What’s a Canon, Again?

I continue to practice Pachelbel’s Canon in D daily – it’s really fun for me to play.  Though I’ve always found the piece to be beautiful, I’ve never worn it out for myself (I think others have, but they are not in my living room!).  I need plenty of practice with the whole thing, but the final section of my arrangement breaks the rhythm of the first two sections and I’m struggling a bit to get it right.   The finale also involves a shift to third position to get a high D on the E-string, something I’ve never done before outside of position shifting exercises, so that’s quite fun.  The violin is a treble instrument!

According to Wikipedia, in music, “a canon is a contrapuntal compositional technique or texture that employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a given duration.”  I feel like that’s pretty simple and I feel a little ignorant for not knowing what canon meant for so long, especially since Pachelbel’s is such an archetype.  But nobody tells you at the age of five that Row, Row, Row Your Boat is a canon!  The repeating and overlapping pieces of music do not have to be identical to each other – so while all rounds are canons not all canons are rounds.

Also, while Pachelbel’s Canon in D is, naturally, a canon, I cannot, technically speaking, play a canon. I can only play my part of one.  A canon by definition involves more than one melody line.  So I need to find accompaniment that works for me.  I’ve listened to a few on YouTube, but the arrangement that I’m playing from is not precisely the same as any of them.  As I get better at it, this is the sort of piece where improvisation around someone else’s work is quite possible – probably as easy as improvisation gets.  The melodies are repetitious enough that I might be able to pull it off playing by ear before too long.  Regardless of my level of success, it will be educational to try.

In the meantime, I’m having a lot of fun playing my part of what could eventually be a canon!

Thanks for reading.


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