, which is a more complex task, at least in math). Any advice?

In reply to by etsenberg

Regardless of what some dictionary tells you about how a word might be used in an unrelated context, my usage here - talking about intervals above the bass - is completely standard in the English-speaking music world, so I do recommend you get used to it, as you'll likely see it in the future as well. That is, every single English-speaking person on earth who has ever discussed intervals above the bass means the interval between a single other note and the bass note, not an interval between two other notes. That's just how the term is used in music, so it's worth knowing this as you continue your studies.

Anyhow, indeed, species counterpoint doesn't really tell you how to write music, it just gives you tools to use in solving some specific musical problems. The same principles apply, though, even if the examples given in most species counterpoint texts are geared only toward on particular application. it's still the case that in pre-Baroque music, regardless of which part you write first, notes sounding together are almost always consonant as per first species conventions, and if one voice holds a note while another moves, the moving voice may create dissonance but it's expected to resolve as per second & third species convention, and if voices move in alternation, the dissonances are expected to follow fourth species convention. Doesn't matter in the slightest which voice is written first.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

If you insist on using the word "above" against its normal meaning, then how do you call the situation when it really should be used, i.e. when both notes of the interval are higher than some X? Is this interval "above" X or not? If not, what word do you use for it instead of "above"?
It's easy to add halves and quarters as a counterpoint to a whole note using the species counterpoint rules, as they give you lots of "legal" options But if I have a measure of a 1/2, 1/4 and two 1/8 and I want to "cover" it with a whole note, it ts much harder and not always possible to find one which fits the rules of any species for the whole measure. What to do - to break the whole note into notes which fit? And BTW, does the difference in duration matter? Species 2 and 3 are based on "consonant strong beats with possibly dissonant weak beats". Does it matter if the strong beat is short and the weak beat is long?
BTW, why species 4 always resolves dissonance by a step down (which creates problems discussed in the video)? Why never up?

In reply to by etsenberg

If you are two miles over Detroit, plane or no plane, the distance you are above the ground, plane or no plane, is two miles. Yes? The interval you are above the ground is also two miles. Though we don't normally use the word interval that way.
If You are in a room with an eight foot ceiling, the distance the ceiling is above the floor is eight feet. Yes?

Get out your staff paper. Write an F4. Above that F4, write a C5.
A C5 is the interval (distance) of a fourth above the F4. Yes?

The F4 is the ground, or the floor. The C5 is you over Detroit, or the ceiling.

I believe I have been consistent in following the dictionary definition of "above". More importantly, linking "distance" and "interval".

Yes, the top of the plane is not on the ground. If it was, at best the plane would be upside down and useless. But once the plane is off the ground distance between the wheels and the top of the plane doesn't matter. A plane is considered to be at an altitude of 30,000 feet. Again, the distance above the ground.

In reply to by bobjp

You (both) are mixing the totally different things: the interval and one of the objects/points/ends/borders which form this interval! Yes, the note C5 IS above F4. Yes, the interval between F4 and C5 is P5 (not P4, F-G-A-B-C, 5 steps). But this fifth is NOT above F4 because it INCLUDES F4. To be above, both top and bottom must be above, not the top only.
Logic and language are on my side. You may only say "We the musicians call a chair 'a table' because we like to do so, and you cannot change this." OK, I cannot (unfortunately), then my question is "Then how do you call a table?" (See my answer to Marc.)

In reply to by etsenberg

I am sorry that your unfamiliarity with the English language and the conventions of music theory are causing confusion for you here, but we are trying to help, so please accept the assistance of people who are both native speakers and who have degrees in music and know how the language is used in this context. I assure you, we are not inventing new language here. This is, again, just the way music terminology works in English - the way thousands upon thousands of other people use the language as well. There is nothing unusual or inconsistent about it any way whatsoever.

