Top 10 Reasons Every Musician Should Practice Bach

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Johann Sebastian BachI would find it difficult to pick one composer to call my favorite. I love the way Mozart’s music glistens and the intensity of Tchaikovsky. I can get lost in the emotion of Ravel and revel in the clarity of John Field. But on most days, if I had to pick just one, I would pick Johann Sebastian Bach.

I never tire of listening to his music, to the mind-bending complexity of a fugue or the overwhelming emotion in a slow movement. Or the ingenious voicing of a chorale. Or the breadth of the St. Matthew Passion.

And I never tire of playing his music either. Yes, I know he never wrote for harp, but I wouldn’t want to be banned from playing his music on that kind of technicality. There’s so much I learn from his music whenever I attempt to play it.

And here are my top ten reasons that I think you should put some Bach in your practice rotation:

10. It’s been transcribed for every instrument,  so you have no excuse. Here’s banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck’s version of the famous E Major Prelude.

9. It is a technique builder. The intricacy of Bach’s music will develop your control. In Bach’s music, more than any other, your fingers are the servants of the music.

8. Bach’s music is excellent for studying melody. Following Bach’s phrases and articulating them well is good training for any musician.

7. Need a refresher course on harmony? Bach’s harmonic structure and chord progression techniques are essentially a textbook for harmony study.

6. Bach’s music is essential repertoire for musical literacy. If you don’t know it, you should.

5. You will develop your agility and speed. Those Allegro movements may take a lot of work, but they come with a big bonus for your technique.

4. Develop your tone. Bach’s music isn’t all pyrotechnics. The seemingly endless melodic lines of his slow movements are a wonderful way to display your beautiful sound – or work on your sound, if you need.

3. Bach’s chorales are not only the ultimate examples of four part vocal writing, but they are the best way to train yourself to hear more than one part at a time. This is a useful skill if you perform with others, or play two parts at a time, or actually for any musician.

2. It’s required! Many auditions or competitions require a movement of Bach as part of the competition repertoire. Why? See reasons 3 through 10 above…

And now for the number one reason you should practice Bach…

1. It is sublime music. There’s nothing else to say!

What is your favorite Bach piece to play or listen to?

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  • Jan Karman

    Dear Anne,

    All points being open doors, there’s one that struck me: #7.
    “7. Need a refresher course on harmony? Bach’s harmonic structure and chord progression techniques are essentially a textbook for harmony study.”
    Proof: O Mensch, bewein dein’ Sünden groß, from the Orgelbüchlein.
    Are we talking chord progression?

    Thanks, Anne!
    Jan Karman


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