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Partimento (from the Italian: partimento, plural partimenti) is an instructional bass line with either figured bass or unfigured bass. Partimenti were used mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries as pedagogical aids for the teaching of harmony, counterpoint and improvisation.


The Partimenti evolved in the late 17th century in the Naples conservatories and then spread throughout Europe. Notable Partimento collections were written by Alessandro Scarlatti, Francesco Durante, Leonardo Leo, Fedele Fenaroli, Giovanni Paisiello, Nicola Sala, Giacomo Tritto, Stanislao Mattei, and Luigi Palmerini. Many important Italian composers emerged from the Partimento schools, such as Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Giuseppe Verdi, Domenico Cimarosa, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Gaspare Spontini and Gioachino Rossini. The rediscovery of the Partimento tradition in modern research since around 2000 has enabled new ways of looking at the musical education and composing practice in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, partimento studies provide an important impetus for a more integrative approach to learning counterpoint, harmony, and improvisation.


Partimenti were typically used as exercises to train conventional models of voice leading, harmony, and musical form, such as the so-called Rule of the Octave, cadences and sequences (the movimenti, or moti del basso). There is no strict separation between counterpoint and harmony in the Partimento tradition. The beginners’ partimenti treatises usually present rules, which are then followed by exercises of increasing difficulty, presenting figured bass as well as unfigured bass lines, and culminating in the advanced exercises of imitative partimenti and partimento fugues. Partimenti were also used as bass lines in written counterpoint exercises, over which students wrote two-, three, and four-part “disposizione” (multistave settings).


  • Robert Gjerdingen: Music in the Galant Style. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-531371-0.
  • Giovanni Paisiello: Regole per bene accompagnare il partimento o sia il basso fondamentale sopra il Cembalo. (= Praxis und Theorie des Partimentospiels Band 1), ed. by Ludwig Holtmeier, Johannes Menke and Felix Diergarten, Florian Noetzel Verlag, Wilhelmshaven 2008, ISBN 978-3-7959-0905-5.
  • Nicoleta Paraschivecu: Die Partimenti Giovanni Paisiellos Wege zu einem praxisbezogenen Verständnis. Schwabe Verlag, Basel 2018, ISBN 978-3-7965-3724-0.
  • Gilad Rabinovitch and Johnandrew Slominski: "Towards a Galant Pedagogy: Partimenti and Schemata as Tools in the Pedagogy of Eighteenth-Century Style Improvisation".". Music Theory Online: Vol. 21, No. 3 (September 2015).
  • Giorgio Sanguinetti: The Art of Partimento. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2012, ISBN 978-0-19-539420-7.
  • Peter van Tour: Counterpoint and Partimento: Methods of Teaching Composition in Late Eighteenth-Century Naples. 2015. 318p. (Studia musicologica Upsaliensia, 0081-6744 ; 25) ISBN 978-91-554-9197-0 [1].

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