Ostinato

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In music, an ostinato (derived from Italian: stubborn, compare English: 'obstinate') is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch. The best-known ostinato-based piece may be Ravel's Boléro.[1] An ostinato is always a succession of equal sounds, where each note has the same weight or stress.[citation needed] The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in itself.[2] Both ostinatos and ostinati are accepted English plural forms, the latter reflecting the word's Italian etymology. Strictly speaking, ostinati should have exact repetition, but in common usage, the term covers repetition with variation and development, such as the alteration of an ostinato line to fit changing harmonies or keys. If the cadence may be regarded as the cradle of tonality, the ostinato patterns can be considered the playground in which it grew strong and self-confident. —Edward E. Lewinsky[3]

Contents
1 Classical music 1.1 Ground bass 2 Sub-Saharan African music 2.1 Counter-metric structure 2.2 European harmonic influence 3 Afro-Cuban guajeo 4 Riff 4.1 Use in jazz and R&B 4.2 Riff driven 5 Vamp 5.1 Jazz, fusion, and Latin jazz 5.1.1 Examples 5.2 Gospel, soul, and funk 5.3 Musical theater 5.4 Electronic music 6 Indian classical music 7 See also 8 References 9 Further reading 10 External links

Classical music
Ostinati are used in 20th-century music to stabilize groups of pitches, as in Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring

"." However. traditional African music including Gnawa music..[6] and boogie-woogie. [7] a piece underneath variations. gankoqui bell ensembles.. Ground bass Applicable in homophonic and contrapuntal textures they are "repetitive a rhythmic-harmonic schemes". or harmonic pattern (see Chaconne. or purely rhythmic. also common in Elizabethan England as Grounde) is repeated as the basis of Ground bass of Pachelbel's Canon. for plotting behind his back.. "it might more properly be termed a musical device than a musical form. ". Often.. and Figaro. especially Vincenzo Bellini. measures 1–6."[6] "Dido's Lament" ground bass. owes its name to a crescendo that underlies a persistent musical pattern. in modal music.[2] A famous type of ostinato. [4] Play See also: lament bass Ground bass or basso ostinato (obstinate bass) is a type of variation form in which a bassline. his wife. which usually culminates in a solo vocal cadenza. Ostinato figures are also played on string instruments such as the kora. called the Rossini crescendo. and the gyil.the easiest to recognize" of the variation forms wherein.relentless. African ostinatos . more familiar as accompanimental melodies.. ostinati are often used in modal and Latin jazz. and later by Wagner (in pure instrumental terms. the bikutsi. though. ". while the upper parts proceed normally [with variation].. and pitched drums ensembles."[6] Their popularity may also be justified by their ease as well as range of use. repetitive character help to establish and confirm the modal center... his butler." Ostinato plays a large role in improvised music such as in jazz and Baroque music."Introduction" and "Augurs of Spring". A "favorite technique of contemporary jazz writers". he cautions that."[5] Similarly. to convey a sense of suspense as the jealous Count Almaviva tries in vain to incriminate the Countess.. Aaron Copland describes basso ostinato Play as ". These include lamellophones such as the mbira. as well as xylophones like the balafon.. discarding the closing vocal cadenza).lies in part in the need for unity created by the virtual abandonment of functional chord progressions to shape phrases and define tonality.[5] The technique's appeal to composers from Debussy to avant-garde composers until at least the 1970s ". Sub-Saharan African music Counter-metric structure Many instruments south of the Sahara Desert play ostinato melodies. Mozart uses an ostinato phrase throughout the big scene that ends Act 2 of the Marriage of Figaro.ostinato must be employed judiciously.a long phrase—either an accompanimental figure or an actual melody—is repeated over and over again in the bass part. This style was emulated by other bel canto composers. as its overuse can quickly lead to monotony.

