Bach E Major Preludio- any advice on teaching?

April 14, 2007 at 06:59 PM · Does anybody have any last minute suggestions on the Preludio of Bach E major? My student will be playing it in a few weeks for an sounds super, but I just want to get any advice about practice, working the left hand, anything...Okay, I know it's hard to help me with this since you never heard me teach or her play :)

but I would love any info or insight that might add to the experience for her! Thanks!

Replies (23)

April 16, 2007 at 05:01 PM · There is a ton of stuff to say about it but I will let someone who knows more than I do say it.

Mr. Brivati?

I would say that what helped me most with this piece was consistent slow practice. Intonation always seemed to be a problem and it helped me to go really slow and then not overplay it. I started off playing it really agressively and then I seemed to settle on a much lighter easier style and it was lots more fun and sounded better.

April 17, 2007 at 09:15 AM · Greetings,

sorry, who wrote this Bach piece.....?



PS Some vague ideas:

1) The biggest problem with this work is usually intonation. One has to ponder the harmonic structure over and over.

2) One can experiment with differnet kinds of sounds by playing various passages with different degrees of contact with the right hand fingers on the bow.

3) Developing sensitivity to how cuh bow weight alloted to a line is perhaps useful. Practice a string crossing passgae double stopped with one line forte and the other piano. Decreas until equalized and do the opposite.

4) A good piee to work on bent over fro the hip joints so that hea dis as near the knees a sposisble. Releases a lot of tenssion.

5) Work on contact point by playing large sections onlyin one lane IE nera the finger board. One is searching for the right weight and speed that works on that point alone. Repeat on the other points with all necessary changes. Then play as in perforance.

6) Try playing a bar , singing a phrase, playign a phrase, singing etcwith the conncetions seamless.

7) practice it holding the bow reversed.

8) Practice discordination of the hands by bowing on only the g string (or any other string) while playing the left hand.

April 17, 2007 at 12:16 PM · Hi,

I have a student working on this now... Problems with her are common ones that deserve attention though they are simple basics. First, it is important to have the fingers of the left hand prepared in the right frames ahead of time. LH fingers should be kept close to the string or on also is one is planning on using it again. One should know how one is moving and the finger doing the shift should be in contact with the string (don't through the left hand around). For the bow, I personally think that the détaché needs to be produced by the forearm, with the right hand relaxed so the wrist and fingers can participate (though not lead). Do not play from the shoulder as that will lead to a crooked bow and tire one out more easily. To acheive phrases one should think of using more forearm instead of more bow. Also, it is important to know what the right elbow is doing and to have it stable when playing on one string (to quote Zukerman - "one string, one level of elbow").

Yep this sound like basics but, in the end if your basics don't work, it is a lot more difficult.


April 17, 2007 at 03:32 PM · One of the biggest problems with this piece is to have a convincing interpretation. 1. Play small sections at a very slow tempo in a "romantic" style, exaggerating dynamics, shapes, and yes with lots of vibrato. Immediately play in tempo and all that data will get compressed and most of the vibrato will go away, and there will be a more shaped performance. 2. Practice sections slurred 4 to a bow to get a better perception of line. 3. practice with bowings reversed. I have found that sometimes students play more musically when they do this because they have to work harder at it.

April 17, 2007 at 04:39 PM · Hi my good friend! I began my recent recital with that. I agree with Christian's advice about keeping it more in the hand and wrist, though a flexible forearm participates as well. You need a lot of flexibilty, along with a certain kind of strength and stamina just to get through this prelude. I also had to learn to reign in the tempo, so that it wouldn't run away from me. Some great players, such as Grumiaux and Laredo have taken it at a very moderate tempo.

BTW, irrespective of performance as such, I find it very beneficial periodically to practice the famous 3-string, string crossing passages with various mixed bowings, and with an accent first on the 1st note, then on the 2nd, etc.

April 18, 2007 at 12:25 AM · Began this piece last week. This thread is a gold mine. Keep up the posting. Bruce--love your matter-of-fact-I've-done-this-a-thousand-times way of helping. I've incorporated several things you've taught me on into pieces I'm currently mastering. That bit about shifting weight to the pinky to get a flying upbow staccato works like a charm. I'm using it to wonderful effect in the Beethoven Romance in F.

Raphael--someday I've got to get a lesson with you.

April 18, 2007 at 02:10 AM · I think it is important in this piece for good intonation to think about finger shapes as opposed to hand position. This will vary according to the student. For instance in the first 3 notes of this piece I find it easier to play in tune if my fingers are are a bit more extended, or less rounded. For the barriolage passage it is easier for me to play in tune if I play more on my finger tips. It is also important to be aware that if you have too much pressure on the string it is hard to push fingers out of the way.

