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Bach: Invention No. 1 in C Major

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Johann Sebastian Bach - Inventions :
Invention, No. 1
Invention  No. 1  in C Major by Bach piano sheet music
Key: C Major Year: 1723
Level: 5 Period: Baroque
piano sheet music Piano score: PS Urtext (527 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Czerny edition (493 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Autograph manuscript (707 kB)

A study in conversation

The compositional economy of this first invention is astounding. Virtually every note of the whole piece is derived from the very short subject, by means of transposition, inversion (turning the subject upside down) or augmentation (lengthening the note values). The most common version of this invention is the one with semiquavers throughout, but as can be seen in the autograph manuscript, Bach later presented a second version. By adding passing notes to the descending thirds on the second beat, he introduced a triplet motive into the subject.

The two-part inventions are an excellent introduction to contrapuntal music, i.e. music where two or more equally important voices imitate and converse with each other. A subject appears first in one voice and is then echoed in the other voice/voices. Don’t be led to think that Bach’s inventions are only dry exercises in counterpoint. They were composed to develop the player’s cantabile, i. e. a singing style of playing, and are also very useful to develop one’s coordination, variety of touch and articulation. But above all they are masterful miniatures full of charm and feeling, exploring a wide range of musical expressions.

Practice & Performance Tips:
As you learn each invention, try to locate all the subjects, which might appear transposed. Practice the inventions hands separately. Try to memorize each hand first, in order to develop independence and touch control. Strive for an even playing. You may want to practice each voice (or each hand) non-legato first. Double check that your fingers are always relaxed before and after playing each note. Practice slowly!
The   subject in this invention has 8 notes (C-D-E-F-D-E-C-G) while the   countersubject has 4 notes (C-B-C-D). Lift your hand slightly between   the subject and the countersubject. In other words, try to leave some   “air” in between the G and the C and do the same throughout the   invention. The lifting will help the music breathe and add clarity to   the invention.

Learn   the whole invention without the ornaments first. When you are ready for   the ornaments, make them consistent: the first ornament that appears in   this invention is called a trill (m. 1, right hand). The B with the   trill can be realized as C-B-C-B (therefore, start from the upper note).   Measure 5 contains a mordent on C. Play it as C-B-C.

Bach   uses sequences very often. If you consider the first sixteenth-note   (semiquaver)... Sign up for a Gold membership to read the practice tips.

Posts in the piano forum about this piece by :

xx Bach Inventions No. 1 and No. 8
June 28, 2016, 12:23:52 AM by cometear

Hello there,

Posting up a recording of my Invention No. 1 again. I think it mostly just became more comfortable as I continued playing it. I'd like to do some more stylistic things that I do EVERY time I play it, not just randomly. I'm pretty dang happy with the tempo. I've heard faster/slower recordings, but I just like it like this.

Also posting Bach's Invention No. 8. This one I re-worked up from a year ago last week-ish in my copious amounts of spare time (well, outside the hours of my 40 hour a week job I regrettably picked up for the first few weeks of summer). Would love to hear opinions. My tempo goal is faster, but this is where it's comfortable now.


xx Bach Invention No. 1
May 30, 2016, 07:31:49 PM by cometear


I re-learned the Bach invention No. 1 for my first organ lesson tomorrow. The teacher wanted to hear me play something on the piano so I thought Bach. Give me your opinion, I've still got some time to work with it a bit.

EDIT: I removed that video off my channel BUT I posted a new thread with a new recording. Thanks!

xx Inventions Bach
February 01, 2012, 03:46:16 AM by faa2010

Here is my record of Invention 1. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

xx Bach invention no 1 trouble
May 10, 2011, 11:44:24 AM by supapiano225

I can play hands sepratley but i cant seem to connect
them together,
how do you play the first melody of the RH with the LH while the RH plays the Trill at the start
of the piece.
Plus how do you read the trills in the invention using only the fingering numbers?

i know this makes me sound like a real begginer
but i really want to play this piece.