The guajeo is a hybrid of the African and European ostinato.[9] Ghanaian gyil Ghanaian gyil cross-rhythmic ostinato.contain offbeats or cross-beats. Gradually. The African guitar parts have drawn from a variety of sources. The left hand (lower notes) sounds the two main beats. However. performers of African popular music do not necessarily perceive these progressions in the same way."[11] Such progressions clearly follow the conventions of Western music theory. an instrument of the violin family. and not in any hierarchical order as in Western music—(Kubik 1999). as well as foreign influences such as James Brown-type funk riffs. most often consisting of arpeggiated chords in syncopated patterns. piano.[8] Other African ostinatos generate complete cross-rhythms by sounding both the main beats and crossbeats. various regional guitar styles emerged. Cuban guajeo written in cut-time. The guajeo was first played as accompaniment on the tres in the folkloric changüí and son.[10] As Moore states. or saxophones. In the following example. The harmonic cycle of C-F-G-F [I-IV-V-IV] prominent in Congo/Zaire popular music simply cannot be defined as a progression from tonic to subdominant to dominant and back to subdominant (on which it ends) because in the performer’s appreciation they are of equal status.[12] Afro-Cuban guajeo A guajeo is a typical Cuban ostinato melody. the foreign influences are interpreted through a distinctly African ostinato sensibility. Play European harmonic influence Popular dance bands in West Africa and the Congo region feature ostinato playing guitars. "One could say that I – IV – V – IV [chord progressions] is to Latin music what the 12-bar blues is to North American music.[13] The term guajeo is often used to mean specific ostinato patterns played by a tres. Play . a gyil sounds the threeagainst-two cross-rhythm (hemiola). The following example shows a basic guajeo pattern. and Latin jazz. as indigenous influences became increasingly dominant within these Africanized guajeos.[14] The guajeo is a fundamental component of modern day salsa. while the right hand (upper notes) sounds the three cross-beats. that contradict the metric structure. including the indigenous mbira. The Cuban guajeo had a both familiar and exotic quality to the African musicians. African guitar styles began with Congolese bands doing Cuban "cover" songs. However.

"Most rock musicians use riff as a near-synonym for musical idea. Play Ostinato from Radiohead's "Creep" features modal mixture. Riff The riff from Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" Play is characteristic of Rooksby's description: only four measures repeated. which has had a major influence upon jazz." The term riff entered musical slang in the 1920s. which focuses much of the energy and excitement of a rock song. rock 'n' roll and popular music in general. David Brackett (1999) defines riffs as.[21] Use of the term has also misleadingly been extended to comedy where riffing is used to mean the verbal exploration of a particular subject. melodic. classical music is also sometimes based on a simple riff. It may serve as a refrain or melodic figure. Latin.. R&B. repeated. to instead indicate the improvisation itself: that is. and an emphasis on subdominant harmony (IV = C in G major). funk and jazz. C and G between C+ & C−). riff refers to a brief. memorable musical phrase.[19] and is used primarily in discussion of forms of rock music or jazz. Charlie Parker's . often played by the rhythm section instruments or solo instruments that form the basis or accompaniment of a musical composition.The guajeo is a seamless Afro-Euro ostinato hybrid. The Beatles' "I Feel Fine" guitar riff is guajeo-like. ". "A riff is a short. or as complex as the riff-based variations in the head arrangements played by the Count Basie Orchestra. relaxed phrase repeated over changing melodies. played low on a guitar as part of a heavy metal (rock) arrangement The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" guitar riff. such as Ravel's Boléro. improvising on a melody or progression as one would improvise on a subject by extending a singular thought..[15] Play In various popular music styles. Riffs can be as simple as a tenor saxophone honking a simple. idea or inspiration into a bit ."[20] The etymology of the term is not clearly known. often pitched low on the guitar.[16] Though they are most often found in rock music. or harmonic figures repeated to form a structural framework"." while Richard Middleton (1999)[17] defines them as "short rhythmic. Rikky Rooksby[18] states. common tones between adjacent triads (B between G & B.short melodic phrases. or routine. catchy rhythmic figure. Some sources explain riff as an abbreviation for rhythmic figure or refrain. thus moving the meaning away from the original jazz sense of a repeated figure over which the soloist improvises.

Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" had an earlier life as Wingy Manone's "Tar Paper Stomp". and musical theater. and post-blues era music (rock and pop).[24] A few examples of riff-driven songs are "Day Tripper". a vamp is a repeating musical figure. Instead. All these songs use twelve bar blues riffs.[citation needed ] "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple.[29] Vamps are also found in rock..[26][27] "Outshined" by Soundgarden. The Punishment Due" by Megadeth.[28] or accompaniment used in jazz. The "Night Train" riff was first used in Duke Ellington's "Happy-Go-Lucky Local".[citation needed ] and "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden. and "I Feel Fine" by The Beatles.[28] Vamps are usually harmonically spare:[28] A vamp may consist Vamp riff typical of funk and R&B. "Weary Blues".or lick-like ostinatos in modal music. pop. creating a "circular" rather than linear feel. Riff-driven songs are largely a product of jazz. individual musical phrases used as the basis of classical music pieces are called ostinatos or simply phrases. but raised to much higher importance (in fact. funk. A call and response often holds the song together. "The Hucklebuck".[23] The musical goal of riff-driven songs is akin to the classical continuo effect.[citation needed ] Use in jazz and R&B In jazz and R&B. the repeated riff is used to anchor the song in the ears of the listener). Contemporary jazz writers also use riff. Riff driven The term 'riff driven' describes a piece of music that relies on a repeated instrumental riff as the basis of its most prominent melody. riffs are often used as the starting point for longer compositions. gospel. R&B. Old Man". section.[citation needed] Vamp In music. cadence.[22] Neither of the terms 'riff' or 'lick' are used in classical music. [28] Play of a single chord or a sequence of chords played in a repeated rhythm.[citation needed ] "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones. Latin jazz often uses guajeo-based riffs. blues. reggae. or (in some cases) leitmotif .[citation needed ] "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.1945 recording "Thriving From a Riff" may have popularized the term. and most of these riffs probably precede the examples given. The term frequently appeared in the instruction 'Vamp till ready' on sheet music for popular songs in the 1930s and 1940s. and post-sixties jazz.[citation needed ] "Holy Wars. country. . which Ellington recycled from Johnny Hodges' earlier "That's the Blues.[25] "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin.. The riff/continuo is brought to the forefront of the musical piece and often is the primary melody that remains in the listener's ears. The verse of The Hucklebuck —another riff—was "borrowed" from the Artie Matthews composition. soul.[citation needed ] The riff from Charlie Parker's bebop number "Now's the Time" (1945) re-emerged four years later as the R&B dance hit.

indicating that the accompanist should repeat the musical phrase until the vocalist was ready. "A Love Supreme". an identity or a disposition. "Bron Yr Ayur". and Beck. regularly played by the piano and the trumpet throughout. an attitude. equivalent to Modern French avant-pied. Riffbased songs function well in communicating one moment's feelings. or "something rehashed.[28] The equivalent in classical music is an ostinato. in that a musical vamp is something improvised or elaborated on throughout the composition. the noun vamp means "something patched up or refurbished". Jazz. songs that are more varying and linear in structure tend to tell a story. "Loser". which pianist Dave Brubeck plays throughout the song (except for Joe Morello's drum solo and a variation on the chords in the middle section). fusion. riff-heavy vamp-based songs can be said to paint a picture. The jazz standard "So What" uses a vamp in the two-note "Sooooo what?" figure.[6] and "Chameleon". a vamp at the end of a song is often called a tag. vamp as a verb means "to put together. "Take Five". fabricate or improvise": "With no hard news available about the summit meeting. Similarly. from Old French avanpie.[citation needed] Examples include the outros to George Benson's "Body Talk" and "Plum". By contrast. Vamps are generally symmetrical. fusion. and open to variation. Examples "Take Five" begins with a repeated. This period of Davis' music has also been called Impressionist jazz.[28] The slang term vamp[28] comes from the Middle English word vampe (sock)."[30] These other meanings are related to the musical meaning. A vamp at the beginning of a jazz tune may act as a springboard to the main tune. Jazz scholar Barry Kernfeld calls this music vamp music. in hip hop is the loop and in rock music is the riff. Many vamp-oriented songwriters begin the creative process by attempting to evoke a mood or feeling while riffing freely on an instrument or scat singing. "Where Its At". because it uses some of the same musical features and devices as the so-called Impressionist style of classical music of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. Outside of music. Well known artists that primarily build songs with a vamp/riff/ostinato based approach include Jimmy Page "Ramble On". "Maiden Voyage". as a book based on old material".[28] The following songs are dominated by vamps: John Coltrane. Nine Inch Nails. "Closer" "Ringfinger". self-contained. and Latin jazz In jazz. Classic examples of vamps in jazz include "A Night in Tunisia". a personality style. syncopated figure in 5/4 time. In Latin jazz guajeos fulfill the role of piano vamp. a background vamp provides a performer with a harmonic framework upon which to improvise. having a narrative structure.1958–63) was based on improvising songs with a small number of chords.[30] The term vamp also means to improvise a tune's simple accompaniment or variation. "Cantaloupe Island". and the solo changes to "Breezin'". etc. Kenny Burrell. The music from Miles Davis's modal period (c. and related genres. "Devils Haircut". and Grant Green's versions of "My . Although all songs have some form of repetition. literally before-foot . outside of music.[citation needed ] Rock examples include the long jam at the ends of "Loose Change" by Neil Young and Crazy Horse and "Sooner or Later" by King's X. the reporters vamped up questions based only on rumor.

