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Author Topic: 2+3pt Inventions: how to teach them  (Read 74818 times)
green
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« on: April 05, 2004, 11:53:05 PM »

I would like to know more about specific technical problems that the 2 and 3 part inventions present. Perhaps general to specific. That is, given a specific invention a std wants to play, how do u present it and help a std to develop the techinque required to play it.
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bernhard
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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2004, 01:44:58 AM »

J. S. Bach composed the 2 & 3 part inventions as exercises. However, he did not mean them as technical exercises, but rather composition exercises. In his time the instrumental performer as we know him/her today, simply did not exist. A trained musician was supposed not only to perform the work of others but to create his own. Even if he was no good as a composer he was supposed to be thoroughly versed in the rules of composition, he was expected to improvise on the music of others, to provide his own – many times on the spot – basso continuo accompaniment and to add the appropriate ornaments/embellishments. Music was also regarded as a craft and learnt according to the conventions that regulated craft learning.

So the Inventions were intended both as exercises in keyboard playing, and as models for composition. In the preface he states that the Inventions provide material with which players can learn “to play clearly in two parts”; they show “not only how to come to good ideas (inventiones), but also how to develop them well”; and by practising them, the musician can “arrive at a cantabile style of playing while acquiring a strong foretaste for composition”.

Now, who teaches composition these days? So, mostly the Inventions have been used only for the purpose of acquiring keyboard facility.

Now imagine you are walking in the fields and you come across an isolated farm. The farmer happens to be an eccentric who does not believe in TV or progress and just wants to be left alone. He is a kind man, but he is also an ignorant uncultured fellow living a medieval life style. He welcomes you and shows you around his farm. In one of the barns you spot something that makes your jaw drop: a red Ferrari! You ask in amazement to the farmer: What is that?! And he replies: “Oh, some chap came one day pushing it and asking if we had any oil. We didn’t  so he left the cart here saying that he would come back later for it, but never did. So we are using it to carry hay form the field to the barn. You ask in amazement: “You are using a Ferrari to carry hay?” He laughs, “I know, it is not a very good cart, is it, and the horses do not like pulling it, but since our cart is broken and we have not managed to fix it yet, we are using that one for the moment. You then realise that this farmer has absolutely no idea of what he has in his hands. He does not know that the Ferrari has an engine, and with petrol it would be able to move by itself. He has no idea with which power it coulc move.

Using 2/3 part inventions as a keyboard exercise is like using a Ferrari  to carry hay, pulled by horses.

Having said that, they will actually do the work. In general they are superb for the acquisition of the following skills:

1.      Independence of the hands.
2.      Contrapunctual thinking.
3.      Finger dexterity and independence.
4.      Development of cantabile.
5.      Equal development of both sides of the body (since usually both parts are perfectly balanced).
6.      Aural training (following 2/3 melodic strains)
7.      Reading/sight-reading.
8.      They make excellent material for training in memory methods.

Some of them are fast and dazzling, and therefore they will train one to that style of playing. Others are slow, lyrical and reflective, and those will prepare for emotional playing.

Again, in general there are two approaches I always adopt with these works:

1.      Students must learn them with separate voices and be able to play perfectly each voice before joining them.

2.      Students must learn the 2 voice inventions with the voices inverted as well (that is, the right hand plays the left hand voice ,and the left hand plays the right hand voice). This is the best way to start thinking contrapunctually.

For more details, we would have to discuss specific pieces.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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Sheet music to download and print: Inventions by Bach
green
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2004, 08:31:21 PM »

More details would be wonderful, how about the 1st? (Then we could move through them all!) How do you teach students to play these pieces with a singing tone?

I seem to recall (where is my edition...) that Bach wrote these with a progressive level of difficulty, in terms of technical considerations that is, musically that may be different.

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rachlisztchopin
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« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2004, 01:11:08 PM »

just curious bernhard: How did you acquire all this knowledge?
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Jeffrey
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« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2004, 07:30:07 AM »

Bernhard - When you say "voices inverted" do you mean that the hands cross over each other physically, or that the left hands plays the treble clef notes as if they were bass clef notes, and vice-versa?  Or something else?  Also, how long (in months or years) does it take for an above average but not precocious piano player practising an hour a day, to be able to start to play the 2 + 3 part inventions?
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bernhard
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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2004, 12:12:41 PM »

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just curious bernhard: How did you acquire all this knowledge?


People have asked this question before...

I usually say: A lifetime of study and research.

Although this is true, a couple of years will also do. Just be obsessed by it. Read everything, look at everything in the net, talk to everyone about it, in short, be a bore, so that all is left for you of a social life after a couple of years is piano forum Grin

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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bernhard
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2004, 12:13:37 PM »

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Bernhard - When you say "voices inverted" do you mean that the hands cross over each other physically, or that the left hands plays the treble clef notes as if they were bass clef notes, and vice-versa?  Or something else?  Also, how long (in months or years) does it take for an above average but not precocious piano player practising an hour a day, to be able to start to play the 2 + 3 part inventions?


I mean that the notes written in the G clef (or the right hand notes) are transposed one octave down to the F clef (and therefore played by the left hand), while the notes written on the F clef (and originally played by the left hand) are transposed one octave up to the G clef (and therefore played by the right hand).

In other words, your second option.

As soon as you can read music you can start working on the 2 voice inventions (there is a lot of score analysis – most of the work is actually done away form the piano). With my students, I usually start them after three – four months of study (if they started as complete beginners). This is usually the time necessary for them to learn the rudiments of music notation. (If they can work out how to play a simple piece form the score without my help, they are ready).

They are not that difficult. Hands separate present no problem at all. The major difficulties are playing hands together (difficult co-ordination) and memorising them.

I had forgotten about this thread, and Green’s question to go through a specific 2 voice invention.

Get a score of Invention no. 1 in C major. I will post the way I teach it (and which I believe is the best he he)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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bernhard
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« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2004, 12:14:51 PM »

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More details would be wonderful, how about the 1st? (Then we could move through them all!) How do you teach students to play these pieces with a singing tone?

I seem to recall (where is my edition...) that Bach wrote these with a progressive level of difficulty, in terms of technical considerations that is, musically that may be different.

Bach’s music can be roughly divided in three categories:

1.      Voice music, which is music that will sound wonderful on the human voice. I am including here instrumental works that are clearly inspired on the human voice. When Bach writes this sort of music for the keyboard all the technical problems relating to making the instrument “sing” will appear.
2.      Dance music. Usually the problems in this kind of music relate to rhythm.
3.      Instrumental music that targets specific technical aspects of the instrument. It is easy to spot these compositions since they would not make sense if you tried to sing them (they may have effects that are impossible to accomplish with the voice, or they may have a range outside the human voice).

The inventions have examples of all three kinds (and some are mixed).

