Christmas Music: Piano Solos I’m working on

Christmas Jazz & Piano Solos I'm working on

Holidays are right around the corner! I’m going to talk about some of the music I’m playing right now. If you come to this month’s online Music Hangout, you’ll probably hear me play some of these pieces.

To spice up my music when I’m playing Christmas music, I’m trying to use more jazz improv techniques.

Some of these techniques, like pedal tones, are simple to grasp. 

A pedal tone means continuing to play one chord’s tonic in the bass note of the left hand, regardless of what changes in the right hand, to create a suspenseful feeling in the music.

For example, the tonic for G major is G, so the left bass would play a G, and the right hand melody could shift to D major/A major/anything, but the left hand lowest bass would still be the single G.

Simple? Then you’d add an interesting rhythm to the bass G while maintaining the melody. Think of the pedal point as some double bass player.

Kent Hewitt has clear explanations on basic jazz techniques, if you’re interested

Local stores don’t have the print music that I want, and online stores wouldn’t deliver in time for Christmas. I want the good stuff. Creative, novel versions of classics, the likes of Mark Hayes or Craig Curry.

Hello brick bookstores aka Tom Lee/Long & Mcquade/Chapters, this is why people are going to Amazon! I couldn’t even find digital versions of those books. I’ve looked, for 4 days.

Pan likes to tell me, “You can have results or excuses. Not both.”

“Is that Arnold?” I say. Arnold Schwarzenegger is Pan’s favourite person in the world.

“Yes.”

I kept looking for a few days, and ended up finding interesting music by composers I’d never heard of, like Kent Hewitt. The catch is, his music is pure jazz. All the chords are suss’d or 10th’d or flat’d.

That’s why I’m now off to learn some jazz chords, to try to play some presentable jazz by Saturday. I can have excuses or results, right?

Here’s what I’m working on…

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire – arranged by Carsten Gerlitz

I like this piece a lot. It’s chill, it’s cool, it’s sweet. I’ve been working on some of the swinging.

I’ve picked up this book from a friend, and I believe there’s a newer version out already. (This is not my playing in the video)

Get the sheet music here

White Christmas – arranged by Kent Hewitt

He also explains the chord progressions behind the harmony. He demonstrates the piece near the middle. Get the sheet music here.

Italian Polka – Rachmaninoff, transcribed by Ziloti

It took me some time to hunt down this version of the music. The Italian Polka was originally written by good ol’ Rachmaninoff for four hands, but, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I only have two, so I couldn’t play it by myself.

I’m told that this version is a reduction to two hands by Siloti, a former student of Liszt. Siloti eventually became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, and consequently, a teacher of Rachmaninoff.

So you know that this version is LEGITIMATE, even though it wasn’t written by Rachmaninoff himself. Rachmaninoff made a home recording of this piece, but, alas, the phonograph wasn’t known for its quality of sound.

There have been other ethereal and virtuosic reductions of the piece, however, I really like this particular version. It’s clean and gets the point across, no unnecessary frills.

That was a long-winded way to say, I love this piece. Gryaznov also arranged this piece, but it’s way more difficult, and I’d need my sausage fingers to stretch beyond what I can.

This is me playing the first half page. Get the sheet music here.

Here’s some other Beautiful Christmas music, and some jazzy Christmas piano favourites.

Anyways, toodles, see you Saturday! Results or excuses!

Grace

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