Hope you can help Smiley Smiley Smiley
yours: student in need  Sad Sad Sad

xx Bach inventions number 1 in C and number 8 in F
February 11, 2011, 05:04:19 AM by roger_1948

Well it finally happened my wife pushed me into posting something. So here goes . Two Bach inventions both very  easy and yet i have worked my tail off on these.  Three and 1/2 years of study and progress comes by inches and sweat. I wonder if I will ever to be able to really play anything before im 70. Leaves me 7 plus years. 

Anyway there played on my brand spanking new Yamaha C7 in my brand spanking new custom studio on the back of my house and recorded on my brand spanking new $7000.00 dollar recording system. At least if my playing isnt very good, my piano and recording equipment  are top notch.  Well without further ado here is what 3 hours a day of constant practice can do for even someone like me. 

Any and all corrections would be appreciated.

Semper Fi, Roger

xx VIDEO: Bach Invention #1
October 29, 2010, 06:09:37 PM by pbhattac

Not perfect, but thanks a lot in advance for any suggestion to make it better

xx Invention nr 1 - Bach, something about Bernhard and... the same key LH/RH
April 12, 2010, 05:03:35 PM by rmbarbosa

Bach two parts Invention nr 1, in C major, isnt the most beautiful of them but I like it very much because of its structure, with its motif variations and development: only in the first seven bars, we have at least 4 invertions and 3 retrogrades, but - this is amazing! - with a overlapping of them: one can ear what one wants. That`s why I like it so much. Now, I`m playing this Invention again trying to play it without any concern of bringing out anything in order that the listener may choose.(All this I learned in Bernhard posts and I dont know how to make him return...I dont say why, because it seems Bernhard doesnt like the word "why"...)
But now I have  a question I hope someone may help me: in 13ºbar (similar to 5º) there is a e right hand that overlapps the same e left hand: it`s the same key! And I dont know how to play it. For instinct, the first time I learned this Invention, I played a c, after the mordent. But if I do so, I change the structure, because it must be like in 5º bar.
Help, please. And thanks (I must apologize for my English...)

xx Bach Invention nr 1 for two part
April 04, 2010, 03:45:01 PM by rmbarbosa

I like to play the Inventions for two part and I play all of them. But yesterday, when I was in the forum, I saw some posts about Invention nr 1 where the mordent, at the first bar, was suposed to be played b-c-b. And the same at 2º bar (f-G-f). It happens that I learned this Invention with an old edition of Inventions, by Bruno Mugellini (<> year 1900!), where he says:"in the manuscripts we find a mordent, not a inverted mordent, but this is undoubtedlly an error of the writing". I dont kow what were his reasons to say this, but I allways have played b-a-b. Am I wrong? Must I play b-c-b? And why Mugellini wrote "undoubtelly an error". May you help me? Thanks.

xx How long should it take to master the first Invention?
August 30, 2009, 02:13:36 PM by jcabraham

I've been playing off and on for years. There are a number of pieces I have learned, on the order of "Anna Magdalena Notebook", Mozart minuets, etc. I started to learn the first Invention, but it seems like it's taking forever. I'm not having any problem with technique -- the hand independence problems were overcome the first week. I'd say it's more to do with keeping ironclad fingering, and losing my place. I haven't been able to practice a lot each day, maybe 30-45 minutes, but still, it's been more than a month, and I'm still a couple of weeks away, I'd say. Is this piece simply too hard for me? I hope not, because I like it more than anything I've played yet. Contrapuntal music is really fun!


xx Bach - Prelude in C and inventions (VIDEO)
May 26, 2009, 06:15:10 PM by feddera


My first Bach-pieces on youtube!  Cheesy

xx Bach's Invention No. 1
March 14, 2007, 01:38:30 PM by garetanne

Since my piano teacher is on vacation for the next two weeks I turn to you to keep me from playing this wrong for the next 14 days.