Number 1 (C major) is a very good example of “voice” music. One can easily imagine it sung by two people. So the most important considerations in playing this invention are:

1.      The ability to play legato.
2.      The ability to bring each voice clearly, which implies hand and finger independence.
3.      The ability to phrase.

Technically this is not a difficult piece but two things will make it or break it:

1.      Appropriate fingering.
2.      Hand independence and co-ordination.

Finally we have the matter of ornamentation. This piece has some light and simple ornamentation, but for a student not used to it, it may become an unsurmountable block.

Have a look here as well, where ornamentation is discussed (I will have something to say about it later on):

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php?topic=87.0

Another important consideration is that most of Bach’s music is motif based. Usually we tend to think of music as a nice tune with an accompaniment. But Bach (and many other composers) does not follow this model at all. He starts with a fragment of melody –in the case of this invention only 7 notes long – and simply varies it in numberless ways.

So before learning how to play this invention it is very important to observe what Bach is doing in terms of motif variations and development. If you listen to this invention on a CD (best for that purpose are Rosalyn Tureck or Glenn Gould), you will have the uncanny feeling that no matter how many times you listen to it, you never seem to quite grasp everything.

So first step: Listen to the invention on a CD, preferably played by as many different pianists as possible (I give the student a compilation with 10 different interpretations of it).

There is always something new to listen to the next time you hear it. This is because of the extremely clever way it is constructed. And that is what I first examine with a student by simply working on the score.

So here we go. First identify the motif. Once a student knows what a motif is, he usually spots the motif right away: It consist of the first seven notes: CDEFDEC.

The next step is to investigate the possible ways in which this motif can be varied and still keep its identity. To start with, it can be played in different degrees of the scale (CDEFDEC is played in C major, on the degrees I-II-III-IV-II-III-I, or if you prefer – tonic – supertonic – mediant – subdominant - supertonic – mediant – tonic) [side note: this gives me the opportunity to dive right in into scale theory with the student – by the end of the lesson s/he will know about scales, scale degrees/names and scale relationships]. We can see that in bar 2, where the motif is repeated starting on degree V (dominant) of C major: GABCABG.

So, right there on the first two bars, we have the motif making four entries: Bar 1 on the right hand, then on the left hand, and bar 2 on the right hand and then on the left hand, but also played in different degrees of C major.

Some clever students who have been doing their scale homework at this point ask: Isn’t the motif in the second bar in G major? This gives me the opportunity to introduce modes. No, it is not in G major, it is the myxolydian mode.How do we know? Because the F is natural, and there is no F natural in G major. But there is a more subtle reason. The ear automatically shifts tonal centres without you needing to know any theory. This is a very good opportunity to demonstrate this to the student, so don’t miss it! Play bar 2 (in its entirety), and then play bar 7. If you simply look ath the motif in bar 7, it looks exactly the same (indeed it is the exact same notes). But in bar 7 – unlike in bar 2 – the F# makes its appearance amongst the non-motif notes. This throws the tonal centre into G major with the consequence that in bar 2 the ear hears the G as a dominant note, while in bar 7 the ear hears it as a tonic note. This always surprise students. They cannot believe how the same note can sound completely different simply because of tonal context. It is a real eye (ear) opener. Of course this is the main device of motif variation in Western tonal music, and it is called modulation. You can go on several lessons on this one. You can talk about equal temperament, how Bach invented it, and why it is so important, for instance.

This is one of the reasons I love these inventions. They are wonderful teaching devices: they present do many problems to the student, and the solutions are always neat and open ended (they lead to more problems). If the student is willing, and the teacher does its job properly, a student may well learn all of musical theory from just working on these inventions.

So by just looking at the motif in bars 1 and 2, we have learned about two ways in which the motif can be developed: It can be stated in a different mode (different degrees of the same scale), or it can be modulated (stated in the same degrees of a different scale). It is important that these concepts are understood aurally as well as from the score. So keep playing for the student to listen to, the motifs in bar 1, bar 2 and bar 7.

On bars 3 and 4 something even more interesting happens to the motif. If you look at the first seven notes (RH) of bar 3: AGFEGFA, you can see (from the score is much clearer) that this is like a mirror image of the motif. While the motif had an ascending scale fragment (CDEF) followed by descending thirds (FDEC) [the Fs overlap], in bar 3 we have a descending scale fragment (AGFE) followed by ascending thirds (EGFA). This is called motif inversion. And in fact there are four motif inversions in bars 3 – 4: [AGFEGFA], [FEDCEDF], [DCBACBD] and [BAGF#AGB].

Now are you ready for the next one? It always blows my mind! So it should blow yours and the student’s too!

Go back to bar 3, but instead of looking at the first seven notes, skip the first three notes and look at the next seven notes: EGFAGFE. This is actually the motif backwards, also called a retrograde. There are two more retrogrades on bars 3 – 4: [CEDFEDC] and [ACBDCBA].

Have you got it? So you have four inversions and three retrogrades. But what blows my mind (and should blow yours and the student’s) is that Bach overlaps them. This means that as you play through bars 3 – 4 there will be an ambiguity on the third beat of each bar: you can hear it as the end of the retrograde or as the start of the inversion. So no matter how many times you lsten to this line, you always miss something! This is the aural equivalent of some visual illusions where you see either an old lady or a young woman depending on how you look at the picture. Or some of those Escher drawings where you have stairs that go up and down at the same time.

I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult this is in terms of composition, because most people cannot recognise (aurally) a retrograde as a motif. In fact it is so difficult that Bach only uses a retrograde in a few of his compositions (another famous instance in the “Crab” canon from the Musical Offering).

So at this point I will play for the student bars 3 and 4, but omitting the notes that make for the overlaps, that is I will play either the four inversions or the three retrogrades. Once the student can recognise by ear the inversion or the retrograde, then I will play the line (RH only) and the illusion becomes obvious: If you listen for the inversion you cannot hear the retrograde; if you listen for the retrograde you cannot hear the inversion. This overlapping/ambiguity is something that Bach is very fond of doing (another good example is the Eb major fugue in Book 2 of the WTC).

(By the way, Rachmaninoff fans out there, the 18th variation on a theme of Paganinin is a retrograde of the theme).

We are still in the first two lines of this invention and yet the student has been exposed to a wealth of knowledge from motif analysis to visual illusions (make sure you have a book of Escher’s drawings at hand to show him/her). So you can see what incredible teaching device these inventions are.

Now I will keep going through the piece identifying all  the motifs, and motif variations (invertions and retrogrades). There are 22 bars in this piece and 46 entries of the motif. I usually let the students find the remaining entries (on bars 1- 4 alone there are 11 entries).

