Prelude to Bach cello suite in G major

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by deanobg, May 9, 2001.

  1. Hi guys and gals

    I'm trying to learn the prelude for the Bach cello suite in G major (from the Libster's website

    My question is - at bar 20 there is a low C# - but I have a 4-string bass. Should i be playing up til this point an octave up to allow me to go down to the C# or do i play a normal C#??

    At the moment for example bar 1 starts on G - which i'm playing on the E string at 3rd fret - should i be playing this on the A string at 10th fret?

    Thanks for your help

  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I always play that one an octave up, with the first note being the G on the A string. BUt, I play a 6 and the upper notes in the piece are well withing range....
  3. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    The bass is a transposing ("transposer"?-"Transpositional"?) instrument. This is, the notes sound one octave lower than written. This is not the case of the cello (it sounds the same as written), so you should play the entire piece one octave higher if you want it to sound as it's supposed to do. This is what John Patitucci does in his first instructional video with his six-string. :)
  4. Play the entire thing an octave higher, or transpose it to a different key.
  5. Thanks guys - I'll move up an octave then.

  6. I've been working on the 1st Suite for a while. I recorded this a while ago. I can play it much better now.

    For more Bach, you can go to

    These are my first attempts at recording Bach and I wasn't that happy with the results so I decided to wait until I was good enough to play them better. Getting close! I'll be sure to let you guys know when I have some new recordings up.

    - Dave
  7. Berme


    May 11, 2001
    I also play a 6-string, but i play this piece with the first G at E string, third fret. I think it may sound better one octave higher but, for example, how do you play the ascending chromatic lick near the end, where you have to use the open D-string? Hope you understand what i mean.
  8. Berme


    May 11, 2001
    sorry, another thing, where can i obtain partitures (tablatures better, i don't read music very well) of the other cello suites?
  9. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    The chromatic lick alternating with the D? I just fret the D, and each other note. D the with my index finger and the other notes with the other 3. The exception is the G in that lick, which I barre.

    Hope that's clear.

    As far as tabs, I don't know. The Bach is excellent for learning to read music, tho, as the rhythms are relatively easy.

    Good luck
  10. BaroqueBass


    Jul 8, 2000
    Salem, OR
    Actually it's wonderfully easy to play on a 4-string, without transposing, so long as you have 24 frets.

    Kinda like

  11. Zjarrett


    Sep 17, 2000
    i assume on the mp3 that was posted that you're tapping out the line correct? or are you playing open strings and fretting up high....very impressed either way =)
  12. Nope, no tapping. I'm playing the open D and an open A for those pedals near the end. The open A is an octave lower than written which changes the sound somewhat but is more in keeping with the spirit of the piece since that A was meant to be played on an open string. I remember having a discussion about that with the Libster. It was my assertion that the sequence with the alternating A near the end was actually two voices interweaved. One voice played the pedal A and the other played the melody.

    - Dave
  13. That kind of multiple voice thing, pedal points and counterpoints etc., are everywhere in the suites. That's one of the things that makes them so incredible.

    Have you tried playing the A at the correct pitch, sounding it as a harmonic at the twelfth fret of the A string? I believe that will give it the textural quality you want while maintaining the integrity of the line, which should take precedence over anything. And while we're being analytical, the D is the pedal, not the A. Beginning four bars from the end you have G major triadic arpeggios with D in the bass on beats one and three. On beats one and three of the next measure you have A7 with D in the bass. Then, to wrap things up, the bar before the end is D7, with D still in the bass, resolving to the Gmajor chord in the last bar. If you play the A down an octave the arpeggios are pretty much destroyed.
  14. Yes! Definitely. Sometimes it isn't obvious when a single melodic line can be phrased to make it more contrapuntal. That is one of the things that makes these works so intriguing. I am always discovering new phrasings that emphasize different counterpoints in the single line passages.

    I haven't tried the harmonic. I have tried just fretting the note which works but doesn't give me a difference in tonal quality between the unisons that give the line the contrapuntal feel. Perhaps I'll try the harmonic sometime.

    I don't think that is necessarily the case when playing a transcription for another instrument. There are numerous examples in Bach's own transcriptions where he has changed the octave of a pedal or voice to be more in keeping with the technical capabilities of an instrument. I am quite confident that Bach would have agreed with my decision to play that pedal on the open A since it was an open string that was intended.

