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The word is actually an abbreviation of the Italian basso continuo, which literally translates to continuous bass. Music composed during the Baroque era relied heavily on a bass part, the foundation upon which the chords and harmonies are based. A typical piece written during the Baroque period would include a melody instrument, such as a solo violin or oboe, a bass part played on a bass viola, cello, or bassoon, and chordal accompaniment, most often played on a harpsichord, but also on an organ or even a lute. During this time, composers were given considerable freedom as to specific instrumentation.

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