Beginnings for beginners: A pedagogy for starting a prelude

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This article presents a method for guiding students in the beginning phase of prelude composition, advancing them to the point where the opening gesture is complete and the rest of the prelude can proceed by maintaining the momentum already acquired. This teaching strategy focuses on the notion of what I term the quadruple gambit, a type of opening gesture often employed by Bach. Each gambit (opening move) is quadruple in its evenly timed presentation of four harmonic stages-stable, unstable, unstable, stable-forming either an underlying harmonic circuit of I-IV(or II)-V(or VII)-I or a harmonic shuttle of I-V(or VII)-V(or VII)-I. The harmonic categories of the circuit and shuttle combine with bass-line categories of pedal, clausula, and cadence to create idiomatic gambits for students to deploy in their compositions. In the first half of this article, I define the characteristics of this type of beginning and give multiple examples. In the second half, I demonstrate how instructors can help students emulate these gestures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-265
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Music


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