Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Bach


QUESTION: Is Bach (and other baroque composers) only supposed to be play with straight eights? Would it be too jazzy if you started to go too much into swing eight notes? Is bach only to be play with straight eights and a straight tempo (rubato forbiden)?

ANSWER: Hello Anders, and thanks for being patient.

Jazz is essentially a 20th century genre so you cannot apply its conventions to music of previous periods.  Tempo rubato was occasionally found within the Classical era but became prevalent in the Romantic era, so again, you cannot apply its conventions to Baroque music.

Baroque music must be played at an unvarying tempo all the way through except when you're approaching the final cadence, when you might want to rallentando. Throughout most of Europe it was played exactly as written, so if the score says equal quavers then that's exactly what you play.  The only exception was in France, where under certain conditions (and strict rules) you could subtly lengthen the first of a pair of notes during some passagework.  But all variations of tempo had to sound natural and the French horror of "bad taste" meant you used the effect sparingly.  You certainly didn't bounce along swinging.

Hope this helps.          

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I've been playing minuets on the piano. BWV anh. 114 and KV2. It seems that if go to the urtext editions there are no ornaments or dynamics in the sheet music. It seems like you're supposed to know that allready (but I don't). I  know that the minuet is a dance in 3/4. So I try to play it so that it sound like you should dance to it. I've heard that when you play it as solo keyboard it is played a bit different from how it woud sound if people were actually dancing. What can you say about this? and would you use the same dynamics for KV2 as for BWV anh. 114 even though they were written by two different composers.

Hello again Anders, and thanks for being patient.

If you haven't already, get onto Youtube and watch a minuet being danced. is a fun one to start with, but watch a few of them (I searched for "minuet dance performance"). That gives you the characteristics of the dance - controlled, elegant, graceful, with that feeling of six beats to a phrase.  Dance movements in an instrumental suite are meant to be listened to rather than danced to, so the music can be slightly more elaborate and the movement consequently needs to be taken a fraction slower.

As for dynamics, of course you need to put them in.  Have you tried singing through the pieces?  If not, you should, with every new piece you learn.  Singing the melody aloud and listening to yourself enables you to think about phrasing and dynamics without the complication of playing your instrument.  You'll find, for example, that it's almost impossible to sing bars 5-6 of the Mozart without crescendoing - imagine you're a flautist playing it.

Hope this helps.  

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


58 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 43 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 46 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 21 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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