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Posted By: RmntcPianoLvr Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/26/19 05:59 PM
Hi All,

Over the last few months or so, I've played quite a few Bach inventions and sinfonias and believe that I am now ready for the WTC, something I have been looking forward to for a very long time. I was wondering if any of you had any insight as to which p/f's are the best for WTC newcomers and which ones they should avoid until they have more experience, as well as which book is better suited.

For reference, here are the inventions and sinfonias I learned:

Inventions: 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 13, and 14
Sinfonias: 1, 8, and 14

Thanks in advanced!
Posted By: LarryK Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/26/19 07:11 PM
Originally Posted by RmntcPianoLvr
Hi All,

Over the last few months or so, I've played quite a few Bach inventions and sinfonias and believe that I am now ready for the WTC, something I have been looking forward to for a very long time. I was wondering if any of you had any insight as to which p/f's are the best for WTC newcomers and which ones they should avoid until they have more experience, as well as which book is better suited.

For reference, here are the inventions and sinfonias I learned:

Inventions: 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 13, and 14
Sinfonias: 1, 8, and 14

Thanks in advanced!


Wow, how exciting! How long did it take you to reach this level?
Posted By: RmntcPianoLvr Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/26/19 07:42 PM
Originally Posted by LarryK
Originally Posted by RmntcPianoLvr
Hi All,

Over the last few months or so, I've played quite a few Bach inventions and sinfonias and believe that I am now ready for the WTC, something I have been looking forward to for a very long time. I was wondering if any of you had any insight as to which p/f's are the best for WTC newcomers and which ones they should avoid until they have more experience, as well as which book is better suited.

For reference, here are the inventions and sinfonias I learned:

Inventions: 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 13, and 14
Sinfonias: 1, 8, and 14

Thanks in advanced!


Wow, how exciting! How long did it take you to reach this level?


Hi Larry. Actually, I never really had motivation to learn Bach growing up, although I did learn a couple inventions along the way. It wasn't until last year that I started to take his music more seriously and eventually became motivated to properly learn it. I've played stuff like Rachmaninoff preludes and Chopin scherzi, so the technique for these pieces wasn't very hard. But getting the voicings, articulations, etc. under control took quite the effort. But I'd say it's well worth the price smile
Posted By: BruceD Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/26/19 08:18 PM
Based on the level ratings in the RCM (Toronto) syllabus, you could start with the easiest and work up from there. I am not sure how helpful this list might be for your purposes, but ...

Level 9:
- Bk I: Prelude and Fugue in C minor

Level 10:

WTC: Bk I:
- Prelude and Fugue in C major
- Prelude and Fugue in D major
- Prelude and Fugue in D minor
- Prelude and Fugue in E major
- Prelude and Fugue in E minor
- Prelude and Fugue in F major
- Prelude and Fugue in F sharp major
- Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor
- Prelude and Fugue in G minor
- Prelude and Fugue in A flat major
- Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor
- Prelude and Fugue in B flat major
- Prelude and Fugue in B major

WTC: Bk II:
- Prelude and Fugue in C major
- Prelude and Fugue in C minor
- Prelude and Fugue in C sharp major
- Prelude and Fugue in D minor
- Prelude and Fugue in E flat major
- Prelude and Fugue in D sharp minor
- Prelude and Fugue in E major
- Prelude and Fugue in E minor
- Prelude and Fugue in F minor
- Prelude and Fugue in G major
- Prelude and Fugue in A major
- Prelude and Fugue in A minor
- Prelude and Fugue in B minor

All the remaining Preludes and Fugues are Diploma (ARCT) level.

