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Hauptstimme (first violin) and Nebenstimme (viola) marked in Arnold Schoenberg's Fourth String Quartet, mm. 27–31.[1] About this sound Play 

In music, Hauptstimme (German for primary voice) or Hauptsatz is the main voice, chief part; i.e., the contrapuntal or melodic line of primary importance, in opposition to Nebenstimme.

Nebenstimme (German for secondary voice) or Seitensatz is the secondary part; i.e., a secondary contrapuntal or melodic part, always occurring simultaneously with, and subsidiary to, the Hauptstimme.

The terms are used primarily by Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. They are commonly indicated in musical scores with the marks "H" and "N".[2]

Further contrapuntal lines or material may be considered accompaniment.[3]

Other examples of the terms' use include lead and back up vocals, melody and counter-melody.

In a footnote to a musical score, Schoenberg wrote, "The human voice is always Hauptstimme [when present]."[4]


A Hauptrhythmus (plural Hauptrhythmen) is a rhythmic motif or cell.

The Hauptrhythmus of Alban Berg's Chamber Concerto is:[5]

\relative c' { c'4. c8 c8 c16 c16( c4)}


  1. ^ Haimo, Ethan (1990). Schoenberg's Serial Odyssey, p. 38. ISBN 0-19-816352-5.
  2. ^ Bryn-Julson, Phyllis and Mathews, Paul (2009). Inside Pierrot Lunaire, p. 24. ISBN 978-0-8108-6205-0.
  3. ^ Adorno, Theodor W.; Brand, Juliane; and Hailey, Christopher (1991). Alban Berg, Master of the Smallest Link, p. 97. ISBN 978-0-521-33884-4.
  4. ^ Leinsdorf, Erich (1982). The Composer's Advocate, p. 179. ISBN 978-0-300-02887-4.
  5. ^ Hailey, Christopher (2010). Alban Berg and His World, p.213-14. ISBN 9781400836475.