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Playing J.S. Bach with an awareness of Harmonic Rhythm

In working through Bach’s two-part Invention No. 13 in A minor, an adult student and I explored harmonic resolutions and their influence on phrasing.


While many pupils expect cadences to be predictable resting points where pianists typically taper a musical line, they soon discover with teacher prompts that in the course of a composition, 7th chords in broken chord sequences, for example, can be sprinkled through a score and require an attentive ear to “resolve” them in random measures or across measures. Dynamic levels may dip at these junctures, but the phrase continues on its journey, needing proper shaping, dictated in part, by HARMONIC RHYTHM, as it flows to various semi- and complete cadences.

J.S. Bach’s A minor Invention, with its preponderance of unraveled chords is the perfect point of departure for this exploration which proved invaluable for mentor and student.


J.S. Bach Invention 13 in A minor


Bach A minor Invention p. 2


Bach A minor Invention p. 3