Regards,
Posted By: RmntcPianoLvr Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/26/19 11:55 PM
Thanks for the detailed list Bruce, that's just what I needed smile
Posted By: RubberFingers Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/27/19 12:22 AM
Henle's ratings are here. I recently bought both books and am enjoying learning several. I got the unfingered edition but that's a choice only you can make!

edited: oops, that link is for book two. Here's Book 1Book 1
Posted By: AssociateX Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/28/19 05:38 AM
I only knew 2 Bach inventions (13 and 14) before tackling the Prelude in F minor in Book 2 . I am now working on the fugue and it’s kicking my butt. crazy The Prelude is really fun to play. I recommend it!
Posted By: joggerjazz Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/28/19 11:57 AM
Originally Posted by RubberFingers
Henle's ratings are here. I recently bought both books and am enjoying learning several. I got the unfingered edition but that's a choice only you can make!

edited: oops, that link is for book two. Here's Book 1Book 1


I find the Fugue in C# major way harder than the Fugue in C minor. Anyone else?
Posted By: Tim Adrianson Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/28/19 01:11 PM
Hi, joggerjazz -- Yeah, I definitely agree -- the C Min is a relatively easy Fugue, if not THE easiest, in the WTC -- if for no other reason, the score for the C# Maj is festooned with double sharps as it proceeds, but the main fugal subject also gets tossed between the hands at various junctures, making the voicing a difficult balancing act. Definitely the tougher of the two!
Posted By: MichaelJK Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/28/19 08:36 PM
This is great music, and the more of it you study, the better it will make you. I don't know why there would be any that you "should avoid." Some of them might take longer to come together than others, but you will still learn something just from working on them. Also, the more of them you learn, the easier it will become to learn new ones. Learning to play fugues will change the way you look at everything on the piano, if you let it. Chopin did not learn to compose by studying Chopin. He learned by studying Bach.
Posted By: justyna_ewa Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/28/19 09:05 PM
I can refer to my own experience only, and of my colleagues who studied with the same professor. I remember I started with C minor book I, the other played D minor, B major, A major, F major. In general the assumption was that you start with 3 voice fugue, then you get 4 voice fugue. After C minor, I got English Suite in G minor - Prelude and Allemande, then Keybord Concerto in F minor, and then Prelude and Fugue E flat minor and F minor from book I. There is also a beautiful fugue in Toccata from the 6th Partita, which I played before Prelude and Fugue in F minor. I suppose the objective of the teacher was not only to teach us how to play, and balance multiple voices in polyphonic pieces, and how to present the form of fugue during performance, but to work also on articulation, baroque style in dynamic, and ornamentation.
Posted By: D959 Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 03/29/19 02:10 PM
I've been recently working my way through the WTC and started with the one in G major from book 2. The fugue is very simple and a great starter fugue. After that maybe try the D Major, Ab, or C minor from book 1. From there you should be able to assess the difficulty for yourself. Good luck to you!
Posted By: BeeZee4 Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 04/04/19 07:38 PM
Hey joggerjazz! Yeah, the C# major fugue WTC1 is very difficult. Besides all the double sharps to keep track of, the voices switch between fingers of both hands as Tim noted. Typical in Bach, there's hardly any breathing room once you get started, and there's so much total concentration involved.

I also find the D major fugue of WTC2 also difficult, not only the independence of the fingers, but just to make everything sound clear and transparent. With so many notes it's easy for the sound to get all muddied up and mushy. The prelude, in contrast, is more linear and easier to navigate, but is much longer. Regarding overall difficulties of WTC, I always thought Book ! easier, just because the melodies and fugue subjects easier to digest. Many of the preludes Bach included in his notebooks for his wife and son Wilhelm Friedemann. It's not easy to pair an easy prelude and fugue together, oftentimes the prelude is simple (i.e. the famous opening C major) yet the fugue is much trickier to master. The b minor prelude Book 1 is another example, a simple two part prelude followed by an immensely long and difficult 4 part fugue. Same with the f minor prelude and fugue. But along with the pain comes a lot of pleasure.

"Some Bach a day keeps the boredom away." : laugh
Posted By: girflush Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 04/05/19 06:07 AM
One can certainly find lists online ranking the pieces of the WTC by approximate difficulty, as already posted graciously by members here.

