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#1946098 - 08/20/12 12:14 PM Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
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Loc: Maine
Following up on the study thread for Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, we're continuing by analyzing Bach's Prelude in C Major, BWV 846. This will be easier than the Moonlight Sonata. So everyone, feel free to dive in.

The idea is to try to understand the way the piece is put together, the chord progressions and modulations that make it work. Several of us don't have teachers, so hopefully we'll be able to gain something by pooling our knowledge and discussing with one another. Please feel free to join if you think this sounds like an interesting way to learn about music! (...or if you're playing this Prelude now or have played it, and would like to get a better understanding of it.)

Here is a pdf of the score from IMSLP. If you'd like to join, please download it and have a look at it.

The score includes both the Prelude and its following Fugue. We're doing only the Prelude for now (page 3 and half of page 4 in the score).

[ETA: Here's another pdf of the score that may be easier to read (bigger print), and includes just the Prelude, no Fugue.]


Edited by PianoStudent88 (08/20/12 12:40 PM)
Edit Reason: add link to another score
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#1946109 - 08/20/12 12:27 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Loc: Maine
Some things to do to start off:
  • Listen to some performances. What do you notice about the Prelude? How would you describe it?
    .
  • Listen while looking at the score. This may lead you to hear more. Mark in the score when you hear something noticeable going on. We'll return to these points in the analysis.
    .
  • Look the score over. What do you notice about it? What is the key (ignore the fact that the thread title says C Major: how do you work out the key if you're not told it)? What is the meter? Are there patterns in the music? Do you notice any accidentals? Are there lots of accidentals or only a few?

Here are a few links to performances on Youtube. If you find other performances that you like, please share the link. There are so many performances of this on Youtube, with so many instruments, by players at so many levels, that I'm always on the lookout for selected links to the real gems. Here are two performances to get you started:

Grigorij Sokolov plays Prelude and Fugue
Friedrich Gulda plays Prelude and Fugue
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#1946110 - 08/20/12 12:29 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
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I see I'm late to the party!

Yikes!! Here's a cleaner version.
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#1946120 - 08/20/12 12:41 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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It's always a party when I'm around! smile
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#1946134 - 08/20/12 12:54 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
Greener Offline

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Posts: 1203
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Printed off and ready to Rock n Roll with sir Johann Sebastian Bach.

Not sure I will be able to jump all over this immediately and would prefer to familiarize myself with it as my reading is poor. At any rate I will try to get ready as suggested, PS88 and will try my best to keep up.

Anyone: If you have a chance could you kindly take a quick listen to the below video. Particularly, starting at :49 and continuing 3:40. Seeing as this is a Salute to Bach I have to assume (there I go again making an ass of umption) that it is at least loosly based on something from Bach. I would LOVE to identify same.

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#1946137 - 08/20/12 12:58 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: Greener]
HeirborneGroupie Offline
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Hi guys I'm in!!! I love parties!!!!

Greener, loved the video but can't help with the ID. Sorry.
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#1946142 - 08/20/12 01:16 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: HeirborneGroupie]
HeirborneGroupie Offline
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OK. In listening to a couple performances and going over the score here are the things that stood out to me.

1. It's in C Major. Ignoring the fact that it says so in the title; I know this because the key signature has no sharps or flats. Although A minor also has this key signature, the piece begins and ends with a C major chord.

2. There are no dynamic markings. (except the fermata at the end)

3. It's in 4/4 time.

4. Each measure is contains a sequence of notes that is repeated. (Does that make sense?)
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#1946147 - 08/20/12 01:25 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: HeirborneGroupie]
Greener Offline

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Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1203
Loc: Toronto
Quote:
1. It's in C Major. Ignoring the fact that it says so in the title; I know this because the key signature has no sharps or flats. Although A minor also has this key signature, the piece begins and ends with a C major chord.


I did not know that (Am vs. C key signature.) Sorry, it is this bad.

Could someone briefly explain to me how to count out a minor scale. My method for counting a major scale. is

tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone

I didn't even realize there were minor scales, until everybody started referencing them in the last thread. I was too embarrassed to ask. blush


Edited by Greener (08/20/12 01:26 PM)
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#1946151 - 08/20/12 01:30 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: Greener]
HeirborneGroupie Offline
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Registered: 02/05/09
Posts: 223
Loc: Florida
Originally Posted By: Greener
Quote:
1. It's in C Major. Ignoring the fact that it says so in the title; I know this because the key signature has no sharps or flats. Although A minor also has this key signature, the piece begins and ends with a C major chord.


I did not know that (Am vs. C key signature.) Sorry, it is this bad.

