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The suite developed over a period of years in several European countries. At first suites were simply collections of songs performed together. The form gradually stabilized to contain the specific dances now included, although the order of the dances varied. The dance forms used came from such countries as England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. composers in France and Italy had written suites before Bach did, but he perfected the form. In all, Bach wrote thirteen suites for the harpsichord: six French Suites, six English Suites, six Partitas, and the Overture in the French Manner.

The suite is a musical form composed of several dance-like movements which are related by key. There are four standard movements in Bach's suites: the Allemande, Courante or Corrente, Sarabande, and Gigue. Optional dances are generally included between the Sarabande and Gigue. In this form the movements are all in the same key with only a few exceptions.

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