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#2712842 - 02/09/18 07:12 AM Struggling with Bach Invention 13  
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sinophilia Offline

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I'm trying to learn my third invention, no. 13 in a minor, after learning no. 1 and no. 4, and I feel like I'm going nowhere.

I've been at it for almost a month now - not every day, but for quite a few half-hour sessions - and I still can't play even the first half hands together at half tempo without hesitations and note mistakes. I have analysed the piece thoroughly, I highlighted the theme recurrences, written down chord progressions etc. and listened to it several times, and I think "I got it" in my mind, but I just can't play it. I tried to memorise small sections straight away, HS and HT (since I have to do it anyway), but then when I look back at the score I'm like "what on earth is this and where am I?" eek

After 1 month of study I could play no. 4 slowly in its entirety, and it only took me another couple of weeks to memorise it and speed it up, while here I feel like I'm stuck. It doesn't look more difficult - no trills, no dotted rhythms, only 8th and 16th notes against each other - but then it's graded as ABRSM 6, so there must be something difficult about it that escapes me. Maybe the fact that it looks like a canon but it's not, and there are slight differences between hands, and accent changes that make it hard for me to intertwine the two lines.

Maybe those who have learnt it can give me a clue as to what makes it difficult? Did you also have some trouble or not at all?


Diana & Wally - Yamaha W110BW
To create a beautiful sound, one must imagine it at first and then learn to produce fluid physical motions that breathe life into music. (Shirley Kirsten)
http://soundcloud.com/sinophilia - http://youtube.com/sinophilia
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#2712850 - 02/09/18 07:57 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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You are not alone. This invention is difficult. The middle part is even harder than the beginning. I play through it a couple of times every week and have been doing so for years and still I don't really feel comfortable and relaxed when playing it. The piece requires very active and precise movement of the hands and fingers, and you have to be scrupulous about fingering. Technically I find this invention to be more difficult than for instance Schubert's 4th impromptu and Bach's fantasia con fuga in a-minor.

#2712852 - 02/09/18 08:10 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Hi, Sinophilia, in my opinion the no. 13 is one of the easiest Bach inventions. I would not call it difficult. Besides, it is one of the inventions I rather like. You will find the motif in the right hand first (from the first e up to the first a in bar 2), then the same in the left hand (bar 1, from note number 5, the e, up to note number 5 in bar 2, the a). And so on in the course of the piece. There should be no ligation between the a and the e left hand in bar 1, between a and e right hand in bar 2, a and e bar 2 left hand, c and g left hand in bars 6 and 7, c and g right hand in bar 8 (since that is where the motif starts anew) and so on... Then you have sequences in bars 14 to 17 which subsequently lead to the original motif again that quickly develops into an ending. The "difficulty" in Bach's invention consists in the fact that both hands are equally important and one should be able to play a melody with the left hand as well as with the right hand. Bach was even more skilled than that: he could play the organ with his feet as fast as with his hands on the keyboard...

#2712861 - 02/09/18 08:56 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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outo Offline
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For me the major hurdle was to find a workable fingering, none of the editions I have had a suitable one. After that I did not find it very difficult, only time consuming (to memorize).

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#2712867 - 02/09/18 09:14 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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With Bach, my teacher told me to work through things only with hands together. That’s the only way you can really figure out the fingering because everything intertwines on each other, and although it’s slow, it seems to work really well for me to do hands together from the very beginning. In the long run, I think it’s faster to really learn it this way. I love Bach!

#2712873 - 02/09/18 09:34 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: outo]  
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sinophilia Offline

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sinophilia  Offline

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Italy
Originally Posted by Ganddalf
You are not alone. This invention is difficult.

This sounds comforting!!

Originally Posted by Pianist685
Hi, Sinophilia, in my opinion the no. 13 is one of the easiest Bach inventions. I would not call it difficult.

This doesn't laugh

I can understand why you say that though. I chose this invention because I could "hear it" more easily than others, it's almost "catchy". Unfortunately my ears are not helping me enough.

Originally Posted by outo
For me the major hurdle was to find a workable fingering, none of the editions I have had a suitable one. After that I did not find it very difficult, only time consuming (to memorize).

I guess I was disappointed because I expected the experience to get easier, not harder. Now that I read and learn a little faster, I'm even less patient than before, and it's harder to force myself to work my way through the piece 1 bar at a time.

