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#109: Why Other Musicians Study Bach And Why Harpists Should Too

music and meaning Jun 19, 2023

Yes, this episode is about Bach, the Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach. I know some of you are thinking this is a waste of a podcast episode, that you are never going to play any music by Bach and since he didn’t write any music for harp anyway, this couldn’t possibly be relevant to your harp playing.

Let me tell you, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Bach may not have written anything for harp, but his influence is felt by every composer and musician since his time. You probably know that French composer Charles Gounod wrote his beautiful Ave Maria melody as a vocal addition to Bach’s Prelude in C. But perhaps you didn’t know that the trumpet solo on the Beatles song “Penny Lane” came about after Paul McCartney heard trumpeter Dave Mason performing the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, the same concerto which is featured in the movie The Island of Doctor Moreau. Other movies featuring the music of Bach range from Disney’s Fantasia to the Godfather to Master and Commander and Boogie Nights.

But Bach’s music is more than just amazing music. It is also a music theory education, a technical proving ground and a time-honored model for crafting a melody. You may associate Bach’s music more with vast quantities of notes rather than melody, but discovering the basic yet profound musical principles embodied in Bach’s compositions can change the way you understand all of the music you play. I know it did for me.

Obviously, I won’t be able to uncover all the layers in Bach’s music on this podcast. What I want to do is to talk about what is meaningful to us as harpists and musicians. We’ll clarify some of the musical terms that are associated with Bach and I’ll show you how you can use his music to better understand chords, phrasing, flow, to develop your fingering technique, and to grow as a musician. Plus, we’ll talk about which Bach pieces might be ideal for you to add to your repertoire or at least your practice list.

I also have some facts and stories about Bach that you can include in program notes or repeat to impress your friends with your amazing musical knowledge. 

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected] 


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