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In music, an ostinato (derived from Italian: "stubborn", compare English: obstinate) is a motif or phrase which is persistently repeated in the same musical voice. An ostinato is always a succession of equal sounds. Each note always has the same weight in an ostinato. The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody. Both "ostinatos" and "ostinati" are accepted English plural forms, although the latter better reflects the word's Italian etymology. Strictly speaking, ostinati should have exact repetition, but in common usage, the term covers repetition with variation and development, such as the alteration of an ostinato line to fit changing harmonies or keys.


The term riff-driven is used to describe a vocal song that, throughout the piece, relies on a repeated instrumental riff as a basis for its forefront melody, cadence, or (in some cases) leitmotif. Riff-driven songs are largely a product of jazz, blues, and post-blues era music (rock and pop), and the term (by definition) applies almost exlusively to music containing vocals. The musical goal of riff-driven songs is akin to the classical continuo effect, but raised to much higher importance (in fact, the repeated riff is used to anchor the song in the ears of the listener). The riff/continuo is brought to the forefront of the musical piece and often is the primary melody that remains in the listener's ears. A call and response often holds the song together, creating a "circular" rather than linear feel.

Well-known examples of riff-driven songs are "Day Tripper" by The Beatles, and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones. One of the first riff-driven songs is "The Last Time" also by The Rolling Stones. The guitar riffs were composed by John Lennon, Keith Richards and Brian Jones respectively.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ostinato" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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