Originally Posted by pianosuzemn
With Bach, my teacher told me to work through things only with hands together.

That may very well be true. Last week when I was really desperate I worked hands separate for a while, and I thought it was helping, then today I felt back to square one frown


Diana & Wally - Yamaha W110BW
To create a beautiful sound, one must imagine it at first and then learn to produce fluid physical motions that breathe life into music. (Shirley Kirsten)
http://soundcloud.com/sinophilia - http://youtube.com/sinophilia
#2712976 - 02/09/18 04:26 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Originally Posted by Ganddalf
I play through it a couple of times every week and have been doing so for years and still I don't really feel comfortable and relaxed when playing it. The piece requires very active and precise movement of the hands and fingers, and you have to be scrupulous about fingering.
I play all my inventions every few weeks but otherwise this is my experience as well.

The piece looks quite straightforward but there are so many workable ways to play the arpeggios and so many options for cross over points on the scalar passages that I have so many different ways of playing it at this stage and fail on the consistency.

I also prefer to learn Bach hands together but include plenty of practise with separate hands. This piece, though, is less demanding of separate hands practise for me. Nailing the fingering, writing it in and sticking with it is my issue.

I sometimes feel like this piece is as easy as picking up an eel, popping it in the jar and putting on the lid...



FWIW, here are my sections for isolated practise:
M1-2 - easy
M3-6 - slippery
M7-8 - easy
M9-13 - 13's a stinker (unlucky for me!)
M14-17 - easy
M18-12 - end of M19 used to be a problem for me but it's fixed now
M22-25 - fine while I'm concentrating on what I'm doing, not when I'm gazing out of the window.


Richard
#2712981 - 02/09/18 04:38 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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I just played this invention. I still find it pretty difficult. The main problem for me is the extensive use of the 3rd, 4th and 5th finger of my left hand. I have small hands and I think that this piece may be easier for a person with larger hands. It is a beautiful composition and worth the effort to learn it. But I find the 2nd, 12th and 14th invention (the other ones I play regularly) to be easier. I play the 13th invention relatively fast, but actually I don't find it much easier if I play it slowly.

#2712991 - 02/09/18 05:13 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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I have small hands as well and that is probably why it was so difficult to find a good fingering that would work together with the intended frasing, articulation and tempo.

#2713008 - 02/09/18 07:08 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Hmmm ... I'm on no. 12 which I consider one of the more difficult ones because of all the extended trills.

If I had to venture a guess I would think its the broken arpeggio figures that may be tripping you up. They don't necessarily 'lay under the fingers' easily and takes some careful fingering to make them manageable. For myself I would be careful about what my thumb is doing. If things fall apart its often my thumbs that are to blame.

One idea may be to write an exercise that takes the arpeggio figures and extends them. For example start one an octave higher and double the amount that appears in the score. When that becomes easy the amount of figuration in the actual score becomes trivial.

I don't know if that's any help. I'm hoping this one is an easier reprieve after 12 (I am trying to learn them all from the beginning).


Kawai VPC1, Pianoteq, Galaxy Vintage D
#2713023 - 02/09/18 08:28 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Originally Posted by sinophilia

Maybe those who have learnt it can give me a clue as to what makes it difficult? Did you also have some trouble or not at all?


I feel your pain. I took an insane amount of time to learn this piece, especially the left hand passages. It took me many months until I felt comfortable doing a recording of it. I practiced this piece through 'brute force', meaning I just kept repeating the passages until I got it up to speed and until the notes have deeply sunken into my muscle memory. I find that once it's in my muscle memory my brain can just switch off and then the music will just magically come out. If I start to analyse or think too much about what I'm playing then everything falls apart. This is probably very dodgy advice, but I'm not a music teacher nor a professional pianist smile


"Without music, life would Bb."

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#2713042 - 02/10/18 12:25 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Originally Posted by sinophilia
Maybe those who have learnt it can give me a clue as to what makes it difficult? Did you also have some trouble or not at all?


My teach hates all-white-key key sigs. Says it is like playing on ice or in a desert. No texture, no tactile landmarks.


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#2713043 - 02/10/18 12:29 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Also, my saved post, "What Bach feels like when I put the wrong finger down"

[Linked Image]


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amateur ragtime pianist
https://www.youtube.com/user/Aeschala
#2713057 - 02/10/18 02:29 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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sinophilia Offline

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Thanks for the advice and support!