[31] 1970s-era funk music often takes a short one or two bar musical figure based on a single chord that would be considered an introduction vamp in jazz or soul music. and then uses this vamp as the basis of the entire song (Funky Drummer by James Brown. Unlike these music genres.[28] An example of vamp use in rock music is the ballad section of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". or measures long. or the arranger for the vocalist. sting (a harmonized bell tone with stress on the starting note). a repeating figure in "A Night in Tunisia" could be called an ostinato. Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin' on Sunset". the music continues to the next section. "In funk. or intro. blues.[32] The vamp serves three main purposes: it provides the key. bass. one to eight. Andrae Crouch extended the use of vamps in gospel.[34] Electronic music . or vamp. the band often vamps on a simple ostinato groove at the end of a song. Once the vamp section is over. and drums in the repeating vamp. a vamp. and Larry Carlton's "Room 335". each successive vamp drawn from the first). and they use the changing harmony to build tension and sustain listener interest. to transition to the next track on the album. and Grant Green's versions of "My Favorite Things". and a deep electric bass line.[citation needed] The Afro-Cuban vamp style known as guajeo is used in the be-bop/Latin jazz standard "A Night in Tunisia". introducing chain vamps (one vamp after the other. harmony is often second to the 'lock. The Cuban/jazz hybrid spans the disciplines that encompass all these terms. Depending upon the musician."[28] Examples include Stevie Wonder's vamp-based "Superstition"[28] and Little Johnny Taylor's "Part Time Love". riff . of music without lyrics. "Vamp 'till cue. guajeo. the end of recorded songs often contains a display of vocal effects—such as rapid scales. for example). and provides emotional context.[33] The rideout is the transitional music that begins on the downbeat of the last word of the song and is usually two to four bars long. and indicates. without requiring the music to pause.' the linking of contrapuntal parts that are played on guitar. is the few bars. rhythm section instruments." by the conductor. a copyist employed by the publisher. and they are sampled and used in other songs. In soul music. The vamp gives the onstage singers time to prepare for the song or the next verse. sound engineers gradually fade out the vamp section at the end of a song. establishes the tempo. and improvised passages. and rock are almost always based on chord progressions (a sequence of changing chords).[31] Musical theater In musical theater. Salsoul singers such as Loleatta Holloway have become notable for their vocal improvisations at the end of songs. Jazz.The following songs are dominated by vamps: John Coltrane. usually over a single chord. The vamp may be written by the composer of the song. and funk In gospel and soul music. Kenny Burrell. The score provides a one or two bar vamp figure. For recordings. Gospel. soul. which begin a printed copy of a song[32] and which the orchestra or other accompaniment repeats during dialogue or stage business. to provide musical accompaniment for onstage transitions of indeterminate length. usually all over a single chord. arpeggios. though it may be as short as a sting or as long as a Roxy Rideout.[33] The vamp may be as short as a bell tone. funk is based on the rhythmic groove of the percussion. Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon". which features an extended improvisation over a two-chord vamp.

