Bach Partita in B Flat Video Walkthroughs

Even though they were among the last keyboard suites Bach wrote, the six Partitas, BWV 825–830, appeared from 1726 to 1730 as Clavier-Übung I, the first of Bach’s works to be published under his direction. 

The format follows the typical recipe for a suite, the mandatory allemande–courante–sarabande–gigue framework expanded by the addition of an opening movement, and then the galanteries (chosen by Bach from a pool of optional extra dances) towards the end of each suite. 

The Partita in B flat, the first of the set, is the lightest and most intimate, and to my mind the most charming. The gigue even ends in mid air!

The ABRSM has set the Menuets I and II for Grade 6. They make a beautiful contrasting pair of dances – the first sprightly and elegant, the second more solid and sustained. 

Menuet I

Make sure to add your own dynamics (probably between a range from forte to piano) as well as articulations (a range of touches including legato, staccato, tenuto, leggiero, slurs and short phrasings, etc.). If you look into the score you will discover most of this is implied by the structure of the music – its shapes, designs, modulations, and patterns. Remember there is no one right way of playing this music, but many possibilities.

Menuet II

Menuet II is only 16 bars in length, and thicker in texture than Menuet I. This texture implies a stronger dynamic, more legato cantabile – a more solid approach in general. If you play the repeats (not required in the exam) you might play them softer and more reflectively; experiment too with the left pedal (una corda) on one of the repeats. The soft pedal can be effective in baroque music if used very occasionally on a repeat – not necessarily to change the dynamic but to change the timbre of the sound (akin to a change of registration on the harpsichord). If you use the sustaining pedal for resonance, take care not to blur the shorter notes (quavers) or the appoggiaturas (which must come on the beat, together with the left hand).


The Gigue, currently on the ABRSM Grade 7 syllabus, is unusual among Bach’s gigues – much lighter in texture, and rather delicate in character. The movement requires considerable LH skill in controlling the jumps and shaping the line, and also keeping the RH light and very close to the keys to achieve the right sound. The big G minor cadence in bar 28 might be enhanced with a touch of pedal, and a stronger dynamic. Later, from bar 32 to 40, Bach’s design gives us an opportunity for a long diminuendo to a very soft dynamic. The final phrase begins in bar 41; the most natural way to play it is with a crescendo to the end. Decide whether you want to end strongly, or with a sudden diminuendo through the final bar.


For the Online Academy’s full video walkthoughs, follow these links:

Menuet 1

Menuet 2



Toccata from Bach’s Partita No. 6 in E Minor

The Toccata from Bach’s Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV 830, is a popular choice for piano diplomas. I decided to make a study edition for the fugue and a series of walkthroughs for the whole movement to assist players in their learning of this magnificent music.

Even if you’re not playing this piece, many of the concepts I discuss in these new resources can be applied to other works from this period. The videos also provide a detailed walk-through of a piece that is a perfect example of Bach’s genius in contrapuntal writing, with the subject appearing in different keys and with different textures, creating beautiful variations in its colour.

Learning a Fugue

Much keyboard music is written with the human hand in mind, whereas a fugue is conceived in horizontal lines with each as important as the others. This makes learning and playing a fugue something of a challenge and calls for a great deal of coordination. The process of learning a fugue cannot be hurried and requires a disciplined, step-by-step approach.

One of the methods for learning a fugue which I suggest in my edition is called the “Stepladder”. Instead of learning hands separately, you first learn the individual voices separately and then together in different combinations. For example, in a three voice fugue you’d learn the soprano (S), alto (A) and bass (B) lines separately. Then you’d combine two voices e.g. S & A, A & B and S& B before putting all the voices together. 

To facilitate this process, edition has a version of the fugue written in an open score which makes it easier to read the individual voices:

JS Bach Toccata from Partita in E minor open score


I strongly advise organising a fingering that works for your hand. After some experimentation, write it down and commit to it every time you practise. Eventually the fingering will become automatic, allowing you to concentrate on other aspects of music making and performance. My edition provides some fingering options, but these are only suggestions – feel free to come up with your own (but remember to write them in!).

One of the challenges with playing a fugue is that there are more voices than we have hands. Therefore we need to divide some of the voices (usually the middle voice(s)) between the hands. In addition to my fingering suggestion, I’ve also used different colours to provide some suggestions for hand distribution:

Extract from Toccata

Style & articulation

Bach has left us some slurs in this movement, which of course need to be respected. Elsewhere, as is the case with music from this period, the choice of articulation and other performance details is very much up to the individual performer and there is no one right way of doing it. For example, the head of the subject can either be played legato, or the up-beat quaver (8th note) separated from the quaver pair (which will want to be played slurred):

Articulation ideas for fugue theme

There are some further ideas for articulation, interpretation and realising the ornamentation both in my edition and the accompanying video walk-through. The complete, downloadable version of this edition is available for separate purchase from our store here or as part of a combined bundle of study editions. It is also included with an annual subscription to the Online Academy. Please click here to find out more about subscription options or click here for an index of the videos if you are already a subscriber.

Other Resources for Playing Baroque Music