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ive often heard that bach is good for jazz piano so i thought it time.  i opened my copy of anthology for musical analysis and the first piece i turned to by the composer (probably because it is one of the pieces i analyzed as student 30 years ago and so had been brutally opened to the page) was invention no. 4 in d minor, bwv 775.  it seems like something fun to work on but i do have a question or two.  

there are no fingerings in this book of course as its not a piano book.  how important is it that i use a specific fingering for the work?  should i go get something with fingering?  i simply checked the fingering for d- and started with that but am working out my own as i go.  is this a problem?

and, is this a good starting point for bach by a guy with just a couple of years of part-time piano behind him (mostly jazz of course)?  reasons and suggestions most welcome.
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fingering is essential for playing bach. otherwise you will get tangled up quite quickly. however, you can finger the work yourself of course. but its quicker to get a version which has fingering. note that fingering is also a personal issue to some extent. bach didn't write any suggestions above his notes!

you should also check the "kleine praluden und fughetten", if i am writing that down correctly.
my post won't help you in term of "the right fingering for bach's pieces", but if you're considering getting into this music (to understand the parallel with jazz music), i suggest you to listen closely to jacques loussier's music ("play bach" album), where he turned bach's music into jazz compositions of his own, which is very interessant.

i take the opportunity to mention the following link, where you can find 211 free scores (public domain) from jsb.

invention no. 4  bwv 775 you are mentioning is number 157 in the list, and if you open the pdf file there's one flat at the key.
note that there is also the midi file, so that you have an idea of what it should sound like.
it seems that most of the stuff from that site actually originates from mutopia (
i find correct fingering essential for bach particularly.  i also like invention number 13.  i believe that the jacques loussier trio recorded this one, among others.  i remember it capturing my imagination as he played it.

i can recommend schirmer's library of musical classics vol 1512. bach fifteen two-part inventions for the piano (busoni).  this is or used to be distributed by the hal leonard publishing corporation, printed in the usa.
i can recomment the three short books by rosalyn tureck called an introduction to the performance of bach, it has some useful info on fingering phrasing and dynamics amongst other things.  also have you heard the goldberg variations by glenn gould, he's an interesting pianist!
glenn gould was certainly one of a kind.  the goldberg variations are great listening.
i have the rosalyn tureck book too, but i'm not sure how helpful it would be for someone just learning to play bach.

kai's book suggestion is right-on!  it think it even has fingerings.
yes it does and very helpful.
great suggestions all.  thanks much.  i'll follow-up.
i only recommend two minor scales:
ascending form of melodic minor  and the dorian  
(dorian is just mode of the major scale and so is aeloian minor)

like mark levine, i do not play the harmonic minor scale.
i think you would be much better of practing charlie parker for piano than bach.
yeah, i don't really understand the emphasis on bach for jazz players.  i know some bass players are really into it.
most jazz piano music is not contrapuntal in nature, although some players like to go in that direction -- i noticed dave peck most recently.  
personally, i haven't played any bach since i escaped from the c.u. college of music in 1982.
you know, i don't expect to go very far with it but i do like the music so don't mind taking that particular advise.  i've never been able to play any classical and wouldn't mind if it doesn't detract from my main passion.

jazz+ - your statement is noted with interest.  i do now play the "modes scale exercise" from the levine book so my fingers are getting comfortable starting a major scale from anywhere.  i'm also beginning to do major scales in intervals (a 10th apart).  i read a statement by mark sabatella (or maybe attributed to him - it was on a different forum) that players really don't need to study and learn patterns ... beyond the major scales.  someday i'll find out what he meant.
i think charlie parker stuff would make some interesting piano etudes.  in both hands, too, not just the right.
sdm, this thread pushed me to re-listen (that's what i'm doing right now and thanks btw) to jacques loussier's trio "play bach ...and more" live from st thomas's church in leipzig, and my ... it's great !! you love jazz and jsb, you must buy that dvd !!
cynbad, would you just do the same line in the left hand?  i agree that the cp stuff is very good for technique and makes a good study (and i do have the omnibook) but i'm also looking for something that works the hand "independence" (they aren't of course -- coordination would be a better term).

jmderay -- can you give me the exact name of the dvd?  i'm not getting many good hits.  thanks.
sdm, just for grins i would play the melody line in the lh and shell (or other) voicings in the rh.

i practice things like that.
then again, you could play the melody line in both hands at the same time.
hand independence? walk bass and solo at the same time. be sure to lay your right hand about 100 miliseconds in time behind your left hand.
to do, no question.  i need something that will work me up to it however.  i have a ways (on dark days a long ways) to go.

good advice of course about melody in lh or both (i've done some of that and will do more)

and thanks, jmderay - i just couldn't get it to come up.