We speak of an interval above a note, and we mean, a single note at that interval, not two notes. Perhaps your confusion here is that "interval" describes a distance, not a pair of notes. So, saying "a major sixth above C" absolutely positively unequivocally means the note A because that note is a sixth above C. It doesn't mean two other random notes that happen to be a sixth apart from each other. It means, the single note A, because C-A forms a major sixth. In other words, your confusion isn't about the meaning of "above" - it's about the meaning of "interval".

A sixth above C means, the single note whose interval measured against C is a sixth. Plain and simple. An interval is an measure of distance, not a word for a pair of notes.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

There must be logic everywhere, be it English or Chinese. If an interval is just a distance and not a pair of notes separated by this distance then it cannot sound, and instead of "P5 is consonant" we must say "notes which are P5 from each other are consonant". But OK. I repeat my question, We have 2 opposite situations: P4 between bass and a higher note is considered dissonant, and P4 between 2 notes which are both higher than bass is considered consonant. We must distinguish those P4s from each other! So, if you say the first P4 is "above bass", then how do you call the second P4 (relative to bass, not to its own bottom note)?

In reply to by etsenberg

It's OK for a word to mean two slightly different things in different contexts. This happens all the time in English.

The answer to your question is exactly as I said before: we say, just as everyone involved already has, a P4 above the bass is dissonant, a P4 in upper voices is not.

Please let this go. We've told you how musicians actually have e been using the English language for centuries. You asked for helpwe are providing that help - for free. If you are now changing your mind and no longer wish to receive help, that's fine - we'll gladly stop providing it.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I don't want any conflicts. All I want is logic and consistency.
So, "upper" is used instead of "above" for an interval higher than a specific note?
Ans what about the intervals down from a specific note? (not the bass of course) Is it called "below" when it involves that note (at its top) and "lower"when not?
Also, could you answer my previous questions about species counterpoint? That's more important than this discussion on terms.

In reply to by etsenberg

The only time I remember the term "upper" coming up is to refer to the voices, not the intervals, not the notes. The upper voices in an SATB arrangement as the S, A, and T. So if someone says P4 intervals are fine when they occur between upper voices, that's what they mean - itis fine for tenor to have E3 and alto A4 which are a fourth part, because tenor and alto are considered upper voices. Everything but the bass - the bass is treated very specially.

If I speak of a third below a given note - say, G5 - then I mean, the one single note that forms an interval of a third with that G5. In other words, I mean E or Eb. i definitely don't mean, two other notes that are a third part but also happen to both be below the G5.

Not sure which questions about species counterpoint you are still looking for answers to, but be sure to see my comments in

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I've read your comment and asked my questions after it. You probably missed them, I repeat them here:
It's easy to add halves and quarters as a counterpoint to a whole note using the species counterpoint rules, as they give you lots of "legal" options But if I have a measure of a 1/2, 1/4 and two 1/8 and I want to "cover" it with a whole note, it ts much harder and not always possible to find one which fits the rules of any species for the whole measure. What to do - to break the whole note into notes which fit? And BTW, does the difference in duration matter? Species 2 and 3 are based on "consonant strong beats with possibly dissonant weak beats". Does it matter if the strong beat is short and the weak beat is long?
BTW, why species 4 always resolves dissonance by a step down (which creates problems discussed in the video)? Why never up?

In reply to by etsenberg

Good questions! No, basically, durations don't matter (much). The examples might always use four quarters against a whole note for simplicity, but the concepts apply to any 4:1 situation. As mentioned, these are just general guidelines that are normally followed, but plenty of subjectivity in their application when it comes down to details.

In fourth species situations, sometimes the dissonance does resolve up; it's just not as common.

In reply to by etsenberg

Consider the notes E4 and A4. A4 is the "upper" of the two notes, and is a 4th "above" E4.

As for lower intervals, what are you considering the bass? The lowest note, or the root of the chord?

As far as Species counterpoint goes. You either buy into their rules, or at least some of them, or you don't. Even composers from the time it is based on didn't follow all the rules all the time.

