Tips, Techniques, Examples about my favorite musical instrument, the Twelve-String Guitar.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

BWV999 - Bach Lute Prelude

BWV999 is the catalog index for a short and simple Lute prelude composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. The original was in Cm and the only way we know about it is from a contemporaneous copy done by Kellner which you can see here.

It makes a nice piece for the 12-string, if you enjoy fingerpicking. You can use the usual guitar transcription, which changes the key to Dm. Here's a version.

The piece has two voices: an arpeggiated upper voice countered with a lower voice that leads each chord change. The upper voice is played entirely on the top three courses. If you play these with 'ima' fingers (classical guitarists abbreviations for index finger, middle finger, and ring, or annular, finger), the 12-string responds with the harp like sounds, the 'i' striking the 3rd course tends to de-emphasize the higher octave string. The thumb (p for classical guitarists) is used for the descending lower voice, and this tends to emphasize the octave chord sound of the lower courses. The same right hand pattern is repeated each measure almost unchanged throughout the piece. The pattern I am used to using, using classical guitar notation, is

pima mimi pipi

Thanks to Youtube, I watched a video of Segovia playing this piece, and he played it almost twice as fast as I did. This brought out the bass line very nicely, so I decided to speed my version up. After a week or so I realized the mimi for the second quarter of each measure was too difficult for me. A member of suggested some alternates, including mpmi, which is what I settled on. This gives the piece a curious effect on the 12-string, and I'm not sure yet if I like it. The thumb hits the 3rd course quickly followed by the index finger for the same note. This gives the piece a syncopated feel that I'm sure Bach didn't intend, but it does sound like something Leo Kottke might have written, and that's not bad,

But then Bach did encourage experimentation. He might have liked it. Here's a snippet.

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