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Cello Lessons: Thinking Harmonically

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Bach's music is constructed
on a harmonic foundation.
So even though we have this nice melody.
We wanna be thinking
We wanna be tracking the bass notes, so
that we can be leading to cadences and
we can be leading to dissonances, okay?
So remember, like the five chord
is considered a dissonance.
It's a dominant sound and
it wants to lead back to one.
So the first phrase starts in G,
it starts very relaxed.
But we're growing.
We wanna grow to that fourth bar.
The third bar is C major, and then
the fourth bar is the five chord D major.
So we're gonna grow through
those first four bars.
The fifth phrase is a big D seven harmony.
It starts on the five chord, so
we want to start it big as well.
And then over the course of the next four
bars, we're gonna find our way back to G.
In bar eight, we have our first cadence.
Cadences are a big deal, cadences
are when we go from five to one and
we rest on one.
A cadence is what establishes a key.
So the first eight bars of the movement
establish G major, the one chord.
Okay, and in that arc, bars four, and
bar five are our five chord, and
so we wanna grow to those, and
then we're gonna fall back down in
resolve in bar eight in the G major.
I'll demonstrate.
That kind
of resolve,
relax there
at the end.
You wanna be able to track
these harmonies, and
figure out where are the cadences.
Because we don't wanna rest,
or let the music stop,
until we get to a cadence, okay.
Then next section starts
on a A major harmony,
which is the two chord.
That's actually the five of five.
So D major is our dominant harmony,
the five chord of G,
and A is the five of that.
So hypothetically,
it should be even more emphasized.
And in this whole,
these nine, ten bars that
are gonna finish the first section.
We start on A, five of five and
then right where I stopped.
That's just hanging out on D,
the dominant harmony.
It's called of like a pedal, is when you
hold the harmony under some moving notes.
So the melody there is.
It just walks up.
And so you don't wanna bring out.
You don't wanna bring out the part that
stays the same during that part,
you wanna bring out the moving line.
That upward scale.
And then we're going to cadence for
the second time in this piece on D
at the end of the first section.
It's a big D
major harmony.
All of these Bach suites,
all of the movements in the first one,
they all cadence on the five chord
at the end of the first half.
This is the fundamental way
to create the midway point in
the structure of this movement.
The second half is gonna stay there,
we're gonna stay on the D major harmony.
And it's like in the fifth bar of
the second half, we're gonna start
exploring some other harmonies.
We're gonna kind of go to the E
minor world and basically,
we're getting further and
further away from G major.
We've got some B dominant seven chords and
everything, and
it's gonna be until the ninth or
tenth bar of the second half that we're
gonna finally cadence in E minor, okay?
So we wanna go all the way from
the beginning of the second half,
all the way into that E minor cadence.
This is now the most dissonant point of
the movement so far.
I would say that is that same note,
the third in a B dominant seven chord.
Which leads us to
a resolution in E minor.
So this is actually I would say,
the harmonic high point with
the most tension in this movement.
So you want to really bring this out and
play strongly, and
expressively in this phrase.
We cadence in E minor and
as we go through the rest of the piece
we don't cadence again until
the last bar when we cadence in G.
So there are only four real cadences
in this piece, two per half.
The first cadence is G.
At the end of the first half,
we cadence in D.
In the middle of the second half,
we cadence in E minor.
And then at the end, we cadence in G.
That is the long arc of this piece.
If you can sort of keep the momentum
going until each cadence,
you're going to be able to show
the form of this piece really well.
Sometimes people try and
do too many expressive things,
and you try and over phrase I guess,
and if you over phrase.
It's like there's too
many events that happen.
It's really hard for
a listener to hear the longer form and
the longer phrases that lead us to
these cadences that I'm talking about.
So I'm gonna actually perform
a harmonic backing track
to my original performance of this piece
and I'm gonna to stay in the minuet feel.
I'm gonna play on one, three, one.
And I'm gonna play all of the harmonies
of this piece so you can hear them
isolated away from all of the complexity
of what Bach actually wrote.