Pachelbel was organist at Erfurt, in the Thuringian region of Germany and his harmonizations of church chorales seem to have been inspirational to the young Johann Sebastian Bach, whose older brother, Johann Christoph Bach, had been Pachelbel's organ student. Indeed, Pachelbel seems to have enjoyed close friendships with many members of the Bach family of musicians. Pachelbel served in the capelle in Eisenach, the home city of Ambrosius Bach and birthplace of his many children including Johann Sebastian and Johann Christoph, for a year in the 1670s. Pachelbel also stood as godfather for Ambrosius Bach's daughter (Johann Sebastian's sister) Johanna Judith Bach.
In addition to the well-known Canon in D and numerous church hymn settings, Pachelbel wrote a considerable number of cantatas for the Lutheran church and chamber sonatas for various instruments, especially the violin.
His son William Hieronymous Pachelbel was also an organist and composer.