Once they can recognise the motif entries form the score, we start actually  playing the motifs. At this point I will give the student a score where only the motifs appear, all other notes being deleted. We will practise this score until the student can play the whole piece (motifs only) perfectly. Our aims now are: correct fingering, development of the necessary movement/finger co-ordination to tackle the motif sequence, and motif recognition (as s/he plays, s/he must say what s/he is playing: motif, inversion or retrograde). S/he must be able to play the whole piece twice: one bringing out the inversions, the next bringing out the retrogrades. Finally, and this is really the most important: S/he must be able to play the piece without bringing out either inversion or retrograde, for if you do so you destroy the ambiguity.

In pieces like this, the performer must not bring out anything, since it is the listener that must experience the ambiguitiy and decide how to solve it. To bring out anything would be the equivalent of using a yellow marker to highlight some of the stairs in an Escher’s drawing. For a full enjoyment of this kind of piece, it must be played many times, with the listener educated in what to listen for, and preferably following with the score. Therefore this is not “performance” music, and will not work as such this is music for the private enjoyment of the cognoscenti. You can only and truly appreciate it if you are a nobleman with a musician in residence (the case in Bach’s time), or if you are a keyboardist (or if you are my student, he he).

But I digress. I will continue later.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.




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Jeffrey
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« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2004, 04:33:36 PM »

I have the William Palmer edition of the 2/3 part inventions.  Is this a good one?
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bernhard
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« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2004, 05:33:16 PM »

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I have the William Palmer edition of the 2/3 part inventions.  Is this a good one?


I have not seen this edition, but I heard good things about it.

Usually you should ignore most signs in most editions: they are editorial additions. Bach pretty much wrote down only the notes. Everything else is someone's idea of how it should be played. Some are good, some not so good. Since the 1950's so much new stuff has been discovered about Bach's (and early music - Classical music in general) that any pre-50's edition is probably not trustworthy as far as performance indications are concerned.

I personally like Rosalyn Tureck's edition (unfortunately she did only the first invention), the ABRSM edition and the Henle edition.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2004, 08:38:28 AM »

Quote

As soon as you can read music you can start working on the 2 voice inventions (there is a lot of score analysis – most of the work is actually done away form the piano). With my students, I usually start them after three – four months of study (if they started as complete beginners). This is usually the time necessary for them to learn the rudiments of music notation.



Are you saying that most of your students begin playing Bach's 2 part inventions after 3 or 4 months of lessons?  I've got a lot more related questions, but I'll wait and see if I've understood this correctly.

And how about everyone else here--what kinds of pieces are your students playing after 3-4 months?  
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bernhard
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« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2004, 02:37:44 AM »

Quote


Are you saying that most of your students begin playing Bach's 2 part inventions after 3 or 4 months of lessons?  I've got a lot more related questions, but I'll wait and see if I've understood this correctly.

 


Yes, you understood correctly. Of course depending on the student you can give or take a month, but as soon as the student can read music (not sight-read, but read music – that is follow a score) I will start on the 2 voice inventions.

It usually takes a student from 20 to 40 days to learn the first one (remember, they have daily lessons). After the first one, progress in the other ones is much faster. After we finish the fifteen (usually a one year project) the student knows so much about music theory, harmony, counterpoint and technique that s/he is ready to tackle almost anything.

Of course we work on many other things besides the two voice inventions (as you may have noticed from my other posts I am a Scarlatti fanatic).

Also sometimes we do not learn all 15 inventions.

It really depends on the student.

And age plays a big part on this too. The little ones (4 – 7) usually do not do them, unless they want to.

But I have a five year old who plays number 1 and number 8 beautifully. No she is not a prodigy. And it is always a pleasure to see jaws drop when she goes to the piano and play – as it happened a few days ago on a birthday party. Several children were there banging their fists on the piano that was in the hall where the party was taking place. She was the youngest one. She told off the other children in no uncertain terms to stop messing with the piano, proceeded to sit down herself, and played the two 2 voice inventions, the Pink Panther theme, the Bach menuet in G, the first movement of Clementi’s sonatina op. 36 no. 1, Amy Beach’s Pierrot and Pierrette, Will Baily’s Prairie dog Jamboree, Bergerac’s Marshmallow Sundae and Ivonne Adair’s Thumbelina, queen of flowers. The parents just could not believe it.

She started lessons in January, this year (her 5th birthday was in April). I predict that by the end of the year her only limitation will be the size of her hands.

I sincerely believe that this is not my merit – or even hers – although we both work hard. I am totally and utterly convinced that this sort of result is completely due to the system of lessons everyday. And anyone and everyone can achieve it, if they follow the same approach. The downside from a teacher’s point of view is that you will not be able to fit 60 students a week teaching this way. And most parents are not prepared to face this sort of scheme (here in the UK with the holiday culture, parents cringe when they read my policy and realise that payment and lessons continue during half-terms and holidays). But that is all right with me. I am perfectly happy to teach the few who want to learn, and it is not my intention to convince anyone of anything.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2004, 08:14:45 PM »

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The inventions have examples of all three kinds (and some are mixed).


The classifications of vocal, instrumental, and dance is very helpful, perhaps better than trying to classify them according level of difficulty.

How have you classified each? Do u keep a similar procedure for the others when teaching?

The std u mention, she would seem to be 'talented', does she have perfect pitch, very supportive parents, parentswho sit with her and help her practice?

I have met my first std who peforms with a natural wrist motion when playing. 5 years old, reads HS music with ease, I wouldn't have thought the 2 pt inventions would be suitable for his age. I have an 11 year old who has played for a few years, he has a terrible time with the 2pts, he's not motivated to practice them.
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2004, 10:13:07 PM »

Would u adjust your procedure depending on the age of the std? I have a very talented 5 year old, who i have given the first invention to. I feel that she is ready for it, she could sight read half of it HS, slowly. I just wanted to check her reading. This will most likely be the most challenging piece we have looked at. I'm not sure a 'too in depth' analysis will be of the same benefit as say, a more 'mature' std. And I mean by that an age where a sdt could appreciate the 'intellectual' contruction/structure of the piece. I'm not sure she would be able to internalize the learning benefits of analysing the work in that way. But I could try...whats ur opinion/experience?
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« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2004, 02:57:28 PM »

Picking up the thread where I stopped.

So, in teaching invention no. 1, my first step was to identify the motif; to show how it could be varied by being inverted and being played backwards (retrograde); how it could be played in different degrees of the scale and on the same degrees of a different scale (modulation).

This was first worked out at the score (using coloured pencils to identify the several forms of the motifs), then aurally (me, playing the several motifs while the student followed them on the score), and finally by learning how to play the motifs – through  a score where every note that was not the motif had been taken away. This motific “skeleton” was then used a lot until the student could play the whole piece, motifs only.

Incidentally: the motif CDEFDEC, is repeated 46 times equally in both hands and in different spots of the keyboard. Repeat each occurrence of the motif and move to the next one smoothly and what do you have? A Hanon exercise! Therefore anyone working on this invention is already doing Hanon, without ever needing to touch the “Virtuoso Pianist”.

