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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bass (music)

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BASS, bās (It. basso, deep, low), (1) the lowest male voice, with the average compass of from F to F two octaves above; deep basses exceed this limit downwards and high ones reach higher notes; (2) the lowest part in the harmony of a musical composition. It is the most important of all the parts, the foundation of the harmony, and the support of the whole composition. Different forms of bass are: Basso concertante, or Basso recitante, the bass of the little chorus; the bass which accompanies the softer parts of a composition, as well as those which employ the whole power of the band. This part is generally taken by the violoncellos. Bass-counter or contra-bass, the under bass; that part which, when there are two basses in a composition, is performed by the double basses, the violoncellos taking the upper bass or basso concertante. Basso ripieno (It.), the bass of the grand chorus; that bass which joins in the full parts of a composition, and, by its depth of tone and energy of stroke, affords a powerful contrast to the lighter and softer passages or movements. Figured bass, a bass which, while a certain chord or harmony is continued by the parts above, moves in notes of the same harmony. Fundamental bass, that bass which forms the tone or natural foundation of the harmony, and from which that harmony is derived. Ground bass, a bass which starts with some subject of its own, and continues to be repeated throughout the movement, while the upper part or parts pursue a separate air and supply the harmony. Thorough bass, the system in which words are denoted by placing figures over the bass note. Bass clef, the character put at the beginning of the stave, in which the bass or lower notes of the composition are placed, and serving to determine the pitch and names of those notes.