Pachelbel, Johann – Canon in D

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Commonly called “Pachelbel’s Canon,” this guitar song is perfect as wedding music, background guitar music, or for any occasion. This version has been transcribed to the key of C so it is easy classical guitar music.



Pachelbel, Johann - Canon in D - Guitar Arrangement in Notation and TABs

German composer Johann Pachelbel was born in Nuremberg, Germany. He was born in August of 1653 and is one of the most important composers of the Baroque music era.  His place in musical history has been cemented by his most famous work, “Canon in D.”  This is more commonly known as “Pachelbel’s Canon.”

Johann Pachelbel was a brilliant child, excelling in academics. And also a gifted organist, and later, a teacher.  He studied music in his hometown and spent time in the great city of Vienna, Austria.

Vienna was a musical center at the time. Soon it would be home to other great composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn.  And it was here, at the beginning of the C19th, that the great guitarist Mauro Giuliani astonished audiences with his virtuosity.

Johann Pachelbel and his music were popular during his time. Though like many composers, he became more obscure after his death in 1706.

He composed “Canon in D” at some point between 1680 and 1690.  No one knows the exact date.  The piece Canon and Gigue in D.“  But it has become known as ”Canon in D."  Some musicologists think he may have written it to be played at the of one of his friends.

The “Canon in D Craze” seems to have started in 1968. This was most likely due to a recording by French conductor Jean-François Paillard.  The piece was obscure for some time before that recording.  After Paillard’s recording, the piece featured in movies, TV, and radio, and became a classic.

Its popularity may lie in the simple, unchanging bassline.  (This is sometimes known as “ground bass.”)  The tune (melody) moves through several variations above the bass, each one increasing tension and interest in recognizable sections.

The original work by Johann Pachelbel was written for three violins, and “basso continuo.”  (Basso continuo means a part improvised over a bass line.)  Today we have many arrangements for both solo instruments and chamber music ensembles.  We now find “Canon in D” arranged for piano, oboe, guitar solo, flute, violins and other instruments.

Since the 1970s onwards, its distinctive chord progression has been used and adapted for countless pop songs including Maroon 5’s “Memories.”  Kylie Minogue’s “I Should Be So Lucky” was inspired by it.  Its chords are heard in songs by artists from Oasis and the Pet Shop Boys, to Ralph McTell.

This classic, famous piece is an absolute joy to play.  The gorgeous melody, catchy bass line and beautifully arranged variations ensure its popularity will continue. “Pachelbel’s Canon” is a work that bridges the past and present, classical and popular, the novice and the virtuoso.Click on this article for ways to incorporate “Pachelbel’s Canon” into your repertoire.

Enjoy these video lessons.  And this pdf download arrangement (and guitar TAB) of Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

Click here for more free classical guitar sheet music from the Baroque period.

Click here for ways to incorporate “Pachelbel’s Canon” into your repertoire. Click here for more free classical guitar sheet music from the Baroque period.  

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Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
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