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  • GCSE Music Analysis of Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich

GCSE Music Analysis of Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich

Updated on June 14, 2016

Electric Counterpoint General Points

  • Composed by Steve Reich.
  • Written for famous guitarist Pat Metheny.
  • First performed in 1987.
  • One of 3 movements which follow a typical fast-slow-fast pattern.

Key Features Of Minimalism

  • The repetition of simple ideas.
  • Layered textures.
  • Diatonic Harmonies.
  • Slow harmonic rhythms.
  • Little variety in instrumentation.

Steve Reich.
Steve Reich.


  • Electric Counterpoint is written for live guitar.
  • When performed the live guitar is accompanied by 7 guitars and 2 bass guitars that have been prerecorded.
  • The live guitar is amplified to blend in well with the backing tape.


The movement builds up in 3 layers:

  1. A syncopated quaver motif which is introduced in the live guitar and the top 4 guitar parts, one part at a time.
  2. A new syncopated quaver motif which is introduced in the bass guitars.
  3. A more sustained motif which is built around 3 chords, it begins in the live guitar part and is then transferred to the other parts.

After all 3 layers have been built up, layers 2 and 3 fade out together, leaving layer 1 to continue until it comes to rest on a held chord.

Melody and Texture

  • The melody is made up of a 1 bar motif that is repeated continuously to form an ostinato.
  • This motif is introduced by the live guitar and the top 4 guitar parts at different times (the first layer in the structure above). This creates a canon.
  • In some parts note addition is used to build up the melody, this means that notes are gradually added to a part until all the notes in the melody are heard.
  • At one point the live guitar plays a melody that is made up from selected individual notes from the other guitar parts creating a resultant melody.
  • The piece has a contrapuntal texture.

Tonality and Harmony

  • Electric counterpoint is in binary form (AB) with 4 sections within the A and B sections.
  • The entire piece with a coda.
  • At the start of the piece there is tonal ambiguity but there are hints towards it being in the key of E minor but this does not become clear until the bass guitar is introduced.
  • The three chord progressions used in section A-3 are C Bm E5, C D Em and C D Bm.
  • The chords above make it clearer that the piece‚Äôs tonality is modal.


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    • Tatania 4 years ago

      This webpage just saved my life! Thank you very, very much. Please keep making pages like this, particularly on pieces such as Rag Desh and Mozart symphony No.40 in G minor. I have my Music GCSE this monday :s

    • Anthropophobia profile image

      Anthropophobia 4 years ago

      I have my exam this Monday too!

      I have already done one on Mozart Symphony No. 40, here is the link to it:

      I'm planning on doing one on Rag Desh today, I'd been putting it off because it's too hard haha.

      I'm glad I could be of help, good luck in the exam!

    • Shawn 4 years ago

      Yh, i've go the exam on monday as well :/

      Cheers to whoever made this :]

    • Laurie 4 years ago

      I also have the exam on monday - oh wait - tomorrow! Last minute... thanks for this :D

    • Anthropophobia profile image

      Anthropophobia 4 years ago

      Haha no problem. :)

      Good Luck!

    • steve 4 years ago

      End of year in one hour. thanks sooo much

    • George 3 years ago

      What about the rest??

    • Anthropophobia profile image

      Anthropophobia 3 years ago

      What do you mean?

    • George 3 years ago

      I do not wish to offend you. I think that the website is great. But you have not spoken about harmony, tonality, rhythm, dynamics or anything like that. If you added those to it this would be the most helpful website ever!

    • Douglas Pavil Stephenson 3 years ago

      Yes, I agree. Some tonality and rhythm would really help this website become the flourishing flower it truly deserves to be.

    • Anthropophobia profile image

      Anthropophobia 3 years ago

      No worries, I'm not offended. :) It's just I did these hubs when I was taking my music GCSE and now I'm doing my A-Levels (none of which are music) and I'd kind of forgotten about them. I added a paragraph on tonality and harmony - I hope it helps. :)

      - Anthropophobia.

    • George 3 years ago

      Thanks a Bunch!!!

    • smiling 3 years ago

      Do you have to know all of this for the edexcel exam board? This is awesome by the way thankyou so much:)

    • Anthropophobia profile image

      Anthropophobia 3 years ago

      Yes, it is for the edexcel exam board! Good luck revising :)

    • Michael 2 years ago

      Thanks a lot for making these!

    • Ims 2 years ago

      I agree with Derry

    • chickens 2 years ago

      this is the best website ever honestly couldn't have done it without this!

    • james 21 months ago

      this is a great website but could you try to get something on rhythm and metre?

    • bruno 20 months ago

      Thank you so much you actually saved my life

    • Isaac 13 months ago

      Why dont our teachers just give us this at the beginning of the year and let us learn of them? It would save so much time.

    • Batman 12 months ago

      U mad

    • Deadpool 10 months ago

      Thanks for this website. My teacher thinks I'm a genius

    • Zane 7 months ago

      This website is great

    • dan 3 months ago

      This has helped so much!!!

    • Adam Swalwell 3 months ago

      saved my life for exam revision

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