But I digress.

Once the student can do the motif version of the score, we do the next step, which is to reintroduce all the notes that have been taken away. For the most part they consist of augmentations of fragments of the motifs (the same pitches, but with increased note values, e.g., the motif had an ascending scale fragment in semiquavers. This ascending scale fragment appears now in quavers linking the motifs).

This means learning the piece as it was originally written, but this time with hands separate. Ornaments are not introduced yet at this stage.

If the previous step (motifs only) was thoroughly mastered, this next step is achieved very fast. In fact it may take one or two weeks t master the motifs, but the whole piece with HS may take just one lesson.

We will keep working HS, repeating it many times, but each time we will be concentrating in a different aspect. For instance, looking at the intervals by which the motifs get displaced. Or observing how Bach reverse voices (counterpoint invention), or dedicating a whole lesson to pure technique (how to move, how to press the keys, etc.)

Then the third step will be to join hands. This is the most difficult step in any piece, but particularly in this kind of imitative music where the hands must be completely independent and yet totally co-ordinated. I will use every trick in the book, but if the previous stages were properly done, it should be pretty smooth sailing – but it will take time. At this stage I usually work back to front (start at the last bar and keep adding bars in front), and work in small sections again.

It takes between 20 – 40 daily 20 minutes practice sessions for someone who has never seen this kind of piece to master it. Here is the scheme I use:

10 practice sessions  (15 – 20 minutes each) to master the motif score:

     Session 1: bars 1- 2.
     Session 2 : bars 3 – 4.
     Session 3: bars 11 – 12.
     Session 4: bars 1 – 4 & 11 – 12.
     Session 5: bars 5 & 7 – 10.
     Session 6: bars 1 – 12.
     Session 7: bars 13 & 15 – 18.
     Session 8: bars 1 – 18.
     Session 9: bars 19 – 21.
Session 10: bars 1 – 21 (the whole piece).

14 practice sessions to master the piece with separate hands.

     Session 1 - bars 1 – 2 (Add first beat of bar 3.)
     Session 2 - bars 3 – 4 (Add first beat of bar 5.)
     Session 3 - bars 5 – 6 (Add first beat of bar 7.)
     Session 4 - bars 1 – 6 (Add first beat of bar 7.)
     Session 5 - bars 7 – 10 ( Add first beat of bar 11.)
     Session 6 - bars 1 – 10 (Add first beat of bar 11.)
     Session 7 - bars 11 – 12 (Add first eat of bar 13.)
     Session 8 - bars 1 – 12 (Add first eat of bar 13.)
     Session 9 – bars 13 – 14 (Add first beat of bar 15)
     Session 10 – bars 1 –14 (Add first eat of bar 15.)
     Session 11 – bars 15 – 18 (Add first eat of bar 19.)
     Session 12 – bars 1- 18 (Add first eat of bar 19.)
     Session 13 – bars 19 – 22
     Session 14 - bars 1 – 22 (the whole piece)
     
     15 practice sessions to master the piece with hands together:
     
     Session 1 - bars 19 – 22.
     Session 2 - bars 15 – 18 (Add first beat of bar 19.)
     Session 3 - bars 15 – 22.
     Session 4 - bars 13 – 14 (Add first beat of bar 15.)
     Session 5 - bars 13 – 22.
     Session 6 - bars 11 – 12 (Add first beat of bar 13.)
     Session 7 - bars 11 – 22.
     Session 8 - bars 7 – 10 (Add first beat of bar 11.)
     Session 9 – bars 7 – 22.
     Session 10 – bars 5 –6 (Add first beat of bar 7.)
     Session 11 – bars 6 – 22.
     Session 12 – bars 3- 4 (Add first beat of bar 5.)
     Session 13 – bars 3 – 22
     Session 14 – bars 1- 2 (Add first beat of bar 3.)
     Session 15 - bars 1 – 22 (the whole piece)
     
Each of these blocks of sessions must be done in order: motifs, followed by hands separate, followed by hands together. However, the sessions within each block may be treated more or less independently. For instance, you could work on sessions 1 – 2- 3 and 9 of the motif block in four different practice sessions on the same day.

What you should not do (because it is a waste of time) is to repeat session one 4 or 5 times on the same day. Do one specific practice session for 15 - 20 minutes. Then only touch it again the next day. Use the remainder of your practice time to do other pieces, or other sessions within the same block.

The scheme above is of course just a suggestion. Depending on the student you may have to break down a practice session in much smaller chunks. Or you may be able to do more than two bars in one session. The important thing is that you organise the learning of the piece, and be extremely consistent on a daily basis, so that it all adds up to something after a few weeks.

But we are not finished yet. The fourth stage is to add the ornaments. This would probably need a thread in itself, since ornament practice in Bach has been completely distorted by 19th century and early 20th century performers and editions. In fact most pre-1950’s editions that have realised ornaments for this invention have it wrong. I myself learned them all wrong in my teen years and had to relearn them all. Have a look at this thread where there is some discussion on this:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1016762121

Fifth stage. At this point the student should know this piece back to front, and it is probably memorised and at performance level. I now give him/her a score where I have made an harmonic reduction of the piece, so that we can follow the harmonic progressions and modulations. I want to answer the question: Where is this piece going harmonically, and how is it getting there? This is ultimately what holds the music together and creates climaxes, moods and so on. And yet it is all on the border of consciousness. We do no pay much attention to it, and its mostly a subliminal effect (as it should be). It is similar to a movie’s soundtrack. It is there, but we are hardly aware of it (which is as it should be). And yet, the soundtrack is the single most important element for a movie to be effective. Just take the soundtrack away and you will see what I mean. It creates mood, climaxes, and it is the most important element in the suspension of “disbelief” so important for the enjoyment of a movie. Likewise, a music student must be made aware of harmonisation. Bach is particularly good for this purpose, since he was a consummate master of Harmony (his harmonisations of Lutheran chorales are still models of study in harmony classes)

Once the student has gone through theses five stages and is thoroughly conversant with them, s/he is ready to start learning the piece! (he he Grin). This is the final stage , and it is here that matters of interpretation and performance will be tackled.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



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« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2004, 03:03:52 PM »

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Would u adjust your procedure depending on the age of the std? I have a very talented 5 year old, who i have given the first invention to. I feel that she is ready for it, she could sight read half of it HS, slowly. I just wanted to check her reading. This will most likely be the most challenging piece we have looked at. I'm not sure a 'too in depth' analysis will be of the same benefit as say, a more 'mature' std. And I mean by that an age where a sdt could appreciate the 'intellectual' contruction/structure of the piece. I'm not sure she would be able to internalize the learning benefits of analysing the work in that way. But I could try...whats ur opinion/experience?


