Bass line

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The opening of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, third movement, is often used as an orchestral excerpt during the bass. Play ? / iAudio file / audio sample

In polyphonic music, the bass line (also known as the bass line ) is the lowest voice that carries the harmony of the piece of music in a special way .

Assignment of the bass line

A German double bass section in 1952. The player on the left is using a German bow.

In the orchestra , the bass line is usually made up of the double basses (and mostly also the violoncellos ), bassoons and low brass instruments , in jazz mostly from the double bass, in rock music from the electric bass , in brass music from the tuba and in vocal music from the Bassist taken over. In pieces for instrumental ensembles that are similar to vocal music, the lowest instrument takes over the bass line accordingly. In pieces for keyboard instruments, the bass line is performed with the left hand, alternatively with the pedal on the organ .

In baroque music , the bass line was usually numbered in the notes and accordingly supplemented with chords when it was performed; see figured bass .

If the bass part pauses while the others continue to make music, the function of another part is almost always automatically considered to be the bass part, possibly also the alto voices or violins.

A bass line played by the viola or another instrument in alto position while the basso continuo was paused was called “Bassettchen” in the Baroque era.

Principles for designing the bass line

According to the counterpoint rules, the bass line should run in countermovement to the upper part if possible - that is, go down when the upper part goes up and vice versa.

The lowest note in the movement does not always correspond to the root note of the chord in question . If you also put the real root note under each chord of a piece, you get what is known as a “ fundamental bass ”. However, this has less of a practical purpose and more of an analytical benefit.

Formative and metric-rhythmic properties

The metric-rhythmic framework of a piece of music is closely linked to the harmonic foundation that the bass line provides. This often means that the bass line is more closely tied to the basic beat , meter and main rhythm than other voices. In jazz , the function that emphasizes the meter is encountered in the steadily progressing walking bass .

A special form of the bass line is the basso ostinato , in which a figure of a few bars over which the other voices unfold is often repeated. Musical forms that apply this principle are the Chaconne and the Passacaglia , but also many works of popular music .

Another special case is the cantus firmus in the bass. The melody is led in mostly long notes in the bass and played around in the higher voices.

Coming from reggae music, the bass line is the defining characteristic of the dub genre as a regularly repeated motif. These dub basses then reappear in many arrangements, for example in hip-hop and house / dance .