all said, i still want to learn some bach.  likes it i do.
intriguing stuff jmderay i can see why you recommend it.  ive put him on my wish list.
yes, intriguing stuff, you said it ! it seems like you are listening to 2 mixed cd's at the same time, with classical and jazz "fusioning".
it's strange indeed !
nevertheless, it doesn't bring you much about fingering when playing bach, how do you finally manage this aspect ??
so far just working them out on my own.  i'll be downtown this weekend -- maybe i'll look for some music with fingering suggestions.
just so you know, bach is a diverson from learning jazz piano. i love bach's music, but it is of no use for my development as a jazz pianist. it requires a lot of time learning bach...
i totally agree with jazz+. playing bach as it 'should' be played required lots of time and effort. listen to the recordings by ivo pogerelich. the distinction between the contrapunctual lines is amazing in his playing. this is very very hard to accomplish. as with all classical music, just playing the notes means you're not even half way there!
i am organist and i cannot stress how important fingering is!! it is essectial...i have done this many times before..tranposing classical bach into theatre organ and pinao items. try bach's prelude and fugue in d minor bmv554. you also mya be very interested in a compsoer called lefebure-wely he pushed the boundries of traditional classical music and is quite amazing definatly check him out!
while many of bach's fugues are, i imagine, beyond the reach of many who don't really have the inclination to spend a year or two (or however long it may take) mastering the very particular technique required, there are many preludes (e.g., from the well-tempered clavier) and movements from the french suites, the partitas, and elsewhere which can be played fairly easily.  minuets, sarabandes, gigues -- dance music which can be played pretty easily, and even sight-read.

i think musicians sometimes used to claim study of bach is helpful for playing jazz for several reasons, including:

(a) an earlier generation (bud powell, elmo hope) were exposed to classical music as children, and were therefore familiar with bach's music

(b) the emphasis in bach's music on developing quality *lines* is an obvious parallel to any sort of jazz.

(c) use of harmonic minor as a major component of linear harmony has direct parallels to bebop lines, which wouldn't really exist as we know it without the full exploitation of the harmonic minor scale in that particular style of jazz.

(d) many of bach's compositions were expressly intended as aids to the teaching of harmony and other components of composition, in addition to their having been exploited, even by bach himself, as exercises for the development of correct technique at the keyboard.  (of course, these exercises are much more interesting than hanon.)

(e) bach is without doubt the most influential composer in the western tradition -- i'd imagine it would be impossible to fully grasp debussy, chopin, bartok, stravinsky, scriabin, ravel, and other composers who regularly are featured in jazz compositions and harmony without first understanding the core principles of major/minor harmony.  since, i imagine, not many of the early beboppers formally studied music theory, but may have studied bach as part of their piano lessons, it would follow that at least some of the basic framework of harmonic structure was either absorbed by a kind of osmosis, or directly studied.

(f) similar to (e), but given that an educated person is going to know at least something about bach's music, it was probably important to the beboppers to attempt both to legitimize their own efforts by drawing upon a common source and to exploit the hand-in-hand relationship between academia and bohemia that existed fairly uniquely in some circles in the 1940s and 1950s.  a lot of these guys did consider themselves to be reflective thinkers of a certain kind, as well as artists -- it would have been an important cultural touchstone to attempt to relate one's own innovations to what came before in music, both in terms of one's own self-respect, and in the desire to communicate more clearly with random people on the street, in lofts, in the clubs, and, of course, among themselves.

(g)  it's just plain good music.  like eskimo p**sy, hnnnga, real good, good for you, good for me.
besides all the wonderful reasons that other people have given to listen to bach, i can think of some more.

bach's harmonies have much more tension (especially in his later work) than in work to come for many years after him (probably not until late romantic).  he also changes keys very frequently...he sometimes even writes melodic fragments that require several changes of key to fit smoothly into the harmonic structures of the time.

the effect is not unlike a lot of the classic jazz tunes in which the chords change into different keys, in alignment with interesting and unexpected twists in the melodic line.

i especially recommend looking at the "art of the fugue", "musical offering", and "well-tempered klavier"...these are mostly counterpoint works that have extraordinarily complex harmonic development, usually constructed from very simple themes.

also, bach has an absolutely wonderful sense of musical humour that, although very subtle, is not unlike that of jazz pianists like thelonious monk.  bach cleverly resuses melodic, harmonic, and even rhythmic material in cleverly disguised ways, and although he is working within a very strict structure, he seems to always be pushing the bounds in other ways.

it's also interesting to look at bach in historical context and see how incredibly radical he was.  before bach, pieces were written in a handful of keys, and were relatively tame harmonically.  bach started writing pieces in all keys, he started freely modulating into keys with stranger relationships to the key in question, using all twelve notes in melodic material, using more harmonic tension with suspended notes and pedal tones (creating what sounds much like jazz chords).  some of his pieces are extraordinarily dissonant, the melodic lines can be very chromatic and have unusual jumps.

and most amazing, he did this while sticking to very strict and complex structural forms, like the's the perfect balance.

it's interesting how bach's stuff lends itself to jazz too...the harmonic structure is perfect for it.  have you ever heard the song "bach's lunch"?  it's a takes the fugue in c minor from the wtc book 1, and turns it into a little jazz tune...once you hear it, it'll sound so natural to play that piece that way...
in my very personal opinion, bach is the greatest genius in music.

speaking about bach-jazz i was in a concert of french pianist jacques
loussier in 70's in a barroque church in mexico... then i was feeling myself in heaven. he has some excellent records.  
jmderay mentions him in his post (upwards).

in albetan's area i wrote a post about how swings bach.

i suggest some nice sites to hear bach's master works:
good midis in harpsichord
look for bach... all the works...
midis, mp3, sheet music, general info...
general info...

good luck and enjoy bach's music.
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