Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Baroque


I am now learning Musette:
It's kind of difficult for me to understand what is happening even if I can play it. What is happening in the first bar? All I can say is that it's a D chord. The same things is repetaed twice. What do you say?
I also played BWV anh. 114. I tried playing with the same dynmics as written in the sheet music I find. It is said that you should do the dynamics different after the repeat (at least in baroque keyboard music). How do you find out what new dynamics to play? Or do you play the same dynamics again?

Dear Hank,

Thanks for contacting me again. Heavens! It's a long time since I saw this piece! First, let's look at the title, because it gives a a clue to what it's all about. The word "musette" can refer to either a simple reed instrument (a bit like an oboe), or can refer to a French bagpipe type of instrument. It also can mean a dance associated with the bagpipe. As you may know, the early bagpipe was used for simple folk dance and its sound consisted of the melody, which was also very simple supported by a single sustained bass note called the drone.

Look at the bass part in the Bach piece and you'll see the note D in the bass in bars 1 and 2 then again in bars 5 and 6. Look through the piece and you'll see the same approach used. So Bach has based this piece on the idea of a simple bagpipe dance tune. If this were played on a bagpipe, there would have been a single sustained note in the bass but that simply wouldn't work on Bach's harpsichord, so he made it sound more rhythmic by writing quavers.

Remember we are talking about a dance melody here, which nearly always use repeated phrases because they are easier to remember for both musicians and dancers. Bach has simply taken a traditional country dance and converted it into a more sophisticated piece for keyboard.

In the melody of bar 1, we get a phrase which is actually the first 5 notes of the D major scale played in reverse. And yes, you're right - the harmony in that bar is D major. In bar 2, in typical dance style, it repeats. In bar 3 and 4 we have a contrasting answering phrase which starts by moving upwards, thereby giving a bit of contrast with bar 1 and 2. Bach avoids repetition in the bass part by writing the part in harmony a third below. Being a dance, it should be played rhythmically and in a lively manner, with accents on the beat in the bass part.

Bar 9 has the start of a contrasting section with a different tune derived from the notes in bar 3. However, from Bar 13 to 20, Bach develops this simply country dance into something more sophisticated before the main tune returns at bar 21. I'd guess that in performance, there should be a slight pause at bar 20 before the main tune comes back - this will create a bit of tension.

As to BWV Anh. 114, the Minuet in G, I don't know what edition you have but if there are dynamics marked they have been added by the editor, not by Bach himself. The fact is that on the harpsichord, very little dynamic variation is possible. However, if you are using a piano, you may as well take advantage of the wide range of dynamics. But playing Bach, no one will worry too much if you don't. I would suggest that you make your own decision. You could for example, play the 1st sixteen bars (up to repeat sign) forte, but then play the first 8 bars of the repeat softly and in bar 9 of the repeat start a slow crescendo that finishes forte in bar 16. Bar 17 really needs a change of dynamic, but it's very much up to you.

Anyway, I hope these  ideas help you with these two pieces.

Best wishes


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Dr Colin


I can answer questions from students of "classical" composing, arranging, notation problems and music theory, writing for instruments and voice and writing music for education. I can answer questions about orchestration but I do not cover questions about pop or rock music, pop song writing or electronic music.

I taught for many years in UK up to "A" level theory and composition. I have spent many years in music education, initially (like everyone else) as a teacher. Then I moved on to advisory work (teaching teachers!) and also lectured, giving many workshops for teachers in developing music education skills and techniques. For a time I worked as a teacher-lecturer at London University's Institute of Education and eventually worked full-time as a Music Education Adviser to schools in part of London, offering advice on music education and curriculum development.


I started composing music at the age 14 (it was mostly rubbish, since you asked) and now have a large number of compositions to credit as well as many publications, especially for instrumental music and choral music. I have also written several acclaimed works for large orchestra and choir. My work has been published particularly in the UK (under different names)(notably by Boosey & Hawkes, Novello, and Schott) but also in the USA and the Netherlands.

My music for elementary players (several publications) has been performed and broadcast worldwide. I am now retired from my previous job as Music Education Adviser. These days I spend most of my time composing and arranging. I am currently working on instrumental arrangements of world national anthems for my National Anthems website and also completing a suite of very easy piano solos and duets for elementary players. For many years I have used the music program "Finale" for all my music writing activities.

International Society for Music Education; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

"The Times" Educational Supplement; "Hi-Fi News and Record Review". For several years, I used to write for many of the state music education periodicals in the US and I also wrote several influential articles on instrumental music teaching for "Music Teacher" magazine in the UK. (UK).

PhD(Hons); MA(Hons); FLCM (compositon) ARCM, LMusTCL,(music diplomas)

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