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There has been talk about a potential fugue / polyphony contest, and since I didn't even know the definition of a fugue until recently, I thought I should prep for the contest by writing a practice piece in fugue style. So here's my (attempt at) fugue. I probably did a whole bunch of things wrong, so I'd appreciate if people could point out all the flaws

Specific issues that I'm aware of include:

- Too many crossing parts that obscure the voices: what to do? Or is the subject I chose a poor candidate for a fugue?

- There are probably a bunch of discordant notes / unresolved leading tones / parallel voices, etc., that should be fixed.

- The ending seems rather abrupt. Any ideas how to improve it?


(P.S. I'm not submitting this to the upcoming contest; this is just a practice piece.)

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Hi Serenity,

Thanks for taking the time to listen to my piece.  I think you misunderstood my intent. The goal here was to challenge myself to write a fugue in the traditional sense of fugue, with all the strictures of structure and harmony. I don't think I did a good job as far as that is concerned, hence that comment about discords. :-P   I'll have you know that I have written highly discordant stuff before, and that I have no fears of discord in the sense you speak of. I think the notion that people are "afraid" of discords is a strawman argument invented by modernist composers who wish to find justification for the path they have chosen. (Not that I'm saying they are somehow "wrong", but there is no need to denigrate others to justify oneself.)

Serenity Laine said:



In the beginning of this post, you say there are a bunch of discordant notes and unresolved leading tones, and asked for suggestions.  I think people are afraid of discords and unresolved tonal anomalies.  I had a dream last night, where snakes and monsters would pop up out of the floor in ordinary public places, out of nowhere, and would appear very terrifying.  But when I awoke, I realized there was nothing at all terrifying about these images.  I wonder if it's the same with discords.  Maybe the discordant notes should remain as they are, or examined, and made even more discordant.  And maybe new discords should be added, deliberately.   It occurs to me that we afraid of and startled by too many things.   There are still White South Africans who are afraid of Black and Brown skin.   Maybe it's similar with chords and structures that are simply unfamiliar to one.   


It's funny that so many people are afraid of spiders, which have eight legs, even as the traditional scale has the octave.  Fewer people are afraid of dogs, cows, horses and cats, which have four legs.  But I think only a few Asian cultures have a four tone scale.  


If you have a few notes that appear discordant somehow, I think it's a good idea to shift them around, and see if you can create a new and original kind of discord. Or perceived discord.  Some people are afraid others will think they supposedly don't know the rules, or made a mistake.  But it's only by knowing the rules that you can make the music deliberately discordant or in accord with traditional methods.  What people perceive as discordant also seems to change from culture to culture.  The more you play with the rules, the more you learn.  It's just an idea.  

I'd recommend looking at Hugo Norden's "Foundations Studies in Fugue", and Alfred Mann's "The Study of Fugue"

Both great books for learning the ins and outs of fugue writing. Norden's book is much more succinct, and Mann's is much more in depth with extensive examples from Fux as well.

Both books should be online in PDF form, but you can get the Norden book here:

Hugo Norden - Foundation Studies in Fugue

Hi HS.

I think you get off to a great start.  And the rest i found appealing as well, but i found myself waiting for an episodic/(sequence) break(s) to contrast the busyness. I also agree with Laura that it would benefit to spread out the distance of the voices in places, enabling one to hear more distinctly the individual voices.  

Thanks for posting!

ps.. although i have read thru the books mentioned - Fux, Mann - for me, it was more fruitful to look at Bach - any of the WTC… (Also, the appreciation and love deepens, if one Plays them as well..  Bach leaves his tracks quite clearly for anyone delving into the structure).

Thanks, Lara, Gregorio, for the suggestions.  I was originally going to write off this piece as "lesson learned, do better next time", but perhaps, if it could be improved with relatively minor changes (not that kind of relative minor, har har), I might take a stab at it.

Thanks, Tom, for the book recommendations.  I'll keep them in mind for when I decide to tackle fugue-writing again. :-) For now, though, I'm working on other projects. As for this piece, I kinda like it the way it is, warts and all, so it's unlikely I would make major changes. But next time round, I'll be sure not to write a 2-octave subject again, which I think was one of the biggest blunders I made here. :-P

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