In reply to by etsenberg

"To be above, both top and bottom must be above, not the top only."
I know this is based on your airplane analogy. My question is what is F4 above?

It seems in my total confusion trying to understand the airplane idea. I totally gave an incorrect example. I could go back and edit it but I'm going to leave it. Hopefully I will have to take some heat for it. Which I deserve.

The example should have been F4 to B4.

I think this started because in my score for your melody, I had put an Am chord. But I put the E in the lowest position. You did not believe that it was an Am chord because A was not the lowest note. That's when this degenerated into what we have now. Do you still not believe that I wrote an An chord? If not, what chord did I write?

In reply to by etsenberg

Like Marc said, if you want to write something that sound Medieval, then you need to do some of the same things they did. Or you can get bogged down. I suggest you write something. Then compare it to some period music. If it sounds close enough to you, I think you may be done.

In reply to by etsenberg

Sorry, but I pretend nothing. I've probably forgotten most of what I learned. Obviously my version does not follow the "rules". I never said it did. I wrote what seemed to sound close to what you might be interested in. Technically, what you want to do is very difficult. Realistically, you should do some research, and come up with things that sound good to you. You look at what I did and ask why I did it. That's important. There is nothing wrong with not agreeing with what I did.
BTW, music theory is not a set of rules to go by. It is a description of what composers did in any particular time period. There's a difference between intent and purpose. Medieval composers wrote what they did because that was the sound of the times. That's why you need to get that sound in our head. Even then there were composers who thought outside the box. That's the way it has always been. Worry less about a formula. Music based mostly on formula isn't very interesting.
What I posted above was straight out of the book. There are several chapters devoted to two part writing. Voice leading was of particular concern. Parts could only move in certain directions. Rhythms were dictated by what interval was happening at the time. and much, much more. Stuff we don't pay much attention to today.

Also, a notation forum might not be the best place to get advice on Medieval music. I suspect no one here writes in that format. I know you have to start somewhere. A composer's forums might help. As well as Marc's link. I didn't respond because I'm a snobbish pro. I responded to give you a small idea of what might be possible. That's all.

In reply to by bobjp

OK. I was offended by your previous comment and responded the same way. Forget it.
I think general forum is a good place where pros and amateurs like me can communicate. On a professional composer's forum I'll be eaten alive (or just ignored).
Formulas cannot give the very idea for the creative work (of any genre), but they can help to stylize or shape it in the desired way.


Would you agree with the following statements?
An interval is a difference in pitch between two sounds.
In a diatonic scale, the dominant note is a perfect fifth above the tonic note.
The tonic note, together with the dominant note, form an interval of a perfect fifth, which is comprised of two notes.

This tonic/dominant perfect fifth interval can be placed above a bass note. The bass note then spawns its own intervals - in our case, one relative to the tonic and another relative to the dominant. It's true that this perfect fifth interval is above the bass, but not by the interval of a perfect 5 (nor any other interval) because an interval is a difference in pitch between two notes, not 3. Each note of that perfect 5th interval separately claims its own interval with the bass.

You wrote:
"An interval above bass (or any note) means both notes of that interval are above it, not only one of them.*

It's true that both notes (while still remaining a perfect fifth to each other) are above the bass, but each note's interval is also measured relative to that bass note.
So, when someone mentions an interval as being "a perfect fifth above the bass" they are talking about an interval comprised of 2 notes - the bass note, and the note a perfect fifth above that bass note.

In reply to by etsenberg

Earlier you wrote:
You (both) are mixing the totally different things: the interval and one of the objects/points/ends/borders which form this interval!

I notice your analytical approach to the concept of "interval" as distance; but, in everyday conversation, end points may be implicitly included in the context.
From your "Yes" response, I infer that you agree with this statement (I previously posted):
"In a diatonic scale, the dominant note is a perfect fifth above the tonic note."
Okay, so in conversation...
Some people might say: "C5 forms an interval of a perfect fifth with F4".
Others: "C5 is a perfect fifth above F4".

