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Who needs "rules"? What's this nonsense about "rules"? I'm a drifter born to walk the road!

This my take, and what I do when I write music, and how I judge others' music. Your mileage may vary.  Comments welcome.

“I don’t want to sound like Bach or Mozart — rules are for fools and drones with no imagination! I’m a rebel, like Joyce, Stravinsky, and Picasso!”

Who likes or needs “rules”? Who wants to be told where they can or can’t talk, use their cell phone, eat, or park for free? What is this nonsense about books full of “rules” for music, saying you “can’t” use two successive fifths, or sevenths not followed by the note below? Or that fugues “have to have” “expositions” and “episodes” and follow “rules’ preached by other books about what their notes are “allowed” to do?  Are music lovers so arrogant and condescending that they listen to music trying to play “gotcha” when notes don’t do what some damned music professor said they ought to, and laugh and reject that music? Or is this a scam to ensure salaries for “music teachers” who are paid for putting red “X”s on people’s scores? 

And didn’t tremendous artists like Schoenberg, Jackson Pollock and Allen Ginsberg become famous by “breaking rules” (as did Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart)? I never saw a music-police wagon pull up and arrest somebody for “breaking the rules”…. 
I see scores here every day, usually attempted complex contrapuntal forms such as fugues and canons, with “I know, I didn’t follow the rules! Sorry!” as a (lame) excuse for why they (almost invariably) sound amateurish, dissonant, and disjoint.

In the past, before the internet and easy-to-use, free score editors, musically sensitive people who went to concerts or church or listened to the vanished thing called “classical radio” would there hear great music of the past. The industrious among us might try to learn more about it by buying “phonograph records” (which, once invested in, had to be listened to many times to justify the acquisition), and scores, ditto, and perhaps trying to play the music they heard on a piano or simpler keyboard,. And maybe we might even buy some music paper, and pencils with erasers, and try to write some new music, and eventually arrive at the conclusion that this stuff was pretty complicated: as with stage magicians, the fact that serious music looks “simple" when done correctly is the very fruit of the art — if you do not learn how to be a magician-musician, the result on stage will be sad and transparent failure.

If you were lucky, you might have been near a good library (mine was almost an hour away) with a good section on music-theory books, or perhaps knew a professional musician, student, or teacher, who could explain how to write music that sounds, to whatever degree, like the music you heard and wanted to emulate. And you would learn that there are indeed methods, abstractions, technologies, and yes, “rules” (many of which differed from century to century and place to place) which causes the music of historical composers to sound the way it does, not like “old music”, but like well-written prose or a well-painted picture, where the parts contribute to the whole, each sentence expresses a logical idea, questions that are raised are answered, and there is no spattered paint or typos all over the piece.  That, not genius or matchless inspiration, is why their music sounds like classical music instead of the uninformed tinkering of beginners. But it is utterly possible to inform yourself, and, with care and diligence, move beyond being a beginner.

If you are a native English (for example, it’s true in any language) speaker, you don’t say “I write my sanata yesterday with C major”, because it’s not English. Any native English speaker knows that, and although we understand it, we use and prefer (reasonably) proper spelling and grammar. Grammar is not a scam to pay teachers; people who speak English (or French, Russian, Arabic, or Japanese) competently not only speak in credible grammar, but best understand and appreciate correct utterances in their respective languages. The same is true of classical music — if you want your creations to be understood with ears accustomed to the form, texture, gestural vocabulary, and overall idiom of that extremely broad genre, you must “do the same thing”, “speak in that language”, i.e., follow the same rules. Failure to do so will prevent your work from sounding like competent classical music.

These “rules” were devised by musician-composers skilled in teaching, in order to codify and transmit, to their pupils, and to us, what they knew about writing music, so that they and we could do it, too, and express our own creativity. The rules of tonal music are not a strait-jacket, but a power tool.

As with every other art, those who “broke the rules”, such as Picasso, Joyce, and Stravinsky, were fully competent in the traditions of their arts before creating iconoclastic work.

"Your mileage may vary."

Are Fugues really easier to write than canons?

