Basso Ostinato

A type of variation form in which a bass line, or harmonic pattern

"Basso Ostinato" is a musical technique in which a fixed bass line or chord progression is continuously repeated while the melody and harmonies above it vary. This technique creates a strong sense of cyclic and unified structure in the music and is often used in Baroque and early Classical music.

The key to Basso Ostinato is the persistent repetition of the bass part. This fixed bass line (referred to as the "ground bass") can be a short melodic sequence or chord progression that remains unchanged throughout the composition. Above this fixed bass, the upper voices' melodies, harmonies, and rhythms can vary over time, creating a variety of changes.

Basso Ostinato creates musical cycles, allowing listeners to hear the repeated bass theme throughout the composition. Simultaneously, it provides composers with an opportunity to explore different variations, emotions, and effects in the upper voices. Composers can introduce counterpoint melodies, variations, contrasts, and developments in the upper voices to create diverse musical effects.

Basso Ostinato is often used in dance movements, variations, and sonatas, among other works. It allows composers to showcase creativity within a fixed harmonic structure and brings unity and stability to the music. The use of this technique also frequently captures the audience's attention as they track and appreciate the variations based on the underlying bass.

Example of Basso Ostinato

Basso Continuo Example (Corelli)