You wrote:
Yes, the note C5 IS above F4. Yes, the interval between F4 and C5 is P5.... But this fifth is NOT above F4 because it INCLUDES F4. To be above, both top and bottom must be above, not the top only.
Above" means "higher" and not "higher or equal to" Moving above ground is not rolling but flying.
But when it [a plane] is rolling the runway, only its top is above the ground, but its bottom (the wheels) are ON the ground - and that's why the plane as a whole is NOT above the ground.

Again, in everyday conversation:
"At the airport, I have seen airplanes parked on the ground."
Here it would mean the whole plane, even though, technically, its top is still above the ground, even after landing.

Back to musical intervals...
Consider the perfect unison (P1). It is technically a pseudo-interval. The "distance" between pitches is zero. Both 'end points' are all you've got.
(The plane has landed - top and bottom regarded equally as on the ground.)

You most recently wrote:
We must distinguish those P4s from each other! So, if you say the first P4 is "above bass"...
Yes, that first P4 is an 'interval' of 2 notes - one note is a fourth above the bass, the other note is the bass itself.

...then how do you call the second P4 (relative to bass, not to its own bottom note)?
You'd call that second P4 a 'chord' - which is comprised of more than 1 interval (it's now relative to bass).

In reply to by Jm6stringer

Again, see my latest response to Marc ;) I agreed already that if an interval is treated as a distance and not as a pair of notes than "above" is OK in the discussed meaning. But I am not speaking about chords. I am asking what word is used to state that an interval (both notes making it) is higher than a specific point (which point may even be not a sounding note so it doesn't make a chord). "Upper"? Like, "Any P5 upper than C7 will be out of range for this instrument"

In reply to by etsenberg

I can't really think of any real world situations where someone would need to construct a sentence like that. We don't normally speak of intervals being higher or lower than specific points; we speak of notes. And actually, I can think of a good example real world example of that. A general principle of writing for piano is, don't write any two notes lower than C3 where the interval between them is something other than P5 or P8. another good example: when writing tenor, alto, and soprano parts, don't have an interval of more than P8 between any two adjacent parts (although it's fine for more than P8 between bass and tenor). These sentences are perfectly clear and unamiguous, just as the sentence "a P4 above the bass" is perfectly clear and unambiguous.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I offered am example already when it may be important that an interval (and not a single note) is higher or lower than the specific point - when this interval becomes out of range or overlapping with another voice. Say, we need a consonant interval and we are choosing between P5 and P8, and we see that any P8 higher(or lower) than the specific note will break the limit while P5 is fine. Won't you say exactly that - "any P8 higher(or lower) the specific note will not fit, that's why we choose P5"? It will be good to remember for the whole part that no P8 should be higher than a specific note (say, C7) instead of calculating it every time for every note (so, if we see next note is higher than C7, P8 for it is out of question).

In reply to by etsenberg

You wrote:
Say we need a consonant interval and we are choosing between P5 and P8, and we see that any P8 higher... than the specific note will break the limit while P5 is fine. Won't you say exactly that - "any P8 higher...[than] the specific note will not fit, that's why we choose P5"? It will be good to remember for the whole part that no P8 should be higher than a specific note.

It's easy enough to consider the note that's one octave below the highest note of any instrument's range. So, it follows that any P8 placed higher than that specific note will "break the limit'.
Using piano as an example: one octave below piano's highest note (C8) is C7. No interval of P8 will fit above C7. Any P8 placed higher than C7 will "break the limit".

What about P5?
You already mentioned that "A fourth from bottom is a fifth from top and vice versa."
So, a P5 will fit above C7 with its limit being a fourth above C7 - so F7 is the limit. The F7 gives enough headroom for a fifth to fit, with C8 the highest sounding note.

So, when writing for piano, no P8 should be entered above C7. No P5 should be written above F7.

