Learning Bach’s 2-Part Inventions

If you’re a pianist, then at some point in your life you’ll benefit from learning Johann Sebastian Bach’s 15 Two-Part Inventions. They can be played on any keyboard instrument and will make you a better musician, whatever type of music you like to play.

Although Bach thad all his keyboard students learn to play the Inventions, he actually wrote them as “models of composition.”  In other words, he wanted to show various types of melodies and ways in which those melodies could be developed.  And since Bach’s music sounds so improvisatory, they’re also good models for improvisation.

So why not make a practice plan for learning them yourself: One 2-Part Invention per month, for the next 15 months. How far you get with each will depend on your current playing level, but the important thing is to spend time with each piece. Maybe you can just learn each hand separately. That’s fine! They’re lots of fun to play with one hand alone and the right and left hand parts sound great by themselves. In fact, they’ll sound just like Bach’s violin or cello music.  Very enjoyable, even if you don’t put the hands together.

And if you can play both hands together, listen to the wonderful interplay of the counterpoint. Play each one slowly at first and gradually pick up the tempo with each repetition. You can even try improvising a little; with one hand or both.

Move on to the next Invention at the beginning of each month, regardless of how far you got with the previous piece. The effect will be cumulative so at the end of the 15 months you’ll be at a higher level of musicianship and can go back and finish any of the pieces you wish to spend more time with. In the meantime, you’ll have experienced a lot of profound and delightful music along the way.

Give it a try, your fingers will thank you.

Learning to improvise like Bach is easier than you might think. Click HERE for a free Bach improv lesson.

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