Since my recent BWV 556 Mini Course was so popular among my subscribers, I decided to create one more mini course, this time on playing one of my favorite chorale preludes by Johann Sebastian Bach - Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 731 (Blessed Jesus, We Are Here). I know organists who call this composition the Good Luck Chorale. It‘s true – whenever I choose to include it in my recital, everything goes super well.
This mini course will be a text-based course as was the Prelude Improvisation Mini Course. So let‘s get busy and start learning this fantastic piece. If you follow my directions each day precisely, in just 7 days you will have this composition ready to play in public.
Here is the free score of this piece which you can download now. This is how this piece should sound:
Before we attempt to practice this piece, let‘s take a look at how this piece is put together. In other words, you have to analyze the structure of this chorale prelude. If you do this right before practicing, the entire learning process will be so much faster and you will know this piece on a very deep level.
The form of this choral prelude is the notorious BAR form. This structure is dictated by the melody of the Lutheran chorale. In general, the BAR form follows this principle: Stollen (section A which is later repeated with a different text) and Abgesang (section B). So the general scheme would be A A B.
After having looked at the form of this piece, now let’s practice the first fragment of this piece – measures 1 and 2. The first thing you have to do before actually playing the chorale prelude is to think about the fingering and pedaling.
There are several rules for fingering and pedaling of such music:
1. Avoid finger substitutions.
2. Whenever possible avoid putting the thumb on the sharp keys.
3. Avoid using heels in the pedals.
4. Use alternate toe pedaling in ascending and descending lines.
5. Use the same foot when the melody changes direction and in larger note values.
Now let’s take a look at Fragment 1 - measures 1 and 2 (ending on the downbeat of measure 3). I recommend practicing in a very slow tempo by subdividing the beats in this 4/4 meter. A very powerful way to get the rhythm straight is to count out loud the beats and actually subdivide them by saying “one and two and three and four and”.
Also keep in mind that articulation should not be legato but the so-called Ordinary Touch – articulate legato. This means you should create small spaces between each of the notes – even in the middle voices which are the most difficult to notice and achieve.
So keeping all the above in mind take the following steps when practicing this fragment:
Step 1: Practice solo voices separately (soprano - S, alto - A, tenor - T, bass - B).
Step 2: Practice 6 combinations of two voices (SA, ST, SB, AT, AB, TB).
Step 3: Practice 4 combinations of three voices (SAT, SAB, STB, ATB).
Step 4: Practice all four parts together (SATB).
The three ornaments in this fragment are mordents and should be performed starting on the beat from the main note by playing three pitches – main note, lower neighbor, and the main note.
As you practice each step, aim for at least 3 correct repetitions in a row. For the best results, try not to skip any combination because each of them takes you closer to the mastery of this beautiful chorale prelude one step at a time.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my free video Organ Practice Guide.
Or if you want to learn to improvise in the style of Bach? If so, I suggest you check out my free 9 day mini course in Keyboard Prelude Improvisation.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.