In reply to by Jm6stringer

I am not asking how to find the lowest possible note for an interval if we know the highest limit - that's pretty obvious. I am asking only about the terns. If an interval "above" ("below") a note means an interval which involves that note, then an interval which does not involve it must be called "higher" ("lower") it. Marc says, however, that such intervals are not mentioned at all, even in the example I offered - i.e., intervals are always mentioned relative to their top pr bottom and not to any other point. Not named ("P8,P4. ma3, etc" - that's obvious) but not mentioned relatively to any other point ("higher or lower") t Do you confirm?

In reply to by etsenberg

I think you are mischaracterizing what I said, so let me clarify:

Intervals describe the distance between two notes. It makes no sense whatsoever to take about an "interval" being higher or lower than some other note - the interval has no relationship whatsoever to any other note. It's just linguistic nonsense.

My airplane analogy should have made that clear already, but let me extend it. If airplanes are 500 meters apart from each other, fine. But there is just no sense in which we'd ever talk about this situation as involving "500 meters above Detroit" or "500 meters over Detroit" or "500 meters higher than Detroit". It just sounds like nonsense to a native English speaker. We can talk about the two planes being above Detroit, or we can talk about the two planes being 500 meters away from each other. We can even combine this and say "two planes over Detroit that are 500 meters apart". But we just don't talk about those 500 meters as being above Detroit, over Detroit, higher than Detroit, or otherwise being related to Detroit in any way whatsoever. It's not the 500 meters that are above Detroit - it's the planes that are.

Similarly if two notes C5 and F5 are a P4 apart, great, we can say that. We can also say that the two notes are above the bass note. But it just sounds like nonsense to say that somehow there is a P4 above the bass, or a P4 higher than the bass. It's not the P4 that it is above the bass - it's the notes that are.

It really is that simple. Nothing that requires knowledge of music theory at all to understand.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

No, in aviation an interval (vertical distance) is important not only per se but also in its relation to some point (usually the ground (AGL) or mean sea level (MSL), or the plane altitude) E.g., airspace class C normally consists of 2 layers: inner circle from surface to 1200 ft MSL (which has a radius of 5 miles) and outer circle from 1200 to 4000 MSL (with 10miles radius). So, the outer circle is 2800 ft "thick", but we don't even mention it - it's only important that it is above 1200 and below 4000 from sea level. but it is absolutely OK to say "2800 ft above 1200 ft is still C class within 10 miles radius". If we want to fly over a class C airport w/o entering its controlled airspace, we must fly higher/above that space, that is, higher than 4000 ft (or we may fly lower/below 1200 ft if we are closer than 10 mil;es but keep farther than 5 miles from the airport horizontally). To fly over class B airspace? we must fly higher than 10000 ft MSL Class A airspace extends from 18000 ft MSL to 60000 ft MSL. For 2 planes vertical separation, it's also important how far they are from the ground, not only from each other. Above 3000 ft MSL, planes flying 0-179 and 180-359 courses must keep a separation of 500 ft (actually, 500+1000*N. where N is a natural number) And there are other examples when a vertical or horizontal distance is important not only per se but in relation to some third reference point.

In reply to by etsenberg

Yes, once again, of course there are such situations where it is important to discuss the distance between two planes relative to a third reference point. Just as of course there are situations where it important to discuss the interval between two notes relative to a third reference point. I even gave you examples of exactly that. This is patently obvious and not something being debated.

The only question is, what is the grammatically correct way to construct a sentence discussing. As a native English speaker, I can assure you, there is no natural way to do so without focusing on the planes themselves in the first case, or without focusing on the notes themselves in the second case. Any such attempt will sound ridiculous.

But since it seems to be more important to you as a matter of pride or something to prove you are right about grammar than to learn about music, I will offer this:

Find me a sentence from an aviation textbook written in English by a native speaker, that only mentions the feet between the planes and not the planes themselves, and I then you say "see I told you so", and I will show you how to rewrite that sentence in a way that only mentions the intervals between the upper notes and not the upper notes themselves and you can feel satisfied that you know more about English grammar than a native speaker.

