Posted in Project 1: Handel's Dixit Dominus and Figured Bass

Exercise 3.3: Reflection on the figured bass exercises

This exercise is about reflecting on my experience with the figured bass in around 300 words.

While I was familiar with most chord symbols, having extensively studied harmony and counterpoint in my prior training, I still found the first exercise, 3.1, somewhat challlenging. First of all, the harmony I studied was the four-part vocal harmony, which really helped me with identifying the figured bass for the second exercise, 3.2. However, there are multiple strict rules regarding things such as the successive and hidden octaves and fifths due to different concerns for the singers, and so, when I started solving the first exercise, I found it quite frustrating, because I couldn’t really completely control where the ‘parts’ were going. In this sense, I don’t think the four-part strict vocal harmony is the best blueprint for figure bass, although some of its elements did help me approach the task. I also found myself repeating a lot of progressions and really wanted to break away from that. I did manage to achieve some interesting results – such as in the second bar that contains the imitation of the F# and A in a lower voice.

Although quite challenging, I would love to invest some more time on the figured bass in the future and see how it can be done practically. Being largely improvised on spot – I wonder what type of strategies I could develop from this fluid form. In any case, solving the figured bass was also an important point for me to consider how the strict vocal four-part harmony differs from the flexible, improvised baroque instrumental harmony, which I am yet to properly explore.

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