Melodic Ostinato, Imitation

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Melodic Ostinato

An "ostinato" is a repeated pattern of notes, rhythms, or movements which accompanies a melody. Like rounds, partner songs, and countermelodies, a "melodic ostinato" produces polyphonic texture because it is a melodic voice which is performed together with another melody. The difference is that a melodic ostinato is made up of a repeating pattern of notes. The example below contains both a melody and a melodic ostinato. Click the play arrow to hear the example.

A Melodic Ostinato is a short, repeated melody pattern which is intended to be performed together with another melody to produce harmony.


Another characteristic which is sometimes present in polyphonic music is "imitation." Imitation occurs when each musical voice enters with (or contains) similar patterns of pitches, but the melodies are not exactly the same. The example below demonstrates imitation. See if you can hear the melody pattern that is notated when it occurs. Click the play arrow to hear the excerpt.

Fugue in D Minor, J. S. Bach

Imitation is characterized by the regular occurrence of the same or similar melodic pitch patterns at different times in different voices.

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