    I play the arpeggios in the cadence as-written. Imediately prior to those arpeggios is the section with the D pedal. Prior to that is a section that has an A pedal. It is that A that I play an octave lower.

    Check out measures 31-36:

    ( from )

    You can see that every other note is an A which was undoubtedly meant to be played on the open A string. Likewise, in measures 37-38, the D is meant to be played on an open string. My change is to measures 31-36 where I play that A an octave lower. It emphasizes the fact that there are really two intertwining lines there. It also lets me play the melody of the primary line such that the notes ring longer than their notated value. Similarly for the pedal line. I also believe that this is what was intended and it is how I hear it played in the recorded versions I have.

    Here's the clip again.

    - Dave
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I've got to disagree about one thing here. The open A has to be the same pitch as the stopped A. That's why playing it an octave up makes so much sense. I use the 14th fret on the G string and the 9th on the C string. This gives true pitch and the change in tambre required to show the counterpoint in the line. This is also how Patitucci played it on his recording of the piece. I think the open A an octave lower makes it to abrupt.

    Course that's just my opinion.
  16. If you're playing the whole piece an octave higher, then definitely. In the 6th suite there is an E pedal section which I play in that manner. However, I play the work an octave lower as written ( which is normally how bass is read from bass clef anyway ) so stretching from the 12th fret on the A string to the 7th fret on the D string isn't very easy for me. I tried playing it that way and it was just too painful and difficult to play well.

    I think that playing the A an octave lower is fine. There are many places in the solo violin and cello works where there are unisons that can't be played properly and where dropping one of the unisons an octave works out very nicely. It is a better alternative then dropping one of the voices altogether. Or, in this case, playing the same string and fret for both voices.

    Remember, if Bach was doing the transcription, he would make many many more changes so dropping a note an octave is really a trivial change.

    Try comparing the 3rd Solo Violin partita to the Lute Suite in E minor or similarly for the 5th Cello Suite and the Lute Suite in G minor. Or even more drastic, the keyboard transcriptions of the 2nd Violin Sonata and the Adagio from the 3rd Sonata.

    Philip Hii has written up something about Bach's method of transcription at:

    - Dave
  17. It would have never occured to me those were the bars you were referring to.

    I'm not familiar with the examples of Bach changing octaves to suit a note. I am however very familiar with bass transcriptions of music written for other instruments. In my experience preference has always gone to maintaining the integrity of the line and sacrificing the textural nuance you're talking about. I think it's the much lesser of two evils. The other option would be to play it in a different key that gives you the open stings you want, or tune your bass differently. With a light or possibly a medium-light guage string, you could tune the first sting up to A.
  18. I used to tune my C string down to an A but found that in convenient so I then moved to playing that A an octave lower which I liked better than any of the alternatives. Technically, the lower A has a harmonic component an octave higher so it is really kinda like I'm just adding an extra note in addition to the normal note. :D

    I have studied Bach's music and his transcriptions for a while now and dropping a pedal an octave is nothing compared to some of the things he has done when moving a piece to a new instrument. He will often drop a voice an octave or even add a completely new voice to a piece. He will always add more notes if the new instrument is capable of playing more notes. He even added an entire orchestra to the Preludio of the 3rd Violin Partita. I don't think he would think that my change hurt the piece any.

    For what it's worth, that is the only change I make in that piece. For the 6th Suite, I do another octave drop of a unison A in the beginning of the suite. Although, I have experimented with playing the same A but picking it differently so it sounds like a different voice. I haven't decided how I want to approach that one yet.

    - Dave
  19. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Actually, Bach frequently wrote outside the range of the instruments available during his time, viz. keyboard and lute stuff. It almost seems like he was anticipating the development of new instruments...
  20. I read the article you pointed to in your other post, and I see two problems with how your using it to support your position. First, what Bach did with those pieces cited is really more recomposition than transcription. Secondly, the purpose of the recomposition was, one, to make the piece more idiomatic for the instrument, and two, to update the work to reflect his own development as a composer. It's been a few years since I read it, but I believe Albert Schweitzer made reference to this in his two volume biography of Bach and study of his music.

    I've been studying the third suite on db for about two years. The question of changing the register of something has never come up.

    As a footnote: you mention the sixth suite, did you know that was written for a 5-stringed cello of Bach's own invention?