The Craft of Modal Counterpoint: 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Craft of Modal Counterpoint

2nd Edition

By Thomas Benjamin


202 pages | 132 B/W Illus.

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"The Craft of Modal Counterpoint" is the companion book to Benjamin's "The Craft of Tonal Counterpoint," recently republished in a second edition by Routledge. Modal counterpoint is the style of composition that was employed until the "tonal" revolution pioneered by Bach; it is the basis for most Early Music.

Benjamin, a composer and pedagogue, offers a complete analysis of this important musical style. He begins by covering general aspects of the style, then covers in detail two, three, and four-part counterpoint. The Motet, an important form of vocal composition in this period, is studied separately. The book concludes with a brief anthology of key scores, 15 in all, for the student to study further. Also includes 132 musical examples.


"Here, at last, is a book that dealt with the modal contrapuntal style in a musical and compositional way… the emphasis is always on the music itself and… on the craft of composing in this style. This is a very significant addition to the library of books on modal counterpoint."

— Dr. Robert Nelson, Professor of Music Theory and Composition, University of Houston

"The author is quite well-respected in the field, known as a composer but even more particularly as a teacher devoted to issues of effective pedagogy. This is a thoughtful and significant contribution to the study of Renaissance (or modal) counterpoint."

— Dr. Sharon G. Levy, Professor of Theory and Composition at Peabody Conservatory

Table of Contents

1. General Stylistic Aspects


Text Setting

Notation and Performance Practice

Rhythm and Meter

Note Values


Dots and Ties


General Observations

Accidentals (Musica ficta)




General Observations

Intervals and Treatment of Leaps

Other Aspects of Melody

Typical Quarter-Note Idioms

2. Two-Voice Counterpoint

General Observations



Phrase and Form

Motivic (Thematic) Organization

Technical Details

Motion Relationships

Intervallic Relationships

Cadential Idioms

Comments on Two-Voice Composition

Imitation in Two-Voice Texture

General Observations

Invertible Counterpoint at the Octave

Invertible Counterpoint at the Twelfth

3. Three-Voice Counterpoint

General Observations

Texture and Rhythm


Dissonance Treatment

Cadential Idioms


Comments on Imitation

Comments on Three-Voice Composition

4. Counterpoint in Four Voices

5. The Motet

General Observations


Comments on Motet Writing

Suggestions for Further Study

Appendix: An Anthology of Complete Works




Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Instruction & Study / Composition