Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

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Figured bass
(837 words)

Figured bass is a kind of shorthand in musical technique that came into use in the 17th century, whereby only the bass line of harmonic accompaniment, performed on plucked or keyboard instruments, was written out (Notation, musical). The harmonic chords to be filled in above this bass line were improvised (Improvisation); these were built on standardized chord progressions or were indicated by a system of numbered intervals. In this system, a given triad usually required just one number. Around the year 1607, the two earliest schools of figured bass [1]; [2] designated special form…

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Synofzik, Thomas, “Figured bass”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 09 February 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_019866>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20180126

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