Pachelbel's "Canon In D" is not just a very popular tune. It has been arranged for a wide variety of instruments and groups of instruments. Orchestras, bands, chamber groups, choirs... the famous canon works well in any arrangement and any setting. For a single performer, though, the piano is probably the best choice (though and argument could be made for the organ).
This piece provides an excellent study for the piano student. The variations offer helpful work in rhythms, melodic voicing, and harmonic progressions.
The transcription provided here is good for any pianist from mid-intermediate level up through advanced. The variations range from extremely easy to slightly difficult, with each variation adding to the diversity and interest of the piece.
This piece is simply a repeating chord progression which allows for an infinite number of variations, thus making it a nice piece for composition as well. Learn the chord progression first, and memorization will be easier.
The chord progression:
D A Bm F#m G D G A.
In the version included here, the 14 phrases are the 14 variations. To learn it, you should work one phrase at a time. First, learn and memorize the right hand part, then the left hand part, and then put them together.
As demonstrated in the video, you should start very slow when you first put the hands together, and then work your way gradually up to faster tempos.
(In the video, I jump quickly from slow tempo, to medium, to fast. You should work up more gradually, advancing up the metronome dial one or two clicks at a time.)
As you learn each variation, you can start stringing them together until you can play the entire piece. Of course, the ultimate goal is to be able to play every variation smoothly, with a steady and flowing tempo. Since some of the variations are easier than others, it will be tempting to go faster on the easy ones, slower on the harder ones. So your best bet is to set your final tempo using the hardest variations. Over time, you will find that your piano skills will improve and you will be able to take tempos that originally might have seemed impossible.
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For more information on the history of this music, click here.
A guide to building a solid and complete piano-playing foundation.