Johann Sebastian Bach, piano instruction,

Shaping a J.S. Bach Two-Part Invention

Many students play J.S. Bach’s music with a typed out, articulated approach, forgetting to shape and contour phrases.

In Bach’s F Major Invention, BWV 779, the tendency is to overemphasize every element of broken chord F, A, C, F, in a perfunctory detachment, when musically the line tells us otherwise. Because the very first note of the SUBJECT “F” falls on an OFF beat, (since there’s an opening 8th rest), it defers to the third of the triad, A, and as the arpeggio unwinds, the fleshed out notes become A, C, F (with common tones F below played with a subdued thumb) Certainly a spring forward wrist helps contour a triadic ascent to destination high F without thumps, and it cushions the fall upon arrival on HIGH F.

J.S. Bach Invention 8 in F Major, p. 1

The descending scale-like figure which represents the second part of the SUBJECT, likewise can fall down with a flattened profile.

As remedy, GROUPING the 16th notes in fours with a flexible wrist can lend shape to them, allowing a singable progression to resolution.

The second idea in measure 4, that contains descending SEQUENCES, requires a ROTATIONAL approach to contour notes through measures 4, 5 and 6. These wrist-driven groupings, with a side-to-side motion, prevent pokey, vertical playing.

In a video sample of a lesson in progress, an adult student makes nice adjustments in his physical/musical approach to J.S. Bach’s Invention 8, BWV 779, that afford a more appealing aesthetic result.

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