A Simple Tool for Species Counterpoint Drill and Practice with Artinfuser Exercise
Free online platform; first released in 2017; www.artinfuser.com/exercise/editor.html#
While the study of music theory offers numerous challenges, the topic of species counterpoint can be one of the more difficult to teach and learn. In addition to the numerous rules to learn, students can often find themselves adrift when attempting species counterpoint homework on their own. A compounding factor is that there are few websites or apps designed specifically for creating or grading species counterpoint.
Artinfuser Exercise is the most robust free species counterpoint website currently available. While it was designed for music theory students wanting to check their work before submitting to their instructor, Artinfuser Exercise may also be used by instructors to create student assignments. Users can complete species 1-5 exercises in 1-9 voices and use all diatonic modes in basic simple and compound meters (see Figure 1). They can also create their own cantus or place any of the ten premade cantus firmi in any voice part.
Once a student or instructor creates a free login, they can create, save, and share their own counterpoint or part-writing exercises directly from the online interface. The site allows users to upload their own counterpoint created in a notation program such as Musescore, Sibelius, or Finale as long as it is saved as an xml file. Artinfuser Exercise analyzes and identifies all errors in the uploaded counterpoint and the user can then alter or correct any contrapuntal mistakes within the website itself. Once corrected, the counterpoint can be exported as MusicXML, MIDI, and PDF files or shared to others through a weblink. Audio playback with a variety of different virtual instrument sounds is available.
A benefit of this website in comparison to other browser-based programs is that the user interface and note input functions are similar to current popular notation programs; the site can apply keyboard shortcuts from Sibelius or Finale. The user can choose to input their counterpoint with or without instant feedback. If the counterpoint analysis setting is selected, errors of pitch and rhythm will appear in real time as each note is entered. For each error, a short description is provided along with a link that directs the user to an online counterpoint rules website that addresses the specific error in more detail. Online support is also available, and every question I have asked has been answered within 12 hours. The grading is quite strict, such as identifying the repetition of a melodic climax as an error, and may lead to student frustration. Prior to using the website, the instructor should communicate to students that not everything marked wrong is necessarily of the same magnitude.
There are limited options for online species counterpoint tools that are both versatile and easy to use. Tonesavvy.com’s counterpoint assessment is useful but limited to only first species while the Counterpointer app by Ars Nova has a difficult to use interface and is not free. Artinfuser Exercise is an intuitively designed tool for creating and analyzing a wide range of counterpoint, from simple first species to complex polyphonic textures.
Figure 1. Example of Artinfuser counterpoint exercise in two voices
Paul Thomas is Assistant Professor of Music and Coordinator of Music Theory and Composition at Texas Woman’s University. His choral and vocal music is published through Hal Leonard, Carl Fischer, E.C. Schirmer, and BriLee Press. Paul was the recipient of the Texas Woman’s University 2020 Innovation in Academia Award.