Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why Transcribe? We look at a Bach Cello Suite.

Bach's First Cello Suite in D

One of the best exercises for the guitarist is to transcribe pieces penned for other instruments into guitar renditions. Why is this so beneficial?  Well, we often play music specifically composed for our instrument and these pieces are written guitaristically.  The composer knows the limits of the instrument -- or at least what he or she feels are the limits -- and then crafts a melody that fits these preconceived notions.  Limits and constraint are the result. 

Taking a piece written for the piano (like Albeniz' material) or the piece we will be exploring -- Bach's First Suite for unaccompanied cello -- means we are forced to think outside the parameters we expect and get used to with guitar-specific pieces.  Wit the Bach piece, we are forced to put ourselves into Bach's mind and determine what harmonies he was implying with double stops on the cello -- very few complete chords, but much implied, subtle and sublime harmonies can be heard.  Whenever you are attempting a transcription, it is necessary that you not only have a benchmark edition of the piece specifically for the original instrument, but it is also a blessing to have a resource that shows the composer's original edition -- like the Bach Gesellschaft.  In the case of the Bach, numerous editions as well as Gesellschaft facsimiles are available.  What I've done here is reproduced my transcription of the Sarabande of the First Cello Suite.  You will note that there are harmonies that could not be played on the cello -- just try a six-note chord.

[Download .pdf file]

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