@Vid Right, I was just thinking that this piece is basically all arpeggios, something that I have quite neglected in my practice! LH going down is the worst. Depending on the inversion you get now intervals of a fifth, now of a sixth... that invariably trips me up.

As my duet buddy told me yesterday, there must be something technical that I still haven’t learned well enough and that prevents me from feeling at ease with this particular piece. I guess she’s right. I recently had a breakthrough with LH leaps, and learnt several pieces with leaps without struggling as much as I used to. So either I start seriously practicing arpeggios or I put this invention aside for now crazy


Diana & Wally - Yamaha W110BW
To create a beautiful sound, one must imagine it at first and then learn to produce fluid physical motions that breathe life into music. (Shirley Kirsten)
http://soundcloud.com/sinophilia - http://youtube.com/sinophilia
#2713072 - 02/10/18 03:46 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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I am currently playing this piece, and was having the same problems as you. I started learning in the beginning of January, and just recently began to play it with a metronome. Before I used a metronome, playing it smoothly from start to finish was impossible. Here are some of my thoughts:

1) use a very slow tempo when you first starting to play it with a metronome. I started at a quaver beat = 70, increasing gradually after I could play smoothly. I am now at a quaver beat = 120, target is 160 but I like it at 140, so I will stop there.

2) I find it useful to memorize how the left hand sounds at the first section, and hum when I am playing it hands together. My right hand is running on auto pilot in this section.

3) I find it useful and I make less mistakes when I keep my left hand fingers close to the keys. Some people tend to lift their fingers higher when they are playing in staccato.

4) I find it useful to mark out and memorize all the Diminished 7th arpeggios. To me, this piece is all about the Diminished 7th, not so much the A minor key. XD

#2713073 - 02/10/18 03:47 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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I will join with those who say this is not an easy invention. I spend months on it, and it drove me crazy. It is actually a beautiful piece, but quite tricky. If you go off course it is hard to recover.

I will give you a tip my teacher gave me for improving my Bach fugue. Label every note with the correct fingering. Do a section slowly doubling two notes, then move to the next two notes- 1-2,1-2,3-4, 3-4 etc.This should be through a whole section without hesitating between pairs. Do this hands separate legato, then staccato. Then do the same thing hands together legato and staccato.. Make sure you use absolutely consistent fingering. It really cements where the fingers are going, and helps on a piece like this. It is tedious and exhausting, but it forces you to know where you are going and focus on each note.

This piece is on the ABRSM grade 6 syllabus this year, and the RCM grade 8, so it is not easy!

#2713078 - 02/10/18 04:52 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Originally Posted by sinophilia
Thanks for the advice and support!

@Vid Right, I was just thinking that this piece is basically all arpeggios, something that I have quite neglected in my practice! LH going down is the worst. Depending on the inversion you get now intervals of a fifth, now of a sixth... that invariably trips me up.

As my duet buddy told me yesterday, there must be something technical that I still haven’t learned well enough and that prevents me from feeling at ease with this particular piece. I guess she’s right. I recently had a breakthrough with LH leaps, and learnt several pieces with leaps without struggling as much as I used to. So either I start seriously practicing arpeggios or I put this invention aside for now crazy

I think that may be it. No. 1 and 4 are all about scales so they may have felt easier. If you want to try an easier invention with an arpeggio motif try no. 8 in F major.


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#2713155 - 02/10/18 11:47 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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I haven't tried any Inventions yet, but I know that after learning one super difficult piece (for me) I thought the next difficult piece would be easier. I am finding that yes, it is a bit easier, but no where near as easy as I expected it to be.
Every new challenging piece - especially at your level (which I feel is ahead of mine) - has its own new challenges. Sure, you bring everything you've learned up to that point to the piece, but then you've got to develop new skills to get through it. I have no idea at what point you get past that "oh, here's another new thing" stage. I suspect I may never get to that stage smile


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Currently working on: Chopin Waltz in Amin (post), Chopin Nocturne in Cmin (post)
#2713175 - 02/10/18 12:48 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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You might be trying to learn it too fast. Do one or half a measure at a time and reward yourself with one more note once you've got the first few notes mastered. Expect to learn a measure a week or so, don't rush yourself.

Don't miss any articulation. If you find yourself missing rests, or forgetting to detach or hold notes accurately, for example, you've moved on too fast. Shorten the section you're studying until you can mindfully (fully focus and realize) everything in that short section properly.

