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#936576 - 12/10/08 10:23 AM Teaching Bach Inventions  
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I have two boys that are ready to begin Bach Inventions. I know that I started out with No. 8 in F Major, and I think that may be a nice one to begin with. Does anyone else have suggestions as to which would be good to begin with, and why?


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#936577 - 12/10/08 11:31 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions  
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I find this a useful resource:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2714.0.html

#936578 - 12/10/08 11:39 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions  
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TJ - interesting. I haven't been over on PS for a while. Guess I need to spend some time reading there.

Morodiene, #4 is the easiest by far, and that's not so easy, if done properly. I'm assuming they've done a handful of the AMB notebook dances and some easier preludes????

#4 is also a good starter because you can easily identify the subject throughout (including inversions) and teach your students to bring out the subject whereever it appears. I generally have them look through and visually identify the subject and with a pencil, mark it with a line or something similar.

#4 is also good for adding ornaments.

Many teachers then progress to #1 in C. I find playing in C major rather difficult, so usually put that one off until later.

Seems to me that Clavier had an extensive article a few years back, on the 15 inventions, breaking them down into their compositional structure and level of difficulty. You might want to check for that.

John


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#936579 - 12/10/08 11:43 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions  
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Why not start with no.1?

I do love the F major though.


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#936580 - 12/10/08 11:46 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions  
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Quote
Originally posted by theJourney:
I find this a useful resource:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2714.0.html
excellent resource, theJourney... thanks very much! smile


Michael
#936581 - 12/10/08 11:55 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions  
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TheJourney: I'll take some time and read through that thread, thanks!

John: Yes, they've both done several AMB pieces and some of the "little" preludes. One boy did only one of the little preludes and this was quite easy for him, so I think he's ready for the Inventions.

Interesting, since #4 was my second piece, and I found it to be a bit awkward in the hands. But because of the minor key I think that the one boy may enjoy it a lot musically.

I seem to recall that article in Clavier...I'll have to dig that up!


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#936582 - 12/11/08 01:40 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions  
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I start with No. 1. It's the easiest one, in my opinion. I've also started a few students with No. 14, but they have been playing the piano for over 7 years. I also have taught No. 2 and No. 8 to mid-intermediate students. No. 2 is cool because I take it extra slow, and there's just one tricky spot (where the hands overlap due to the fact the piano has just one "manual").

I don't think No. 4 is easy at all. It's very hard to play, extremely fast, especially the left hand long trill!! Every year at our Bach Festival some little kid tries to play No. 4 and almost always fails miserably. I've learned to steer clear of that one until later, but by then kids are ready to move on to French Suites or WTC.


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#936583 - 12/11/08 10:07 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions  
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No. 14 is my favorite out of all of them, actually (the ones I know, I haven't learned them all). Both of these boys have been playing for 6-7 years, but they may freak from the 32nd notes. I don't think this would be great as a first, but definitely somewhere down the line. I also agree, AZN about the long trill in No. 4, it's hard to pull it off well.


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#936584 - 12/11/08 11:27 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions  
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I play all 15 of them straight through, although Bach didn't conceive them this way nor compose them this way.

Many teachers, like AZN, consider #1 the easiest. Presumably, this is because it's in C major. C major is a difficult key for us to play in, because of the shape of our hands; it is, however, an easy key to read. We shouldn't confuse the two.

MM 11 - 14 are difficult to play well and it's obvious, this was written to be played on a two manual harpsichord.

Teaching the long trills in #4 is quite easy. Teach students to play 2 against one. The trills should end on at the end of beat 2 in measures 21 and 32. In the Baroque period, no one played a trill forever.

In general, I think we teachers tend to introduce the Inventions too early to students. For example, if a student can play Kulau Op 55, #3, then he or she is probably advanced enough for these.

For student musicians, being able to have complete independence of hands is critical to successfully playing the inventions. IMO. wink


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#1311305 - 11/24/09 01:07 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: theJourney]  
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Originally Posted by theJourney
I find this a useful resource:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2714.0.html


This is an amazing read, thank you. I saved it to my hard drive just in case it slips into oblivion for some reason.

#1311338 - 11/24/09 03:27 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook

Many teachers, like AZN, consider #1 the easiest. Presumably, this is because it's in C major. C major is a difficult key for us to play in, because of the shape of our hands; it is, however, an easy key to read. We shouldn't confuse the two.

MM 11 - 14 are difficult to play well and it's obvious, this was written to be played on a two manual harpsichord.
Not obvious at all when you consider the difficulty his students would have had fitting a two manual harpsichord into their study carrels.


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#1311339 - 11/24/09 03:30 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: theJourney]  
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Originally Posted by theJourney
I find this a useful resource:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2714.0.html


Excellent!

#1311344 - 11/24/09 03:39 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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The link is well worth a read. For all his learning Bernard does miss out two essential points. a) the invention is the actual motif used not how it is used - Bach is illustrating the different types of tiny ideas (motifs) you can come up with and what is suitable treatment for each type. b) Bach does not mean legato (in fact he writes phrase marks when he wants it) that's not the aspect of 'singing' he is referring to.


