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ground bass

[beys] /beɪs/
noun, Music.
1.
a short fundamental bass part continually repeated throughout a movement.
Origin
1690-1700
1690-1700
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for ground bass

ground bass

/beɪs/
noun
1.
(music) a short melodic bass line that is repeated over and over again
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Encyclopedia Article for ground bass

in music, a short, recurring melodic pattern in the bass part of a composition that serves as the principal structural element. Prototypical instances are found in 13th-century French vocal motets as well as in 15th-century European dances, where a recurrent melody served as a cantus firmus, or fixed theme. With the rise of idiomatic instrumental music in the 16th century, the practice of improvising or composing new melodies above a repeated bass pattern became widely popular, especially in music for the lute and guitar (especially in Italy, England, and Spain) and harpsichord (especially in England); this practice, known in Spanish music as diferencias and elsewhere in Europe as divisions, is an early manifestation of the technique of theme and variations.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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