Getting stuck figuring out a countermelody

Jun 24, 2019

As you can probably tell, I have a main melody and I want to add a countermelody. And, though it isn't explicitly said in the title, I also have a bass line. Here is my melody(Key of the melody is in D major but the piece it is in is in G major, thus the 1 sharp key signature):



And here is the bass line I have going with the melody:



As you can see, I have the piano part in full chords and the cello playing just the roots of those chords.

Here it is together with the melody. Full instrumentation of the piece is shown.



As you can see, I have the melody in the first violin and with good reason. Outside of solos, the only instruments in a piano quintet expected to go into the third octave(which the melody does) are the piano and first violin. The violist or second violinst might do it, if the section is a solo. That isn't the case here. But if you listen to this melody and bass by itself, it sounds bare. And while I could theoretically make a canon out of this melody to make it sound less bare, the results of that are to put it lightly, displeasing. I tried transpositions by both interval and time and just couldn't find the perfect one. All the ones I found had dissonant strong beats which defeats the purpose of turning the melody into a canon in the first place.

So canon is out the window. I could turn this into a fugato, but then where is the subject? Is it the first 5 bars? Is it the whole 20 bars? How does a whole note work as part of a countersubject? So fugue is basically out the window as well. This leaves me with only 1 contrapuntal solution left. Countermelody. Sure, fugues have countermelodies. But there is an inherent structure to the fugue which is similar to sonata form. If I just try to write a countermelody, there is no inherent structure. The structure depends on the melody, and sometimes, it might be non-existent. You can see looking at the picture of the score here that I have up to 2 octaves of space for a countermelody.

But I am stuck as to how to go about writing this countermelody. I know rhythm is part of it. But, given how slow the melodic and harmonic rhythm is already, I don't think rhythm is quite the importance as it would be if say the tempo was fast and involved 16th notes. The tempo here is moderate and the fastest notes are eighth notes. The fact that the fastest notes are eighth notes means that I probably shouldn't go any faster than eighth notes in my countermelody/countermelodies. But is there an easier way than just trial and error to find out what countermelodies work both harmonically and melodically? I am thinking of starting the countermelody(first countermelody if I end up wanting more than 1 countermelody) at bars 5-10 of this section of my piece.

There are a ton of different melodies I could try using as a countermelody here. Some would be going fast enough that they would sound like the main melody, even though that isn't my intention. Others would barely be a melody. Still more would require that I change my bass to fit it. And others might not work at all, even with a change to the bass.


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