Area of Study 1, Ground Bass

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Area of Study 1, Ground Bass. 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.
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Area of Study 1, Ground Bass
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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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