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Bach: Invention No. 4 in D Minor

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Johann Sebastian Bach - Inventions :
Invention, No. 4
Invention  No. 4  in D Minor by Bach piano sheet music
Key: D Minor Year: 1723
Level: 5 Period: Baroque
piano sheet music Piano score: PS Urtext (526 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Czerny edition (483 kB)
piano sheet music Piano score: Autograph manuscript (660 kB)

Sophisticated simplicity

This invention is a great example of Bach's ability to mix simplicity with sophistication, extracting a beautiful musical creation out of an extremely basic idea. Listen to the first two measures. It is nothing but a d harmonic minor scale from d to c sharp, with the c sharp displaced an octave down to add a more interesting and expressive interval than the constant stepwise motion of the regular scale. Then Bach adds two simple broken chords, d minor and A7 to complete a subject that has enough musical substance to form the basis of the whole invention. Using sequences and inversions (transposing the subject and turning it upside down) Bach creates a stirring piece whose wave-like movement really pulls the listener forward.

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!

There   are many ways to choose a fingering, but one of the best fingerings for   the beginning of this invention (mm. 1-2) is 2-1-2-3-4-5-1-5-4-3-2-1).   The left hand (mm. 3-4) can use the following fingering:   5-4-3-2-1-2-5-2-1-2-3-4).

The   time signature is 3/8, with three eighth notes per beat. However, the   harmony changes at every downbeat. This is what we call harmonic rhythm.   Try to analyze each measure harmonically and write down the chord in   between the staves. For example, the first measure implies a D minor   chord while the second measure implies an A Major chord. In the third   measure, the left hand uses imitation and repeats the same notes (and   therefore the same chord) of m. 1. The right hand outlines a D Minor   chord too!

Look at mm. 9-10 (right hand). These two measures form a sequence,... Sign up for a Gold membership to read the practice tips.

Posts in the piano forum about this piece by :

xx Invention no 4
October 21, 2013, 02:50:22 AM by faa2010

Played by memory.  Still in the process of improving. Messed up in some parts.

Suggestions and comments are always welcome.

xx Trills in Bach Inventions No 4 in D minor and No 7 in E minor
February 24, 2011, 04:15:52 AM by shaunarundell

I have come back to these inventions as I want to improve my long trills and both these rather famous inventions have a number of multi-bar trills in both the treble and bass.

I am using the Alfred edition, as it has quite a deal of pedagogical material around ornaments including suggested renditions of these trills in question.

The edition suggests a trill with 2 or 4 to the quaver (8th note) for No. 4 and 3 (accented as triplets)to the quaver for No 7.

I can't see any particular reason for the differencing suggestions in the time signatures, style, motif, etc in each of the pieces. The only thing I can think of is that the editors might see the trill in No.7 requiring a more rapid flow ?.

Enlighten my confusion.


xx DUEL/ pianogeek_cz vs. arensky, Bach Invention 4
November 12, 2007, 11:21:39 PM by arensky

Oh no, here I go  Shocked

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 Some more Bach inventions
October 08, 2006, 01:54:15 PM by davidz

Hello all,

Here are some more Bach tracks recorded at my friend's house.


xx Bach Inventio no. 4
July 12, 2005, 08:58:21 PM by lucasdopandeiro

Hi everybody!

Here is me playing Bach's two-part invention number 4, the one in D minor. I'm expecting comments, please, don't be shy!

Sorry for the quality of the recording, it was done in my bedroom with a poor mic. I'll study some ways to improve the sound.

Thanks in advance,
Lucas Reis

xx Notes to Bach Invention No. 4
May 20, 2005, 02:48:06 AM by eins

I've got to start somewhere, so why not start with the right piece! Where can I find Bach's Invention No. 4 to print? Preferrably a version that has the intendedly difficult fingering. Thanks

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