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Lesson notes

The Canon In D by Johann Pachelbel is one of the most popular and widely recognized compositions from the last 500 years. Pachelbel was a German musician who predated J.S. Bach by a generation in the mid- late Baroque period. A canon is one of the most strict and complex forms of composition that exists, requiring the composer to construct a melody that can be played in multiple voices and blend with each other where each voice is following each other, playing the exact same melody. It is a bit like an endless round. Pacelbel's Canon In D was originally written for three violins to carry the melody over a basso continuo part which outlined the harmony. This part could be played on a harpsichord, cello, or even a lute. It follows a simple chord progression that can be broken down into 8 equal units with regular changes. In the key of D Major, the chord progression is D - A - Bm - F#m - G - D - G - A. The original score started with the bass introducing the progression, then Violin I starting the melody, followed by Violin II and Violin III each one series behind. Due to the nature of the original composition, an accurate and complete solo guitar arrangement is impossible. Many pieces of the original melody lend themselves very well to a guitar transcription, and keeping the harmony with chords and bass notes is manageable. However, the three voices played in counterpoint on a six-string guitar with only two hands has led to many guitarists of varying levels creating their own arrangements with a huge range of accuracy and difficulty. Hector Garcia's arrangement is done in Dropped D Tuning (DADGBE)and features the opening chord progression and a dozen or so variations on the melody, ranging from Level 4 to Level 8. We encourage guitar students to tackle this masterpiece in small chunks, the equivalent of 4-measure sections in this arrangement.