Getting Started
with Bach

The Minuets is G major and G minor are a good starting point for anyone wishing to play Bach’s music. They appeared in the 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. This caused them to be originally attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, it is now generally accepted that they were composed by Christian Petzold. Each minuet can be played as a standalone piece. You may also combine them to make a longer piece; start with the minuet in G major followed by the minuet in G minor, and finish with the minuet in G major again. 

When playing Bach, the golden rule is play the conjunct (or step-wise) notes legato and the other notes in a detached style; not quite staccato, just a slight shortening of each note. This also means that at times you may be playing legato with one hand while the other hand plays in a detached style. The ornamentations in Bach’s music add a distinctive style. Practice them from the beginning. Note the difference between the trills and the mordents which have a line through them. The trills use the note above, while the mordants use the note below.

These minuets sound wonderful on the pipe organ even though they were composed for the harpsichord. The sheet music below provides an example of how they can be adapted for pipe organ. It is useful to think of the minuets as a dialog between the treble and bass parts; for example, the sequences of quavers in the bass appear to imitate the preceding melody in the treble. The idea of a dialog between two parts can be emphasised by playing one part on the great and the other on the swell. Choose a complementary yet contrasting registration, for example, an 8' flute sound on the great (such as Clarabella, Stopped Diapason, Hohl Flute, etc.) with a combination of strings and flutes on the swell. Use the swell pedal to adjust the volume so that great and swell complement each other.

The dialogue effect is further enhanced by switching between great and swell for repeated sections. The repeated sections can be made more interesting by varying the timing and articulation. Adding additional ornamentations is also an option. This technique is demonstrated in this arrangement where a few extra ornamentations are included.

These minuets provide an opportunity to express yourself through the phrasing, articulation and registration that you choose. Take the time to experiment and discover what is possible with stops available on your pipe organ. Have fun trying different combinations to identify what works best for you. Play with confidence and intention. Your congregation will appreciate your efforts.