Then can we please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please drop this pointless grammatical discussion and start talking about music?

In reply to by etsenberg

Show me the sentence from the aviation textbook and I'll gladly admit you are right and that I am wrong, that the rules of English grammar are different when talking (or, more to the point, not talking) about planes than for any other object in the universe.

But indeed, I'm not interested in helping educate those who don't want to learn but just want to argue, so I'm done here.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Not even an aviation example. A cooking one (the first I got by googling): "You should be fine if you live at sea level to 2000 feet above sea level. After that, a good rule of thumb is to increase the cooking time by 5% for every 1000 feet higher than that 2000 foot base. "
1000 ft is an interval (many intervals) higher than a reference point. And they are not between 2 objects just between 2 levels. 2000 ft MSL is the reference point
There are lots of same rules in aviation - for the drop of temperature, pressure, power etc., only they use terms MSL or AGL instead of "higher than sea/ground level".
You don't need to answer. I am fed up with your arrogance as well.

In reply to by etsenberg

Sorry but this sentence has given me a headache.
" If an interval "above" ("below") a note means an interval which involves that note, then an interval which does not involve it must be called "higher" ("lower") it."
I think you are making this more complicated than it should be. The interval between E3 and A3 is the same regardless of which note you start on. This matters because there are more types of intervals than "perfect" ones. What is the interval E3 to A3? What is the interval A3 to E3. How did you figure it out?
One way I was taught to count intervals was in half steps. This excludes the starting note. Not the most efficient, but works for minor, diminished or augmented intervals.

In reply to by bobjp

Again, I was not talking about the names of the intervals. I was asking how they are mentioned relatively to some third (outer) point. Marc says they are just never mentioned this way. That instead of "P4 higher than bass" we must say "P4 between upper voices", i.e, an interval is always mentioned in relation to its borders and never to some other point. That surprises me, but OK,

In reply to by etsenberg

The thing is, no one would normally word it like that We wouldn't be talking about the interval, we'd be talking about the notes. In other words, it's not that the interval become out of range, it's that one of the notes would. So that's what we'd say. Not "the P8 between tenor and alto overlaps the soprano", but "the note sung by the alto overlaps the soprano". The interval it makes with the tenor would have no bearing on that whatsoever, so it wouldn't come up in the conversation.

If we happened to want to describe the interval between tenor and alto, sure, we would simply say, "the interval between tenor and alto". The soprano would in that case have nothing to do with it and wouldn't be part of the conversation.

You wrote:
I was asking how they [intervals] are mentioned relatively to some third (outer) point.

Once you bring in a third point/note, you've basically summoned a chord. An interval's two notes will always remain relative to each other; but individually, each note now forms a new interval with that third note.
Remember! Interval is distance between two notes.

Consider the C major triad (C4-E4-G4)...
Let's say a minor third interval (E4-G4) is flying along and lands upon a C4. This results in two stacked intervals: the minor third interval (E4-G4) is now stacked above a (new) major third (C4-E4) interval. The G4 now, additionally, forms a (brand new) perfect fifth interval with the C4. Prior to landing, that minor third interval could not as a whole be said to be any particular interval from C.

One could say: "A major triad contains a major third with a minor third stacked above it."

In reply to by Jm6stringer

No! I do not mean a chord! I do not mean that the third note sounds simultaneously with two others - it may, or or it may not (it may be just a reference point). I mean only the term to specify that an interval (both notes which make it) is (are) higher or lower than that point. I don't know how to explain it simpler :(
Like, "no P4 should be used higher than C7 (in some certain tune for some certain reason). My opponent insists that no English speaking musician will say it this way. Of course, it can be rephrased as "no P4 should be used between two notes if the lower of them is higher than C7" or "no P4 should be used between two notes if the lower of them is a second or larger above C7" or "no P4 should be used above a note which is at least a second above C7". But those phrases are much longer and less convenient. If the English speaking musicians prefer them instead of a simpler variant offered by me - OK, I can do nothing with it.
If you still don't understand what I mean, let's just finish. After all, it's a purely terminological question which does not affect the composing itself.