I have written full canons before and I have attempted writing fugues. But every attempt at writing fugues, at least 4 voice fugues leads to parallel octaves because I'm like:

Okay, I have reached an octave, now what? Going down to a 7th won't work  because that will lead me back to the same octave. Going to a 9th also won't work unless it is between the tenor and the alto because I can't play a 10th interval with a single hand so if the 9th is between the tenor and the bass or between the alto and the soprano, my only choices are either to go back down to an octave or to leap. Going back to an octave seems like the better option because I conserve leaps, but it just delays the resolution of the octave. Contrary motion to a 6th might work, but what if that doesn't fit with the harmony? Only other solution I can think of that doesn't break the parallel octaves rule is a leap in 1 or both voices involved in the octave. And in general I want to use as few leaps as possible outside of maybe a subject entry, and if I have to use a leap, I would prefer a third over a sixth. 

And I end up not finishing the fugue

Now I've been told that the distribution of 4 voices in a keyboard fugue is generally that the bass voice is alone in the left hand and that the other voices are generally in the right hand. But, it seems to me, that having 2 voices per hand just feels more balanced. I have also been told by a few people that fugues are easier to write than canons. Now this seems very counterintuitive to me. In a canon, you have the same melody, just delayed by a certain amount in each line. Sometimes this has a ground bass below it. I won't give an example from Pachelbel because you all know it. Instead, here is a 4 voice canon by Mozart played by a string quartet:


As you can see, every voice is playing the same exact melody until the cadential section is reached.

In contrast, fugues seem in all ways more complicated than canons. If I had to describe it as a cross between 2 forms, I would say that it is a cross between the canon and Sonata form. It has the main melody in multiple voices, just like a canon. And sometimes there are 1 or more countermelodies that also appear in multiple voices. There is also motivic development which is similar to what you find in Sonata form. 1 thing that differs the fugue from both canons and Sonata form is that the voices are like completely independent even if you don't take time into consideration. Time is what makes the lines of a canon independent. Fugues have lines that are independent through melodic shape alone. Sonatas rely on the relationship between melody and bass. No such relationship in fugues. In that sense, sonatas are closer to a ground bass canon.

And like I said before, I have never written a complete fugue, just a few complete canons. Even something like Fugue in C minor WTC I seems easy for a fugue but hard for counterpoint in general and especially compared to canons. Here is the fugue I'm mentioning and this video uses color to show the 3 independent voices:

So are fugues really easier to write than canons if they are almost like a cross between the canon and the sonata? If canons are hard, then wouldn't fugues be even harder? 

A statistical ode to BSG

I have been curious about some basic statistics on this community for a while, like at least let me sort the scores in this group by views, comments or favorites! But also, how many comments are there, by whom, who is most favored, what are some popular pieces from years ago? So with disregard for my own safety I downloaded all scores in this group (just the plain html page, no music of any kind) and did some counting!

Fun story before we get to the numbers. I did a back of the envelope calculation on how much I would torture the musescore servers, and it's about 4000 requests totalling about 150MB, this is also known in professional circles as not-a-lot™ but after downloading the data musescore IP blocked me. I'm now posting this over a VPN.

Counterpoint & Fugue has 2227 scores posted by 193 users, those that post most works in Counterpoint & Fugue:
627 verits99
260 BSG
151 Clarin Pardo
113 dmanzana
 79 schoutens
 63 Roland Bouman
 56 Simon Lecaulle
 51 Arthur Stammet
 40 bump
 39 Riccardo Collu
 33 timothyser2
 32 SDG
 28 boblucassen
 27 Darius237
 25 H. Gürtler

Verits99 has so many as he posted a massive amount of works by Bach, thank you Verits. BSG is more quality over quantity but is a clear runner up. But this is only the start of this stories ode to BSG. It's interesting to see how this list shifts as we count total favorites, which correlates with scores but is not like it:

1677 verits99        2.67 favs/score
1628 BSG             6.26 favs/score
 753 Clarin Pardo    4.99 favs/score
 344 schoutens       4.35 favs/score
 253 Roland Bouman   4.02 favs/score
 237 Riccardo Collu  6.08 favs/score
 173 timothyser2     5.24 favs/score
 152 SDG             4.75 favs/score
 144 H. H. Maung     12.00 favs/score
 138 Arthur Stammet  2.71 favs/score
 129 Ruslan Denshaev 6.45 favs/score
 106 Simon Lecaulle  1.89 favs/score
 106 michaelcbro     5.05 favs/score
  99 dmanzana        0.88 favs/score

Additionally there are 6634 comments by 187 users:
2827 BSG
 447 Clarin Pardo
 221 schoutens
 212 dmanzana
 194 verits99
 183 thementalhandle
 169 boblucassen
 151 cadams
 131 SDG
 121 penne vodka
BSG is clearly a very important part of this community, but to put his impact into real perspective we need to look at the word count:
114,362 BSG
 10,712 boblucassen
  8,168 Clarin Pardo
  6,392 schoutens
  5,915 SDG
  5,798 penne vodka
  5,722 verits99
  5,093 cadams
  3,098 dmanzana
  3,068 thementalhandle
Staggering... that's literally a books worth & more words than all other commenters combined by a wide margin (53966 words) and this does not even count his tutorials and essays. Also, I never realized I talk so much, I hope you guys don't mind.

Now I also want to make a list of 'good' scores in C&F, we can simply look by favourites but I think we should weigh the importance of those favourites as some are worth more than others. Let's say that a user is valued when many of his scores have favorites by other valued users, I realize that this sounds a little incestious but it works perfectly well ;).

Here are some people who's works are liked by well-liked people, the 'score' is a is relative measure
12 BSG
11 cadams
10 Riccardo Collu
10 timothyser2
7 schoutens
7 Roland Bouman
7 Tonsetzer
6 MC_M4hl0r
5 H. H. Maung
5 Clarin Pardo
4 boblucassen

And now we can list all scores in Counterpoint & Fugue by this metric,  and find some works that perhaps we forgot about. I tried to filter out Bach's works and those would dominate so if I accidentally removed an original composition I apologize.

Now of the first 10 works 8 are by BSG so to make the list a bit more varied, here are first 10 works by BSG ordered by the above metric, and then we'll follow with the non-BSG list
BSG                  Fuga (di BSG 19.03.15), at Hauptwerk/Grabowski Giubiasco
BSG                  Fuga 05-15-2018 (di BSG)
BSG                  Il Contrappunto Barocco, il secondo libro (Ch. V-VI) (attempted BSG “book” inprogress)
BSG                  Cembalo-Konzert d moll, I, Allegro (di BSG, 1999-2000)
BSG                  Tutorial: Linear Targeted Motion (BSG 2019)
BSG                  3 Kings per canonem (di BSG 2018) (re-recorded on Hauptwerk/Sonus Doesburg)
BSG                  So ist mein Jesus nun gebunden (Aria di BSG, 1981)
BSG                  Canon ad nonam super ‘Lamento’ (di BSG 2016)
BSG                  Cembalo-Konzert d moll, II, Siciliano (di BSG, 2001)(new in MS3 with someartic. fixups)
BSG                  Pièce d'Orgue (di BSG, 2017) (performed on Sonus Paradisi Doesburg)

And the rest of us! I left it at one piece per composer.
Tonsetzer            (Triple) Fugue a 4 voc. in f minor
timothyser2          Arie - "O Tochter Zion, freue dich!"
Niilo Korsulainen    Symphony No. 2 D major Op. 24
piotr.a              Prelude and fugue in G major
cadams               Concerto for Viola Mvt 4
H. H. Maung          Six Fugues
atmaninov            prelude & fugue in C minor
Riccardo Collu       Variations on Haendel's Passacaglia for Wind Quartet
MC_M4hl0r            Chorale Prelude on "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten"
Eleazart 2           Fugetta en D menor para piano
el-russo             Fugue D moll
schoutens            Suite in D minor for Oboe and Piano (Opus 29)
Joost-k              Prelude & Fuga à3 (for guitar solo)
waszil               Trio Sonata Op. 1. No. 3
mw119                Sonata in D flat major Op 7 No 1
Clarin Pardo         Schumann: Studien für den Pedalflügel, Sechs Stücke in kanonischer Form, Op.56/1
David L Dinh         Poor People of Paris (piano arr.)
Roland Bouman        Flows - for reed quintet
Timon de Nood        Flute Sonatina in A major
boblucassen          Fugue in G minor