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#1311347 - 11/24/09 03:43 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Very timely revival of an old thread.

I'm teaching several students the Inventions right now for their upcoming tests. I cannot stress enough the importance of consistent fingering and practicing one hand at a time.

Don't trust the students to come up with their own fingerings at home. Question every fingering suggestion from the editor. I spend a fair amount of time discussing fingering choices with my students. There are usually several possible fingerings for each passage. Always take into account of the student's hand size, the strength of the 4th and 5th fingers, and "unusual" fingerings to solve particular legato problems.


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#1311348 - 11/24/09 03:45 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Good point ANZ - if they're about anything they're about fingering!


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#1311365 - 11/24/09 06:38 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz
The link is well worth a read. For all his learning Bernard does miss out two essential points.


Luckily, Keyboardklutz is there to add the essential points.

#1311379 - 11/24/09 08:18 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: landorrano]  
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Would you like some more points? Each one seems to be a different genre. I know no. 4 is a Giga II and no. 10 is a Correntes. Anybody know what the others are?

No. 14 always strikes me as an overture.
No. 8 reminds of the Brandenburg Concertos.

Last edited by keyboardklutz; 11/24/09 09:17 AM.

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#1311447 - 11/24/09 11:17 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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I was surprised to see that Bernard teaches daily lessons for each child, not weekly. So it would cost parents 5 times as much (assuming a 5 day program)...I am just amazed that parents would commit to this.

Do any of you teach daily lessons for any child? Really wealthy parents, or very musically ambitious parents? How is it working for you?

#1311464 - 11/24/09 11:48 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: Overexposed]  
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Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
I was surprised to see that Bernard teaches daily lessons for each child, not weekly.


As I recall, that changes as they advance, but he starts everybody that way. Then they reduce number of days over time.

They pay by the month, or maybe by the semester, so his rates may not be terribly different from yours. And I think the earlier lessons are shorter.

He also tries to do the practicing at the lesson so they do it correctly, I think that's one of the points of the daily lesson.


gotta go practice
#1311478 - 11/24/09 12:35 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Quote
Bach is illustrating the different types of tiny ideas (motifs) you can come up with and what is suitable treatment for each type

I don't quite understand this sentence. When considering composition, what does "treatment" mean?

#1311484 - 11/24/09 12:43 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keystring]  
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Thanks Tim. That makes sense...daily lessons in the beginning. It gives me the idea of perhaps offering summer intensive study for new beginners.

#1311490 - 11/24/09 12:48 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
I was surprised to see that Bernard teaches daily lessons for each child, not weekly.


As I recall, that changes as they advance, but he starts everybody that way. Then they reduce number of days over time.

They pay by the month, or maybe by the semester, so his rates may not be terribly different from yours. And I think the earlier lessons are shorter.

He also tries to do the practicing at the lesson so they do it correctly, I think that's one of the points of the daily lesson.


Is the guy for real?? I mean could he not be fantasizing? He does have a knowledge base but .. I will admit that I haev not read everything over there but I have read through this thread as it is often referenced here. I also read about his pedagogigal approach. But some of it just seems unrealistic.

#1311519 - 11/24/09 01:43 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keystring]  
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Originally Posted by keystring
Quote
Bach is illustrating the different types of tiny ideas (motifs) you can come up with and what is suitable treatment for each type

I don't quite understand this sentence. When considering composition, what does "treatment" mean?
You craft your motif to suit the vehicle (genre). Your treatment of that motif is how the 'vehicle' comes about. Bach could predict how another's composition was going to pan out as soon as he heard the opening few bars - he immediately knew the potential of the initial idea.


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#1311524 - 11/24/09 01:58 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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I can see the value of daily lessons for the beginner. I think it is very hard to send them on their way and hope that they know what to do every day. You can give them information overload trying to give them good instructions for the week! So then you compromise and let them figure out some things on their own and gradually give them more instruction on practice in consecutive lessons. Certainly not the ideal.

For my voice students, I recently instituted a policy where they come 3 times a week for the first 8 lessons (I know, it doesn't really add up nicely, but that's residual from my regular 8-lesson trial period of once a week, I'll change it eventually :)). They are told not to practice at all in between lessons. This is for tow reasons: 1) We are building up strength in the breathing muscles and in the laryngeal muscles, so they need the time off in between for rest and 2) So that they do not practice wrong, counteracting the work we do in lessons by going back to their old way of singing. So far, students have found a way to do this, and it really have been a benefit. I think then next time I'm ready to start a beginner piano student, I'll institute something similar, but perhaps twice a week for a month or something.


