Chords for Bach

September 12, 2012 at 06:16 PM · Is there anywhere I can get a full chordal analysis of the Bach Sonatas & Partitas, and the Cello Suites?

Replies (42)

September 12, 2012 at 09:12 PM · how about writing your own? A little more effort but also more gain.

September 13, 2012 at 09:40 AM · I think, because of the lots of sequenzes and longterm harmonic progressions Bach uses, a harmonical analysis can make clear where the musical highlights are wich can give you ideas for the use of dynamics and articulation... In the best case...

September 13, 2012 at 10:47 AM · Study up on music theory...........


Bar by Bar.

Im /IVm6 V7 / Im bVI / IVm6 bIII V7 / IVm Im /IVm6 V7 / Im bVI / IVm6 v7b9 / Im bVI ( Im bVII IVm7 ) /Vsus4 V7 / Im / IVm6 V 7b9 / Im bVI ( Im bVII V7 ) / Im bVII Vsus4 / Im ( II7 )/ V7b9 I7 / IV7 ( V7b9 ) / Im V7 / Im / V7b9 I7 /IV7 V 7b9 II7 / Im V7 / etc....thats as far as I got

September 13, 2012 at 02:02 PM · Agree : you will get much more out of it if you do it yourself !

September 13, 2012 at 05:30 PM · Try this:

Sonatas and Partitas

Cello Suites

Hope that helps.

September 13, 2012 at 05:50 PM · ... and do not forget the social and religious context of Bach's genius. His music, instrumental and vocal, was highly influenced by his spirituality. He was a devout Lutheran and there is a lot of symbolism in his music.

September 14, 2012 at 06:01 PM · Thank you for those links.

I have a lot of theory under my belt, But there is so much music that a little assistance is always helpful.

September 14, 2012 at 06:50 PM · Reginald's suggestion of the Lester book on the S&Ps is an excellent one.

September 14, 2012 at 07:19 PM · I'm not sure one has to really analyze a Bach sonata fully. The key points that may affect one's interpretation are ones that should be audible anyway. These would include:

1. dissonances, especially at suspensions or accented passing tones.

2. cadences, especially the type (is it a full, half, or deceptive cadence?).

3. pedal points.

The decisions to be made are fairly limited: does the intensity increase or decrease? Is a dissonance emphasized? Should one use rubato at a key point? Is there a sudden color change (such as at a deceptive cadence?).

September 14, 2012 at 08:05 PM · if you have some understanding of harmonics you will recognize the harmonical structure anyways while studying the notes. But it can certainly help in different ways to analyse a work properly.

September 15, 2012 at 12:28 AM · 1. dissonances, especially at suspensions or accented passing tones.

2. cadences, especially the type (is it a full, half, or deceptive cadence?).

3. pedal points.

Well? Does one not need to study theory to understand these concepts?

Seems to me if you need to ask about harmonisation of a musical line then one may lack enough theory under thier belt?

September 15, 2012 at 11:37 AM · My days teaching are sometimes close to 13 hours. I would like to see a complete analysis of the piece, but it would be more of a reference point during lessons for students. I would love to have hours to spend to analyze the Bach Sonatas & Partitas but that just is not the case. I have a few students that are working on either those, or the cello suites. having a guide around to help the students out is what I would use a chordal analysis for. If I was still in school and working on a performance I would have already analyzed that specific piece for myself. Teaching "dissonances, especially at suspensions or accented passing tones...cadences...." is no always workable during a half an hour a week lesson.

I appreciate the assistance with those books. The analysis is something that I thought would be interesting to see already done, and for my students who have not yet studied theory in that great of detail (of course there is some in the lessons).

September 15, 2012 at 04:07 PM · I have to say that even though Shawn could quite possibly do all of the analysis himself, and although he might extract considerable benefit therefrom, sometimes depending on one's objectives it is better just to skip ahead to the published answer if it is available. Thus his original request for references or links to that material should not be cast as unreasonable or lazy on his part.

@John I think the Hindemith "Ludus Tonalis" is an example of something that was patterned after certain Bach keyboard works. In high school when I was studying the piano I had to that type of analysis but I have long forgotten the details.

September 15, 2012 at 04:08 PM ·

"Well? Does one not need to study theory to understand these concepts?"

Henry, Shawn has already studied theory. My point was that it may be unnecessary to label every single chord, but rather to just look at key points.

September 15, 2012 at 04:20 PM · Scott, I think the reasons many want to study the harmonies of the Bach S&P in such detail is because (a) one can, it's really not that hard, and (b) we're taught that the depth of Bach's genius is infinite and we want to drill down as far as we can.

