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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Music Periods - Baroque 5

In the previous blog we looked at some of the structures used in Baroque music, in this blog we’ll look at some of the composing techniques that Baroque composers employed.

First Steps

The composer would create a melody by coming up with a key phrase or musical idea. Once they’d done that they would then begin to alter it in different ways. The techniques I’m about to explain here can still be used today and many do.


When you invert something you change its direction. Essentially you are turning the tune upside down. What goes up goes down, what goes down goes up. The intervals remain the same. For example if a melody goes up a major third the inverted version will go down a major third.


Retrograde means you are playing the notes in reverse order, but keeping the same rhythm.

You can also just reverse the rhythm as well keeping the notes in the original order…

Or you can reverse the pitches and the rhythm…

However, the most common is the first example where you just play the notes in reverse order and keep the same rhythm.

You can also retrograde a tune and invert it. This is called….wait for it…retrograde inversion!


Sequencing is where the phrase of music gets repeated but starts on a different note.

Ascending - The sequence is repeated higher in pitch.

Descending - The sequence is repeated lower in pitch.

Real And Tonal Sequences

This can be quite a tricky concept to grasp but it’s worth mentioning here.

If all the intervals are exactly the same, it is a real sequence.

Sequence Ascending (Real)
Sequence Descending (Real)

If the intervals are the same distance but have a different quality (major or minor) it is a tonal sequence.

A tonal sequence is used to make the music sound as if it’s in the same key.

Sequence Ascending (Tonal)
Sequence Descending (Tonal)


We covered this topic here, but in the interests of thoroughness we’ll go through it again here.

Imitation is where a phrase is repeated, but with slight changes. Sometimes there will be an overlap. In this example I’ve split the phrase into two.


An ostinato is a phrase that is repeated over and over. This is similar to the basso continuo, however, the ostinato can be played in other parts as well.

Ostinato in Bass Clef
Ostinato in Treble Clef

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