Could someone briefly explain to me how to count out a minor scale. My method for counting a major scale. is

tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone


I didn't even realize there were minor scales, until everybody started referencing them in the last thread. I was too embarrassed to ask. blush






Don't be embarrassed. We've all been there.

Natural minor scale is counted:-
tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone.


Edited by HeirborneGroupie (08/20/12 01:31 PM)
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#1946155 - 08/20/12 01:33 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Greener, the only dumb question is the one that is unasked. smile

Glad you're asking about it now. Rats, I have a meeting to go to. Maybe someone will step in and describe minor scales, or I'll do it when I get out of my meeting.

Quick way: take a major scale. Go down a minor third from the first note (also called the "tonic"). For example, from C down to A. Play all the notes of the original major scale, but starting on this new note. For example, instead of playing the white keys starting from C for C major, play the white keys starting from A. This is a minor scale: A minor.

Try this starting from other major scales and going down a minor third to a different starting point to get a minor scale. Which major and minor scales match up this way? This is called a major scale and its "relative natural minor scale."

(Truth in advertising clause: There are other kinds of minor scales: harmonic minor scales and melodic minor scales. There are also other kinds of relations between a major and minor scale: a major scale and its relative minor scale, or a major scale and its parallel minor scale. Those will be described in future posts.)
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#1946156 - 08/20/12 01:33 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
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Major scale: TTSTTTS - White keys starting from C (C major)
Minor scale:TSTTSTT - White keys starting from A (A natural minor)

Harmonic minor uses #7
Melodic minor uses #6 and #7 rising, unsharped 6 and 7 falling.
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#1946161 - 08/20/12 01:38 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
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The harmonic minor scale uses a sharped seventh so that the leading note in chords (harmony) resolves to the octave.

The gap between six and seven is too big for a comfortable melody line so six and seven are sharped while melody is rising.

They don't need to be sharped when the melody is falling because it will resolve from the second note to the first.

Clear? Unclear?
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#1946179 - 08/20/12 02:07 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: zrtf90]
Greener Offline

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1203
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Quote:
Listen to some performances. What do you notice about the Prelude? How would you describe it?
.
Listen while looking at the score. This may lead you to hear more. Mark in the score when you hear something noticeable going on. We'll return to these points in the analysis.
.
Look the score over. What do you notice about it? What is the key (ignore the fact that the thread title says C Major: how do you work out the key if you're not told it)? What is the meter? Are there patterns in the music? Do you notice any accidentals? Are there lots of accidentals or only a few?


I agree with everything Carol said in her assessment. The only thing I would add is that it sounds very melodic (repetitious?) throughout.

Thanks everyone for the lesson in scales. Now moving right along and let me know if I am going to fast for you laugh

I am going to go out on a limb here and call Bar 2 (Carol already mentioned that we are starting on C, so Bar 1 is Cmaj):

Dm7/C grin
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#1946184 - 08/20/12 02:15 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
tangleweeds Offline

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Registered: 12/21/08
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I just want to pop in to say that I'm a Bach lover beginning to explore the preludes, and would love to participate in this thread. Let's see if I can make some time and brainspace for it (we're still hosting houseguests & offpring thereof, now resulting in recurring migraines on my part shocked )

Meanwhile, for Greener, here's a tutorial on scales (be sure to follow the links that tell more about major and minor versions)
http://www.teoria.com/tutorials/scales/index.php
Be aware that although theory texts talk about natural, harmonic, and melodic minor scales as being different entities, real music tends to shift around between the three.

And here (on the same site) is a page of exercises where you can practice constructing and identifying scales (lower section, left column, and ignore the stupid ad)
http://www.teoria.com/exercises/index.php
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#1946192 - 08/20/12 02:30 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
tangleweeds Offline

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Registered: 12/21/08
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And speaking of my favorite theory website, they have an animated analysis of this piece right here (link below). Would it be cheating to watch this? (I am abstaining for the moment... but it's hard!)
http://www.teoria.com/articulos/analysis/BWV846/index.htm

Is it even meaningful to talk about chord progressions in this sort of music? I thought Bach was mostly about interweaving lines constrained to intersect within a limited range of acceptable harmonies, rather than a matter chord progressions as such. But I am by no means an expert.
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#1946194 - 08/20/12 02:36 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
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This prelude is a continuous piece, like a through composed song, no verses, repeat bars or other signs of structure. There's no melody line either. It's simply a chord progression.

The absence of melody means there are no phrases. It is seldom that case that a piece of music of this length is just one long chord progression. There will be points where we can divide the piece into sections.

Rather than go through bar by bar, I suggest going through as many bars as you think are in the first section, or two lines, whichever is sooner (and it should be sooner) then we'll stop and look at that.