Definitely hit the correct notes 99% of the time! Slow down to even a crawl to make sure you're thinking properly about where those notes are. Don't rush through hoping for the best.

Make sure your fingering is a comfortable and workable as possible. Take your time and make sure that is not sloppy.

It sounds like it will take forever, but it is a surprisingly fast method.

And, again, very importantly - don't rush!!

Last edited by pianopi; 02/10/18 12:50 PM.
#2713185 - 02/10/18 01:18 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: Qazsedcft]  
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sinophilia Offline

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Thank you thank you, great advice from you all!

At ABRSM 6 it is definitely above my level, and to be honest in the beginning I had given myself at least 6 months to learn it, alongside another couple of challenging long-term pieces, but the feeling of near to zero progress is becoming overwhelming! I try to stick to grades and levels as much as I can and with Bach I should probably stop at grade 4. Give me melody and accompaniment any time, but polyphony definitely does not come natural to me. I guess some lucky people just understand it, but I'm not one of them.

Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
If you want to try an easier invention with an arpeggio motif try no. 8 in F major.


I studied that one for a while last year, but can't bring myself to like it, and it's very fast frown
I also tried no. 2 for just a few days, that one is very beautiful although trickier in terms of rhythm. I might give it another try.


Diana & Wally - Yamaha W110BW
To create a beautiful sound, one must imagine it at first and then learn to produce fluid physical motions that breathe life into music. (Shirley Kirsten)
http://soundcloud.com/sinophilia - http://youtube.com/sinophilia
#2713207 - 02/10/18 02:19 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Sinophilia, Is it possible that the fingerings you are using are impeding the flow? This invention does not require large hands, but it does require hand and finger independence. I have a Schirmer edition that gives extensive fingering and fingering options. Maybe you could check out other editions. Are you finding that the LH passages are more difficult, especially when descending? You might be able to make those secure by practicing scales using a formula pattern, or other patterns where you are playing descending scales.

Have you seen John Mortensen’s video on grouping and surfacing? It could be helpful for playing this invention.
Grouping and Surfacing



#2713322 - 02/10/18 08:28 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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This piece is not easy. mainly because of the jumping of the tune from right to left hand. Also because you have to play the tune in the left hand.

It can be easier if you chunk the music. Take a look.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef3WpMGamF8

I would adapt the music - if I were struggling I would play some of the quavers as chords or just play the tune with no accompaniment.

What I would do with difficult continuous passages to get even.

- 1st play straight
- 2nd play dotted rhythms
- 3rd play inverse dotted rhythms

For a particularly hard part or jumps, some focus practice.

#2713356 - 02/11/18 03:50 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: PianogrlNW]  
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sinophilia Offline

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Originally Posted by PianogrlNW
Sinophilia, Is it possible that the fingerings you are using are impeding the flow? This invention does not require large hands, but it does require hand and finger independence. I have a Schirmer edition that gives extensive fingering and fingering options. Maybe you could check out other editions. Are you finding that the LH passages are more difficult, especially when descending? You might be able to make those secure by practicing scales using a formula pattern, or other patterns where you are playing descending scales.

Have you seen John Mortensen’s video on grouping and surfacing? It could be helpful for playing this invention.
Grouping and Surfacing


I am using Busoni's edition, and his fingering does not suit me very well, I've changed a lot of it. I will definitely have a look at other editions!

Yes I've seen all Mortensen's video about grouping, and I try to apply it as much as I can (Stannard also talks about it a lot in his books), but transferring those useful concepts to actual practice is not always so easy for me yet.


Diana & Wally - Yamaha W110BW
To create a beautiful sound, one must imagine it at first and then learn to produce fluid physical motions that breathe life into music. (Shirley Kirsten)
http://soundcloud.com/sinophilia - http://youtube.com/sinophilia
#2713368 - 02/11/18 05:14 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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Originally Posted by sinophilia
I feel like I'm going nowhere.
Maybe those who have learnt it can give me a clue as to what makes it difficult? Did you also have some trouble or not at all?


I've started to look a bit at this one.
What makes it more "difficult" might be that a lot of it isn't scalar...The staccato 8th notes are moving a lot in arpeggio fashion, but not necessarily in a "kind" chord arpeggio way.
I find it involves careful fingering along with moving the hand sideways into new positions.
This might be what makes it more challenging.
For me: Learning each hand separately, slow playing with correct timing and note values, and learning to HEAR everything will be the solution.


