Area of Study 1, Ground Bass
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A ground bass is a repeated bass part (also known as an
ostinato) that is four or eight bars long.
The tune is played over the ground bass part.
In order for the music not to get too boring the tune and
the texture of the music changes.
You can change the key of the ground bass to vary it as
well.
Activity:
Write down three ways in which the tune and texture
over a ground bass could be varied.
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1. The melody could be changed, have notes added or
be decorated.
2. The harmonies could become more complex
3. There could be more than two lines (ground bass and
melody),
More instruments and more parts could be added and
the texture could be changed.
The ground bass has a monophonic texture.
When you add a melody parts (that play roughly at the
same time) the music has a homophonic texture.
If the melody, the ground bass and the harmonies play
at different times the music has a polyphonic texture.
Listening and Appraising
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Listen to this music ‘Pachelbel’s (1653-1706)
Canon’.
1. How many bars long is the ground bass?
2. How does the composer vary the tune?
3. How does the composer vary the texture?
4. Can you think of any similarities with pop
music?
A bit more on ground bass
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The Chaconne and Passacaglia are dances that
use the ground bass.
In the Chaconne the ground bass is a repeated
chord pattern
In the Passacaglia the ground bass has a tuneful
bass part that usually has three beats in a bar.
The ground bass was most popular in the 17th
and 18th Centuries but was used later as well.
Activities
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3.
Compose an eight bar ground bass
Compose a main tune to go over your ground
bass and one variation
Perform your ground bass
When composing take into account what
instruments the group plays – this way
compositions can be played live, not always on
the computer.
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Area of Study 1, Ground Bass