Yes, of course you must adjust whatever procedure you are using to the student. What may work with one student may not work with another.

However, all of them follow the same general plan: motifs first, then hands separate, then hands together. With a five year old you will be able to point our what a motif is (just play it - no lengthy explanations), and you can makle a game of "find the motif". If your student is a retired maths professor, than you can spend the whole lesosn just talikg about all the mathematical implications of a two voice invention. If your student is into the occult, talk about the mumerology of this invention, and how Bach enclosed cyphered messages in it. And so on and so forth.

What I certainly do not do is to teach a piece just mechanically. Meaning is very important. You must always find a  meaning that a student is prepared to appreciate. Otherwise music (and music lessons) become, well meaningless! Wink

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2004, 10:39:16 PM »

Bernhard, is there any specific resource that would have all the music theoretical analysis on all the 2/3 part inventions?

....in general is there any book/web site that is good for classical music theory?
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« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2004, 03:04:15 AM »

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Bernhard, is there any specific resource that would have all the music theoretical analysis on all the 2/3 part inventions?

....in general is there any book/web site that is good for classical music theory?


If you hear of one, let me know!

Usually the first invention is analysed in lots of books because it is a single motif and it is really easy to follow its variations and developments. The other simple ones to analyse (all follow more or less the same pattern as no. 1 and have a very clear structure) are no. 8 in F, no. 4 in Dm no. 10  in G and no. 14 in Bb. The other ones are more complex in varying degrees.

You can find a very complete analysis of no. 1 in:

Lawrence Dreyfus - Bach and the patterns of invention (Harvard University Press).

In spite of its name, this book is not really about the 2 voice inventions, but about "invention" as a musical idea that results in a full composition.

And there are hundreds of thousands of sites dealing with all aspects of theory. Just get googling! Wink

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2004, 06:24:17 PM »

I have a student who I have given the first invention to. 2 weeks now. She is 5 years old. Perfect pitch, and talented. Technically she has no problem with it. It is however, much longer than most pieces she has played, and is unfamiliar. I believe this is the first 'contrapuntal' piece she has played. She has played pieces like Burgmullers Arabesque, Ballade, and Sorrow. Slowly but note perfect with impeccable timing and fluency (for her age). Also, Dolly's Dream, and easy Disney songs etc.

Her mother worried to me that the invention was too difficult. I was afraid of this, or rather, expecting this. I told her it was not. Technically she can play it, and has shown that (HS) up to the statement in G major. And the second 'section from G major to the sustained notes. I told mum that it requires a new way of 'thinking' and that that will require time. I have not broken it down into the motivic framework suggested, but have shown where all logical phrases occur, mainly according to hand position. And that the piece is to be learned HS, one phrase at a time, with each phrase consequently joined to the previous.

What I think she may be struggling with is an issue of meaning. Finding a way to personalize the music. This way of hearing (and savoring) the cohesive, interogative, nature of Bach, and contrapuntal music in general, is what I mean by 'thinking' in a new way. But it is like the saying: u can lead a horse to water...

With the talent she has shown, and her very good ear, I am hoping it will 'crystallize' for her, that she will hear and begin to make relationships of her own accord.

If u have taught inventions to this age group, please offer your insights...
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« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2004, 07:19:23 PM »

I did tell my std and her mother to imagine the two lines as two voices, that these are two melodies sung together. To imagine them like that and try singing along while playing, la la, sol-fa, or pitch names. I think they still don't really see 'why' she should learn a piece like this, what for? What is this going to do for her that another piece or style of music won't? It is a tiresome question, but legitamite, how to do this without sounding too intellectual?

I told her that she will have accomplished an impressive ability if she works hard and is able to play this piece. But what ability? That she could not gain in a more incramental manner, with music that she 'enjoys', that is not so 'taxing' in terms length and mental stamina?

The Bach inventions represent a kind of 'perfect' introduction to contrpuntal thought, in so far as they provide the learner with an authentic context. A logically perfect language from which all contrapuntal music has grown. Logically perfect in so far as the music of these pieces represents perfect coherence with the world - the mind of Bach, the iconography of the time, and the world of which Bach's mind was a part. This is true of any 'great' composer, and the time from which there music 'springs'. So it is nice to be able to provide students with pragmatically 'authentic' materials from which to develop music 'skills', but explanations as these don't hold much water with mum and dad. Disney still wins.

Quote
or dedicating a whole lesson to pure technique (how to move, how to press the keys, etc.)


And with the inventions, is that different from other discussions of technique you have posted?

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« Reply #20 on: May 28, 2004, 02:00:33 AM »

Quote
I have a student who I have given the first invention to. 2 weeks now. She is 5 years old. Perfect pitch, and talented. Technically she has no problem with it. It is however, much longer than most pieces she has played, and is unfamiliar. I believe this is the first 'contrapuntal' piece she has played. She has played pieces like Burgmullers Arabesque, Ballade, and Sorrow. Slowly but note perfect with impeccable timing and fluency (for her age). Also, Dolly's Dream, and easy Disney songs etc.  


Did she ask to play it? Or was it your idea?

Personally I rarely give pieces to students, unless they ask for it. With a five year old, this is crucial. Difficulty is mostly irrelevant (except in regards to hand span: this will be a severe limitation with this age group), and you should never underestimate the capacity of children to tackle difficult pieces without batting an eyelid. They just do not know yet how difficult things are. If she has asked to play the piece, go ahead. However if she did not ask for it, maybe she does not like it, and at home is reluctant to work on it, hence the parent’s comment that the piece is “too difficult”. If that is the case, drop it for the moment and come back to it later when she is older.

Quote
I have not broken it down into the motivic framework suggested, but have shown where all logical phrases occur, mainly according to hand position. And that the piece is to be learned HS, one phrase at a time, with each phrase consequently joined to the previous. What I think she may be struggling with is an issue of meaning. Finding a way to personalize the music. This way of hearing (and savoring) the cohesive, interogative, nature of Bach, and contrapuntal music in general, is what I mean by 'thinking' in a new way. But it is like the saying: u can lead a horse to water...  


I suggest you do work on the motifs first, since that is where the meaning of this piece lies. Of course, with a five year old you cannot give too much explanation. I make it a game of “find the motif”. First in the score, and then by ear (as I play, the student must say if what I am playing is the motif, the inversion or the retrograde).

Next you may compare this piece to a conversation between to people. You can play it in such a way that it becomes a heated argument. Then play again, but this time it is a quiet conversation. Play it so that one person is calm and collected and the other nervous and aggressive. Again, make a game of it by asking the student to imagine what does she think the conversation is all about. You will be surprised how perceptive five year olds can be. This is not really about “playing”, but more about developing an aural sense of the music.