I'm confused by the 13th measure in this piece:  http://trumpet.sdsu.edu/Bach_Invention/invention1.htm

If I'm reading the notes correctly the 8th note on the treble clef is an E.
The corresponding note on the bass is the same E

Am I reading this wrong???

smiley Bach: 2 part Inventions 1, 2, 4, 8, added 11, 12, 13, 14
October 12, 2006, 02:47:24 AM by piano121

Here are my interpetation on Bach´s 2 part inventions.  Coments most welcome.

xx Bach - Invention No. 1
August 07, 2006, 08:12:20 PM by gfz87

Hi everybody. I'm Gian Franco, I play the piano since February, this year. Please, send me suggestions about any mistake that I probably do playing this piece.  Thanks and bye. By the way, I play on a Clavinova CLP-170, couse I don't have access to an acoustic piano

Gian Franco Zabarino

xx Bach Invention 1
November 26, 2005, 09:46:27 PM by steve jones

Does anyone have any idea which is the definitive edition of this piece?

I have one score which tells me to play at 120bpm, and has minimal ornamentation. I have another which tells me to play at 66bpm. And the recordings vary even more!

There is an excellent thread about these pieces, with posts from Bernhard and others. And this has been most helpful, but it didnt answer this question for me.

So who do you play this one? What would be a good tempo to play at?

xx Invention no1 fourth trill fingering ?
July 18, 2005, 12:18:52 PM by goran

I am practicing the number 1 Invention (BWv772).
This is my very first piece. I could not resist trying it.

My Yamaha P90 digital piano plays the first trill (in the first measure): b-a-b
(This made me play all trills in the same manner).

Now I see in this forum (and elsewhere) that this trill should be played. c-b-c-b instead.
Even if this i not as harmonic (?) as the mordent it makes the trill stand out better (?).
(Still another alternative would be a "turn": c-b-a-b)

So I will try to change at least some of my misunderstood-mordents to trills.
The first three is quite straight forward (at least I think so) and I have changed them.

Then to the fourth trill in measure 8. Trill on f#: g-f#-g-f#.

Before the trill I play the notes g-a-b-c-a-b-g with my fingers 1-2-3-4 (1=thumb)
that is: g(1)-a(2)-b(3)-c(4)-a(2)-b(3)-g(1)

So shall I trill with fingers 1-2 : g(1)-f#(2)-g(1)-f#(2) (quite hard)
or trill with fingers 3-2: g(3)-f#(2)-g(3)-f#(2) ( not so hard but do not fit with the other fingering so well)
or change everyting to what ? Undecided


xx Phrasing in Invention no.1
June 18, 2005, 06:01:08 PM by kilini

When I first learned the phrasing in Invention no.1, I had to exaggerate. Now I need to tone it down, but I'm really unsure about how to do so. My teacher played for me, and in some parts I didn't hear the phrasing at all. But if I try to play like that, I end up not playing the phrasings. Help?

question Bach 2-part invention #1
October 19, 2004, 11:58:53 AM by fingerknot

Hi. I have set myself out to learn the inventions. I got almost five of them going fairly well. My problem is that I have discovered that my edition differs from others concerning ornaments and fingering, so I need to find out what's corrcect. Are the versions found at http://www.sheetmusicarchive.net correct? In the edition I've got (wich by the way claims to be urtext), the ornaments in #1 are:

bar 1: B4 trillo
bar 2: F5 trillo
bar 5: C5 mordent
bar 6: B4 trillo
bar 8: F#4 trillo
bar 13: D4 trillo
bar 14: C5 trillo

The fingering differs to and there is one passage where I have a little problem to get it sound smooth, which clearly can be heard when using harpsichord sound. It's the left hand in bar 11. The indicated fingering is 3123 4231 2123 4234 and at beat 3 the thumb has to play Bb and then go to A. Should I change fingering or is it just a matter of more practice?
The version found at the link above is good because the ornaments are written out. I usually guess if I should start the trillos on the upper key, but then I risk being busted by the Bachpolice Grin.

xx Bach Invention in C
December 28, 2001, 05:18:59 AM by crashtest

In the Bach C major 2 part invention, there are mordent signs (or are these trills according to Bach's time?) above the notes in the Henle edition. The sign is above a B, I have been playing that ornament as follows- B-C-B. In the Schirmer edition, that ornament is written out as B-A-B (Inverted Mordent?). I know ornamentation was not standardized in Bach's time, but what is the correct execution of that ornament?  Also, is it better to do the 2 part inventions, then proceed to the 3 part and finally to the well-tempered clavier? Is this a logical way to go?

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