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#1311529 - 11/24/09 02:19 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz
Originally Posted by keystring
Quote
Bach is illustrating the different types of tiny ideas (motifs) you can come up with and what is suitable treatment for each type

I don't quite understand this sentence. When considering composition, what does "treatment" mean?
You craft your motif to suit the vehicle (genre). Your treatment of that motif is how the 'vehicle' comes about. Bach could predict how another's composition was going to pan out as soon as he heard the opening few bars - he immediately knew the potential of the initial idea.

Thank you, I think I understand.

#1311568 - 11/24/09 03:25 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz
Would you like some more points? Each one seems to be a different genre. I know no. 4 is a Giga II and no. 10 is a Correntes. Anybody know what the others are?

No. 14 always strikes me as an overture.
No. 8 reminds of the Brandenburg Concertos.


No. 2 and No. 7 feel like duets (vocal) to me. I'd play these really really slow and enjoy the inflections of every phrase.

No. 3 sounds like a short prelude.

How is No. 4 a gigue?

No. 6 is unique because of the rounded binary form with repeats. Probably a corrente or passipied.

No. 10 feels like a gigue.

No. 12, probably the most virtuoso of the set, sounds like a prelude from the WTC in terms of difficulty and brilliance.


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#1311573 - 11/24/09 03:35 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: theJourney]  
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Originally Posted by theJourney
I find this a useful resource:

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2714.0.html


Thank you, theJourney, for this unique link to Piano Street and the discussion of Bach: 2 and 3 Part Inventions.

I would recommend anyone having questions about Bach Inventions and how to teach them read through and keep this as a resource to come back to.

I found the idea that Bernard (the chief poster) in this topic, 1) teaches 5 year olds daily and then reduces the number of lessons accordingly, and 2) teaches Bach Inventions to beginners after they have learned to read from notation, but not necessarily to play skillfully yet, to be incredible concepts.

I have read only half of the first page and will eagerly read more to see what can add to my knowledge of teaching Bach. It's a good workout of the mind for growth and development as a musician and a teacher.

I'm taking John v.d.Brook's comment that he plays all back to back to be a challenge I would like to take on as a project since I've had favorites to play and teach but never attempted the entire work as a unit. It's not too late!

Betty Patnude

#1311583 - 11/24/09 03:57 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: Betty Patnude]  
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I doubt whether Bach viewed them as a unit to be performed all at once - but that doesn't mean we can't play them that way!

It's humbling to me to see how clumsily I play some of these today.


(I'm a piano teacher.)
#1311606 - 11/24/09 04:38 PM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano

How is No. 4 a gigue?
That's from Little and Jenne Dance and the Music of Bach. They say no. 4 is Giga II like. No. 10 they designate Giga I (the difference between I and II is one of complexity) (I don't know where I got Corrente from). Also they designate no. 12 as Giga II.


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#1313711 - 11/28/09 05:15 AM Re: Teaching Bach Inventions [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
I play all 15 of them straight through, although Bach didn't conceive them this way nor compose them this way.

Many teachers, like AZN, consider #1 the easiest. Presumably, this is because it's in C major. C major is a difficult key for us to play in, because of the shape of our hands; it is, however, an easy key to read. We shouldn't confuse the two.

MM 11 - 14 are difficult to play well and it's obvious, this was written to be played on a two manual harpsichord.

Teaching the long trills in #4 is quite easy. Teach students to play 2 against one. The trills should end on at the end of beat 2 in measures 21 and 32. In the Baroque period, no one played a trill forever.

In general, I think we teachers tend to introduce the Inventions too early to students. For example, if a student can play Kulau Op 55, #3, then he or she is probably advanced enough for these.

For student musicians, being able to have complete independence of hands is critical to successfully playing the inventions. IMO. wink


The C major invention was NOT intended for a two manual harpsichord. Of course it CAN be played on that instrument, but, it is just as accessible on the clavichord as on the harpsichord (and in our case the piano). Bach, on his title page for the inventions and sinfonias, states, "Honest method, by which the amateurs of the keyboard"...etc. Firstly, the term, "keyboard, in Bach's time meant any of several keyboard instruments, so none of the inventions or sinfonias would have been intended for one specific instrument. Secondly, the clavichord (not the harpsichord) was the most popular keyboard instrument of Bach's time for financial reasons as well as the fact that the clavichord takes up far less room than does a harpsichord (especially a two manual instrument). The term "amateur", in his introduction, then supports, even further, the fact that none of the inventions or sinfonias were intended for a two manual keyboard, since most amateurs/students, could not afford a two manual instrument nor would they more than likely have had access to one.
As to the trills in the 4th invention...there is no specific beat or fraction of a beat the trill needs to end on. The trill must include a minimum number of four notes, but may be freely interpreted afterward by the performer. Longer trills, such as those found in this invention may, indeed, consume the entire value of the note and that is the case here as evidenced by Bach's ties, which are found throughout his compositions when he asks for a trill to last the duration of succeeding note values. Baroque performers absolutely would have played lengthy trills. There are tons of examples to be found throughout the baroque literature and C.P.E. Bach talks about the long trill in his, "True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments".

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