In music, a counter-melody (often countermelody) is a sequence of notes, perceived as a melody, written to be played simultaneously with a more prominent lead melody. In other words, it is a secondary melody played in counterpoint with the primary melody. A counter-melody performs a subordinate role, and it is typically heard in a texture consisting of a melody plus accompaniment.

Primary and secondary melody in Bach's BWV 1079[1] Play 

In marches, the counter-melody is often given to the trombones or horns. American composer David Wallis Reeves is credited with this innovation in 1876.[2]

The more formal term countersubject applies to a secondary or subordinate melodic idea in a fugue. A countermelody differs from a harmony part sung by a backup singer in that whereas the harmony part typically lacks its own independent musical line, a countermelody is a distinct melodic line.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Benward, Bruce, and Marilyn Nadine Saker (2009). Music in Theory and Practice Vol. 1, p.138. Seventh edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-310188-0.
  2. ^ "U.S. Army Bands in History: Civilian Bands Replace Military Bands". Archived from the original on July 21, 2007.