Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bach prelude in D Cello Suite 1 BWV 1007 Tablature as played by Li Jie

For years I have been playing this piece on my guitar thinking that I had almost mastered it. Then about a year or so ago I stumbled on some youtube clips of Andres Segovia playing it in a very different arrangement. His version is full of haunting baselines not found in the transcription I was using. Then I witnessed a 14 year old Chinese girl named Li Jie play basically the same arrangement, only better than Segovia. 

I felt cheated of the "real" version of this guitar masterpiece. Of course there is no "real" guitar version, as it was originally written for the cello. But from there on I could get no joy playing my gutted out version of this piece. I proceeded to search all over the net for a transcription to no avail. There are hordes of websites with hundreds of guitar transcriptions but only the version I already played was available. So I put it off for the longest time.

Until this week, when I had a very bad cold and had to stay home from work. 

Not wanting to have to transcribe it myself, I wandered around from one music store to another searching for the paper. I must have found 5 or 6 more versions in books that were just like the skeletal version I knew. 

When I got home, sneezing and miserable, my desire to learn that thing, along with the aid of free time and some Starbucks grande Christmas drip (no room), resulted in the only known internet transcription of this piece available. So Merry Christmas. This is golden (despite my horrible penmanship and inexperience with my new scanner), and was not an easy task from a sketchy youtube recording that can only rewind in 10 second chunks (infuriating!!!). 

I purposely typed the name of it in the header so it would hit a search. I know there are countless people looking for that transcription who settle for the popular version, and maybe don't even realize what they are missing (like me). And since there is almost assuredly at least one note transcribed incorrectly or omitted - it is my own *unique* interpretation :-)

Please just leave a message in the comment section if you want me to email you the music. I cannot figure out a way to enlarge it to size on this blog (any suggestions?). I would be curious to find out how many people are searching like mad the way I did. And if there is another place to get it free on the net, I'd like to know. But at least transcribing it myself I know it is quite accurate (let me know where you disagree). The rhythm notation is, admittedly, totally botched. But as it concerns this piece, it is so uniform (except for 1 or 2 syncopations) that it doesn't matter. Most internet guitar transcriptions are so inaccurate as to be worse than useless, so it always pays to put in the sweat yourself, plus you learn it better while you're doing it. 

Here is what I transcribed:

Below is the Colonal Sanders version- slightly different. I like the Li Jie arrangement better, it is slightly more complex I think.

Note on the fingering: 

Segovia avoids using his ring finger on the top E string and goes from the E to the G string using middle and index. Li Jie uses her ring finger constantly for the top string. I played it like Segovia for years, but now find the Li Jie fingering to be more efficient and easier to control once you get used to it. I have no official training so I don't know which way is "right", if one is right. 


Charles said...

please send it.


Aaron said...

I sent it to your lord of the rings email address. I remember buying the first Bach book at the Rosewood guitar in Seattle that day. You bought a Beattles book and we photocopied and swapped. Still have that stuff.

This is a very doable piece to play passably well. And chances are very few people are learning this version. I don't know why. On classtab they have a version available that even has a link to the Li Jie video next to it. But the tab is missing half the bass notes. You could almost play it with a piccolo.


Aaron said...

Did you get it? I also sent an updated page one.

upinVermont said...


Stand back.

I've been listening to Bach since a was a year old. Literally.

Here's my impression.

She doesn't play the piece nearly as well as Segovia - but this might be a matter of maturity.

She missed some notes and flat out gets some wrong.

She overplays the harmony - overly altering the balance of the piece. Unlike many composers of his day, Bach was *very* fussy about spelling out ornamentation and rarely left harmony to chance (no figured base). And mainly because **no one** was as good at it as he was.

However, Segovia also added harmony (because this piece was for Cello). His additions were more mature & harmonically interesting.

She plays the guitar like Suzuki students play the piano, with enviable proficiency but lacking depth.

Was that too harsh?

Aaron said...

