BWV939 Bach J.S.

Learner Skills

The range of this piece should be considered when choosing it for a learner as both hands contain a number of seventh and octave jumps. The decoration will require finger agility and a light touch.

Knowledge Skills

The composer wrote this prelude as one of a set of preludes for students who were in the first year of study. It is one of a set of five published with other small preludes to make a set of 12. These were published as part of the Bach - Gersellschaft Ausgabe, formed in 1850, with the express purpose of publishing the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach without editorial additions.

Technical Skills

The piece is in simple quadruple time with the primary motif starting on the first half beat, this ensures that the phrase is one note over the bar line which is beneficial to preventing learners stopping on the bar line.

The chordal structure of this piece allows the learner to focus on the chords used in each section. Focus on the finger patterns used for the seventh chords and the inverted arpeggios will enable a greater fluidity in performance.

Awareness of a pulse on the first and third counts will produce a smoother performance.

Articulation Skills

The score does not show any phrasing marks, which is expected for the Baroque era. Encourage your learner to listen to the piece to hear the natural phrasing which follows the musical motif.
An effective way of enhancing this is to encourage a learner to vocalise the written melody in one hand while playing the other line with the other hand, and vice-versa.

Sound Skills

This piece was written for a learner to play on a harpsichord or a clavier. The touch would be expected to be light and Bach is recorded to have emphasised the need for clearness and distinctness.

Pedal Skills

There is no pedal requirement for this piece however it is pertinent to discuss the pedal notes in bars one to three and bars nine to eleven. Discussion may include chords which are dissonant to the pedal notes as part of the travelling chords that the changing harmonies imply.

Stylistic Skills

The semiquavers (sixteenth notes) and inverted mordants require a light and nimble finger technique. The acknowledgement of the unwritten phrasing will enhance the performance allowing for the learning objective of the eight note motif to be recognised and understood.

Practise Skills

Choose an appropriate practice starting time and encourage the learner to maintain an even tempo throughout practice.
The inverted mordant should be correct at each speed before the full piece is attempted. The finger pattern in bar thirteen is the preferred option for speed, although this is editorial and may be changed.

Performance Skills

We know from his biography that Bach believed in accuracy of execution emphasising the need for clearness and distinctness. A performance should include all these things alongside dynamics that enhance the performance rather than overpower it.

Teaching Skills

Warm up with the scale and seventh chords used in the piece.

The inverted mordant will require careful execution to ensure the mordant is sounded on the first half on the note.

Exam Skills

An accomplished learner will be confident with a clear sound and accurate placement on decoration. The tempo would be brisk with complementary dynamics and phrasing.

A satisfying performance will have accurate rhythm, some dynamic interest and a good balance between hands.

On completion of the learning process an acceptable performance will be a little under time but will have a satisfactory rhythm with acceptable decoration.

C.L. Caton-Greasley CT ABRSM, DipLCM(TD), ALCM(TD), LLCM(TD)


C.L. Caton-Greasley CT ABRSM, DipLCM(TD), ALCM(TD), LLCM(TD)


30/05/20, 10:44