One of the things I learned in high school when my (piano) teacher was assigning me this kind of work was that you can quickly generate a pile of data, but you just as quickly learn how much of it is not really all that useful. As you have asserted, there are certain points in a piece where detailed harmonic knowledge becomes quite useful. This is the most frequent situation in my experience. Also, sometimes the broader harmonic framework can inform the overall interpretation of a passage or movement. But in that case one usually doesn't need to know every chord in every bar.

September 16, 2012 at 02:52 AM · If you know the theory of music then you don't need to analyse it, you just read the music like a book. The function of each note in every bar will be as clear as the black dots on the white page. The nomenclature is a quick reference / a short hand of the chord which you can immidiately see choice of chords, chord alterations and extensions, cadences, change of key.

September 16, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Actually, I like your analysis better John - after all its the outcome that matters, formal analysis is just a way of trying to understand how that outcome is created...

Sounds to me also as if you are kinesthetic tho (as I am) ...


September 16, 2012 at 01:20 PM · although thats not an analysis.

sometimes, i wish some of us here 'amateurs' (such as myself) would just let the experts talk it through to gain an insight into more than our opinions.

but i also suspect that this is a big big topic and thats why people have linked to scholarly works.

September 16, 2012 at 02:43 PM · One of the interesting points the Lester book makes is that Bach didn't conceptualize harmonic analysis the same way we do today, or the same way Schumann did when he wrote piano accompaniments for the S&P.

September 16, 2012 at 03:32 PM · "If you know the theory of music then you don't need to analyse it, you just read the music like a book."

Really? That's like saying if one knows how to play the violin, the one should be able to just toss off the Sonatas and Partitas (or any of the famous concertos, for that matter) without practicing.


September 16, 2012 at 10:57 PM · No! Not Really!

Did'nt you see my tongue in cheek?

September 17, 2012 at 04:33 AM · i'm not minding John. i wasn't confronting your post but rather the description of it as analysis. and whoever said that musical analysis for performers is about alogrithms and formulas. it is a theoretical endeavour to draw out the rationale (intellectual and emotional)of the music so as to feedback into its performance, no? the knowledge of moving through historically created expansive and tense harmonies that had purposes then (And might have different ones now)will inform the performer's dynamics and timing? i'm sorry if i'm helping to drift past the immediate topic...perhaps its silly of me

September 17, 2012 at 09:42 AM · Its not silly - unless you are saying that someone who has not studied the theory of the S&Ps can't play them well. Which, to my mind, is why such an analysis is more intellectual and less artistic related.

September 17, 2012 at 11:18 AM · be able to just toss off the Sonatas and Partitas (or any of the famous concertos, for that matter) without practicing.

This would be an interesting excersise....just reading the music and playing it through in your head and knowing it very well before actually playing it..?

Oh But I digress...leave the theory for those of us whom find it interesting. And continue to enjoy the, I prefer to do that in silence.

September 17, 2012 at 12:25 PM · @Henry, sorry I didn't know you were kidding. I must have been in the wrong frame of mind.

"This would be an interesting excersise....just reading the music and playing it through in your head and knowing it very well before actually playing it..?"

I suspect there are many here who do this regularly, and I am one of them. Also just listening to someone play the works while reading through the score (not just the violin part) is useful.

I remember when my teacher assigned me a certain short piece (Benda's "Grave"). I had to go on a business trip just then, so I took it with me on the airplane, played it through a lot in my mind, and mostly memorized it. (Memorization is hard for me usually, but of course this piece is just one page.) This activity was useful in an interpretive sense, but of course there were still technical issues to overcome. Shifts on an air violin always seem effortlessly to be in perfect tune, but on a wooden violin one has to make it happen.

September 17, 2012 at 09:14 PM · if analysis is so important it must be easy to explain it`s purpose.

The G minor presto begins with 5 bars including only the triad of the G minor chord. The first three bars has a repetitive three note rhythmic pattern descending in pitch, this is like making a statement. This is followed by an ascending bar of notes on the same chord, like a question?

Doubt is cast with tension caused by the notes of the dominant 7th flatened 9th chord. This tension is then resolved by returning to the tonic key.

Then the truth is affirmed by moving through a bar by bar chord progression.....Cm7, BbM7, Adim7, D7, C7, D7b9, F7, Bb7, Eb, Cm, F, Dm, Gm, Eb, F........etc.

unless you are saying that someone who has not studied the theory of the S&Ps can't play them well.