Welcome, tangleweeds. Good to have you with us. Hope the head eases up soon. I used to get a headache after band practise until I realised it was because I spent the evening facing the band with my ear facing an 18" bass bin whereas on stage I'd face the audience. These little things...Now I haven't had a headache since I've been married (nearly 20 years).
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#1946198 - 08/20/12 02:42 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
Greener Offline

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Thanks tangleweeds. I'm glad you will be joining us. We have a blast.

Quote:
Here are a few links to performances on Youtube. If you find other performances that you like, please share the link. There are so many performances of this on Youtube, with so many instruments, by players at so many levels, that I'm always on the lookout for selected links to the real gems. Here are two performances to get you started:

Grigorij Sokolov plays Prelude and Fugue
Friedrich Gulda plays Prelude and Fugue


I would also like to quickly add ... I did not notice it in the first video but sure do in the Sokolov performance (which is much faster tempo) ... the melody appears to be mostly in the bass clef (left hand.) This is not that common is it? We saw it at the end of the Moonlight Sonata, but do not come across often. Do we?


Edited by Greener (08/20/12 02:48 PM)
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#1946202 - 08/20/12 02:45 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
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That link is to the fugue not to the prelude.

It's not actually cheating as this isn't a contest of any sort. This is about doing it to learn the process and to understand the piece. And it's not just this piece. If you learn the process you can analyse and understand any piece. So it may not be cheating but it won't be helpful in the long run. By all means check it out but it might be more profitable to examine it after we've done this.
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#1946203 - 08/20/12 02:45 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: zrtf90]
HeirborneGroupie Offline
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Originally Posted By: zrtf90

Rather than go through bar by bar, I suggest going through as many bars as you think are in the first section, or two lines, whichever is sooner (and it should be sooner) then we'll stop and look at that.


Measures 1-4 are C, Dmin7/C, G7/B, and then back to C (tonic). I'm not sure if measure 5 belongs here or not. It seems like it's wrapped up in a nice little package.


Edited by HeirborneGroupie (08/20/12 02:46 PM)
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#1946205 - 08/20/12 02:48 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
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That's not a melody, Jeff. This is a chord progression, pure and simple. The arpeggiation was often left to the performer, like ripple picking on guitar.
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#1946206 - 08/20/12 02:51 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
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Excellent, Carol. You can stop there and we'll have it look at that a little later. You can be moving on but there are some chords in here esp. the second half that will give you problems.

Just bypass them for now and leave them blank.
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#1946210 - 08/20/12 02:58 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
JimF Offline
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I plan to pitch in, but will probably refrain until I get home this evening and can refer to my score at home... it is already marked up with the chord progressions from a while back when it was one of my assigned pieces.
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#1946213 - 08/20/12 02:59 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
Greener Offline

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We are finishing the first two lines right?

Bar 5: Am/C
Bar 6: D7/C
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#1946231 - 08/20/12 03:33 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: zrtf90]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Originally Posted By: zrtf90
That's not a melody, Jeff. This is a chord progression, pure and simple. The arpeggiation was often left to the performer, like ripple picking on guitar.

I take Jeff's point to be, not about the semantics of melody vs. bass line or chord progression, but rather to be about: what does your ear pick out to hum? I think it's astute to notice the bass notes as something to hum in their own right, distinct from being caught up in the everflowing rippling arpeggios.
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#1946261 - 08/20/12 04:04 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
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Notice that in m.6 we get our first accidental: F#. That makes this measure D7/C in contrast to measure 2 which was Dm7/C.

In m.5, the high A will turn out to be the highest note in the whole prelude.

Major scales: some review of these may be helpful. C major is the major key with no sharps or flats. What major key has one sharp (what is the key, and what is the sharp)? What major key has one flat (what is the key, and what is the flat)?

If you arrange the tonic notes of these three keys in a row, like this:
* tonic of key with one flat
* tonic of key with no sharps or flats
* tonic of key with one sharp
What interval appears between one tonic note and the next tonic note? (Remember that "tonic" is a fancy name for "first note of a scale".)

These questions are to build up a knowledge of scales, modulations, and progressions in bite-size morsels that are relevant to this prelude.
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#1946266 - 08/20/12 04:13 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
HeirborneGroupie Offline
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Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Notice that in m.6 we get our first accidental: F#. That makes this measure D7/C in contrast to measure 2 which was Dm7/C.

In m.5, the high A will turn out to be the highest note in the whole prelude.

Major scales: some review of these may be helpful. C major is the major key with no sharps or flats. What major key has one sharp (what is the key, and what is the sharp)? What major key has one flat (what is the key, and what is the flat)?

