How can I make it easier to write a fugue?

So I have tried writing fugues multiple times, I find the first step, figuring out the subject to be very easy. I have heard to limit it to 4 measures but I find my phrases tend to be long so to make it easier for me, I raise the limit to 10 measures. I find that if a phrase or phrase group lasts for longer than 10 measures, it starts sounding like a sonata theme rather than a fugue subject. I find that past the exposition, it gets very hard. It's like I go from:

I know exactly what melody I want to use


I have no idea what to do next, there are millions of viable fugues here.

And in case you want to know, here is my approach to writing a countersubject:

  1. Just the roots of the I, IV, and V chords of the dominant key, all quarter notes
  2. More flexibility but still staying exclusively within the triads, no rhythmic freedom yet
  3. Rhythmic freedom, but still consonant
  4. Introduce dissonances, and have the notes faster around the dissonances

So how can I make the process of writing a fugue easier? I have done everything I can think of(composing fugues, listening to Bach, analyzing Bach, listening to Bach analyses, studying counterpoint) and it is still super hard.

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26 days ago

Please don't post "Please look at my new piece!" here. Just post your piece!

Yes, this group is here precisely so that others can look at your new piece. Posting your piece here accomplishes exactly that; no "advertisement" among the discussions is necessary, and as more and more "ads for posted pieces" are posted, the value in the discussion page becomes harder and harder to find.  I suspect no one on the verge of doing so will read this, but I can try. 

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a month ago

Five-part keyboard fugues other than Bach's?


I don't know if this is the right place to ask a question like this but I am going to do it anyway: Does anybody know keyboard fugues with five or more voices from Bach's contemporaries or from late-baroque in general? The best known examples of five-part keyboard fugues are from Bach's WTC I, obviously. But I wondered if other composers of his time wrote some, too.



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4 months ago

Early cadence formulas

Just found this great little webpage that showcases some medieval and renaissance cadences. Not the whole story of course, but I thought you baroque lovers might be interested to see where your V-I came from, and maybe get some inspiration from them (I love the double leading tone cadence in particular). It's just such a shame that the phrygian cadence did not survive the tonal revolution at all...

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3 years ago


I created this group hoping there is some interest in writing contrapuntal music. If so, I hope this group will generate some active discussions.

I recently came across a series of really excellent lectures on YouTube by Giovanni Dettori. They are here:

I am only an amateur musician. Although I am thus not an expert I am writing contrapuntal music. I am sure that there are many mistakes and I would be happy to have criticism of anything by myself that I post.

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7 years ago

Fugue subjects used at the Paris Conservatoire

Starting from page 87 of the following document
one can find a digitized version of an old booklet containing a plethora of fugue subjects used at various exams and competitions during the 19th century at the Conservatoire.

While the musical quality of these themes may vary, they all offer certain problems to solve - to find the correct tonal answer, to create a good countersubject, to construct the canonic stretto etc. Some of the themes are rather easy to work out, some of them are fiendishly difficult.

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a year ago

"500 Fugue Subjects and Answers" (Marchant) - Google Books and in reprint (Higgs and Prout URL's, too!)

For those learning to write fugues, or better fugues, the construction of appropriate fugal answers ("You just present the subject in the dominant key" is RARELY the "right answer", as it were —) is a subtle and difficult discipline, whose traditions, rules, and guidelines are not readily inferrable from a study of, say, the Well-Tempered Clavier. The public domain 19th century fugue primers of James Higgs ( ) and Ebenezer Prout ( ) (both online-viewable in full) provide detailed instruction with copious examples from repertoire, viz., in their respective "Answers" chapters.

In any case, I have just discovered this Google Books "edition" of Arthur Marchant's 1892 (Novello) "500 Fugue Subjects and Answers -- Ancient and Modern" (i.e., 17th to 19th centuries) here: J . As you can see at "Get this book in print", inexpensive ($20) facsimile reprints are readily available, but I have had mixed luck with similar editions (smudged, missing index, etc.). The Google Books "edition" allowed me to page through the entire volume, including its TOC and appendices. (Update update: for those outside the US, Philip Daniel has posted a copy of this at - apparently Google works hard to restrict Google Books outside the US -- so use his copy -- but also check out the two works above, not so restricted). BTW, Marchant cites and credits Higgs.

As you can see from that table of contents, Marchant classifies the subjects structurally, most importantly in their use of tonic and dominant scale-steps and harmonies, the key factors in the design of answers. He also frequently highlights particular issues pertaining to each subject/answer pair.

No one attempting to write fugues consonant with examples in repertoire, and the expectations they create, should be unaware of this information, and Marchant's compendium, and Higgs' and Prout's primers, open clear paths to it.

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a year ago

"Unpacking the Box" in Frescobaldi’s Ricercari of 1615 - Massimiliano Guido and Peter Schubert

I recently came across some links on renaissance composition/improvisation I'd like to share.
The following are didactic videos (divided into 3 parts) of two scholars, Guido and Schubert, taking the role of student and teacher respectively, and playing out a dialogue.

part 1:
part 2:
part 3:

ricercare by Frescobaldi similar to the one played in part 3:


An academic paper on contrapuntal improvisation at the keyboard in the same vein by Guido:

This paper goes over my head, personally, because of the antiquated music notation used, but I think the gist of it is that for improvisation, a fixed fingering is selected then transposed across intervals so that certain fingers always correspond to consonances, and certain fingers always correspond to dissonances. This way contrapuntal patterns are cemented in muscle memory.

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a year ago

From a culture that abbhors polyphony

Might be construed as slightly off-topic, but there is a recent (20th century) tradition in China of arranging folk songs for a large orchestra of traditional instruments, and some of this repertoire has been appearing on this site. I find it extremely interesting how the orchestral setting and triadic harmonies are clearly built on the western model, but the approach to counterpoint is completely different; parallel fifths abound, and the fourth is not treated as dissonant. It's not for want of qualifications either, as the arranger of the piece below was a career conductor and is regarded as a national treasure.

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a year ago