Arranger's Corner: La-sol-fa-mi Bassline

This video in the Arranger’s Corner is part of an ongoing “sub-series” that discusses the various issues and obstacles that may lead an arranger to consider making a change to Bach’s original.

Here, we deal with the question of making alterations in a bassline. An arranger may want at times to add or remove a note in the lower register, or change an octave. In the Sonatas and Partitas, that question arises often, and there are different parameters at play in every instance.

Specifically, the video discusses a very common opening bassline for minor-key pieces. As many of us are aware, the bassline that opens the Chaconne is also at play in all the other movements of the Partita in D Minor. But we perhaps are not so aware of just how common that bassline is throughout all the minor-key repertoire, including the other sonatas and partitas in this collection.

For those who have read the performance notes in our edition and may have been curious to know more about how the schemata work in actual music, this video gives several clear examples. We then discuss how we might use this knowledge to inform our decisions as arrangers.