A Study of Fugue, part 1

Best to just jump right in I suppose, though with just a slight bit of caution.

This is the first post in what I hope will be an on going analysis of the E Major Fugue in 4 voices from J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, book 2. This could could wind up being a lengthy series of posts either because of the unbelievable amount of information in this fugue, or because I suspect there might be a few mis-steps along the way that might need to be addressed again later. Fugues have been a growing fascination of mine for the past few years, and perhaps pulling one apart and really focusing on the details might help to put some of the uncertainties and ambiguities to rest.


The E Major Fugue begins with a very simple 5-note subject in the bass. The subject is answered first in the tenor voice at the 5th, then answered again at the octave in the alto voice. The subject appears in the fourth and final soprano voice, again at the 5th. The exposition is complete after the introduction of all four voices, followed by a brief 2-measure codetta that modulates to the dominant key and into the first episode.


More will be said about the countersubjects later.

A quick note about differences in publications of this fugue: The score that the I use above to illustrate the analysis of the exposition shows the time signature as cut time. However, looking at the sum of the notes within the measures, it’s clear that it doesn’t quite add up.

My first source for the fugue in E Major is a Schirmer edition of the complete WTC , Book 2, which has the time signature indicated with two cut time symbols, shown below. This makes sense based on the notation, which could also be written as 2:1 or 4:2.


And below, another scan from an unknown source. I quite like this one, the common time symbol with two lines to indicate a 4:2 or 4:1 meter.


The image below is an autograph score credited to Anna Magdalena, which simply includes cut time to indicate the meter. Also interesting is the use of C Clef on the treble staff, the order and manner of notating the key signature (six #s including octaves), and the way Bass Clef is drawn.


The next post will look at the first episode of the E Major Fugue, which has moved into the dominant key and includes the voices appearing in stretto.


Country Child: Prelude in D Major

Yes, another video. Yes, another prelude.

Truth be told, the reason for posting another low quality video is the faintest hope that a reader/listener/viewer may be curious enough to download the sheet music to play themselves; but I don’t know, maybe that’s just too much to hope for. I’ve been considering only making music in printed form from now on, as if it’s not difficult enough to get recorded music heard, so why not make it even more inaccessible. Well, here it is:

download-icon     Download/view the sheet music for Country Child.

A much higher quality and effected version can be heard on Human Once.

Prelude in E Major

Most of the music I’ve written for piano over the past few years has been based on three recurring ideas: 1) repetition, in regards to both notation and mechanics; 2) symmetry, in varying degrees; and 3) a minimal tonal range of the instrument, though not harmonically minimal, arguably.  The Prelude in E Major is a reasonable example:

download-icon     Download/view the sheet music for Prelude in E Major

I’ve included fingerings in the printed music, which are nothing more than suggestions; others may find more suitable solutions. As well, there are no dynamic markings; those decisions may be made at the performer’s discretion. And while there are repeat signs for every bar, the repeats may be ignored or bars can be repeated as many times as the performer prefers.

This prelude can also be heard in a lengthier and effected manner on Human Once.

Phase 1, complete.

Big day today, with the piano finally back in one piece and playable again. The most time-consuming part of the work done over the past few weeks was definitely the key tops, but it was necessary and worth the effort and frustrations.


There are other issues that will need to be addressed soon. The new damper felts, particularly those on the trichords, are not completely leaving the strings when a key is pressed, causing partial muting for a handful of keys. This is going to mean taking out the action and adjusting the damper spoons so that the felts clear the strings completely, as they do when the pedal is used.

This isn’t really a big deal, but there are some other minor adjustments that need to be made to the let-off of the hammers as well and so I’ve decided it would be best to handle all of these things at the same time, and at a later date.

The down side of working on a spinet is that the action is all located below the keys, hence the name ‘drop-action’, and requires the removal of the entire mechanism in order to make any of these adjustments. On a vertical piano, the action is above the keys and so most of these types of adjustments can be made without the extra work of removing the action bracket as a whole piece.

For now, I’m just glad to have an instrument to practice on again; the next round of repairs can wait.

Days away.

If things go as planned, the piano will be back in playing shape within a few days. There were some unexpected delays over past month that left the piano out of commission longer than had been expected.

Since the key tops were stained beyond all possibility of cleaning, I decided somewhat hastily to go ahead and replace them during this first round of repairs. Overall this was a good decision, but filing down the the replacement tops to fit was time consuming to say the least.


It can seem overwhelming when thinking about doing any work on a piano, that most anything that gets done is likely going to be done 88 more times, more or less, depending on the task. In the case of replacing the white key tops, only 52 times, but still daunting and tedious.


The dampers shown below had become largely useless, many of the strings continuing to ring even after returning to a sounding string.


The full set of dampers were replaced, including the treble dampers shown below.


The action is back in place and I’m now in the process of returning the keys as they’re finished. Most of the hard work on the key tops has already been done, with mostly some clean-up left to do getting the edges right.