But also I would recommend starting with a recording of the WTC and picking out pieces that really resonate with you. And then begin work on those, however difficult they may be, and you will probably be surprised how much progress you are able to make with them as you will be playing pieces you enjoy rather than waiting for one day when you are supposedly advanced enough all the while toiling on works that in the end you’ll forget...

That’s the approach I’ve taken recently myself and have just finished up Prelude 8 in Eb Minor and am now working on Prelude 6 in D Minor. And after that it will be the Prelude in E Minor. I tend to have a spot for the minor keys…or maybe it’s the times…
Posted By: joggerjazz Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 04/05/19 01:01 PM
Originally Posted by BeeZee4
Hey joggerjazz! Yeah, the C# major fugue WTC1 is very difficult. Besides all the double sharps to keep track of, the voices switch between fingers of both hands as Tim noted. Typical in Bach, there's hardly any breathing room once you get started, and there's so much total concentration involved.
"Some Bach a day keeps the boredom away." : laugh


Yes, I found the fact your dealing with a major 6th interval stretch with hands most centered over the black keys trickey.
This piece really helped my playing. If it was written in C major a lot easier I think.
The only thing I hate trying to learn Inventions and WTC1 pieces are the time invested to learn them and maintenence to keep them under my fingers that slows me down learning new ones.
Posted By: Steve Chandler Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 04/05/19 01:14 PM
Originally Posted by girflush

But also I would recommend starting with a recording of the WTC and picking out pieces that really resonate with you. And then begin work on those, however difficult they may be, and you will probably be surprised how much progress you are able to make with them as you will be playing pieces you enjoy rather than waiting for one day when you are supposedly advanced enough all the while toiling on works that in the end you’ll forget...

Being older I remember well Switched on Bach which was an album of Bach played on synthesizers. The E flat major Prelude and Fugue (WTC Book 1) resonated with me and I eventually learned it. I like to joke that the prelude is really a double fugue of 4 pages in four voices and yet the fugue is only 2 pages and 3 voices and is the harder (for me) piece.
Posted By: KlinkKlonk Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 04/05/19 04:06 PM
I found the 14th sinfonia (stretto part last section) as difficult as some of the fugues in WTC. So if you mastered that..well.
Posted By: uprightcitizen Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 04/05/19 11:33 PM
Starting with the the Bk 1 C Major makes the most sense since you probably already know the prelude. If you learned it with pedal just remove the pedal and you're good to go.
Posted By: uprightcitizen Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 04/05/19 11:42 PM
I was in high school in the 80's but Switched on Bach was a huge influence on my life. It's how I discovered Bach and it was one my gateways into classical music. As an interesting side note, the old Moog sounds are very fashionable in this day and age.
Posted By: jandz Re: Best Place to Start in the WTC? - 04/06/19 04:35 AM
The c-minor P/F in book 1 are a good place to start. It’ll give you a gentle intro to fugues. The other fugues are considerably more difficult. The preludes tend to be easier but as in all music easy is relative. This pair is a rare case where the prelude might be more difficult, if only because it is famous and popular.

Bruce’s list is where I would go for ordering. Try the prelude for each and see how it feels. Listen to a performer or two that you like play them and see how you feel about it. Some you’ll know right away are not for you. Try any you’re not certain of.

Fugues take study. Learning how to hear them is important. Learning voicing takes time and practice. I’m no master of it, nor even adept. It is challenging to be sure. For me, my teacher recommends breaking them down to chords so I can more easily see the progressions and understand the flow. Then she has me start learning the voices. Step by step I get better.

These pieces are all very unique so you kind of chart your own path through them. Chopin said that from Bach comes our greatest advancement and Schiff says they are one’s daily bread. Whatever course you plot in these books is to your benefit. Enjoy the journey!
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