Bach’s famous Bourrée from his first lute suite, better known to guitarists as ‘ Bourrée in E minor’, is an intermediate-level piece often transcribed for classical.

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There has always been discussion concerning harmonic implications in contrapuntal writing. Voice leading in and of itself can be vach to generate interesting music, but without a clear harmonic plan the music will lack direction. Bach is the acknowledged master boruree counterpoint and harmony I will use what I thought would be a fairly simple piece to demonstrate the coexistence of these two musical principles: This is such a well known piece that I think everyone who reads this will know it in some capacity.

My intention is to take a basic two part contrapuntal texture and indicate what I believe are the harmonies implied by the two tones.

Or, if Bach were to compose this piece as a chorale for four voices, what harmony would he use when filling in the inner parts? My analysis shows the implied harmony above the staff using chord symbols with Roman numeral analysis below. The harmonic rhythm is at the quarter-note level or on every beat as would oburree common in most Bach chorales. The level of harmonic complexity in this little piece is staggering.

Bach actually uses all the notes of the chromatic scale within these twenty-four measures generating all kinds of interesting harmonic relationships!

Bourrée in E minor

There are several passages in which three voices are implied: These as well as other measures where skips un in either the melody or bass line imply three part texture. This makes the job of harmonic analysis much easier.


You may notice I did not include the D in measure twenty-one, beat three in my harmonic analysis. I decided to hear it as a chromatic neighbor or chromatic passing tone to the following E and not as part of a G augmented triad, although you could easily make the case for that analysis.

Every altered chord is originally a function of some sort of chromatic voice-leading which becomes acceptable to the ear as a struck dissonance over time. I would like to discuss a few more points of interest. As is common in many binary Baroque dance forms we have the basic key relationships of minor to the relative major and back again to minor.

In this case, E minor moving to G major relative major at the cadence of part one, continuing in G major in part two and returning mnior E minor by the final cadence.

Part one consists mainly of ii-V-i progressions in E minor and G major. Part two is where we really get the harmonic development. There are cadences in two new key areas A minor in measure twelve and B minor in measure sixteen as well as numerous secondary dominants within the passage beginning at the end of measure twelve through twenty. Bach uses a sequential bass line beginning on beat four of measure sixteen through beat one of measure twenty which generates the circle of fifths progression we know well in jazz: Of minorr many of the harmonies I indicated are conjecture on my part since we do not have full chords to work with.

I do think my analysis is accurate and within what would be common practice during this musical period.


BOURRÉE IN E MINOR BWV TAB by Johann Sebastian Bach @

The circle with the diagonal slash indicates a half-diminished seventh chord or, as in jazz, a minor seven flat five chord. In conclusion it is clear that Bach is always thinking harmonically.

It is this perfect marriage bah the linear horizontal and harmonic vertical aspects of the writing that makes his music so successful. Harmonic Implications in Counterpoint: July 01, After spending years harmonically analysing jazz and learning classical guitar before this with little comprehension of harmony, i find this particularly useful.

Suite in E minor, BWV 996 (Bach, Johann Sebastian)

The implied harmony in a two part counterpoint can be so elusive, especially when you have to think stylistically in regards to chord extensions and inversions.

Wouldn’t you perceive the f ‘s in the anacrusis as chord V in 1st inv though? I’m going to play the Bouree at a street fair next week as a clarinet and Eb tuba duet; I was trawling the Google for a chord progression for my boy to strum along with us, this gives me a base to work from. Thank bojrree, and wish us luck. Sign-up Join the email list! Help Support This Site! Now Available as an E-book. Now Available for Purchase. Update Required To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.

Shall We Gather at the River. Influences, 21 Intermediate Etudes.