Bach For Beginners
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is a German composer who wrote a heap of beautiful music for Clavier and Harpsichord, instruments which we would classify as keyboards today.
J.S. Bach was born in 1685, which is the same year that two other great composers were born: Handel and Scarlatti. My teacher, Sister Mary Fidelis, used to always remind me about this fact during our lessons. Every time we mentioned Bach, or Handel, or Scarlatti, she would say them in that order, with the date of their birth: “”1685, Bach, Handel, Scarlatti” – so that when exam time came around, there was no chance of forgetting this information. This date, and these three composers, make a good start to your data-base on the history of music.
Much of Bach’s music for piano is difficult stuff which takes a high degree of technical and interpretive skills for it to be played convincingly.
However, there are some pieces which Bach wrote with the beginning student in mind.
One of these pieces is the Prelude in C Major, which we are going to learn about today.
This piece of music comes from his collection of Preludes and Fugues from “The Well Tempered Clavichord”. This same Prelude in C is famous because it is the one which Gounod used as an accompaniment to his “Ave Maria”: He wrote his melody over the Prelude in C which Bach wrote about a hundred years before him.
“The Well-Tempered Clavichord” is a body of work designed specifically for the piano student to develop his or her art. They are very beautiful studies written by a genius in the art of composition, Johan Sebastian Bach.
This important body of work, composed in 1722, comprises a Prelude and an accompanying Fugue for every key on the keyboard. Every Major Key, and every Minor Key, has a Prelude and Fugue written for it. That makes 48 altogether, which is why the collection for the “Well Tempered Clavier” is often referred to as “The 48 Preludes and Fugues” – or, simply, “The Forty-Eight”. They are great key studies which enable students to become really familiar with all the keys. Each composition is a unique piece with its own character. They are also great lessons in the art of composition, and were intended to help the student “play neatly and in a cantabile manner”.
I recommend that you purchase a book with the “Prelude in C Major” in it. This is suitable for the student who has been practicing for a time, and has learned to read the notes in the scale of C major fairly fluently.
Arpeggio Figures: Once you have the notes worked out, you will see that each bar is simply an arpeggio figure, often with only one note in the figure changing each time – an arpeggio figure is one which ripples up the piano, using the notes of a chord. This arpeggio figure is repeated twice each time, before a change of note, or notes, is implemented, and this repetition makes it relatively easy to learn the piece.
Also, the piece stays in the same register, or same part of the piano, and this makes it easy to learn and to execute as well: It is very helpful for the beginner of piano to learn a piece which does not dart all over the place.
So the “Prelude in C Major” from “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, or “The Well-Tempered Clavichord”, or “The Forty-Eight Preludes and Fugues” is a great piece for all those students of music who wish to learn REAL CLASSICAL music, written by a Master.