Concert audience

Bach and Today’s Songwriters – Not So Far Apart

Tonight I have the thrill of conducting a performance of J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion,” so I’ve had my head a little out of songwriting world while concentrating on preparing for that performance.

I’ve mentioned Bach often on this blog in the past. And mostly because the way Bach composed is not that far off from the way today’s good songwriters, who use well-polished instincts, might compose.

  • by using a nice mix of major and minor chords in his progressions;
  • by moving from one key area to another;
  • by writing melodies that make use of a climactic high point;
  • by changing chords frequently in slow pieces, and less frequently in fast ones;

And like many of today’s greatest songwriters, Bach also used his instincts. He was a master of theory, but when it comes to the sheer nuts and bolts of his music, he was guided as much by his ear as he was by anything else.

I’m planning to do a video very soon of how Bach used chords in his music, and I think you’ll be amazed (and hopefully helped) by how his clever mixing of major and minor chords kept his music interesting and creative.

In the meantime, I’d better polish up my baton for tonight’s performance! If you have time to do some non-pop song listening, I’d highly recommend heading over to YouTube and listening to Bach’s St. John Passion. Anything conducted by John Eliot Gardiner will always be excellent, like this one.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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  1. Hi Gary,
    Did you know that the chord progression for Britney’s “Oops…I Did it Again” by Max Martin has a surprisingly baroque sound that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of Bach’s lute suites? Richard Thompson demonstrates this brilliantly in his cover version of the song (skip to 3:23 for the baroque breakdown)

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