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Encyclopedia > Figured bass

Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of integer musical notation used to indicate intervals, chords, and nonchord tones, in relation to a bass note. Figured bass is closely associated with basso continuo, an accompaniment used in almost all genres of music in the Baroque period. Music notation is a system of writing for music. ... Fingering for a C-major trichord on a guitar in standard tuning (assuming all six strings are played). ... A nonchord tone or non-harmony note is a tone in a piece of homophonic music which is not in the chord that is formed by the other tones playing and in most cases quickly resolves to a chord tone. ... In music accompaniment is the art of playing along with a soloist or ensemble, often known as the lead, in a supporting manner as well as the music thus played. ... Baroque music describes an era and a set of styles of European classical music which were in widespread use between approximately 1600 to 1750 (see Dates of classical music eras for a discussion of the problems inherent in defining the beginning and end points). ...

## Contents

Basso continuo parts, almost universal in the Baroque era (1600-1750), were, as the name implies, played continuously throughout a piece, providing the harmonic structure of the music. The word is often shortened to continuo, and the instrumentalists playing the continuo part, if more than one, are called the continuo group. Baroque music describes an era and a set of styles of European classical music which were in widespread use between approximately 1600 to 1750 (see Dates of classical music eras for a discussion of the problems inherent in defining the beginning and end points). ... This article is about musical harmony. ...

The makeup of the continuo group is often left to the discretion of the performers, and practice varied enormously within the Baroque period. At least one instrument capable of playing chords must be included, such as a harpsichord, organ, lute, theorbo, guitar, or harp. In addition, any number of instruments which play in the bass register may be included, such as cello, double bass, bass viol, viola da gamba, or bassoon. The most common combination, at least in modern performances, is harpsichord and cello for instrumental works and secular vocal works, such as operas, and organ for sacred music. Harpsichord in Flemish style; for more info, click the image. ... The Casavant pipe organ at Notre-Dame de MontrÃ©al Basilica, Montreal The organ is a keyboard instrument with one or more manuals, and usually a pedalboard. ... The lute is a plucked string instrument with a fretted neck and a deep round back. ... A theorbo is a type of long-necked lute developed during the late-sixteenth century, inspired by the spirited discussions of the Florentine Camerata and new musical works such as Giulio Caccinis Le Nuove Musiche. ... The acoustic archtop guitar, used in Jazz music, features steel strings. ... The harp is a stringed instrument which has its strings positioned perpendicular to the soundboard. ... Bass (IPA: [], rhyming with face), when used as an adjective, describes tones of low frequency. ... A cello The violoncello, almost always abbreviated to cello (the c is pronounced /tÊƒ/ as the ch in church), is a stringed instrument and a member of the violin family. ... Side and front views of a modern double bass with a French bow. ... Various sizes of viol, from Michael Praetorius Syntagma musicum (1618) The viol or viola da gamba is a family of musical instruments and is related to and descending from the vihuela and rebec. ... Various Viola da gamba The viol or viola da gamba family of musical instruments is related to the vihuela, rebec, etc. ... A Fox Instruments bassoon. ... Sydney Opera House: one of the worlds most recognizable opera houses and landmarks Opera refers to a dramatic art form, originating in Europe, in which the emotional content or primary entertainment is conveyed to the audience as much through music, both vocal and instrumental, as it is through the... Religious music (also sacred music) is music performed or composed for religious use or through religious influence. ...

The keyboard (or other chording instrument) player realizes a continuo part by playing, in addition to the indicated bass notes, upper notes to complete chords, either determined ahead of time or improvised in performance. The figured bass notation, described below, is a guide, but performers are expected to use their musical judgment and the other instruments or voices as a guide. Modern editions of music usually supply a realized keyboard part, fully written out for the player, eliminating the need for improvisation. With the rise in historically informed performance, however, the number of performers who improvise their parts, as Baroque players would have done, has increased. Improvisation is the act of making something up as it is performed. ... The authentic performance movement is an effort on the part of musicians and scholars to perform works of classical music in ways similar to how they were performed when they were originally written. ...

Basso continuo, though an essential structural and identifying element of the Baroque period, continued to be used in many works, especially sacred choral works, of the classical period (up to around 1800). Examples of its use in the 19th century are rarer, but they do exist: masses by Anton Bruckner, Beethoven, and Franz Schubert, for example, have a basso continuo part for an organist to play. The Classical period in Western music occurred from about 1730 through 1820, despite considerable overlap at both ends with preceding and following periods, as is true for all musical eras. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... This article discusses the Mass as a standard form of classical music composition. ... Anton Bruckner Anton Bruckner (4 September 1824 â€“ 11 October 1896) was an Austrian composer who wrote the majority of his mature music near the end of the Romantic era. ... Ludwig van Beethoven by Carl JÃ¤ger (Date unknown). ... Franz Schubert. ...

## Figured bass notation

A part notated with figured bass consists of a bass-line notated with notes on a musical staff plus added numbers and accidentals beneath the staff to indicate at what intervals above the bass notes should be played, and therefore which inversions of which chords are to be played. The phrase tasto solo indicates that only the bass line (without any upper chords) is to be played for a short period, usually until the next figure is encountered. In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and time. ... An accidental is a musical notation symbol used to raise or lower the pitch of a note from that indicated by the key signature. ... In music theory, an interval is the relationship between two notes or pitches, the lower and higher members of the interval. ...

