The Goal: Learning to Play Pachelbel’s Canon in D


A little about Pachelbel

Johann Pachelbel; baptised September 1, 1653 – buried March 9, 1706, was a German Baroque composer, organist and teacher, who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque era.

Pachelbel’s music enjoyed enormous popularity during his lifetime; he had many pupils and his music became a model for the composers of south and central Germany. Today, Pachelbel is best known for the Canon in D, as well as the Chaconne in F minor, the Toccata in E minor for organ, and the Hexachordum Apollinis, a set of keyboard variations.

Pachelbel’s music was influenced by southern German composers, such as Johann Jakob Froberger and Johann Kaspar Kerll, Italians such as Girolamo Frescobaldi and Alessandro Poglietti, French composers, and the composers of the Nuremberg tradition. He preferred a lucid, uncomplicated contrapuntal style that emphasized melodic and harmonic clarity. His music is less virtuosic and less adventurous harmonically than that of Dieterich Buxtehude, although, like Buxtehude, Pachelbel experimented with different ensembles and instrumental combinations in his chamber music and, most importantly, his vocal music, much of which features exceptionally rich instrumentation. Pachelbel explored many variation forms and associated techniques, which manifest themselves in various diverse pieces, from sacred concertos to harpsichord suites.


Alberti Bass on Dm Chord

Keep in mind that Alberti Bass can be used on any chord and it doesn’t matter which inversion of the chord is being played, the sequence is always the same: Lowest, Highest, Middle , Highest. In this example we are breaking down a Dm chord to see how it sounds using Alberti Bass.

Alberti Bass -Dm


Some Chords We’ll Need

This two-measure ending idea uses a descending bass line to connect between the I Chord on beat 1 of the first measure to the V Chord on beat 1 of the second measure.

Alberti Bass -chords for Hungarian Dance


Practice Tips

The chords we are adding are a classic blues sequence, which is very useful to know in as many keys as possible. The breakdown of chords is as follows:

  • Start at a slow tempo and gradually build up speed
  • Practice using Alberti Bass on any chord
  • Listen to composers that use a lot of Alberti bass such as: Mozart, Clementi & Beethoven among many others.