photo by Ethan Hein

In Part I of this series we introduced ascending and descending patterns to practice around the cycle. Two sets were mentioned. First is the pattern based on root motion.

The other is based on the thirds of each chord.

Part 2 will discuss how to develop contrapuntal lines using either root motion or 3rd-based patterns. Again, a special thanks goes out to my dear mentor Larry Novak who first introduced me to most of these patterns and concepts.

If you are a pianist, the first goal should be being able to play the root motion patterns 1 or 2 octaves apart in parallel.

This may take weeks to fully master. Not only is the mental exercise challenging, but the fingering and coordination involved can be a real bear. The sequence of Ups and Downs can vary, and one should continue working out different permutations until there is a real sense of ease.

After assimilating the pattern, one should start toying with contrapuntal lines.

The above example works well by starting in the middle of the piano and working your way to the extreme ranges. The pattern can be called an Outward Motion. The opposite would be Inward Motion.

Once Outward and Inward Motion is mastered, then various permutations can be tackled.

The above example can be thought of as Out 2/In 1/Out 2/ In 1. Other permutations might include Out 1/ In 2, Out 3/In 2, Out 2/In 3 etc.

Once contrapuntal root-motion based patterns are mastered, you are ready to work on 3rd based contrapuntal lines. As before, the first place to start on the piano is to work out what some have called "split octaves." Try the ascending patterns with both hands.

Then try the descending pattern with both hands.

When this pattern is easy going in either direction as well as permutations such as Up2/Down1, Up1/Down2 etc., then contrapuntal lines may be attempted.

After the Outward Motion for 3rd based patterns, work on Inward Motion.

Now Then permutations may begin. Try Out 2/In 1

Then try Out 1/ In 2. If you run out of room, start further apart.

Now mix it up with various permutations eg Out 3/In 2, Out 2/In 3 etc. One last thing I must mention is that unlike root based patterns, the 3rd based patterns are more harmonically specific. The above examples only work for major sonorities. You should also work out the minor versions for the same examples.

The next logical step is to run all of these permutations alternating between minor and major effectively producing series of II-7 V7's.

This wraps up Part II. In Part III we will look at mixing the root-based patterns with the 3rd-based patterns in both parallel and contrapuntal motion.