Bach to the Future

Every once in a while, I post a recording of myself playing the piano.  Today is one of those days!  Please excuse the crappy recording quality, I have no recording/mixing tools (or skills!).  I have been working on the C Minor Prelude from the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier, by J.S. Bach.  Whenever I know that I’m being recorded, I inevitably make mistakes that never occur when playing sans audience.  I know there must be some analogy involving a tree falling down or Heisenberg here…

Anyways, if would like to hear what my musician alter ego has been up to recently… wtc-book1-cminor-prelude

If you like that piece and would like to see one crazy-talented person play it on two electric guitars…  click here

14 Responses to Bach to the Future

  1. Tom says:

    Awesome! It’s been awhile since I’ve heard this, and it’s wonderful to hear a human playing it. You’ve really inspired me to try playing this – at least the beginning. Thank you.

  2. Josh Smith says:

    That’s great, Tom! I’m glad you liked my performance, too. 8)

    What do you mean by “it’s wonderful to hear a human playing it?” Do you listen to robot pianists?! 😀


  3. Tom says:

    Sort of. 🙂 I guess usually when I listen to this kind of music, it’s been either sequenced or played with such cold precision that it might as well have been sequenced. Don’t get me wrong, sequences can be very useful and there are some talented sequencers out there who do great work. But it can be striking to hear the human touch. It’s like there’s a sweet spot of imperfection that can only come naturally.

    By the way, I know what you mean about how being conscious of recording can affect your playing. I play on a MIDI keyboard and try to record myself occasionally. I’ve been toying with the idea of recording “by default” to lessen the effect and/or get lucky and catch a particularly good take, but I haven’t really tried it out yet.

  4. Josh Smith says:

    I see what you mean, Tom. Thanks for clearing that up.

    To help me overcome the “recording syndrome” I put a little statue of J.S. Bach on my piano, so that I always feel like the Master himself is listening. Not sure if it actually works, though… 😀

  5. greghazzard says:

    thank you Josh. I needed that break as I hang by my fingertips on the climbing wall of WPF……. and “Take Five” by ZakKim as well?
    From xamDataCarousel to C Minor Prelude . Bravo!

  6. Josh Smith says:

    Nice find, Greg! Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  7. jake Gest says:

    Sounds great!It’s nice to hear other people working on some Bach. Is that at full tempo? I know some of the pieces I am working on are beyond human when it comes to tempo and I have yet to get them much above 3/4 the tempo notated. Also kudos on posting a recording, I have yet to muster up the courage for that one. You sound awesome.

  8. Josh Smith says:

    Thanks a lot, Jake. I appreciate the kind words.

    Regarding tempo: there is no “correct” tempo for most of Bach’s music. He very rarely indicated a tempo, and never put precise metronomic markings. Actually, the metronome was not invented until 1812, and metronomic indicators weren’t introduced until Beethoven started using them. So, the correct tempo of Bach is forever a mystery, though his contemporaries said that he enjoyed playing fast.


  9. Mike Strobel says:

    Most impressive. If only I’d listened to my mother and not quit playing when I was younger…

  10. Josh Smith says:

    Thanks Mike.

  11. Wow! very impressive Josh! Playing music instrumements is a nice hobby.

    I myself play a little bit guitar (mostly self-taught) and understand exactly what you mean when said: “Whenever I know that I’m being recorded, I inevitably make mistakes that never occur when playing sans audience”

    I tried sooo many times to just record one song completely without mistakes but have never managed it . It is somewhat called “performance effect” 😀

  12. Tom says:

    Well, I spent some time this weekend working on the first section before the change in pattern (up to the 65 second mark in your MP3). It was really satisfying. I can do the left and right hands separately with speed, accuracy and no hesitation. However, putting them together is a whole different story. It really breaks my lock on the melody and I have to think too much about where to reposition my fingers after each short section (set of 16 notes). I wonder, is it a mistake to start by focusing on one hand at a time when learning a piece like this?

  13. Josh Smith says:


    I find that starting hands along is usually the best option. However, instead of playing the whole first page or so at a time, play one or two measures (always ending on the first note of the next measure). Do each hand in small chunks like that, and then just combine them for one measure. Repeat each hand alone at least three times, each time increasing the speed a little. I find that is the best way to quickly learn and memorize a piece because it seems to be the way my brain-hand connection is most easily influenced.


  14. Tom says:

    Thank you for the advice, Josh. With some practice as you recommended, playing both hands together has become fairly easy. Now I just need to work on timing, relaxing my hands, and learning the next section of the piece after that 65 second mark.

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