Don't read too much into this (apart from the BSG bit), I'm just playing around and there are some problems, like being unable to correct for the beneficial effect of posting in many groups, or correcting properly for posting many works but I still had fun and hope you enjoyed getting some insight into our community.

Heads-up: This group was featured!

Hi, everyone! Just so you know, Competitions, Collaboration, and Creations was recently featured in the Group of Group's list for competition groups! If you  want to talk about your experience as a member of this group, or give  more info to those considering joining, head on over the Group of  Groups.(

We look forward to seeing you!

CCC#2 - "The Wanderer"

 CCC#2 is here!

Based on the results of the survey I sent out on Friday 7th June, it occurred to me that several of the themes which I suggested, and asked you to vote on, would in fact fit quite nicely together. Therefore, for this second competition, I have found another painting by Caspar David Friedrich, since the response for “The Watzmann” was very good. I am also going to give a genre of music (as wide as possible, but still something to go on) and a short story available in the file below.

If you would like to help judge the competition, or have any other queries, please message on Musescore, or via discord @jte#9811

Details of the competition:

- The deadline will be in 4 weeks time (Saturday 29th June)

- The genre, as chosen by the survey will be “Film Music”. This is deliberately a very wide genre in order to give the contestants freedom of creativity. There will be an award for the most original take on the task, as with the first competition. 
Obviously this theme can be interpreted to fit your desires.

- The painting (shown below) and the story are both in the google docs file. If you have any issues accessing this file, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to help.


- Your work must be completely original/all your own work.

- Be nice when critiquing other people’s work. Constructive criticism is fine, but don’t be rude. If you do, you will be disqualified from the competition and banned from the group.

- All pieces and comments must be appropriate.

Please let me know if you’re planning on taking part. I’d like to have an idea of who might be competing.  

- Joe


What if I would post this?

I'm currently working on two transcriptions for one hand (3 actually, but the third is paused currently):

1. Mazeppa (S.137)
2. Grande Valse Brilliante (Op. 34 no. 1)
3. Nocturne Op. Posthum in C-Minor

All these are pieces by famous composers transcribed for one hand...
Could I share those in this group?

Also, could I share my exact copies of the Douze Grandes Ètudes S. 137
(which I'm currently working on)?

Thx in advance,
Robin Pannenberg

CCC#1 - "The Watzmann" RESULTS! and CCC#2!


I am very sorry for the *ahem* 2 week delay. I've been very busy with school and things, so it's been hard to find the time to judge the pieces. But I've done it now, finally!

We've had some fantastic compositions, ranging from full orchestral to guitar-and-vocals pieces. All have been unique and brilliant in their own way, and it's been a real pleasure listening to all of them.

So, the winner will be announced below, and also in RSA, and you can read the feedback on your own piece in the google docs file. There are also a few winners for different categories, so check to see if your name is there.

THE WINNER IS: @David Dinh - "The Watzmann"
Wow. Just wow. Sounds very much like something from a movie. Beautifully orchestrated, with some fantastic writing for the string section especially. The melody beginning bar 26 is lovely, and harmonically, the piece is fantastic. Also the cannon in bars 46-57 is really nice.

Winner Categories:

Most Original/Interesting take on the task:
@lilianialoy - "Spirit of the Watzmann"

Best Orchestration:
@David Dinh - "The Watzmann"

Most Epic Piece:
VegetarianCarrot - "Mount Voir"

Link to feedback sheet:


So given the success of this competition, I think it makes sense to do another one. However, I want you opinion on a few things before I announce it officially. If you could please take the time to fill in this quick questionnaire, I would really appreciate it.