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Thread: Figured Bass (Thorough Bass)

  1. #1
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    Figured Bass (Thorough Bass)

    Is there a method to understand how to play the figured bass notation without knowing what is is?


    For example i know 6/4 is second inversion.

    C(ii) : G-C-E

    From G to E it is 6th.
    From G to C it is 4th.


    It's alright now. However how do i make out 6/4 is second inversion?
    Last edited by zanshin777; 04-21-2014 at 05:20 PM.

  2. #2
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    Is there a method to understand how to play the figured bass notation without knowing what is is?
    It's not that hard to learn, but otherwise you can just count up the intervals.
    6/4 means a sixth and a fourth above the bass. So just count that up and work out the relevant notes. That should give you at least enough to be able to work out the chord, remember than other intervals (such as thirds or octaves) can usually be implied too.


    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    how do i make out 6/4 is second inversion?
    I don't understand your question. You seem to get the basic idea, the rest will come with practice.

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    I mean when we see 6/4 how do we know which bass note we play?

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    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    I mean when we see 6/4 how do we know which bass note we play?
    The note written in the notation. Figured bass is always associated with a given bass note; that's kind of what it means: "bass note with some figures attached" .

    So if you see a G note on the staff, you know to play an E and C above that.

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    Oh, right. )

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    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    I mean when we see 6/4 how do we know which bass note we play?
    If I (a bassist) saw a 6/4 that would look like - to me - Nashville numbers for a slash chord and the bass plays the slash (the 4) and leaves the 6 to the solo instruments, i.e. 6 string guitars, keys, etc. As to what the 6/4 would be.... you have to know what key or scale the piece is written in. If the tonic scale is C the 6th of C is the Am and the 4th is F. I think we were using the G scale so that would be the E and C.

  7. #7
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    If I (a bassist) saw a 6/4 that would look like - to me - Nashville numbers for a slash chord ...
    It's not though, it's figured bass (which is what we were talking about).
    We wouldn't want the OP to be further confused by irrelevant info

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    6/4 shows the notes we play over bass note on staff.

    What about;

    1) 6 ?

    2) 7 5 2 ?

    3) V over 4 ?

  9. #9
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    6/4 shows the notes we play over bass note on staff.
    The intervals, yes. Notes according to the key signature (unless you see a # or something like that).
    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    What about;

    1) 6 ?
    same as (short for) 6/3; first inversion.
    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    2) 7 5 2 ?
    Means those intervals from the bass note. So if the bass note is (say) A, then there's a B immediately above (2nd), E above that (5th) and G on top (7th) - assuming those notes are all diatonic to the key.
    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    3) V over 4 ?
    Hmm - got an image? Is the V right over the 4, with no other number? (usually when chord functions are shown, the numbers are to one side.)

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    In figured bass:

    nothing, 5, or 5/3 represents a root position triad.

    6, or 6/3 means a first inversion triad.

    6/4 means a second inversion triad.

    7, or any combination of 7/5/3 means a root position 7th chord.

    6/5 or 6/5/3 means a first inversion 7th chord.

    4/3 or 6/4/3 means a second inversion 7th chord.

    4/2, or 6/4/2 means a third inversion 7th chord.

    In theory texts, especially in roman numeral analysis, only the "abbreviation" is used typically:

    nothing means root triad
    6 means first inversion triad
    6/4 means second inversion triad

    7 means root 7th
    6/5 means first inversion 7th
    4/3 means second inversion 7th
    4/2 (or just 2) means third inversion 7th

    Note for the 7ths they go - 7-6/5-4/3-2 (which is why some like the 2 by itself, but it's far more oftern 4/2) in order of inversions so it makes it a bit easier to remember.

    In figured bass, an accidental by itself (not beside a number) always means the 3rd above the written bass note is altered (so "b" or "b3" both mean to lower the 3rd a half step). All other alterations appear with the number (#5) but in many cases the alteration is something like a diagonal "slash" through the number and not an actual flat, natural, or sharp symbol.

    Some texts use that same symbology in Roman Numeral analysis so instead of putting "iv" (minor iv) in a Major key, they'll put IVb, which means the IV chord has it's 3rd lowered (which is why the "a b c" inversion system is a bad idea).



    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    same as (short for) 6/3; first inversion.
    1) If there is onyle "6" whereas "6/4" How would i know i play C (From G to C it's 4th) over G? (Bass Note is G)

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    Hmm - got an image? Is the V right over the 4, with no other number?
    2) The fifth chord is what i meant.

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...20over%20V.jpg

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    1) If there is onyle "6" whereas "6/4" How would i know i play C (From G to C it's 4th) over G? (Bass Note is G)
    "6" on its own means - as mentioned above - 6/3, not 6/4. 6/4 would always be shown in full.
    IOW, a G bass note with a "6" means an Eb chord in 1st inversion; IOW, Eb (6th) and Bb (3rd) above G.
    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post

    2) The fifth chord is what i meant.

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...20over%20V.jpg
    OK, that says V#3, not "V over 4". (You need to make your questions a little clearer...).
    "V#3" means a dominant chord with a raised 3rd - indicating the harmonic minor alteration in the minor key (in comparison with the V chord in G major in the previous example).

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    What I want to ask is;

    If there is only "6" whereas "6/3" how would I know I play G (From E to G it's 3rd) over E?

    Bass Note is E
    C(i) : E-C-G

  14. #14
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    What I want to ask is;

    If there is only "6" whereas "6/3" how would I know I play G (From E to G it's 3rd) over E?

    (6 means that you play 6th note over bass note. However there isn't any information that you play 3rd note over bass note.)

    Bass Note is E
    C(i) : E-C-G


    Sorry for duplication of posts. Bad internet connection happened.
    Last edited by zanshin777; 04-28-2014 at 03:30 PM.

  15. #15
    MMus, MA, PGCE JumpingJack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zanshin777 View Post
    If there is only "6" whereas "6/3" how would I know I play G (From E to G it's 3rd) over E?
    "6" is short for "6/3" - that's what it means.
    Whenever you see 6 on its own, you can mentally replace it with 6/3. The third is implied.


    Note though that the figures don't compel you to play exactly those intervals above the bass and never anything else. - It's not meant to be literally prescriptive as in telling you exactly what notes to play when; if the composer wanted that he would have just realised it himself on staff notation (and some did exactly that).

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