If you arrange the tonic notes of these three keys in a row, like this:
* tonic of key with one flat
* tonic of key with no sharps or flats
* tonic of key with one sharp
What interval appears between one tonic note and the next tonic note? (Remember that "tonic" is a fancy name for "first note of a scale".)

These questions are to build up a knowledge of scales, modulations, and progressions in bite-size morsels that are relevant to this prelude.



OK. The major key with one sharp is G major (F#).
The major key with one flat is F major (Bb).

When arranged as you described the tonic notes are a 5th apart.


Edited by HeirborneGroupie (08/20/12 04:14 PM)
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#1946268 - 08/20/12 04:14 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: tangleweeds]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Originally Posted By: tangleweeds
Is it even meaningful to talk about chord progressions in this sort of music? I thought Bach was mostly about interweaving lines constrained to intersect within a limited range of acceptable harmonies, rather than a matter chord progressions as such. But I am by no means an expert.

Multiple interweaving lines create vertical harmonies, a.k.a. chords, and we can examine the music to find out if there are typical sequences of chords used, or if the choice of chords is higgledy-piggledy. In either case, I would call the sequence of chords a chord progression.
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#1946272 - 08/20/12 04:25 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: Greener]
keystring Offline
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A quick note on major and minor keys: Every major key has a "relative minor key" which shares the same key signature. As PianoStudent88 said, you can find the tonic (starting note of its scale) by going three notes down which will be a minor third down. So some major keys with their relative minor are:

C major, A minor (no sharps or flats in the signature)
Eb major, C minor (3 flats)
D major, B minor (3 sharps)

Music in a minor key will tend to have a more sombre or blue feel to it (in general - not always since composers do other things to the music to create mood). The I chord is minor (i chord or Im chord depending on the naming system you use).

People talk about three kinds of minor scales. I got chastised for this 4 years ago when I asked for examples in the teacher forum when I was teaching it, with somebody saying these scales don't really exist. Well, they sort of do, because when you take lessons you're asked to play them for exams - but they're also fictitious. What happens is that the first 5 notes are the same, and then notes 6 and 7 can get tweaked giving us these different scales. Using the key of C minor:

"natural minor"
C D Eb F G Ab Bb C
"harmonic minor"
C D Eb F G Ab B C
"melodic minor"
C D Eb F G A B C

The reason for raising the Bb to B in the harmonic minor is so that the pull to the tonic C is stronger, and because that way your V chord and V7 chords can be G and G7 rather than Gm and Gm7. That makes the V7-I movement stronger.

One reason for the melodic minor is that you get to have that G7 but the melody is less bumpy. In the harmonic minor "G Ab B" goes 3 half steps, then one half step, which makes it sound "foreign". In the melodic movement it's smoother.

How can you recognize when music is in a minor key?
- If it is in A minor rather than C major, then you'll have lots of minor chords (the Im). The music will tend to end on C, with a Cm chord. You will have lots of V7-Im (G7 to Cm).
- You'll see lots of accidentals (B nat) since the 7th note will tend to be raised by a half step.



Edited by keystring (08/20/12 04:36 PM)

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#1946273 - 08/20/12 04:26 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
Greener Offline

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Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1203
Loc: Toronto
I need to get this ...

Quote:
What major key has one sharp (what is the key, and what is the sharp)?


G - F#

Quote:
What major key has one flat (what is the key, and what is the flat)?


F - Bb

Quote:
If you arrange the tonic notes of these three keys in a row, like this:
* tonic of key with one flat
* tonic of key with no sharps or flats
* tonic of key with one sharp
What interval appears between one tonic note and the next tonic note? (Remember that "tonic" is a fancy name for "first note of a scale".)


Correction: I was thinking A (dug) for key with no sharps or flats ... not focusing ... C ... so F, C, G interval 5th


Edited by Greener (08/20/12 04:30 PM)
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#1946274 - 08/20/12 04:27 PM Re: Bach Prelude in C Major BWV 846 study thread [Re: HeirborneGroupie]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Originally Posted By: HeirborneGroupie
OK. The major key with one sharp is G major (F#).
The major key with one flat is F major (Bb).

When arranged as you described the tonic notes are a 5th apart.

Excellent.

I brought this up because these two keys, G major and F major, are the two major keys closest to C major in terms of number of sharps and flats: going from no sharps and flats to just one sharp or one flat. They share the most possible notes with C major: F major has Bb while C major has B natural, and G major has F# while C major has F natural. Otherwise they share all the same notes. This makes them easy keys to move to from C major, because you only have to change one note.

That means, if this is a typical Baroque piece, that we might expect Bb and F# to be star players as far as which accidentals appear. (It turns out Bach has other tricks up his sleeve as well, but we'll solve those as we get to them.)
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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