Well, lets face it, many of the harmonies in the guitar arrangement are entirely made up by someone other than Bach. So blame Segovia for originally adding his artists license. His version is almost identical to Jie's version by the notes. Jie has a few areas of different fingering, and truth be told, some of Segovia's hesitations are actually the result of technical difficulties disguised as intentional rhythmic nuances. He was a pioneer but has been eclipsed by modern players. He does this with a lot of his stuff (watch his version of Leyenda compared to Angel Romero's for instance. Segovia changes the whole tempo of the piece because his hands can't change chords fast enoughto keep it true).

I think the closest thing to the original is the simple bare bones version I used to play where everything was as close to the cello as possible.

For the Bach purest, you must be fair and reject both versions.

upinVermont said...

Nah, I'm not a purist. I love arrangements of Bach.

//So blame Segovia for originally adding his artists license. His version is almost identical to Jie's version by the notes.//

The way I wrote that made it sound as if they were playing different realizations. What I meant was that Segovia's harmonies are more interesting for what he emphasizes. Jie overplays the harmonies or, rather, plays the harmonies without nuance.

//truth be told, some of Segovia's hesitations are actually the result of technical difficulties disguised as intentional rhythmic nuances.//

I don't disagree with that. But his performance is superior. Jie's proficiency lacks depth. To me, it's the depth of a performance that makes it better than another.

//He was a pioneer but has been eclipsed by modern players.//

Technically, yes, but not interpretively - in my opinion at least. Schnable's pianistic skill is overshadowed by every recorded modern pianist, but just about every connoisseur of Beethoven Piano Sonatas considers his performances to be the best of them.

//Segovia changes the whole tempo of the piece because his hands can't change chords fast enough to keep it true).//

Right, but interpretively, I question whether he has been equaled. I think the best players in classical have turned away from the guitar and are playing original instruments, like the lute - like Paul O'Dette.

Aaron said...

This all reminds me of conversations with my dad regarding flamenco music. Anything post 1950 flamenco guitar is counterfeit, including all Paco de Lucia and his modern copy cats (pdl is over 70y.o. now).

My dad still thinks that Sabicas is better than PDL. This is similar to saying Segovia is better than Li Jie. And he uses the same line "PDL has better technique but Sabicas has more passion".

My dad has never heard more than 5 minutes of PDL in his life.

I do agree that the chinese instructor trains the students to be like robots in a way. I still love Sabicas and Segovia for their own styles, and partly because there is something warm and human about hearing the odd fret buzz and overly struck note which indicate the emotion of the player (it also makes me feel less useless as a guitarist to hear the occasional "error").

upinVermont said...

Do you have a crush on Li Jie?

If you do, I'll take it all back.

Aaron said...

No, I'm not about to get all prophet Mohammed on Li Jing. She's too old for me now anyways- 27.

Now here's a question for the ages.... if Li Jing and Segovia were stylistically similar in bed as they are at guitar, what would it look like?

My post doesn't hit any searches. This means two things- 1. There are all sorts of transcriptions all over the internet of this piece that simply don't hit searches and 2. search engines still aren't that great because I can't find any of them.

Aaron said...

OMG did i really type "Li jing" instead of "Li jie"? I have dishonored the almighty and must pay with penance.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in your tabulature. Please send it to

cbra3 said...

If had the same trouble as you trying to find this arrangement! Ive loved this piece for years, never being able to find the score for it. Please forward it to

Thanks in advance!

Anonymous said...

I am interested in your tabulature. Please send it to

Anonymous said...

Hi. I am interested in the arrangement, pls forward to
thank you

Deepak said...

I would really like your tablature please.
My email is:

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for that arrangiament too, please email me the music at

Renato said...

Please send me the arrangement, would you mind?

Anonymous said...

I've been working on the same thing (with only limited success), and came across your blog. Would you be willing to send me your transcription?

Marçal said...

hi! i have been seaching hard for the Li Jin version in internet.

could you send me this scores?
thank you very much

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I left this more than once(I don't usually leave comments on blogs). I'd love to get a copy of this. If the quality of the image is good enough I can try making a pdf of it and send it back to you. Thanks. Email:

Anonymous said...

i would love a copy too if possible...i was watching the video of Li Jie playing it..which is why i looked for the tab :)

Anonymous said...

id like a copy of your work. yes, figuring out your own tab is very rewarding, but, sometimes a wheel doesnt need reinventing. thanks.