April 18, 2007 at 02:36 AM · In a piece like this with a pretty much entirely 16th notes I find it useful to practice in rhythms for evenness and intonation. It also helps in the barriolage section to teach your arm where to be for each string and helps with controlling that particular bowing challenge.

April 18, 2007 at 12:31 PM · Kimberlee - You flatter me too much! But really, if you're ever in NY, let me know.

April 18, 2007 at 01:28 PM · A big factor in determining whether the Preludio sounds like a mechanical exercise or like a joyful dance is in the subduing of unaccented notes. For example, it sounds right and good to accent the third note, but you make the audience *feel* the accented third note more poignantly by very much subduing the fourth note. If one is willing to experiment with these two consecutive notes, he may find that it starts to sound really musical when the unaccented fourth note is clear, but surprisingly tiny in sound.

April 18, 2007 at 02:20 PM · Wow, that would take a great deal of control, Oliver. I'll give it a try.

Did you know the key of E is tied to the fifth chakra, which is the "I speak" chakra--the expressive chakra (center of the inner voice, creativity etc.)? Playing in E major has been good therapy for me.

See you in NY someday, Raphael. I may have to stop by Waco and Atlanta on my way. Maybe I'll make it a lesson tour! :)

April 18, 2007 at 03:42 PM · Kimberlee wrote (regarding playing two consecutive bows with the first having a generous accent and the next quietly): "Wow, that would take a great deal of control, Oliver. I'll give it a try."

I think that you will find it to be not at all hard, it only requires careful listening followed by repeating the two notes several times to get used to the pattern. It's very much an imitation of a normal expressive speech pattern. For example, if you say: "elevator", listening to the first two syllables, you hear that the second syllable is *so much quieter* than the first, that it would take a large difference of bow length to imitate the sound of the two syllables on the violin. If you make the violin say the whole word, "elevator" on one pitch, in detache with one stroke per syllable, and starting at mid-bow going downbow, you would likely play the first syllable with a half bow and the next three syllables with one inch of bow each, at the extreme tip.

April 19, 2007 at 11:04 AM · Thanks guys...UR the best! Your suggestions are really helpful! Raphael...See you at Eddie's someday soon I hope!

April 19, 2007 at 04:51 PM · what is the right tempo for this piece?

this morning i asked my kid to play a little slow and try to listen to the sound...

April 19, 2007 at 04:36 PM · I used to teach this with the International/Galamian edition, but now I use the Barenreiter Urtext. I like to tailor the fingerings to the individual student. While Galamian had some great ideas about Bach, I personally prefer a little flexibility.

(Mr. Ku, can you do a link?)

April 19, 2007 at 11:05 PM · Greetings,

al, I had the right tempo for this piece written down somewhere. Now where did I put that damn memo...?



April 20, 2007 at 03:09 AM · anne, wish i know how!:)

buri, when will Finding Memo be declassified?

April 20, 2007 at 03:29 AM · so many memos, so little time...

April 20, 2007 at 05:29 PM · memoless, the decision has been made to move ahead:

April 20, 2007 at 07:51 PM · Al,

Very impressive for a 6-year old! I think she's ready to be thinking seriously about phrasing and about developing a variety of articulations with the bow. There are also a couple of places where the melodic line gets buried in the texture and isn't coming out as well as it could.

Good old JS hasn't been sending me memos, but the tempi I have heard which seem to work (in my opinion) range from quarter=108ish to 132ish. There's a lot of room for interpretation...

April 20, 2007 at 10:32 PM · thanks peter for the info, i mean, memo:)

that is a very profound piece and to see her butcher it is as painful as it is fun:)

yes, there is so much to be done. problem is, sadly, she does not really have the time to work on things. this kid is so tangled up with activities it is sick. but since she is "happy" to have a spoon in every flavor, we kinda spoil her by letting her choose, at least for now, probably forever. this house is unfortunately dominated by a lady who is too liberal to institute the tried and tested soviet/chinese regimen:) my iron fist simply melts in heat, darn!

April 23, 2007 at 01:20 AM · Hi Shaun.

With the preludio to the 3rd partita the main thing I think you should keep in mind is that Bach was an organist. When playing the string crossing in the beginning, A-E-A-D variation then later on the D-A-D-G strings your student shouldnt be too concerned with precision, but rather achieving the affect of the way an organ would sound playing those notes.

April 23, 2007 at 05:22 AM · Like violins, organs can be played precisely, but the location of the pipes and the acoustics create delays, and the resulting overlapping muddies the sound unless you slow it down a bit. Cathedral acoustics are very different from the average home acoustics.

I'm of the opinion that Bach sonatas and partitas are meant to be played in cathedrals. If my town had a good old fashioned protestant cathedral, I bet I'd make it to church more often. :)

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