Basso Continuo prep notes

Basso Continuo (preparatory notes)

You must have one computer able to play the MIDIfile for this project. The reading and realising of the figured bass works well as individual or pair work. Despite the obvious association of the figured bass with playing the harpsichord or organ, the exercise does not have to be done on a keyboard instrument. The musical aspects are as valid on any insturment.

The advantage of having several computers available to play the MIDIfile is that, once students feel confident reading the figures, they can interact with the string parts of the piece. This is the time to encourage them to pattern their chords to fit to their emotional response to the whole musical structure.

On all accounts,  set the MIDI-file to a slower tempo in the sequencer. You might want to save the slower version under a new name, so that you do not need to reset the file from lesson to lesson.

With only one computer/keyboard set up, the whole class should be encouraged periodically to coordinate with the string parts.

Before commencing the project, you might introduce the class to the concept of basso continuo by playing other music from the Baroque with a simple score to follow and ask the students a series of questions comparing the recording to the score. Other movements of the same concerto (See Autunno 1 project) or, say, a short  sonata movement by Handel would be sufficient.

When using the Autumn (basso continuo) MIDI file, note that there are 3 models for the realisation of the bass. Although they fit together, they are not intended to be played together and you will need to know how to mute tracks. The tempo will also need to be adjusted, as, for review purposes, the file is deliberately somewhat fast. For information see the Sequencer Tips and Tricks page.)

Depending on the abilities of the students in your class, you may consider whether the individual tracks (Violins 1 & 2, viola, cello) of the MIDI-file should be (transposed and) printed out and used as performance materials for whole class or small group work with integrated basso continuo improvisation.

If you are working this project with a young and fairly wide-ability class, consider, when assessing the work, whether a pass mark could be simply playing the bass line. Higher grades might be given systematically to students who: (a) manage some chords; (b) play block chords; (c) show some patterning; (d) exhibit a fluent interaction with the string parts.

© John Mason