In reply to by etsenberg

You continue to make this more complicated than it really is. An interval is the distance between two notes. There is no reference point. Only the two notes. Is one note "higher" than the other? Yes. Is one note "lower" than the other? Yes. "Above" and "below" can also be used. Can there be notes in between the two we are talking about? Yes, and they have their own unrelated intervals. The aviation and cooking above sea level examples do not apply to musical intervals. Please read that sentence again. We all have tried to explain how simple musical intervals are. It's just the way it is. It may not make any sense to you. Music does not have to be science, after all. Knowledge about vibrations per second, frequency response or the like are not critical to playing a clarinet.

" I mean only the term to specify that an interval (both notes which make it) is (are) higher or lower than that point." What is "that point"? Do you mean one of the notes is "that point"? Are you asking what the term for the second note being "higher" or "lower" is? The answer is that an interval describes the distance between two notes. Period. You can use terms like higher or lower, above or below, or even up or down. You can talk about the note that is a P4 "up" from C3. You can also talk about the note that is a P4 "below" C3. The interval doesn't change.

Feedback to the opus26 piece:

To me it feels "medieval", but not in the sense of being a piece actually written at that time period, but more in the sense of how film music or video game music often depict it. So, experts will certainly be able to point out all the things that are ahistoric (like tritonus jumps), but not necessarily casual listeners that don't know much about music history.


A large part of this discussion was about the rules of counterpoint - and I think it might be important to point out that those were developed largely in monasteries where you had several people sing together, and the goal was to have every voice be unique and not have one person be way more important than the others. Some of those rules then went on to become pretty strict dogmas for composing all kinds of styles until the late 19th century.

As far as I know, in the medieval age (gothic?), both perfect fifth and perfect fourth were considered consonant, and everything else less. The discussions about a perfect fourth being considered a dissonance are relevant to you if you want to go for the rules of rennaissance time or later. From what I have seen so far, you seem to be uncertain about which time period you are actually aiming for - you can't go for both 16th century or 12th century at once, they had contradictory ways of thinking about how music should sound.

And frankly, writing music that follows rennaissance counterpoint is hard, compared to many other time periods. That is part of a university education, and not something for a relative beginner to aim for.

As for figuring out how to harmonize a given melody - I have to admit I learned that by listening and playing a lot of music. And experimenting a lot! It might help to start experimenting with using only one interval, and testing what that does. For example, generate a second voice by transposing every note down a fourth, listen how it works out, and see if there is any effect in there that can be useful somewhere. Or generate a second voice by only using notes that are either a third, fourth or a fifth down from the first one, basically trying to stay as close to the upper voice without generating too much dissonance. (That is how old folklore does it where I grew up)

Well, I'm afraid "experiment A LOT" is going to be my answer...

In reply to by jundurg

Thank you! Back to the topic at last ;)
Unfortunately, I did not know about the melodic tritones taboo when I was writing Opus 26, and yes, I listened to much more movies and games music than to the authentic one. But I use this tune as an illustration for my novel which takes place in a medieval setting but not in the historical Middle Ages, so it's OK to sound "generally medieval" for a casual listener instead of being accurate to the 12th or 16th century rules.
Yes, as I mentioned before, in my music written till now (I hope I may say so even while I am not a pro) I just added parts by copying the same notes (as is or with transposing by a perfect interval) to another instrument, But now I want to go further ;) (Once I managed to add the guitar part to the voice lead and liked the result - - but I am still not sure how I did it ;) Now I know more - like, parts are not required to be parallel and can only benefit from contrary motion.)

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