If the medieval composer explored largely the possibilities the rhythmic counterpoint, the Renaissance composer was concerned primarily with melodic relationships in between the voice parts. The predominant technique used was the of imitation; i.e., the successive statement of the very same or similar melody in each of the voice parts so the one voice imitates another.

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Imitation had showed up earlier in the Italian caccia and French chace, roundlike vocal forms of the 14th century, and also in England in the 13th-century round, Sumer is icumen in. This compositions guess the Renaissance and likewise emphasize the rhythmic relationships common of medieval counterpoint.

During the Renaissance the method of imitation contributed to a new unity between the voices, as opposed come the hierarchy discovered in medieval counterpoint. Renaissance composers strove additionally for clean melodic relationships in between voices; in turn imitations usually started on the exact same beat that a measure and were separated in key by basic intervals such as the fifth (as, C–G) or octave (as, C–C). The Renaissance theorists, among them johannes Tinctoris and also Gioseffo Zarlino, categorized dissonances follow to form and governed each form by definite rhythmic and also melodic restrictions.

What is frequently proclaimed as the “golden age” of counterpoint—meaning melodic counterpoint—stretches native the so late 15th come the so late 16th century, indigenous the Flemish master Jean d’Okeghem to the Spanish Tomás louis de Victoria and also the Elizabethan william Byrd. Its leading masters were Josquin des Prez, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and also Orlando di Lasso. The northern composers in details showed a penchant for complex melodic relationships. Okeghem’s Missa prolationum (Prolation Mass), because that example, entails simultaneous canons in 2 pairs the voices. (In a canon, one melody is obtained from another. It may be identical, as in a round, or it may be provided various alterations, as of speed, or metre or omission of certain notes.) The most versatile craftsman the the Renaissance was Josquin, who music screens a continual variety of contrapuntal ingenuities, consisting of melodic imitation. His usage of succeeding imitation in numerous voices, as in his Missa da pacem based on the chant melody “Da pacem” (“give peace”), is coupled with melodic smoothness and also rhythmic vitality.


The imitative style involved its fullest flower in the so late 16th century not only in the masses and motets of di Lasso and also Palestrina but also in secular songs such as the French chanson and also Italian madrigal. It also flourished in important music in together contrapuntal forms as fantasias, canzonas, and ricercari.

The Baroque period

During the 17th and also early 18th centuries the pure linear—i.e., melodic—counterpoint the the Renaissance, now referred to as the very first practice, was maintained alongside the newer form of counterpoint known as the second practice. This latter type was defined by a freer treatment of dissonances and a richer employed staff of tone colour. The brand-new liberties v dissonance disturbed the conservative thinkers of the time; however they to be justified by their advocates on the ground that they enabled a much more expressive therapy of the text. Still an ext distinct was a new use of tone colour. Although the individual melodic lines often resembled those of the Renaissance, they to be intensified and also made come stand the end through differences of scoring or instrumentation. In figured base compositions (in which a key-board instrument improvised the harmonies end a provided bass melody) the counterpoint was between the upper melody and also the base line. These stood out plainly from one an additional because of their differences of critical or vocal ton colour. Also significant at this time was the breakthrough of concerto-like scoring. In a concerto a soloist or group of tools is contrasted through the whole orchestra. For this reason concerto style emphasized contrasts in between the number of performers, the high and also low registers, and the tone colours of 2 or much more performing groups. This was anticipated in some of the madrigals (Italian part-songs) of the so late Renaissance, especially those of Luca Marenzio and Don Carlo Gesualdo, in which 2 or three voice components in a high or low it is registered were instantly answered by parts in a contrasting register. Giovanni Gabrieli of Venice expanded this principle in his Symphoniae Sacrae (Sacred Symphonies) by setting off choirs the voices or instruments, thus achieving a counterpoint of difference sonorities. Together concerto-like impacts became vital part of the later madrigals and also operas the Claudio Monteverdi. In his madrigal Lament the the Nymph, a single soprano voice is pitted against three male voices, and also both in turn versus an important continuo (figured base played, for example, by cello and harpsichord) in the background.


This kind of counterpoint was ideal for emphasizing dramatic contrasts in the brand-new forms that the opera and the oratorio. In these develops soloists, ensembles, and instrumental components were opposed and combined in a great variety of means by composers choose Heinrich Schütz, Giacomo Carissimi, and Henry Purcell. In the late Baroque Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi included this format of dramatic contrasts come the purely crucial contrasts the the concerto.The Baroque concerto culminated in the Brandenburg Concertos the J.S. Bach, i m sorry are characterized by a remarkable blend of contrapuntal lines and also instrumental colours.

Bach’s counterpoint has actually a retrospective side, which supplies a largely melodic approach.

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The fugue, a composition making use of the technique of melodic imitation, came to be highly occurred in Bach’s hands—e.g., the fugues the the Well-Tempered Clavier and also his last compendium of contrapuntal devices, The art of the Fugue. A similar melodic, quite than tone-colour, approach occurs in functions such as the Inventions and in the canons that the Musical Offering. This works are akin to “the first practice,” the melodic counterpoint of the Renaissance, although in their use of dissonance and harmony they walk considerably beyond Renaissance convention.