What Is a Gavotte?

Gavotte is coming along.  It’s a very long song for me – 8 lines that repeat and repeat and repeat.  Consider that each letter below represents two lines of music.  Here’s the pattern of Gavotte:


For some reason section B does not repeat until a D.C. repeat, but all of the rest of the sections do, and then the D.C. repeats section A again and then section B.

Memorizing it has been a challenge – there are large intervals, where I have to land on a note far away from the note I just played, and, for me, those moments are the most challenging to “hear,” and to stick into my memory.  There are also many times when the notes are to be played staccato, and many times when they are not, so keeping that straight is a chore.  So far I have memorized only the A and B sections, C is coming along, and D is just terrible.

A Gavotte is a dance, in split or 4/4 time.  Recall from my post on rhythm that most dances are based on a rhythmic pattern.  Wikipedia offers this one for a Gavotte:


The most notable feature is that the dance begins in the middle of the measure, so you see two quarter notes leading to beginning dance beat, the up-beat.  But Wikipedia notes that “Later composers, particularly in the 19th century, wrote gavottes that began like the 16th-century gavotte on the downbeat rather than on the half-measure upbeat. The famous Gavotte in D by Gossec  is such an example.”  And, of course, that’s precisely the Gavotte I’m playing.  I have to be honest and say that I do not understand what I just wrote; I truly have a long way to go to get to a basic understanding of rhythm.

Gavottes were standard components of French balls from the Renaissance on into the 19th century, where guests apparently expected a certain running order of dances.  It all sounds so perfectly proscribed and civil.

I have just ordered Suzuki Book 2, which is exciting, but I’m pretty sure Teacher will agree that I need at least one more week to tidy up this Gavotte before moving on. 

Thanks for reading.



  1. […] One is still my obsession.  It’s Gavotte, by Gossec – soon Book Two will bring me two more gavottes by two different composers and I’ll have to start distinguishing them, but for now I just have […]

  2. […] Bourree is a dance, similar to a Gavotte. Suzuki Book Two includes a song called Bourree by Handel, and sources it to “Flute Sonata, […]

  3. […] especially interesting in the context of learning my third gavotte.  The rhythmic profile is what makes a gavotte a gavotte; I need to focus on the beat more, and on making the notes as long or as short as they need to be, […]

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