Updated: Mar 29
Bach Prelude in C Major, BWV 846 is one of the most popular pieces in the traditional canon of piano repertoire. The contradictory complexity and simplicity of the rhythm and harmonic structure make it emotionally expressive, interesting, and just plain fun to listen to, and to play. I can’t remember or count how many times I have played and taught this piece. It’s a favorite of pianists and students of all ages.
Throughout the years, I have seen students struggle to learn this piece, strive to make it musical, overcome the technical demands of the piece after practice, and gain an improved sense of rhythm after working on this piece. There are several practice techniques that I suggest to my students when they are learning this piece so that they can be as effective and efficient with their practice. These practice techniques ultimately lead to a better understanding of the piece, less frustration during practice, and an improved sense of musicality.
Let’s go over them!
1. Fingering – consistent and proper fingering is ESSENTIAL to learning a piece of music. One of the biggest mistakes I see when people are learning how to play the piano on their own is a lack of attention to fingering which ultimately makes the learning process take a LOT longer. In the free PDF that I’ve created, I have my fingering suggestions written in the music over the notes in blue. You can also see the fingering suggestions from the editor of this score in black over the notes. Please FOLLOW THIS FINGERING consistently. If something doesn’t feel good to you, you’re welcome to change it, as long as you write it in the music and stay consistent with your changes.
2. Rhythm - I’ve written the counting in for the first measure of the piece and the beautiful thing is that the counting remains the same for the entire piece! Now, it might be tempting to learn the counting for the first measure and then to stop counting. I highly recommend that you count ALWAYS while practicing this piece. Counting out loud is about much more than rhythm. It also ensures that your hands can coordinate WHERE they need to be and WHEN they need to be there.
3. Analyze chords- BLOCK CHORDS - with proper fingering. I explain this in detail in the video – so watch for more details. Chord blocking is one of the most effective ways to practice pieces or sections of pieces that are arpeggiated. This will help you understand the piece FASTER and with fewer errors, so you definitely don’t want to skip this step.
4. Phrases - knowing where the phrases are in a piece of music is really important. A phrase is essentially a musical sentence. When we play music, we are communicating and it’s really important that we know where the musical sentences are so that our paragraphs and story (the whole piece) fits together and makes sense. It’s also really important from an organizational standpoint to know where your phrases are because once you have phrases written in the music, you automatically have smaller sections that you can focus on. Watch the video for tips on how to make your practice incredibly effective and efficient with phrases. You can see my phrases labeled in purple circled numbers. The numbers correspond to the start of a new phrase. My phrasing is not necessarily a theoretical analysis, but more suggestions based on practice sections. You are welcome to come up with your own phrasing.
5. Dynamics -in each phrase we need to know what are dynamics are and then we also need to know dynamically how the phrases fit together in the larger structure of the piece. The dynamic markings in the pdf, seen in green, are my suggestions. Please don’t try to interpret them literally, and don’t get TOO hung up on them. Just use them as a starting point and a guide for you to make some artistic choices about what dynamics you’d like to use in this piece.
Good luck on your journey to learning this piece – I hope it goes well. Be sure to watch the video above to make the most of the PDF! Let me know in the comments if this helped you!
As part of my goal to educate and motivate as many people as possible, I’m now accepting donations via patreon. This will give me more time to focus on making videos and producing more high quality content. Buy me a coffee here.