Playing Bach on the Piano as a Beginning Pianist

As someone new to the piano, you might be wondering how long it will be before you can play meaningful music.  The good news is that there is a lot of great music out there for beginning pianists.  In fact, one of the most talented composers of all time, J.S. Bach wrote some very accessible pieces.  Other composers such as Mozart, Hayden, Beethoven, Schumann, and Bartok also wrote music that is both interesting and playable in the early stages of learning to play the piano.  

Can Beginning Pianists Play Bach?

Yes, beginning pianists can play Bach!  Bach wrote some music that can be played early on in learning the piano.  While the fundamentals of music and piano must be learned first, some of the easier pieces by Bach can be learned once this foundation is in place.  Before trying to play Bach on the piano, you should be comfortable reading music on the grand staff (bass clef and treble clef together) and playing with both hands at the same time.  You should also have a working knowledge of the basics of rhythm and piano technique, and you should understand and be familiar with key signatures and time signatures.


What Are the Easiest Bach Pieces to Learn?

Pieces from the Notebook for Anna Magdelena Bach

Some of the easiest pieces that are associated with J.S. Bach and his musical family are found in the Notebook for Anna Magdelena Bach.  Although many of these pieces are thought to have been composed by family members, family friends, or local musicians rather than by Bach himself, there are some really great pieces in this collection that are much easier to play than those composed by Bach himself.  Some of these pieces are very well-known and have been studied by many beginning piano students over the years.  They include the following:

Minuet in G Major (BWV Anh. 114), Chr. Petzold

This piece has a very famous melody that has been learned by many piano students.  The right hand does most of the more difficult work, and the left hand plays a more supportive background role.  This piece is thought to have been composed by Christian Petzold, the court organist at the time in Dresden, Germany.

Minuet in G Minor (BWV Anh. 115), Chr. Petzold

This is another minuet similar to the above minuet in G major.  It’s a bit more difficult, though, as it involves more sharps and flats.

Musette (BWV Anh. 126)

This musette is another famous piece that’s really charming.  It’s not too difficult because the left hand plays a lot of octaves in a steady rhythm while the right hand plays the melody.

Interesting Read: How To Know if Your Child is Ready For Piano Lessons

Easy-to-Play Piano Pieces by J.S. Bach

There are a number of pieces written by Bach that can be learned by beginning pianists.  Although they are generally more difficult than those listed above, they can still be learned by beginners and are among the least difficult pieces written by Bach.  Some of the easiest Bach pieces include the following:

Prelude in C Major from the Well-Tempered Klavier (BWV 846).  

This is a really beautiful and famous piece.  While it requires the student to be able to read music across a large range in the treble and bass clefs, there is a consistent rhythmic pattern throughout the piece that makes it very approachable. 

Minuet from French Suite No. 6 (BWV 817)

This piece is a bit shorter than the prelude.  One thing that students might find challenging is that it’s written in the key of E major, which has 4 sharps.  Other than that, though, it’s a nice little piece that’s not too difficult.  There are also a number of additional minuets and other relatively easy pieces throughout the French Suites.

Gavotte II (Musette) from English Suite No. 3 (BWV 808)

This is a very short piece that can be learned by a beginning pianist.  It’s written in the key of G major, which only has one sharp.  The left hand mostly plays a supportive role, and the right hand plays a melody in the treble clef.  This piece has a low G that’s written to be held throughout long sections of the piece.  Because of this long note, it’s likely that this piece was written for the organ, which can sustain notes for long periods without the notes dying off.  When playing this piece on the piano, though, the student can repeat this low G periodically so as to keep the sound going throughout the piece.  Students may also want to experiment with using the sostenuto pedal to sustain this note if their piano has one.

Little Prelude in C Major (BWV 939)

This piece is also pretty short.  The focus of the piece shifts back and forth between the left and right hands.  There are some ornaments near the end of the piece that can be left out to make the piece a bit easier, or they can be included for more of a challenge.

Playing Bach is Possible for Beginning Pianists

If you’re just starting out at the piano, you should start with learning the fundamentals like music theory and reading music, especially if you’re interested in learning to play classical music at the piano.  Once you have a foundation in place, you can move on to playing some of the easier Bach pieces listed above or other easy classical pieces.  It’s always best to work with a qualified teacher when learning to play the piano.  At Florence Phillips Music Studio, our piano lessons in West Chester, PA will help you structure your practice and make incredible progress. Please get in touch for a trial lesson.