Quote
I did tell my std and her mother to imagine the two lines as two voices, that these are two melodies sung together. To imagine them like that and try singing along while playing, la la, sol-fa, or pitch names. I think they still don't really see 'why' she should learn a piece like this, what for? What is this going to do for her that another piece or style of music won't? It is a tiresome question, but legitamite, how to do this without sounding too intellectual?


Why indeed? The truth is, there is no reason to learn this piece of music or any other for that matter. Except of course for love. Does she love this piece of music? If she does, the question will never occur. And if she doesn’t, no answer will ever be satisfactory. You can always force it, but forcing music on students never works. So we are back to the beginning. Only teach this piece, if the student has shown a strong desire to play it.

But even if she does not like this piece, she may like one of the other inventions (no. 8 and no. 14 are usual favorites). This kind of piece (imitative, contrapuntual) is very important, so one should not spoil it for the student by forcing them to learn it either too early or if they do not like it.

Quote
I told her that she will have accomplished an impressive ability if she works hard and is able to play this piece. But what ability? That she could not gain in a more incramental manner, with music that she 'enjoys', that is not so 'taxing' in terms length and mental stamina?


I do not think this piece is that long actually (only 22 bars and very repetitive).  
Any student tackling this sort of piece will develop the ability to hear different melodic lines (surprisingly difficult to acquire), the ability to play with independent and yet co-ordinated hands and fingers (again surprisingly difficult to acquire – and no other repertory will develop that – many pianists who eat Liszt for breakfast are terrified of Bach). Hands together is of course the major difficulty in this piece.

Bach wrote these pieces for his son to play, and he was 12 when he started working on them, but then in those days musical studies started much later than now.

Quote
And with the inventions, is that different from other discussions of technique you have posted?


In general no. But specifics will always be very different from piece to piece. This invention (and Bach in general) requires much more finger work (but still helped by arm). The most difficult task is actually not to bring one voice, or one figuration over the other. This requires not only a very good ear but – very importantly – a detailed awareness of one’s aim, of what one is trying to achieve. A five year old may not be ready for that, in which case you should be happy that she has learned and developed the co-ordinations to play it. Late in life she can go back to it and add the missing details.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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« Reply #21 on: May 28, 2004, 02:10:35 AM »

hey bernhard, sorry to highjack the thread, i left you a message, please read it, its sent to your name... thanks
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« Reply #22 on: June 05, 2004, 08:05:02 AM »

My 5 year old came to lesson this week and played the 1st invention HT up to the statement in G major. I was rather astonished. This was in spite of the fact I had given her very specific instructions NOT to play HT. But to learn each line seperately. And she says she likes it!   Shocked

And here I was preparing to stop working on it, and worried that this was going to reflect badly on me. This seems to prove a point when I insisted to Mom that this was NOT too difficult for her.

The year previous I lost a std who I gave this same piece to, a girl who was 12 years old, I also felt she was capable of it, but she never practiced, then stopped taking lessons.

With my 5 year old, I feel as though this is a small, but significant, victory. Smiley
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« Reply #23 on: June 05, 2004, 07:21:39 PM »

Well done! Cheesy

What was her mother's reaction?
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« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2004, 01:01:39 AM »

Incredible Bernhard!

I've just started working on the inventions and this will be very helpful.

I've encountered one problem while attempting this method in learning them...you say there are 46 entries of the motif, but I can only find 45!

Also...in terms of difficulty...which inventions/sinfonias are the easiest/hardest to analyze motif wise?   

On your motif skeleton...do you put the motifs immediately after each other or do you put in 'rests' so that the motifs go where they should be in the piece and you are playing the piece correctly time wise? 

This is probably a stupid question, but when you have your students practice this skeleton do you maintain the fingerings used when you really place the piece?   It seems rather unefficient not to do so, but it feels weird when playing the motifs alone...

Thank you for your time!
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« Reply #25 on: October 15, 2004, 11:14:08 PM »

Incredible Bernhard!

I've just started working on the inventions and this will be very helpful.



I am happy you found it helpful. Smiley

Quote
I've encountered one problem while attempting this method in learning them...you say there are 46 entries of the motif, but I can only find 45!

Here they are:

Bar 1: 2 entries
Bar 2: 2 entries
Bar 3 - 4: 7 entries (4 inversions, 3 retrogrades – they overlap)
Bar 5: 2 entries
Bar 6: no entries
Bar 7: 2 entries
Bar 8: 2 entries
Bar 9: 2 entries
Bar 10: 2 entries
Bar 11 - 12: 7 entries (4 inversions and 3 retrogrades overlapping)
Bar 13: 2 entries
Bar 14: no entries
Bar 15: 2 entries
Bar 16: 2 entries
Bar 17: 2 entries
Bar 18: 2 entries
Bar 19 – 20: 6 entries (RH: 3 motifs, 2 retrogrades overlapping)
Bar 21: 2 entries (1 inversion, 1 retrograde overlapping)
Bar 22: no entries.

Total: 46 entries.

Check the bars that do not tally and if you still cannot find it, come back and we will try to sort it out.

Quote
Also...in terms of difficulty...which inventions/sinfonias are the easiest/hardest to analyze motif wise?   

Invention 1 is the easiest because Bach was showing off (it is truly a tour de force to compose a piece as nice as this invention by basically using just one motif)

Next come no. 4 (Dm), no. 8 (F) and no. 13 (Gm).

All the others (and the symphonies) are much more complicated since some of them have more then one motif, or countermotifs or material of a non-motif nature inserted in.

Quote
On your motif skeleton...do you put the motifs immediately after each other or do you put in 'rests' so that the motifs go where they should be in the piece and you are playing the piece correctly time wise? 

Yes, the motifs go exactly where they would go in the original piece. It is as if you got the original score and simply erased all the notes that are not motifs, leaving only the motifs. So when you play the motif score, you are playing basically the invention as originally written minus the non-motif notes (which are replaced by rests)

Quote
This is probably a stupid question, but when you have your students practice this skeleton do you maintain the fingerings used when you really place the piece?   It seems rather unefficient not to do so, but it feels weird when playing the motifs alone...

Yes, the fingerings are all maintained. This is of the utmost importance. You want to use exactly the seam fingering you would use when playing the full version. Otherwise you will have to relearn the fingering and this is a definite no no. Angry

Quote
Thank you for your time!

You are welcome. Smiley

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #26 on: October 16, 2004, 03:02:11 AM »

Thanks again for the help! You're students are lucky to have a teacher like you! They should be very grateful because if you already do all this for the members of this forum for 'free'...I can only imagine what you do for those who pay you! 

Ok I seem to be stuck on Bar 21.

I found the inversion (BbAGFAGBb), but I can't find the retrograde...

I'm using the Palmer edition of that helps.

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« Reply #27 on: October 16, 2004, 03:08:19 AM »

Thanks again for the help! You're students are lucky to have a teacher like you! They should be very grateful because if you already do all this for the members of this forum for 'free'...I can only imagine what you do for those who pay you! 

