Every guitarist should learn to play a little Bach. Considered one of the greatest composers of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) defines the Baroque style, and his contrapuntal and motivic writing was revolutionary at the time.
Bach wrote the “Minuet in D Minor” as part of a collection of compositions known as Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. Originally written for harpsichord, the piece has been frequently transcribed for guitar, and I first came across it arranged in dropped-D tuning. I began experimenting with this DADGAD arrangement for a workshop titled “Classical Guitar for Steel-String Players” that I taught at the 2011 Healdsburg Guitar Festival.
I discovered that while DADGAD didn’t really free up any more useful open strings (as alternate tunings often do), the tuning did allow for more economy of motion, leading to a more fluid sound that works well with the added sustain of a steel-string guitar.
If you’re used to more pattern-based fingerstyle techniques, this will be a good introduction to developing greater finger freedom. This arrangement leans heavily on the contrasting melody and bass lines, with just enough harmony thrown in (as in measures 3, 5, and 11) to give a sense of Bach’s magic. It isn’t meant to be the ultimate in accurate readings of the piece, but it is a fun introduction to Bach’s works that’s playable without much classical training—and enjoyable to listen to!
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine and was reprinted in the September/October 2020 issue.
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