No one is saying this! You are implying that we theorists are infering

he tries a few times to resolve a short lead up and fails just before the last note.

Well, the end of the world would be unresolved and kind of

technical issues to overcome.

These are overcome through the practise of technique and mastered before attempting to play a piece of music which would present 'technical issues' to the player. Thus the 'technical issues' would be different for each player...?

September 18, 2012 at 05:34 AM · I get the feeling it`s best not to ask about this.

Ask away, jokes aside.........

September 18, 2012 at 11:46 PM · I think that you are either very naive or deliberately provoking. What you are asking is of essay proportions.

I wrote the chords out by reading the notes and deciding the names for certain groups of notes. This would be important information for a chordal instrument so to accompany. Yes, there are standard chord, Im, bVII, bVI, V. This is repeated and the musicians improvise, thats what it's all about.

So...the shoe on the lady was done with a quick you are looking at a single brush stroke, does'nt mean much until you stand back and look at the whole picture? Same as we look at a single note on the page...or just hear it! Does'nt mean much by it self? Not until you put many notes together.

There are many types of analyses! Lets define what we are talking about? I thought this thread was about analysing what *chords* the notes on the page form?

September 19, 2012 at 10:34 PM · John, you are way OFF TOPIC....begin other threads!

September 20, 2012 at 12:21 PM · Good read up on theory now.

September 20, 2012 at 10:52 PM · I have found the answers now


So.........we have converted another Musician, yay....!

Whose is next....?

September 21, 2012 at 07:41 PM · Bill--thanks for your comment about the Lester book. It put me over the edge into buying a copy.

September 24, 2012 at 11:08 PM · Anyone do a chordal analysis on Kreutzer 13? Save me the effort. Check, save me learning how to figure out what the chords are!

This is my first real introduction to systemic chord playing - way more interesting and intricate than those in scale books... Actually, if one can find Kreutzer studies musically beautiful surely #13 has to be right up there in the rankings.

September 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Anyone do a chordal analysis on Kreutzer 13

Ya, Piece of ........

Oh, is there a market demand here?

What about 2 bucks per chord?

September 25, 2012 at 12:08 PM · One mention about the chordal analysis mentioned guitar players

This statemant applies to ALL instruments.

September 25, 2012 at 12:25 PM · Henry, perhaps its a case of 'give a man a tractor'. I'd better learn to 'read' chords or I'm going to be broke.

Irony is I have no excuse as I used to play the guitar!

September 25, 2012 at 12:40 PM · playing chords on the guitar is not chordal analysis? You are just learning shapes and not the theory behind the notes that make those shapes.

I think I grasp the 'tractor' concept , but going 'broke' escapes me?

September 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Dear Elise, yes, K#13 is beautiful, when I play it all the little hairs on my body go stand up, you know the feeling. Probably that is one of the ultimate goals of an amateur player, is to be able to give that feeling to yourself. I'm fortunate to experience that once in a while.

September 25, 2012 at 03:41 PM · Yes, there is beauty in a Kreutzer etude, although Mazas and Rode are much more beautiful. When we learn to find the beauty in etudes and scales, and to bring out that beauty, and relate it directly to what we are doing in our repertoire, then we start to enjoy our practice on a much higher level. We also start to develop our violin artistry on a higher level.

September 27, 2012 at 11:38 PM · I noticed something funny, in my edition of Kreutzer (it is a Peters edition), K#13 is K#14 and K#14 is K#13 if you know what I mean.

September 28, 2012 at 01:08 AM · jean - but which is which! My #13 is the broken cords one of repeating 8 1/16th note phrases. And I think this is different from any other Kreutzer I've played yet because of its musicallity - almost seems to have snuck in!

I noticed that in russian editions (I've seen two) #2 is #1. And the fingering is much easier on the hand...

September 30, 2012 at 09:34 AM · Elise, yes, that's what I meant: your #13 is #14 in my Peters edition. I also have an American edition where it is indeed #13. I guess you're right that none of the other Kreutzer etudes can really be called beautiful, but then the challenge is to play them effortless and in a musical way. That's why Wieniawsky probably has said "people don't realize how difficult the Kreutzer etudes really are" (or something of that sort). A violin etude book with a lot of beautiful pieces is Louis Spohr's "Violinschule". It is on IMSLP:

Violinschule (Spohr, Louis)

Plus, every etude is actually a duet with the other part played by the instructor. As a child I played a lot of them with my old violin teacher and have fond memories of that.

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