Composers were inconsistent in the usages described below. Especially in the 17th century, the numbers were omitted whenever the composer thought the chord was obvious. Early composers such as Claudio Monteverdi often specified the octave by the use of compound intervals such as 10, 11, and 15. Portrait of Claudio Monteverdi in Venice, 1640, by Bernardo Strozzi Claudio Monteverdi (May 15, 1567 (baptised) â€“ November 29, 1643) was an Italian composer, violinist and singer. ... In music theory, an interval is the relationship between two notes or pitches, the lower and higher members of the interval. ...

### Numbers

The numbers indicate the number of scale steps above the given bass-line that a note should be played. For example: // Look up scale in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

A C with 64 figured bass. ...

Here, the bass note is a C, and the numbers 4 and 6 indicate that notes a fourth and a sixth above it should be played, that is an F and an A. In other words, the second inversion of an F major chord is to be played.

In cases where the numbers 3 or 5 would normally be indicated, these are usually (though not always) left out, owing to the frequency these intervals occur. For example:

A C-B-G sequence, with a 6 figured bass on the B and a 7 on the G This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ...

In this sequence, the first note has no numbers accompanying it - both the 3 and the 5 have been omitted. This means that notes a third above and a fifth above should be played - in other words, a root position chord. The next note has a 6, indicating a note a sixth above it should be played; the 3 has been omitted - in other words, this chord is a first inversion. The note has only a 7 accompanying it; here, as in the first note, both the 3 and the 5 have been omitted - the seven indicates the chord is a seventh chord. The whole sequence is equivalent to:

A C major chord, a G major first inversion, and a G seventh This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ...

although the performer may choose himself which octave to play the notes in and will often elaborate them in some way rather than play only chords, depending on the tempo and texture of the music. In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time) is the speed or pace of a given piece. ... In music, the word texture is often used in a rather vague way in reference to the overall sound of a piece of music. ...

Sometimes, other numbers are omitted: a 2 on its own or 42 indicate 642, for example.

Sometimes the figured bass number changes but the bass note itself does not. In these cases the new figures are written wherever in the bar they are meant to occur. In the following example, the top line is supposed to be a melody instrument and is given merely to indicate the rhythm (it is not part of the figured bass itself):

C in bass clef with 6-5 in the figured bass This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ...

When the bass note changes but the notes in the chord above it are to be held, a line is drawn next to the figure or figures to indicate this:

C-B in the bass clef, with a 6-line in the figured bass This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ...

The line extends for as long as the chord is to be held.

### Accidentals

When an accidental is shown on its own without a number, it applies to the third of the chord; otherwise it applies to whichever note it is shown next to. For example, this:

An E with a # in the figured bass, and a C with a b6 b This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ...

is equivalent to this:

An E major chord and an Ab major chord in first inversion. ...

Sometimes the accidental is placed after the number rather than before it.

Alternatively, a cross placed next to a number indicates that the pitch of that note should be raised by a semitone (so that if it is normally a flat it becomes a natural, and if it is normally a natural it becomes a sharp). A different way to indicate this is to draw a bar though the number itself. The following three notations, therefore, all indicate the same thing: A semitone (also known in the USA as a half step) is a musical interval. ...

Three different ways of indicating the 6 in the figured bass should be sharpened This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ...

When sharps or flats are used with key signatures they may have a slightly different meaning, especially in 17th-century music. A sharp might be used to cancel a flat in the key signature, or vice versa, instead of a natural sign. In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be played one semitone higher or lower unless otherwise noted with an accidental. ...

## History

Many composers and theorists of the 16th and 17th century wrote how-to guides to realizing figured bass, including Gregor Aichinger, Georg Philipp Telemann, C.P.E. Bach, and Michael Praetorius. Gregor Aichinger, (c. ... Georg Philipp Telemann (March 14, 1681–June 25, 1767) was a German Baroque music composer, born in Magdeburg. ... Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Weimar, March 8, 1714 – December 14, 1788) was a German musician and composer, the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach. ... Michael Praetorius Michael Praetorius (probably February 15, 1571 â€“ February 15, 1621) was a German composer and writer on music. ...

## Contemporary uses

It is also sometimes used by classical musicians as a shorthand way of indicating chords (though it is not generally used in modern musical compositions). A form of figured bass is used in notation of accordion music; another simplified form is used to notate guitar chords. Today the most common use of figured bass notation is to indicate the inversion, however, often without the staff notation, using letter note names followed with the figure, for instance the bass note C in 64 figured bass would be written $C_4^6$. The symbols can also be used with Roman numerals in analyzing functional harmony, a usage called figured Roman; see chord symbol. A button accordion An accordion is a musical instrument of the handheld bellows-driven free reed aerophone family, sometimes referred to as squeezeboxes. ... A Guitar Chord is simply a chord as played on any type of guitar. ... In music theory, the word inversion has several meanings. ... See also: function and functional. ... In music a chord symbol is an abbreviated notation for chord names and qualities, using letters, numbers, and other symbols. ...

Results from FactBites:

 Figured bass (1029 words) Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of integer musical notation used to indicate intervallic content (the intervals which make up a sonority), later chords, in relation to a bass note. Today the most common use of figured bass notation is to indicate the inversion, however, often without the staff notation, using letter note names followed with the figure, for instance the bass note C in 64 figured bass A part notated with figured bass consists of a bass-line notated in the normal western manner (with notes on a musical staff) plus added numbers and accidentals beneath the staff to indicate at what intervals above the bass notes should be played, and therefore which inversions of which chords are to be played.
 Figured bass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1851 words) Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of integer musical notation used to indicate intervals, chords, and nonchord tones, in relation to a bass note. Figured bass is closely associated with basso continuo, an accompaniment used in almost all genres of music in the Baroque period. The figured bass, therefore, was integral to the development of the Baroque, by extension the ”classical”, and by further extension most subsequent musical styles.
More results at FactBites »

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