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“Canon in D” Piano Sheet Music & Beginner Tutorial (Johann Pachelbel)

Summer Swee-Singh  /  Classical Songs / Sep 2

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Looking for “Canon in D” piano sheet music and how to play it? You’ve come to the right place!

Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” (also known as “Pachelbel’s Canon”) is one of our most requested classical piano tutorials. It’s a beautiful, timeless, and popular piece that nearly everyone has heard. And it’s popular at weddings, so if you’re planning to contribute some music to a loved one’s wedding, this is the tutorial for you!

Free “Canon in D” Piano Sheet Music 🎹

Before you watch the tutorial, make sure you download the free piano sheet music to “Canon in D.” It’s been arranged especially for beginners and is made easy with written fingering.

DOWNLOAD SHEET MUSIC

Pachelbel’s Canon…is pretty cool

Cellists hate it. Some people think it’s overplayed. But the truth is that Pachelbel’s “Canon” is one of history’s most impactful compositions. Ever. Why? The chord progression in “Canon” is one of the most widely used chord progressions in all of Western music. You can find it (and close variations) in songs like:

  • “Basketcase” by Green Day
  • “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis
  • “Memories” by Maroon 5
  • The State Anthem of the Soviet Union

This progression is the I – V – vi – iii – IV – I – IV – V. (If you don’t know what those Roman numerals mean, check out our lesson on the number system).

Another super common chord progression is the I – V – vi – IV pop progression. This progression can be seen as a simplified version of the Pachelbel progression.

🎹 DID YOU KNOW? A traditional string quartet consists of a first and second violin, a viola, and a cello.

Canon in D: History

We don’t actually know much about Johann Pachelbel or “Canon in D.” We think it’s written in 1680, but historians aren’t sure. However, the famous progression behind the Canon predates Johann Pachelbel. Nevertheless, the Canon lay in relative obscurity until one recording catapulted it to fame in the 1970s.

🎹 DID YOU KNOW? The full title of Pachelbel’s “Canon” is actually “Canon & Gigue in D Major.” The gigue is a section that follows the canon, but isn’t often played. It’s in the same key and has a more upbeat nature. Listen to it here.

Take Your “Canon” to the Next Level

This tutorial introduces you to a beginner-friendly version of the iconic piece. But if you want to take your Canon arrangement to the next level, there are many more complex arrangements to explore. 

Here is a playlist of several known arrangements played by pianist Paul Barton. Some are denser, some are easier, and some have a different “feel” from the original Baroque style. Most of these arrangements are in the public domain so you should be able to find free, downloadable “Canon in D” piano sheet music.

If you want to learn a version that most closely resembles Pachelbel’s original arrangement for strings, check out Isaac David’s incredibly meticulous transcription and accompanying explanation.

🎹 Try Pianote for 7 Days ✨

This lesson was taught by Summer Swee-Singh, one of our awesome Pianote Coaches and an expert on arranging. To get access to Summer’s course Creating the Perfect Piano Arrangement, sign up for a free trial of Pianote. Cancel anytime.

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Rabbit Hole!

More cool content about the enduring Pachelbel progression:

…and don’t forget to watch the beloved Pachelbel Rant!


Charmaine Li is a Vancouver writer who has played piano for over 20 years. She holds an Associate diploma (ARCT) from the Royal Conservatory of Music and loves writing about the ways in which music—and music learning—affects the human experience. Charmaine manages The Note.

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