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Music / Pachelbel's Canon

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A very well-known piece of Classical Music (technically Baroque Music). Written by Johann Pachelbel, it is the first movement of "Canon and Gigue in D", the less-famous second movement being more lively and dance-like. The canon involves a two-bar-long ostinato (repeating bass progression), over which three instrumental parts each play the same melodic material but starting at different times, each one displaced from the one before by a distance of two bars (one rotation of the ostinato) throughout the canon; this material is written in such a way that the three parts harmonize. The piece is usually performed with a string orchestra, but arrangements of it exist for almost every standard ensemble you can think of. Though Pachelbel was largely forgotten after his death (noted primarily for being a family friend/music tutor of the Bachs and thus indirectly influencing the works of J. S.), this piece's rediscovery in 1919 skyrocketed him to fame, albeit of the One-Hit Wonder variety.


Enjoy it by clicking here. Fun fact: The one we commonly hear about the canon is actually a rendition by the French conductor Jean-François Paillard in 1969. What he did was slowed down the tempo and tuned it in Romantic style. Here is the rendition played according to the original manuscripts (which actually sounds a half-step lower, in the key of D-flat majornote ).

It is also known by the names "Canon in D", "Pachelbel's Canon in D", and "Kanon D-dur" (the German name, meaning "D major Canon"). The piece is, of course, in D major—Exactly What It Says on the Tin. This hasn't stopped it from being misattributed to everyone under the sun, particularly Mozart.


It's commonly featured in collections of "light" or "soothing" music, and is often played at weddings, second only to Lohengrin and Mendelssohn. It is also a popular selection for use in Public Domain Soundtracks. It's the Free Bird of classical music, exacerbated by its own repetitiveness: cellists in particular detest it because it involves playing the same 8-note progression 27 times without variation.

The piece is the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier for the "Pachelbel's Canon" Progression.

By the way, "canon" the musical term has nothing to do with "canon" the literary term for a creator's definitive body of work. Also, don't confuse it with pieces of music that use cannons, which you'll find under Orchestral Bombing. Funnily enough, most versions nowadays aren't actually canons.


It has been used in the following works:

  • Spanish film Begin the Beguine uses it as a Recurring Riff throughout.
  • "Lullaby" by the string quartet Bond is an adaptation of the work.
  • Brian Eno did three versions of the piece in his album Discreet Music.
  • The influence of the piece can be heard in many of Emilie Autumn's songs, since as a child she would mentally play the piece each night to suppress her auditory hallucinations (as quoted from The Other Wiki). A few bars of the melody are shoehorned into "Save You", and the first half of the ostinato is used in "Ancient Grounds" and "Let the Record Show".
  • It features in and is one of the themes of Kanon, which names itself after the piece.
  • In the anime Lucky Star, Tsukasa's ringtone sounds like a cheerier version of this.
  • In the Neon Genesis Evangelion film Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, a recurring motif of the three main characters playing the piece is used to punctuate the recap portion. In fact, the sort-of framing sequence for the recap is the three characters (plus an Ensemble Dark Horse) getting together to practice the Canon (with Butt-Monkey Shinji playing the cello).
    Asuka: Your part is easy. All you have to play is arpeggios.
  • Comedian Rob Paravonian famously made a rant about the piece, noting how boring it is to play the bass line as the cellist in the ensemble, as well as the progression's ubiquity in popular music (although few of the examples given actually use the progression).
  • South Park uses a Suspiciously Similar Song in the scene where Cartman has a tea party with his stuffed toys.
  • Tay Zonday's arrangement "Canon In Z."
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra has two songs based on it: "Christmas Canon" from The Christmas Attic, and "Christmas Canon Rock" from The Lost Christmas Eve.
  • Pachelbel's Ganon, an Overclocked Remix track by djpretzel that rearranges Zelda's Lullaby and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's opening theme in an R&B style, with this as its backing track.
  • In Tangled Ever After, it's the BGM for the opening narration.
  • "Canon Rock", a rock remix of the piece that quickly became popular on the Internet - to the point where newspapers took notice of it. The Other Wiki has an article.
  • A horribly distorted organ version appears in the creepiest part of Bioshock Infinite.
  • In the year 2000, the piece was heavily sampled (albeit transposed down to C major) by Vitamin C for her hit "Graduation (Friends Forever)", which resulted in the "Weird Al" Effect for millions of millennials who associate the Canon with their high school graduations.invoked
  • It's used as a theme in Ordinary People.
  • Kevin Bacon's character plays it briefly on trumpet in Queens Logic.
  • Used during the "not-wedding" on Charmed in Season 3.
  • Used as background music during "Decomposing Composers" by Michael Palin sang on Monty Python's Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album.
  • Used in the final episode of Llamas with Hats from the point where Carl discovers Paul's dead body until Carl kills himself.
  • Used as background music in Zero Punctuation star Ben Croshaw's Judging By The Cover series.
  • The first two games in the Atelier series make use of it for their hardest to attain endings.
  • "Canon D (Part of the Memories #1)", one of the tracks composed for the Pump It Up series by Andamiro's in-house band BanYa, with a regular and full track version (a first for the game's original tunes). The song is highly popular with Pump It Up fans, not only for the song's Classical rock-style melody, but because of the anime-style video that accompanies it, for both having animation that's considered to be higher quality than most other BGAs in the franchise and for its narrative. The video is even the Trope page for the game! A later remix called Canon X.1 was later released, only it's not a follow up to the first story (despite the video officially being titled Canon-D Part of the Memories #1), and instead tells a separate story that's inspired by Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • A skit on John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme portrayed Pachelbel himself as utterly sick of the Canon, being much more enthusiastic about his Fugue, his Sonata, or his Hexachordum Apollinis, eventually being forced to play it and singing about how much it annoyed him that this was all he was remembered for. ("All that it does is go dooby-dooby-dooby-dooby...")
  • Mother 3 uses it in the theme of the Magypsies.
  • Goldenrod City in Pokémon Gold and Silver and its remakes utilizes it.
  • The "Perfect Christmas" song from Arthur's Perfect Christmas opens with Arthur playing it on the piano before transitioning to a more upbeat, livelier tune.
  • In Wolf 359, Eiffel goes on a rant about this song, referring to it as "The Mind Eraser" because it is such an Ear Worm that it will push any and all troubling thoughts about being trapped aboard a space station as part of some poorly-explained mission sponsored by a boss that you're pretty sure is at least kind-of-evil from your head.
  • Hospital Playlist: In a flashback to 1999, Seok-hyung demonstrates his proficiency on keyboards to the rest of the band by playing Pachelbel's Canon. Then, in a scene set 20 years later, the whole F Ive Man Band plays Pachelbel's Canon together in an up-tempo rock arrangement.

Alternative Title(s): Canon In D


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