Ok I seem to be stuck on Bar 21.

I found the inversion (BbAGFAGBb), but I can't find the retrograde...

I'm using the Palmer edition of that helps.

Inversion: Bb A G F A G Bb
Retrograde:         F A G Bb  A B C

(Both on RH, overlapping)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #28 on: October 16, 2004, 03:12:52 AM »

Thank you!

BTW...would retrogrades that overlap the motifs in Bars 19-20....wouldn't they really be retrogrades of the inversions rather than retrogrades of the motif? Shouldn't they have another name...or are they still called retrogrades?
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« Reply #29 on: February 23, 2005, 05:40:39 PM »

.

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« Reply #30 on: March 07, 2005, 04:27:39 PM »

Bernhard:

The lesson you wrote in this thread was just hands down fantastic. I printed it out on Friday, read it carefully on the weekend. I had your lesson in one hand and a music sheet in the other one. It was as interesting as reading a very good book, I couldn't wait what you will say in the next paragraph.

Today, I am making out the version of the sheet displaying motifs only. I can't wait to start actually playing the invention on my piano. I feel like I know already so much about the piece and I haven't played really yet. I listened to it only so far.

I wish a fantastic hands-on lesson of this kind would be available for the other inventions as well.

Thanks again

Marek
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« Reply #31 on: March 07, 2005, 08:05:03 PM »

Bernhard,

I have to ask you about the 21st bar again. I clearly see the inversion, but I cannot see from some reason the retrograde. I know you answered it how one should see it, but I just don't see the motif pattern. If the motif is preserved shouldn't it be rather xxxGABC so the 4 consecutive note pattern is intact?

I wouldn't be suprised if I am missing something here.

Thanks
Marek
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« Reply #32 on: March 08, 2005, 02:36:23 AM »

For anyone looking for free composition software, I used a nifty little program called Mozart, which you can nab from http://www.mozart.co.uk/.
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« Reply #33 on: March 13, 2005, 10:18:46 PM »

Bernhard,

I have to ask you about the 21st bar again. I clearly see the inversion, but I cannot see from some reason the retrograde. I know you answered it how one should see it, but I just don't see the motif pattern. If the motif is preserved shouldn't it be rather xxxGABC so the 4 consecutive note pattern is intact?

I wouldn't be suprised if I am missing something here.

Thanks
Marek

Does this help?



The inversion and the retrograde overlap.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #34 on: March 14, 2005, 02:08:30 PM »

Hi Bernhard,

thanks a lot for taking time to reply. I can for sure see the retrograde now. I guess what was confusing me all the time was the fact that this looks more like a retrograde of the inversion.

I am interested in the other inventions as well. Do you know if the book mentioned by one of the previous posters is any good?

An Analytical survey of the fifteen two-part inventions by JS Bach
By Theodore O. Johnson


Thanks for your help again.

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« Reply #35 on: March 14, 2005, 11:04:55 PM »

Hi Bernhard,

thanks a lot for taking time to reply. I can for sure see the retrograde now. I guess what was confusing me all the time was the fact that this looks more like a retrograde of the inversion.

I am interested in the other inventions as well. Do you know if the book mentioned by one of the previous posters is any good?

An Analytical survey of the fifteen two-part inventions by JS Bach
By Theodore O. Johnson


Thanks for your help again.



Yes it is a good book - especially considering that it is probably the only one. However, it is very condensed, he writes about 5 pages per invention, and I wish he would have provided much more detail. It is a beginning though. Recommended, but not too enthusiastically. Wink

Best wishes,
Bernhard
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« Reply #36 on: March 15, 2005, 01:49:15 PM »

Thanks Bernhard.

I think it's time to write your own version of the book. I am sure there would be enough people to make it a profitable and pleasing project for you.  Cheesy

I appreciate all your help.

Regards
Marek
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« Reply #37 on: March 16, 2005, 08:31:06 AM »


2.      Students must learn the 2 voice inventions with the voices inverted as well (that is, the right hand plays the left hand voice ,and the left hand plays the right hand voice). This is the best way to start thinking contrapunctually.



For the invention in C major, the hands never play the motif together at the same time (called stretti IIRC).  So, do I bring all the left hand motifs up into the treble and play all motifs with the song with one hand and then vice versa?
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« Reply #38 on: March 16, 2005, 10:06:13 AM »



For the invention in C major, the hands never play the motif together at the same time (called stretti IIRC).  So, do I bring all the left hand motifs up into the treble and play all motifs with the song with one hand and then vice versa?

Here are the first two bars inverted:



Does that make it clearer?

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #39 on: March 16, 2005, 12:44:36 PM »

ok which ones are the hardest?
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« Reply #40 on: March 17, 2005, 09:19:22 AM »

Yes.  Much clearer.  But I notice though that there is no mention of it in your practice sessions schedule.  I guess it should be done after putting the hands together?

I just tried one session of the piece.  It's so much fun.  And I've upgraded my image of Bach from brilliant (my impression from the Brandenburgs) to insanely brilliant (partially also from reading about how he embedded all sorts of symbols into the music).  I realised why I've never tried it before - I have this impression that Bach's pieces are hard.  Partially my teachers fault.  She's always telling me how hard Bach's pieces are.  It's not hard one bit!  The left hand does feel akward, but the fun makes up for it.  I've also just realised how weak my left hand actually is and that all those hours of Hanon didn't help much.

The part where the retrograde and inversion overlaps is amazing.  The thought of it itself is amazing enough but it's even better when you try it on the keyboard.  Reading about it and actually trying it out are so different - like the difference between reading a book and actually being in the story.  It reminds me of the duality of light; the experiment where light acts as waves but the wave effect disappears when you try to detect it.  Makes me wonder why someone would try to skip all the fun pieces like this and go straight to Rach 3.  Now, that is mind-boggling.

Also, I hope to be forgiven for posting in the teacher's section of the forum... Undecided
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« Reply #41 on: March 17, 2005, 10:33:37 AM »

ok which ones are the hardest?

The order Bach taught them (we don’t know for sure – but there is a good argument for it) – supposedly progressive order of difficulty  - was:

No.1 – C
No.4 – Dm
No. 7 – Em
No. 8 – F
No. 10 – G
No. 13 – Am
No. 15 – Bm
No. 14 – Bb
No. 12 – Am
No. 11 – Gm
No. 9 – Fm
No. 6 – E
No. 5 – Eb
No. 3 – D
No. 2 – Cm

At this point you must keep in mind that Bach was not only considering technical difficulty but also complexity of analysis and compositional techniques, so an invention may seem easy to “play” (e.g. no. 2 in Cm) but have a great depth of complexity as a piece. Have a look here for more details:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5143.msg49995.html#msg49995
(Inventions and sinfonias: Bach’s pedagogical order of difficulty)

In purely technical terms, I tend to think of them in three groups of difficulty:

Easiest: 1 - 2 - 4 - 8 - 10 - 13 - 14
Intermediate: 3 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 9
Advanced: 11 - 12 - 15

Have a look here where this has been discussed.