Czerny's Piano School Vol. 1. Reviewing basics/ear training/analysis in interesting exercises.
Opus 599. Now at #77 and giving it a break.
#2713556 - 02/11/18 07:14 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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I struggled with all five inventions I have learned so far, and only ever was confident with one which I was playing for eighteen months as I worked up to my grade 5 exam. Subsequently I will never underestimate an Invention or expect too much progress after a short time. I have written about this before, but starting a grade 6 Sinfonia (No 8) was a complete shock to the system. The difference between the two grades seems vast at first and my Sinfonia, on paper at least, doesn't look too dissimilar to your Invention. Exactly why the two grades are so different I can't put my finger on, (when there is no obvious technical reason), but there does appear to be a bit more note intensity and a lack of easier sections when one hand is doing little while the other is playing.

I think the tip of marking many more notes than normal has helped me. I take the attitude if I was to start at any single point would I know what finger to use. If there is any doubt I mark it. I doubt I am alone, but I don't enjoy hands separate practice. However this is a really useful tool and switching hands together back to hands separate has shown me weakness's I don't realise when playing hands together. I have a bad habit of making the jump to hands together too soon.

One other thing I have found useful is to stop playing the piece for a little while. Coming back later with renewed enthusiasm and allowing parts of the piece to sink into deeper memory seems to work for me.


Problems with piano are 90% psychological, the other 10% is in your head.

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#2713605 - 02/11/18 11:33 PM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: earlofmar]  
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outo Offline
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Originally Posted by earlofmar


I think the tip of marking many more notes than normal has helped me. I take the attitude if I was to start at any single point would I know what finger to use.


I do this too with pieces that rely on well thought out fingering so that I can pick any random point to start when I practice.

#2713625 - 02/12/18 02:31 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: earlofmar]  
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sinophilia Offline

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sinophilia  Offline

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I was looking for your input, earlofmar, you're a Bach specialist by now! One of my goals for 2018 is to learn a sinfonia (I picked number 11 because it's very slow and lyrical), and that's probably one reason why I feel so disappointed with my progress with the invention. I thought I could be done with it in two months and then move on to the sinfonia, and also to the Goldberg's Aria, which is challenging in completely different ways. A bit too optimistic overall, I guess. I have a picture of Bach above my piano and he doesn't look pleased at all!


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#2713629 - 02/12/18 02:42 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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SwissMS Online content
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Costa del Sol
Sinfonia 11 is beautiful, but is also more difficult than it looks on the page. I learned it for my grade 6 exam a couple of years ago, but decided to play the Beethoven instead. Since there are three voices, there are a lot of held notes while another voice is playing in the same hand, and the middle voice moves back and forth between hands. Balancing the three voices effectively is challenging. I loved the piece, but did not feel confident I could do it justice in an exam. Maybe you will have better luck with it!

#2713632 - 02/12/18 02:57 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: sinophilia]  
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outo Offline
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Finland
Originally Posted by sinophilia
I was looking for your input, earlofmar, you're a Bach specialist by now! One of my goals for 2018 is to learn a sinfonia (I picked number 11 because it's very slow and lyrical), and that's probably one reason why I feel so disappointed with my progress with the invention. I thought I could be done with it in two months and then move on to the sinfonia, and also to the Goldberg's Aria, which is challenging in completely different ways. A bit too optimistic overall, I guess. I have a picture of Bach above my piano and he doesn't look pleased at all!


I do not think you need to fully master the invention before starting a sinfonia. It's a different kind of difficulty. I find the sinfonia I am studying now (nr. 9) easier to learn than that invention. Less mechanical finger work and more brain work.

#2713636 - 02/12/18 03:54 AM Re: Struggling with Bach Invention 13 [Re: outo]  
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earlofmar Offline
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Australia
Originally Posted by outo


I do not think you need to fully master the invention before starting a sinfonia. It's a different kind of difficulty. I find the sinfonia I am studying now (nr. 9) easier to learn than that invention. Less mechanical finger work and more brain work.


my thinking as well. While I feel I had a lack of success with the Inventions it was none the less all worth it. While I may have had little to present, the experience gained was crucial. After my first attempt at a Sinfonia and a subsequent long break, on my return I have found it a lot easier than an Invention to at least get the notes and other basics right.


Problems with piano are 90% psychological, the other 10% is in your head.

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