Bourree in Em (Bach) | Hub Guitar

Bourree in Em (Bach)

One of the most famous pieces of classical repertoire for the guitar, Bourrée in Em was originally written for the lute, an early fretted instrument similar to the modern guitar.


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Because it was written for an instrument so similar to the guitar, it is particularly well-suited to play on the guitar today. While other music by Bach has been adapted or modified to be playable on the guitar, Bourrée in Em can be played well with no adaptations.


There are many ways to fret given notes; for example, in m2 we have an “E” on fret V of string 2. That could, of course, be played as an open E string on string 1. Give this tune to 10 players and you may well end up with 10 different ways to play it—some smoother than others, but all more or less correct. This is a great example of why it’s very important to learn the guitar fretboard. Doing so will help you to examine each note or chord, and see simultaneously all of the different ways in which it can be played.

Until then, it is best to find one good source to learn from and stick with it.

Key Points

  • There is a mordent written in m7. A mordent is a single hammer-on and pull-off to the higher note. So the 4 hammers on to 5 and pulls back off rapidly.
  • Many learners find this music very hard. But that’s okay. It will continue to slowly mature for months or even years after you learn it. Such is the beauty of learning a skill (guitar) that other people don’t know how to do. After enough years have passed, they can’t even catch up with you.
  • The ending from mm20-24 is exceptionally challenging, especially at a fast tempo. A ritardando is written here, giving you license to slow down. But actually, no such mark was found on the original score, and the ending is played quite fast in concert.


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As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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