How does one play figured bass when the bass line contains ties?

For example, here are the first three measures of Vivaldi's "Filiae maestae Jerusalem" (sheet music source).

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Do I understand correctly that in measure 1, since there are no numbers to indicate an inversion, one has to play a chord consisting of C, Es and G?

Does one play only F and As in measure 2 (while still holding down the C key)? Or does one release and press again the C key in addition to F and As in measure 2? (In which case - why is there a tie between those two C-s?)

In the first half of measure 3, does one press no new keys and just continue holding C, F and As? Continue holding only C? Continue holding C, release F and As and play Es and G again?

2 Answers 2


Your first guesses are correct: you hold the C in the bass between measure 1 and 2, and from measure 2 to measure 3, the C in the bass is held over, and the chord remains the same, C, F, Ab. Btw- "Es" in English is "Eb".

  • Thank you! Do you know some good internet source for learning about those kinds of details about figured bass? I looked around in Wikipedia but it just gave a very general overview without many details.
    – Liisi
    Jun 20, 2019 at 10:49
  • Sorry, I'm no expert as to what's available online. Perhaps someone else here can make a suggestion. Jun 21, 2019 at 8:45

The tie is irrelevant to understanding the notation. If you have a figure part way through the duration of a long note, you play the new chord but you don't repeat the bass note.

That is very a common notation - for example 64 53 figures over the dominant at a cadence.

The only reason for the tie is that modern notation conventions don't have any other notation for a note that extends beyond a bar line. Up to the end of the 18th century, there was such a convention in some situations, so the OP's question wouldn't exist at all.

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