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Descants and Countermelodies


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Descants and Countermelodies

Like partner songs, "descants" and "countermelodies" also produce polyphonic texture. These are separate musical voices which are specifically intended to be performed together with another melody to produce harmony. Typically, a descant is an added melody which rises to a higher pitch level above the main melody. A countermelody is often quite prominent and at the same pitch level as the main melody. Unlike partner songs, descants and countermelodies are generally not meant to be performed alone.

** IMPORTANT DEFINITION **
A Descant or a Countermelody is a melodic voice which is intended to be performed together with another melody to produce harmony.



The example below shows a melody and two countermelodies, first played separately, then together. Click the play arrow to hear this example.




Listen for a main melody, a descant, and a countermelody, all played simultaneously by different instruments in the example below. (The piccolos play a descant, the trombones play a countermelody, and other instruments in the band play the main melody) Click the play arrow to hear this excerpt.

Stars and Stripes Forever (excerpt)




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Polyphonic Texture
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