Air on the G String by Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the most famous pieces of the Baroque period and remains extremely popular amongst performers and audiences to this day.
Air on the G String Piano Arrangement
The piece is the second movement of five from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major (BWV 1068). The movements are Overture, Air, Gavottes I and II, Bourrée and Gigue.
This arrangement for easy piano is in C major, has a slow tempo and has a fairly simple right hand part – as a result, it should be accessible for most pianists who have been learning the instrument for a period of time.
There are some trills which need to be played and so an understanding of what these are and how they should be tackled will be helpful. It may be helpful to look at the lesson on ornamentation, which covers trills.
The left hand of the piano plays a walking bass line which is a characteristic of the Baroque period. Careful attention will need to be given to the fingering in this left hand part to be able to play the line smoothly and with shape.
The 5th finger and the thumb will need to be used repeatedly for the octave leaps.
Analysis of Air on the G
In Johann Sebastian Bach’s original score the Air is played on the strings and continuo without the other orchestral instruments included in other movements (wind and timpani).
It is surprisingly short for a piece of such high standing in the Western Classical tradition – it is only 36 bars in length!
The name Air on the G String derives from the fact that the piece can be played entirely on the G string of a violin when it is played in C major. This makes it an excellent piece for trainee violinists to learn.
The name was first used by August Wilhelmj in 1871 when he arranged the piece in C major (Bach’s original is in D major).
The structure is binary form. There is an A section lasting 12 bars (which is repeated) followed by a B section of 24 bars.