The estampie consists of four to seven sections, called puncta, each of which is repeated, in the form
- aa, bb, cc, etc..
Different endings (ouvert (open) and clos (closed)) are provided for the first and second statement of each punctum, so that the structure can be
- a+x, a+y; b+w, b+z; etc..
Sometimes the same two endings are used for all the puncta, producing the structure
- a+x, a+y; b+x, b+y, c+x, c+y, etc..
A similar structure was shared with the saltarello, another medieval dance.
The earliest reported example of this musical form is the song "Kalenda Maya", supposedly written by the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (1180-1207) to the melody of an estampida played by French jongleurs. All other known examples are purely instrumental pieces. 14th century examples include estampies with subtitles such as Lamento di Tristano, La Manfredina, Salterello, Isabella, Tre fontane.
Though the estampie is generally monophonic, there are also two-voice compositions in the form of an estampie, such as the three for keyboard in the Robertsbridge Fragment.
The idealized dance character of all these pieces suggests that the estampie may have been a true dance but there are no surviving dance manuals describing the estampie as a dance. Illuminations and paintings from the period seem to indicate that the estampie involves fairly vigorous hopping. Some estampies, such as the famous Tre fontane ("Three Fountains") estampie, contain florid and virtuosic instrumental writing, signifying that they may have been intended as abstract performance music rather than actual dance music.
The etymology of the name is disputed; an alternative name of the dance is stantipes, which suggests that one foot was stationary during the dance; but the more widely accepted etymology relates it to estamper, to stamp the feet.
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- C. Schima: "Die Estampie" (1995) - ISBN 90-5170-363-5
- P. Aubry: "Estampies et danses royales" (1906)- ISBN 2-8266-0603-4
- L. Hibberd: "Estampie and Stantipes" (1944) - in: Speculum XIX, 1944, 222 ff.
- W. Apel: "Harvard Dictionary of Music" (1970) - Heinemann Educational Books Ltd
- Timothy McGee, "Medieval Instrumental Dances".