Who I am:

I am 16 years old and I play violin. I am a music student and I consider myself to have a very good ear and understanding of music theory. My piano-playing is however not very good. I really want to learn how to copy this style of composition because I believe it will provide a good framework for my understanding of counterpoint and harmony for classical music in general.

What I have done:

I have researched about partimento on YouTube and on Monuments of Partimento. I have played around with the 'rule of the octave' on my keyboard as well.

My question:

I have two main questions. Will learning partimento be an efficient and pragmatic effort to achieving my goal? If so, where should I start as a somewhat informed beginner? I currently feel a bit swamped with the vast number of links and websites talking about partimento and the rule of the octave on the internet.

Monuments of Partimento (https://web.archive.org/web/20160318110700/http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/music/gjerdingen/partimenti/aboutParti/beginnersGuide.htm)

Corelli trio sonata score (


2 Answers 2


The question seems to be about two different things. The title question says, "Is partimento a good way to learn how to write a trio sonata in the style of Corelli?" Sure, if you want to learn how to imitate the specific style of that particular period, using historical pedagogical methods is probably the best approach, though you'd likely need a good teacher. Partimento is only part of the types of training Italian musicians would have received at the time of Corelli (you'd also need to learn other patterns of imitation, melodic construction, traditional singing instruction which would have been very much a part of pedagogy, etc., etc.), but it's definitely closer than most modern pedagogical methods. That's how young musicians learned stuff like that back then. For an example of a modern young person raised in that method, search for Alma Deutscher. Note that this method is traditionally very "hands on" and again requires a knowledgeable teacher who can improvise effectively in styles from around 1700. There are very few people like this in the world.

But the rest of the question goes off of the premise that such study "will provide a good framework for my understanding of counterpoint and harmony for classical music in general." I suppose that's likely true of classical music in the period of maybe 1675-1800, particularly Italianate styles. (If you want to understand North German music from this period or French music, you'll need to look at related historical methods from such countries.)

But it's certainly not an "efficient and pragmatic" method, especially if the goal is to learn to communicate with other musicians about the way they think classical music works.

I certainly believe that partimento is more likely to give you a sense of how the music of that time (again, particularly in most Italian styles) was constructed than most modern music theory. But it's something that would have been studied historically with a teacher over many years.

Modern music theory textbooks have created shortcuts of a sort intended to try to present a sort of grammar of classical harmony in 2-4 college semesters. We can argue about how efficient or effective it is, but it's certainly shorter and the de facto way most musicians talk about music theory.


Partimenti are a perfectly fine way to learn Corelli's style, but not as good a way to learn "counterpoint and harmony for classical music generally."

Counterpoint and harmony teaching has advanced somewhat since the 1700s. Partimenti might be a fun project, and it might teach you what you want to know about counterpoint and harmony, but efficient and pragmatic, probably not, especially without a teacher (which by itself is neither efficient nor pragmatic). Tonality was only just being developed in Corelli's day. So for pragmatism, efficiency, and the broadest view of classical counterpoint and harmony, you might look for a more modern method.

This site doesn't offer recommendations, but if you browse around, you'll find many references to up-to-date ways of learning harmony and counterpoint.

  • 2
    "Tonality was only just being developed in Corelli's day. You might look for a more modern method": if the goal is to learn to write music in the style of Corelli then working from sources contemporaneous to Corelli is likely to lead to a better result. Modern counterpoint texts typically cover late renaissance style counterpoint or cover a range of periods. Also, meta, the prohibition is on questions asking for recommendations. That doesn't prohibit answers from offering recommendations.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 8:55
  • 1
    @phoog OP wants to improve their "understanding of counterpoint and harmony for classical music in general," not specifically in the style of Corelli.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 1:58
  • 1
    The question title indicates a desire to "learn how to write a Baroque trio sonata in the style of Corelli," however.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 8:30
  • @phoog Yes, there's a contradiction between the title and the body. I've addressed that in my update to my answer.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 11:33

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