I’ve been talking a little about Figured Bass in the last couple lessons, now I’d like to share something special: A Guide to Figured Bass written by J.S. Bach. It’s a brief introduction to the art, which was widely practiced during the Baroque era of Music as a system of musical shorthand and a basic structure for both improvisation and composition.
The Four Part Chorale Harmonizations are short pieces which show what a fully realized bass line could sound like in Bach’s Hands. There are hundreds of them and they are fantastic for sight reading and the study of Harmony. Pick one at random and try it out!
For a more complete understanding of Figured Bass, look for the Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, by C.P.E. Bach. The combined knowledge of keyboard technique and musical harmony, improvised accompaniment and solo fantasia playing, by the most talented musical son of J.S. Bach, developed from his studies with his father. This is the closest that we have to understanding the musical teachings of the Great Bach, and gives us a glimpse into both his keyboard style and creative process. Mozart knew this work and Beethoven used it for his studies and for teaching music as well.
Here is the Original, in German. Part one is mostly about keyboard technique and fingerings for scales, passagework and embellishments. Part two is about harmony and the figured bass. Unfortunately I don’t have the English translation in digital form, but the musical examples are numerous and excellent!