but very sparingly. has relied on ostinato-like basslines. Initially analog.[citation needed ] In the Berlin School of electronic music. a 7-beat rhythmic cycle. which is drawn from the ancient vedic traditions. which allowed for up to 72 events to be stored. For examples of the above. In Indian Classical Music. created by the 303 and similar synthesizers. The basic idea of the lehara is to provide a steady melodious framework for rhythmic improvisations. further implying that the 1st. The playing of the lehara is relatively free from the numerous rules and constraints of 'Raga Sangeet'. and 6th beats are the prominent beats in that taal. In the mid-seventies. it is very easy to create ostinato basslines with it. The lehara is usually played on the Harmonium. E. and Synergy's (Larry Fast's) Electronic Realizations for Rock Orchestra. While there may be scores of individually talented instrumentalists. Since the 303 also has a pattern sequencer as well and can be controlled to play back at various speeds. which signify 'khand's (divisions) of the taal. It serves as an auditory workbench not only for the soloist but also for the audience to appreciate the ingenuity of the improvisations and thus the merits of the overall performance. As the electronic music world developed. It is essential that the lehara be played with the highest precision in Laya (Tempo) and Swara control. the concept of 'Suum' (pronounced as 'sum') carries paramount importance. sequences that make up these ostinati were entered by setting knobs on the Moog 960 sequencer or sliders on the ARP Sequencer. see Tangerine Dream's Phaedra. there are other beats of emphasis in any given taal. is divided 3–2–2. a conceptually similar melodic pattern known as the Lehara (sometimes spelled Lehra) or Nagma is played repeatedly throughout the performance. It is also permissible to switch between two or more disparate melodies during the course of the performance. Therefore it is customary. E. during Tabla or Pakhawaj solo performances and Kathak dance accompaniments. Sarangi or even the Violin. Besides these two prominent beats. Klaus Schulze's Moondawn. for example generated by the Roland TB-303 synthesizer (which was originally developed in 1982 by Roland as a "bass-player substitute" for guitarists. Similarly Ustad Ali Akbar Khan has played numerous leharas on the Sarod with Pandit .g. The second most important beat is the Khali. Electronic music. which is a complement of the Suum. 'Roopak' or 'Rupak' taal. 4th. Other instruments like Sitar and Sarod have also been used to play the lehara. but gained more favor in later years as a bassline synthesizer in its own right). sequencers began to be added to synthesizers as Arpeggiators. to align the lehara according to the divisions of the Taal. which are upheld and honoured in the tradition of Indian Classical Music. This melodic pattern is set to the number of beats in a rhythmic cycle (Tala or Taal) being performed and may be based on one or a blend of multiple Ragas. It is considered a hallmark of excellence to play lehara alongside a recognised Tabla or Pakhawaj virtuoso. It is done with a view to emphasize those beats that mark the divisions of the Taal. The Suum is the target unison beat of any rhythmic cycle. Oberheim introduced the DS-2 Digital Sequencer. Pandit Ravi Shankar has played a 12 beat lehara on the Sitar for Ustad Allah Rakha during his solo performance in 1967 at the Monterey Music Festival.g. Indian classical music In Indian classical music. but not essential. especially that of the dance variety. Many Synth Pop bands such as Tubeway Army used ground bass ostinati created on arpeggiators. and genres of electronic dance music such as acid house and psy trance consist of such.The first ostinatos in Electronic music were created on Moog modular synthesizers systems that used sequencers as well as Buchla instruments. Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze employed both ground bass ostinati as well as other sequences repeated through their pieces. which requires years of specialist training (Taalim) and practice (Riyaaz). The lehara may be interspersed with short and occasional improvisations built around the basic melody. there are very few who are capable of playing the lehra for a Tabla / Pakhawaj solo performance.

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