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Midi file of Bach Bourree Listen to Midi file of Bach Bourree

Bach, Bourree in Em, BWV996

Study Notes

This famous Bourree in E minor was written by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) and comes from his Lute Suite BWV 996. It is currently a grade 6 classical guitar exam piece for the ABRSM.

The Bourree was originally a dance of French origin, and was imported into some of the later Baroque suites as an additional movement between the stately Sarabande and the lively final Gigue. Sometimes a Gavotte, Passapied or Minuet would be included at this point instead of a Bourree. These pieces were known as galanteries, and would sometimes appear in a pair, e.g. Gavottes I and II or Minuets I and II.

This particular Bourree is written in two parts, i.e. a top line and a bass part, with each part having a strong melody line. As with all contrapuntal guitar music I'd suggest playing each line separately to get a clear picture of each part. On recombining the two parts it will then be easier to hear and bring out the two melodic lines.

At grade 6 level you should certainly be able to damp open string bass notes in order to make sure that they don't ring out longer than their intended duration. A prime example of this is the bottom E on the first crotchet in bar 1. Unless this is damped after being played it will ring out for the whole of the first bar and create a muddy sound.

The technique for damping the open string is as follows:
  1. Play the low E with the right hand thumb.
  2. Now play the second crotchet A in the bass with the right hand thumb.
  3. Immediately after playing the A bring the right hand thumb to rest on the low E to stop it sounding.
Note that it's only after you play the second bass note that go back and damp the first note with your right hand thumb. It's generally not a good idea to use your left hand digits purely for damping strings as it impedes their movement. But note that the open A string on the second crotchet beat doesn't need to be damped as it stops sounding as soon as we play the 3rd crotchet B in the bass. Here the damping is a by-product of the left hand simply playing another note on the same string, and is of course perfectly acceptable.

I'll shortly be adding an MP3 audio recording in place of the midi file for this piece.

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