Bach partita 3 Preludio chords

Edited: September 21, 2018, 5:13 AM · Hi everybody,

I am an amateur violinist who never really studied music theory. I now play jazz and pop music besides the classical repertoire and know what I miss, and really try to learn more about chords and harmonics. I try to do it as practical as possible (because of time, day job, family, you know that story) I currently study the Bach partita 3 preludio and wanted to analyse the harmonics and chords. I thought it would be good to learn about the piece and learn about chords, do both at once. But since I am a beginner in this kind of analysis it is hard to know if I do it right. I looked on the internet for the chords to peek and learn. But I cannot find it. I saw on this forum another thread that redirects to a book from mr Lester. But I don't believe it says anything about the chords. Does anyone know where I can find the chords for partita 3?

Replies (12)

Edited: September 21, 2018, 8:18 AM · There are no significant chords in that movement just 3 (4 if you stretch it) almost at the end. Are you talking about the bariolage on the first page?
Edited: September 21, 2018, 10:09 AM · In classical music, we have specific ways of analyzing chords, and it's not like pop music.

I'm hearing a request for two different things here:
1. You want to figure out how to analyze chords. For that you need a book on harmony.
2. You want someone to just tell you what the chords are. I'm not sure how that would help you learn anything.

or maybe 3. you want to try to analyze it but you want the answers available as well.

Edited: September 21, 2018, 10:50 AM · I don't think jumping straight into a piece like this is the way to go.
You should have some understanding of classical harmony before trying to analyse a piece.
Listen to classical music. Use the wealth of easily digestible knowledge on Youtube.
Edited: September 21, 2018, 1:22 PM · I think it's a fun challenge to analyze the harmony (or "harmonies" but not "harmonics") in Bach. Some of the piece is written in broken chords, and in other places you have to infer the harmony from a melodic line (if you have analyzed any Trane or Bird solos then you have a leg up). Of course, Cotton is right that you've chosen something hard.

Crudely speaking you've got "E" up through bar 18 and then E7, A, etc. Where I think you are going to have big trouble without more background, which would include some historical understanding of harmony, is dealing with the many suspensions that Bach (and many other baroque composers) loved so much, and those are really at the heart of this particular piece. I could probably sit down and pencil in "jazz chords" for the Praeludio in half an hour, but I'd get seriously excoriated if I turned that in for a homework assignment in a college harmony course. In terms of interpretation, an understanding that helps you identify the many moments of tension and release (resolution) should be sufficient. Many players just "feel" those without doing the analysis. And the rest, as they say, is academic.

September 21, 2018, 2:06 PM · M.S.-- You mentioned that you do jazz and pop styles but don't know music theory. That is curious. My experience is that the musicians with the best practical, instinctive, knowledge and fluency with harmony are the jazz pianists, guitarists, and saxophone players. Start with the "modern" approach to constructing chords- the chord notation system we see in the fake books and lead sheets. The traditional study of harmony, functional harmony, is usually learned in a long, formal college course. For your purposes that approach places too much emphasis on what note is in the base, the inversions.
Edited: September 21, 2018, 2:57 PM · @Joel, as a jazz pianist I know exactly what you mean, but I also know enough to know how limited my knowledge really is, if that makes sense. So while I definitely know what to do with the chords that I'm reading out of a fake book (eminently practical knowledge, to be sure), I would never *ever* describe myself as having a theoretical background in harmony, because as you said, that pretty much implies the formal college courses, not the circle of fifths and the ii-V7-I. Everything I know I learned from private piano teachers -- many years ago.
September 21, 2018, 4:02 PM · In this piece, analysis is all about the macro. You can't analyze individual chords like you might in a keyboard piece like Bach Prelude 1 (which would be a much easier piece to start learning analysis on). For example, when my son and I analyzed this mvmt this summer, we analyzed the first 16 measures as a tonic chord in E (and it actually is still E for awhile beyond that). Are other chords implied? Yes, to some degree, but overall it is really just one big huge homage to E.

I would suggest the following strategies:
1) Go through and figure out where it changes key. You will find long sections of 16 or more bars where it is moving through many keys, often in sequence. But there are clear landing points where the music sounds like it resolves. Find them and figure out what those keys are. And then try to figure out how you got there.
2) In this movement in particular, extracting the melodic line from the multiple voices is extremely important. Figure out what the important melodic line is. Start with something simple like mm. 13-28. Hint - it starts E-D#-E-F#-D#-E. Then apply the same strategy to other parts of the piece.

September 21, 2018, 9:23 PM · I think a harmonic analysis of the Prelude to Partita III would be an interesting project, but like most things to do with Bach, it isn't a beginner's exercise. The first thing you need to understand is that this music exists at an intersection of counterpoint and harmony, and you have to grasp what the "voices" are doing as well as the harmony they make when you stack them up. When Susan Agrawal said (above) that you can't analyze individual chords, that isn't really true (sorry...)--you can go through and analyze all sorts of harmony here, but the chords are broken, and Bach exploits the ambiguity of the resulting suggestions of harmony--and he's ALWAYS working the implied counterpoint. I went through years of harmony and analysis in college and grad school on the way to composition degrees, and because I learned the old-fashioned way, I don't know about the short cuts, but to do this you need to get to about a sophomore-level (college) ability to analyze harmony and counterpoint. Is there some particular passage you would like to see an analysis of? I'd be up for a few lines.
Edited: September 22, 2018, 3:22 PM · ...another thing just hit me, though... Bach used this famous prelude more than once. He orchestrated it (and gave the violin solo part to the organ) as the Sinfonia to start his Cantata "Wir danken dir, Gott" BWV 29. Here's a youtube performance...

I haven't studied this score, but it would probably give you a lot more information about what Bach thought the chords were.

September 22, 2018, 9:43 PM · Just to clarify...I didn't mean you can't analyze the chords at all, because of course you could. I meant it is not so straightforward as in other pieces like the keyboard prelude. And I truly believe that that type of analysis would be a lower priority in analysis of this piece. The interplay of the various melodic lines is far more interesting in my opinion.
September 22, 2018, 10:51 PM · Susan I agree. But even that first keyboard prelude, there are a few chords in there that might not be so obvious.
Edited: September 23, 2018, 4:52 PM · Perhaps a good place start a study could be with this video course about Bach's violin music:

consisting of 15 videos the last of which deals analysis and a few demonstrative bits about the three Partitas. This 3-1/2 hour set of videos is visible only on line for a price of $19. So far this 15th video is the only one I have watched (50 minutes). It contains elements of both structural and harmonic analyses with some marvelous musical demos. If this video is an example of the entire series it could be the beginning of a very extensive learning experience. But, because it is the last and shortest of the three Partitas, the E major one gets less time in this video than either of the other two.

Miriam Fried, who prepared and presents this is a world-class violinist ( ) on the faculty of the New England Conservatory who has recorded the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin - and the prices for used CDs are still up there with the new ones.

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