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About Bach's Teaching; from a TQP level 7 workbook.

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

Preludium is a little prelude, an opening, an introduction or a preparation, a sign of things to come.

This prelude is one of a small selection of preludes that Bach would have used with his students. (Catalogue BWV 939-943).

Can you imagine having Mr Bach as your piano teacher? We have some insight into Mr Bach as a teacher from biography of J.S. Bach written by Johann Nikolaus Forkel. This gives an account of how Bach taught the Clavier for the piano had not yet been invented.

Lessons started with a back to basics approach, which implies a certain amount of experience was expected before lessons commenced.

To quote from page 84 of Forkel's book

"First of all let me show how he taught the Clavier.

To begin with, his pupils were made to acquire the special touch of which I have already spoken.

To that end for months together he made them practise nothing but simple exercises for the fingers of both hands, at the same time emphasising the need for clearness and distinctness.

He kept them at these exercises for from six to twelve months, unless he found his pupils losing heart, in which case he so far met them as to write short studies which incorporated a particular exercise.

Of this kind are the Six Little Preludes for Beginners, and the Fifteen Two-part Inventions, both of which Bach wrote during the lesson for a particular pupil and afterwards improved into beautiful and expressive compositions. Besides this finger practice, either in regular exercises or in pieces composed for the purpose, Bach introduced his pupils to the use of the various ornaments in both hands.

Not until this stage was reached did Bach allow his pupils to practise his own larger works, so admirably calculated, as he knew, to develop their powers."

Bach taught and played the clavier, harpsichord, violin and pipe organ.

The clavier is similar to a piano as it has the keys grouped the same. Most instruments had a range of four octaves, like a small keyboard of today. Additionally Bach played the Harpsichord which had more than one keyboard and a range of approximately five octaves.

They sounded different as the strings were plucked with a quill, a modern piano strikes the strings with a small hammer.

A trio showing a harpsichord and other period instruments.

Available from this link

Passage from Level 7 Knowledge workbook on BWV939. Available from

This prelude is a grade 3 piece. If you would like to learn to play it please message the page.



Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)

Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher

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