Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to play Bach's Musette

A primer on a very famous piece by Bach

In this video, Robert tackles the famous Musette by Johann Sebastian Bach with a short lesson on how to best approach it.

Released on February 4, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to I'm Robert Estrin, your host.

Today our tips in playing Bach's Musette. This is a very famous piece. The first thing I'm going to do is play it through it for you. I think the first repeat but not the second, but you'll get an idea of this piece, and then I'm going to show you how you can approach playing this piece so it really sparkles.


A delightful little piece of music. What's so great about this group of pieces that was dedicated to Bach's second wife Anna Magdalena is the fact that it's great music, that it's not on a very advanced level, so students who have been playing not that long amount a time can play these little jams. So how do you approach a piece like this? First of all, it's important to note that Bach did not write in phrasing or dynamics, so these are editorial suggestions.

For example, the way I just played it with the fortes and the pianos is very nice and it's very indicative of what would've been done on a two-manual harpsichord. We can go from a louder sound to a quieter sound abruptly, which is the nature of a baroque keyboard dynamics because of the instruments of the time. The harpsichord could not play louder and soft with touch alone, so you used a series of stops in order to change the tone.

You could just as easily reverse the dynamics like this.


It works just as well or you could even do it another way doing phrases twice as long with different dynamics.


In that case I played forte on the repeat of the first theme. There's countless ways you can approach it and that's one of the fun things about playing this music. You have creative license since Bach left it up to the performer how to approach dynamics and phrasing. But let's talk about the technique of how to be able to play this cleanly and precisely because there it really takes that to get the sparkle out of this piece.

Well, the very beginning you have two completely different techniques in your two hands. Your left hand has staccatos which are to be played from the wrist.


At the same time, the right hand is legato.


It's vital that the hands play precisely together which can be difficult on the sixteenth note so you can just play the sixteenth note in the following manner.


Now that might not seem like that much but I would recommend breaking it down even further just to make sure you're landing precisely on the third sixteenth on the right hand, the E.


So when you then play from the beginning you could even stop there.


You must listen for how the hands play together, then you can add the D and have a fluid line.


Do you hear the precision how beautiful that is? If it's sloppy it really loses the whole feeling. Now, the next thing to do is to be able to instantly move the hands over the new position, because they jump around quite a bit. Here's how you can practice that. Play the first section and then be over the next notes without playing them. Watch how this works.


Notice that I'm not just over the F# with the third finger of each hand, but I'm over the following notes as well. So I'm ready to play then.


Now, you can make that hesitation shorter.


And, in fact, even when you play up to speed you must think the hesitation so it gives you that time to be over the keys before you ever play them, because if you try to just fluidly run and land on it you might miss like this.


Well, I didn't miss exactly but it wasn't as clean. Did you hear how it wasn't even in the sixteenths? This is why you want to be instantly over, and this isn't just for this one phrase, it's the entire piece. Practice getting over each section, delineate your sixteenths, make sure the hands are playing precisely together and have fun, experimenting with dynamics and phrasing. You will find that different editors have different suggestions. Come up with your own and see what you like.

I hope this has been helpful, some tips for how to approach Bach's Musette. We'll cover some of the other wonderful works of Bach on this rather elementary level but substantial music in future videos. Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Rick Misterly on December 7, 2015 @12:45 pm PST
Thank you for that tutorial. I picked up this piece very quickly but you have shown me the finer points that I need to work on to perfect it. I will keep watching. Rick
Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on February 4, 2015 @9:58 am PST
I noticed that there was still a bit of hesitation in jumping to the F#'s even in your first rendition of the piece. I've heard other teachers say that it's better to give up playing perfectly in time rather than risk a flub.
Robert - host, on February 5, 2015 @1:35 pm PST
If you clap your hands to the music, you will find that the F-sharps fall squarely on the beat. It is the crisp staccato notes preceding the F-sharps which create the space which is musically pleasing while accommodating the technical requirements of the execution of the music.
Dick Blocher on February 4, 2015 @8:12 am PST
I just love this video, of how to take this a part.We have a tendency to rush through a piece of music just for the sake of playing. Accuracy is Paramount.
C. Phillip Clegg on February 4, 2015 @6:55 am PST
Outstanding! Great teaching instructions.
Rocky Avila * VSM MEMBER * on February 4, 2015 @5:31 am PST
Hi Mr. Estrin,

I'm just thinking loudly. How do you read a musical piece if you are away from your instrument? Do you read using the solfeggio method i.e. do,re,mi.... or c,d,e,f,g.... method? Thanks.

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