When realizing figured bass, passing notes in the bass are analyzed quite thoroughly in literature (e.g. The Art of Accompaniment from a Thorough Bass). However, I cannot find any information or rules on improvising passing notes in the higher registers. However, I do see it happen. For example, here in this realization of measure 7 of SWV 289:

Realization of measure 7 from SWV 289

To me, it seems like it is desirable to have those transition notes since they connect upper voice of the BC. However, here it does double the soprano which I thought was undesirable from the bass.

I have the following questions about these notes:

  • Is the realization above even any good?
  • Is there literature (perhaps only practical) about these notes?
  • Are there rules they should obey?

To give some more examples:

This is a really frivolous realization with many notes added. busy arrangement In the following, you have a D# added in the second measure of the alto. Otherwise there would be a consecutive unison with the bass. So I might infer from this a rule saying you can add a half step down between two notes. enter image description here

  • I'm having trouble understanding the question. There are no improvised passing notes here, just a doubling of the soprano (in the same register), which is fine — even expected. I'm also not seeing where there would be parallel fifths with the bass. Am I missing something in the BC?
    – Aaron
    Apr 20 at 15:12
  • @Aaron Oh you're absolutely right; it's not a very good example. I think the question still stands though because there's more pieces which do actually have these improvised passing notes. I have added two such examples to make the question clearer.
    – Tristan
    Apr 21 at 13:51
  • The first example isn't a particularly good realization, no. It is not in fact expected to double the soprano; it's rather poor form. What is the source of the "frivolous" realization?
    – phoog
    Apr 22 at 2:27
  • @phoog It's one measure of an example of the book the Thoroughbass method from Keller. Specifically from chapter 5, where they discuss 1700-1750 with also pieces from Handel and Bach.
    – Tristan
    Apr 22 at 13:43


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