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Why did I get harpsichord ?
(Appendix : What is "Basso Continuo" ?)

Now, I am playing harpsichord mainly in amateur string orchestra or orchestra. I think people playing harpsichord are not so many. I will write the reason why I started to play harpsichord.

I learned piano and originally played piano. Probably piano was only instrument which I could play. When I was in institute of technology, I learned cello in amateur orchestra in this institute. The period of learning cello was short, and I could not get enough technique to enjoy to play cello. But the experience of ensemble in this period was very precious for me. After stopping to learn cello, I longed to perform ensemble.

After I graduated the institute and started to work, I invited to the amateur chorus group as accompany pianist. I was not so keen on playing at first, but I was gradually attracted to "making conversation with chorus ". Piano accompaniment of chorus is, sometime playing like soloist with accompaniment of chorus, the other time, playing the roll of backup of the chorus and controlling the tempo, expression or the other elements of music. In addition this was the first experience of "ensemble with keyboard instrument" for me. Of course, I did not have the knowledge of chorus or singing. So I analyzed the intonation, rhythm, location of the breath etc.of chorus part, and tried to imitate or synchronize on piano.

But I could not continue the accompaniment. In continuing piano accompaniment, I became to feel the difference between instrumental ensemble and chorus and feel to be deadlocked. I stopped piano accompaniment of chorus. I felt like playing in the instrumental ensemble.

Considering piano in instrumental ensemble, there are serious(?) problems as following.

These serious(??) problems are solved with trying harpsichord as following!

... and I bought a harpsichord.

My harpsichord (Images size=17KB)

This is spinet type. It is the most cheep type but it is more expensive than twice of my monthly salary. I immediately thoughted myself to the string ensemble in neighborhood and it was succeeded...:-P.

The motivation seems bad... ,but once I became the member of ensemble, I have been making good ( and hard ) activity in this ensemble. It is very interesting and I feel that I found very good position in my life of music. The interests of playing harpsichord are following. All of these are my arbitrary thinking.

Also. I have thought ; "With playing harpsichord, I can stand out more than playing piano ! And, I may hit with other person !"(Bomb!)......


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[Home] > [Music Essay] > [Why did I get harpsichord?] > [Appendix : What is "basso continuo"?]

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Appendix: What is "Basso Continuo" ?

Now I would like to explain what is "Basso Continuo".
(Like other termninology of music, the word "Basso Continuo" came from Italian. It is also called "through bass" or "figured bass" in English, "Generalbaß" in German, "basse continue" in French, and "Tsû-sô-tei-on" in Japanese.) ---------- In the following, I use sheet of music as image data. You may worry about it cannot be understand without using browser which can display images. But all of these can be downloaded. You can see all of these sheet of music using other image-display software and you will be able to understand the contents of this page. ----------

Please look at the following score.

Fig.-1 A.Corelli Vn. Sonata No.10 2nd movement (Dok003-1.gif 1.75KB)

This is the 2nd movement of the 10-th violin sonata by Arcangelo Corelli, a composer of baroque music in Italy. The upper part (in C-clef) is for solo violin. But the lower part (in F-clef) is appointed "Basso Continuo" and this part has many small numbers.

On score, this Basso Continuo is only one kind of instrument. But this part is for these two types of instrument.

(1) Instruments usually playing bass part. (For example, Cello, Viola da gamba or Bassoon.) (2) Instruments to play chords. ( Keyboard instruments (Harpsichord, Organ) or Bass Lute )

And instrument in (2) should add chords based on bass note and number. These number indicates the way to add chords. For example, the above music is played like the following.

Fig.2 One example of performance of Fig.1 (Dok003-2.gif 2.64KB)

So harpsichord player should select or develop most appropriate chords with improvisation based on numbered bass part, conferring other parts. This is very important subject in playing Basso Continuo. If you would like to know more, please refer the more detailed explanation of Basso Continuo. It is one of the pages of FAQ in newgroup "alt.music.j-s-bach".


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