I have once heard this term Ruggiero in a discussion about a Baroque composition on the radio.

I thought it could be this walking bass line of 4 notes we know so well from Bach's concertos: "so la ti so do re mi do" or "1231 2342" etc., but I’m not sure whether this was correct.

In Wikipedia, I found this description but it is not clear to me:


Can someone please explain this and help me to understand this term?


The Wiki article says: "Ruggiero refers to a musical scheme which is at times harmonic and at times melodic."

Could you give a melodic or rhythmic example?

2 Answers 2



A musical skeleton used for songs, instrumental variations, and dances, popular in Italy in the 17th century. It usually involves a melody in the bass in four phrases, usually in duple meter, chanting epic poetry to a skeletal bass.

Because the melody was so often improvised on, and is inevitable varied in the oral tradition, it is difficult to agree on an exact melody. The harmonic structure, however, has remained relatively unchanged. Harmonically the Ruggiero bass is major, generally in G, , and has four short phrases.

Source: This and This

Hope that helps! Let me know if you need further clarification!

  • +1) I remember that I've seen these links before, but it was not fully clear to me. Can you give a melodic or harmonic example? Do you think the progression I-V-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V (Pachelbel Canon) is an example of a Ruggiero? Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 16:06
  • It may possibly be a Ruggiero. I like to think of a Ruggiero as almost a jazz standard in the baroque time period. Even Barry Harris (jazz musician) has talked about how they would do this in the 17th century. Allegedly, he said that he had heard a recording of Bach improvising on the harpsichord over the chord structure similar to Rhythm Changes. But in the 17th century, the Ruggiero was four short phrases and not a whole chorus. So in your example of Pachelbel's canon, they might have played the first four notes and improvise four phrases over the next few notes of the melody Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 16:22
  • So could we say that actual pop songs based e.g. on a iv-IV-V-I or another row of these 4 degrees are kind of a "ruggiero"? Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 16:30

The Ruggiero, or bass of Ruggiero, is a melodic-harmonic scheme on an ostinato bass very popular in Europe between the second half of the sixteenth and the first half of the eighteenth century, used in numerous compositions both vocal and instrumental.

Ex. 1

Ruggiero (Italian Wiki


Cadenzas from the figured bass period: extensions of the Cadenza lunga and doppia (Ruggiero)

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto wrote the verse poem Orlando furioso (The Raging Roland), which was soon widespread, especially in Romanesque countries. In Italy there were many sections of this epic have been shown to be sung soon (and thus represent an early one stage of development of the later emerging opera).

Above all, the line "Ruggier', qual semper fui, tal' esser voglio" became a kind of hit. Ruggiero is a hero of this epic (in English "Roger").

The 8-bar Bass of this aria was used as an basis for many other vocal and instrumental pieces (including at Diego Ortiz, Sigismondo d’India and Girolamo Frescobaldi.)

In detail, this bass exists in different versions, all have in common that they are pretty frequently cadence to degree I (three times in 8 bars). An early form of the final turn in the 7th / 8th Clock looks like this (e.g. belongs to Benedetto Ferrari).

Mostly, however, the movement of the bass is made more fluid (the upper part can do so assume different courses, here two variants):

Ex. 2a)

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Ex. 3

The French Wiki says: The bass is generally in G and 8 short phrases.

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Ex. 4

Ortiz 1553

The Ruggiero of Ortiz 1553

Ex. 5

Goldberg Varitations J.S. Bach

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French Wiki:


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