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3187.msg27993.html#msg27993
(order of difficulty of the inventions)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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bernhard
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« Reply #42 on: March 17, 2005, 10:36:49 AM »

Yes.  Much clearer.  But I notice though that there is no mention of it in your practice sessions schedule.  I guess it should be done after putting the hands together?

Yes, after you mastered the invention as originally written, then and only then you do the inverted form. And you do it in exactly the same way as you did the original invention, that is, you treat it as a new piece you have never seen before: motifs, then hands separate and finally hands together. The fingering will need changing here and there as well. Most students never go to this trouble though, I have to admit. Another very good thing to do after you learned an invention (and I have yet to meet a student who is not dismayed when this is suggested Angry) is to relearn the invention in all the twelve keys Shocked.

Quote

I just tried one session of the piece.  It's so much fun.  And I've upgraded my image of Bach from brilliant (my impression from the Brandenburgs) to insanely brilliant (partially also from reading about how he embedded all sorts of symbols into the music).  I realised why I've never tried it before - I have this impression that Bach's pieces are hard.  Partially my teachers fault.  She's always telling me how hard Bach's pieces are.  It's not hard one bit!  The left hand does feel akward, but the fun makes up for it.  I've also just realised how weak my left hand actually is and that all those hours of Hanon didn't help much.

The part where the retrograde and inversion overlaps is amazing.  The thought of it itself is amazing enough but it's even better when you try it on the keyboard.  Reading about it and actually trying it out are so different - like the difference between reading a book and actually being in the story.  It reminds me of the duality of light; the experiment where light acts as waves but the wave effect disappears when you try to detect it.  Makes me wonder why someone would try to skip all the fun pieces like this and go straight to Rach 3.  Now, that is mind-boggling.

Also, I hope to be forgiven for posting in the teacher's section of the forum... Undecided

 Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy

You are absolutely right: It is incredible fun to play (both physically and intellectually). Much more fun than to listen to. Which is one of the reasons these pieces do not work very well on performance: they are for private enjoyment and delight.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #43 on: March 17, 2005, 12:38:16 PM »



The order Bach taught them (we don’t know for sure – but there is a good argument for it) – supposedly progressive order of difficulty  - was:

No.1 – C
No.4 – Dm
No. 7 – Em
No. 8 – F
No. 10 – G
No. 13 – Am
No. 15 – Bm
No. 14 – Bb
No. 12 – Am
No. 11 – Gm
No. 9 – Fm
No. 6 – E
No. 5 – Eb
No. 3 – D
No. 2 – Cm

At this point you must keep in mind that Bach was not only considering technical difficulty but also complexity of analysis and compositional techniques, so an invention may seem easy to “play” (e.g. no. 2 in Cm) but have a great depth of complexity as a piece. Have a look here for more details:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5143.msg49995.html#msg49995
(Inventions and sinfonias: Bach’s pedagogical order of difficulty)

In purely technical terms, I tend to think of them in three groups of difficulty:

Easiest: 1 - 2 - 4 - 8 - 10 - 13 - 14
Intermediate: 3 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 9
Advanced: 11 - 12 - 15

Have a look here where this has been discussed.

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3187.msg27993.html#msg27993
(order of difficulty of the inventions)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



So I am in the process of learning them all. Should I start at the easiest and go forward or get the hard ones out of the way?

boliver
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chopinisque
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« Reply #44 on: March 17, 2005, 01:27:35 PM »

Quote
Most students never go to this trouble though, I have to admit. Another very good thing to do after you learned an invention (and I have yet to meet a student who is not dismayed when this is suggested Angry) is to relearn the invention in all the twelve keys Shocked.

You mean we get the chance to reexplore all of them?!!!  This keeps getting better.
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« Reply #45 on: March 17, 2005, 04:39:45 PM »

Another very good thing to do after you learned an invention (and I have yet to meet a student who is not dismayed when this is suggested Angry) is to relearn the invention in all the twelve keys Shocked.
 Cheesy Cheesy Cheesy
Dismayed? Why? Not meaning to suck up or anything  Grin: I've tried transposing (by ear) an invention (by a fifth - trying to keep it simple). A great-fun-activity and an interesting challenge! Start HS, though! Cheesy
Writing it out with new fingering? In all twelve keys? OK, I'd rather learn the next one...  Grin
Egghead
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« Reply #46 on: March 18, 2005, 12:36:21 AM »



So I am in the process of learning them all. Should I start at the easiest and go forward or get the hard ones out of the way?

boliver

If you are going to learn them all, I guess it depends on your ultimate aim. You could jsut start with your favourites, for instance. Here are some possibilities and their advantages:

1.   You can start by learning the most difficult one technically, this way the others will come easily. So the first one takes the longest (it is the first and it is the most difficult), but the other ones come quick and easy.

2.   You can do the opposite and start with the easiest one technically, and proceed in ascending order of difficulty. This way you have an invention in your repertory straightaway and one invention prepares for the next, so by the time you tackle the most difficult ones they will not take so long or seem so difficult.

3.   You can use Bach’s own order:

No.1 – C
No.4 – Dm
No. 7 – Em
No. 8 – F
No. 10 – G
No. 13 – Am
No. 15 – Bm
No. 14 – Bb
No. 12 – Am
No. 11 – Gm
No. 9 – Fm
No. 6 – E
No. 5 – Eb
No. 3 – D
No. 2 – Cm

This is the option I personally favour, because I view the inventions not only as technical exercises but as compositional exercises and analysis exercises as well, and this sequence allows a progressive entry on Bach’s compositional patterns.

Good luck.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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« Reply #47 on: March 18, 2005, 01:06:20 AM »

so do you think it is possible to get them done by Sept? i already know 8, 14, and have 1 and 4 memorized and am in the polishing stages.
Just to give an idea of my abilities. I memorized 1 over a period of a couple of days and 4 in a couple of hours.

boliver
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« Reply #48 on: March 22, 2005, 11:54:16 PM »

so do you think it is possible to get them done by Sept? i already know 8, 14, and have 1 and 4 memorized and am in the polishing stages.
Just to give an idea of my abilities. I memorized 1 over a period of a couple of days and 4 in a couple of hours.

boliver

By the look of it, you could finish them by next week, so why wait until September? Grin Wink


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« Reply #49 on: March 23, 2005, 01:05:11 PM »


 
By the look of it, you could finish them by next week, so why wait until September? Grin Wink




well September was when I can perform them at school. That is why I thought of that time frame.

boliver
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