Johann Sebastian Bach
Small Prelude
in C Major

The most well-known of the "Small Preludes" is an excellent introduction to several aspects of Bach's music: the conversational style, chordal structures and his use of dynamic effects.

ID: 704
Key: C Major
Year: 1727
Level: 3
Period: Baroque
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A small prelude that sounds big

Like so much of Bach's music, this piece uses a lot of imitation. It also gives an excellent opportunity to study chordal structures, and to listen for dynamic effects in Baroque keyboard music. Dynamic marks are rare in Bach (those in the scanned score were added by the editor). Instead, dynamics are built into the music through changes of register and texture. The broken chord theme of this Prelude is played at different pitches and with different kinds of accompaniment, to add variety and rhythmic vitality. Near the end, Bach changes the texture almost at every bar-line, which adds to the sense of a long crescendo throughout the piece. All these perfectly balanced changes of rhythm, pitch and texture give Bach’s music all the contrast and variety it needs, whether performed on the harpsichord or the modern piano.


This Prelude is one of 12 ‘Small preludes’ written separately at different times in Bach’s life for pedagogical purposes. They were collected partly from the "Clavierbüchlein for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach" and partly from manuscripts owned by Johan Peter Kellner, a German organist contemporary with Bach.

Practice & Performance Tips:

This prelude starts with a C-pedal point, which reminds us of the organ. Imagine the sound of an organ when you start this prelude. This pedal point lasts for 3 measures!

Can you put a bracket above the first 8 notes written on the treble staff ? These notes form the thematic material that Bach used to compose the entire prelude. What is the chord outlined by these notes that you bracketed? It is a C7 chord. Study the next group of 8 notes. It forms an F chord, which is followed by a G7 chord. Bach uses imitation on the left hand in m. 4. It is the same thematic material presented by the right hand but the C chord in m. 4 is followed by a D chord in m. 5.

In mm. 8-12, the thematic material goes back to the right hand while quarter notes on the left hand add rhythmic vitality to the never-changing G pedal. The mordent highlights this G pedal and helps give variety to the theme. Practice mm. 9-12 without the mordent first. Then, add the mordent but drop the low G. In other words, do not play the G on beats 2 and 4 and check if your right hand can continue playing the thematic material without any stops or bumps. If there are no bumps, false accents or hesitation, add the low G that you dropped, playing the passage as written.

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[Video] Bach - Prelude in C BWV939 by littlepolaritons
Hi all, this is my first time posting in this section. I don't know if this piece is too simple to post here. I browsed through this se...

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DOWNLOAD: Johann Sebastian Bach - Small Prelude in C Major ( by Bach). Piano sheet music to print immediately or to view in mobile devices.
Johann Sebastian Bach, who was one of the prominent composers active in the Baroque era, wrote this piece titled "Small Prelude" in C Major . The composition is categorized as "Piece" in the sheet music library and the level of difficulty in the piano music database is 3.