TonalityGUIDE - basic tonal music theory and analysis for undergraduates
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Outline of Method for Realising Figured Bass

(don't forget to check your work at the end according to the CHECKLIST)

Stage One
Start by realising the figured bass purely mechanically. You should add the minimal number of notes needed in the order in which they are figured so that you are absolutely sure that you have not made any mistakes - problems at this stage will be magnified as you proceed!

More details and help can be found in Figured Bass Method - Stage I.

Stage Two
Now rearrange the notes to produce a very simple realisation with no voice-leading mistakes. This level will be the foundation upon which you write your final realisation. The freer writing of your final stage will work better if it is based on strictly 'correct' voice-leading at this stage (the pages on interval succession and resolution of tension may help):

  • each voice should move relatively smoothly from one note to the next. There should not be too many leaps at this stage, although your final realisation can include quite large leaps.
  • think about the relationship between the top voice and the solo part - they might move in contrary motion, parallel thirds or sixths. The top part of the keyboard might occasionally be a simplified version of the solo part. Variation is good! Make sure the relationship changes from phrase to phrase as appropriate
  • make sure that suspensions and sevenths are prepared and resolved appropriately, you also need to check that leading notes resolve properly

Stage Three
You now need to make your keyboard part more melodically and rhythmically interesting (i.e. turn it into music!). The page of examples of figured bass embellishment deals with this in more detail, but the following shows the sort of rhythmic and melodic embellishments that would be appropriate.


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