Ways of Increasing Clarity in Contrapuntal Textures

Ways of Increasing Clarity in Contrapuntal Textures

Christopher Lee
[email protected]
Newtown High School

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:



High School


General Music


Mac or PC equipped with:
MIDI sequencing program (such as Intuem 2) with electronic keyboard and headphones


50 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Ability to create real-time MIDI tracks on the sequencer.
Ability to change the timbre of tracks.
Ability to improvise simple monophonic melodies using the black keys of the piano.
Understanding of fundamental musical elements such as register and timbre.

NAfME standard of 1994 Addressed:

NAfME standard of 1994: Improvising melodies, harmonies, and accompaniments.

NAfME 2014: Creating 

NAfME standard of 1994: Listening to, analyzing and describing music.

NAfME 2014: Responding




Students will create short 4-track MIDI sequences comprised of monophonic improvised lines and satisfying given guidelines.

Students will articulate ways that composers may increase the clarity of contrapuntal textures (i.e., differentiation of register and timbre).


1. Teacher leads discussion of contrapuntal clarity (what it means and why it may be desired).
2. Students create a short 4-track MIDI sequence according to set guidelines:
-all track timbres are chosen from the string family
-all tracks contain improvised monophonic lines using exclusively the black-note pentachord (i.e., Gb-Ab-Bb-Db-Eb) surrounding middle-C.
[Due to the limited range of pitches and similar timbres, the resultant sequence will demonstrate a blurring of the various contrapuntal voices.] Students save their sequences.
3. Several students share their sequences with the class. Teacher leads discussion of the musical effect (i.e., blurred counterpoint).
4. Students create a second sequence according to new guidelines:
-timbres selected for each track must be contrasting rather than similar
-all tracks contain improvised monophonic lines (as before), BUT the full range of the keyboard is explored; specifically, the top two tracks must be performed entirely above middle-C and the lower two tracks must be performed entirely below Middle-C
[With contrasting registers and timbres, this new sequence will demonstrate significantly increased clarity of the contrapuntal texture.] Students save their new sequences.
5. Several students share their new sequences. Teacher leads discussion of the musical effect (i.e., clear counterpoint).
6. In remaining time period, students experiment with editing their second sequence to further increase contrapuntal clarity (e.g., changing timbres, overdubbing tracks).


Student self-assessment throughout.

Teacher assessment of student work through continuous observation.

Follow Up:

Introduction of other elements that increase contrapuntal clarity, such as contrary motion and dissimilar rhythm.

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