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#1269173 - 09/16/09 09:11 AM Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet
flat13sharp11 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 117
Loc: Lancashire, UK
Hi guys,

I just wanted to see how you go about making your own version of a standard just from the lead sheet.

I have a video by Andy Laverne regarding playing standards.

He covers: Just Friends, My Romance, How Deep is the Ocean?, Night and Day, Body & Soul and Like Someone in Love.

He plays one version with just simple two or three note voicings in the left hand, and then a more elaborate version with beautiful chords using extensions and altered notes etc.

I obviously want to focus on the 6 standards above for now, but I was just wondering how I apply this to different songs.

The jazz guitarist John Mclaughlin has a cd out called Thieves and Poets, which has 4 standards on with him and a guitar quartet. The songs were My Foolish Heart, The Dolphin, Stella by Starlight and My Romance. I have My Romance sorted, but want to learn the other 3. Beautiful songs!

When I look at a lead sheet, the melody need needs to go top, and then work out a nice voicing from there?? I suppose you need a good knowledge of upper structures, quartal harmony etc. Maybe I'll just stick with the the simple 3 note voicings for now, but it's just making that next step to making it sound better.


Edited by flat13sharp11 (09/16/09 09:11 AM)
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#1269204 - 09/16/09 10:08 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: flat13sharp11]
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 593
Loc: Chicago
You need to get a basic understanding of harmony. You can only apply a voicing you learned for one song to another song if you understand why it worked in the first song. If there is a voicing you like, and you understand that it's a II-V-I, then you can try that same voicing anytime you see a II-V-I in other songs. It might not always work, but then you see what kind of II-V-I that voicing worked for.

Here's an example. Let's say there is a tune that has the chord sequence A-7, D7, G-7. You may play the A-7 with a flat 5 and it sounds nice. But the key is to understand that this is a II-V-I that ends up on a minor chord. You then find out that the flat 5 usually sounds nice in that sequence. Now you've got something to apply to other tunes. But you've got to understand the chord sequence to know why the flat 5 worked.

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#1269368 - 09/16/09 02:45 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: jjo]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I'm mainly a classical player, but like
many classical pianists I've always had
an interest in non-classical piano,
particularly the ability to play
your own version of some popular or
jazz standard, by ear.

To that end, instructing myself, I
tried to wade through 3 jazz piano
method books, as well as books on
classical harmony, both types of
counterpoint, musical form, and
orchestration, in the belief that this
would enable me to understand the
theory behind playing and arranging
by ear. I didn't get very far. Not
only was ploughing through all that material
the most boring thing imaginable, it
didn't help me one bit in playing by
ear and improvising.

I finally figured out that I was doing
it backwards: you improvise in order
to train your ear, then you'll be
able to play by ear, arrange, compose,
play from lead sheets, etc. I now
use no books and do it all by ear, through
improvisation.

To improvise you sit down and play
stuff on the piano by ear. Exactly
how you go about it will depend on
your particular interests and tastes,
and so there is no set way to improvise.
For example--and this is just one of
many possible ways to go about it--
play the three 4-note chords D F A C,
E G B D, and F A C E on the piano with
the l.h. Using just these three chords,
in any order, you can immeditately
improvise all kinds of tunes by playing
white keys with the r.h., either
single notes or groups of notes.

Then you can add more chords. I've
found it useful to play chords in
root position a whole step apart,
as this is very fundamental, much
more so than playing so-called standard
jazz chord progressions. I also
favor minor chords, as they are
the most fundamental of chords:
a min. scale is just a maj. scale
begun on the 6th scale degree,
and thus the third of a tonic min. chord
is the root of the relative maj.,
whereas a tonic maj. chord gives
no indication of the relative maj.
So, for example: C Eb G Bb --->
D F A C ---> E G B D ---> F# A C# E
---> etc.

After you get used to improvising with
"set" patterns like these, then, as
soon as possible, you should start
improvising without any patterns, or
reference to specific chords, or
specific keys, or specific chord
progressions, or anything else.
When you improvise like this, you
simply dig in with both hands and
all ten fingers and let everything
that you've learned previously enter
subliminally into your playing.

This should be the most enjoyable
thing you do at the piano, because
for once you're free of the constraints
of sheet music, and all rules, and
what someone says is the right or
wrong way to do things on the piano,
and right or wrong notes. And
you're training your ear like this,
so that eventually you can play
things by ear if you want to.

But you want to be original when you
improvise, not sound the same as
a recording, so if you're playing from
a lead sheet, you improvise off it,
rather than trying to make it sound
exactly like some standard recording
of it. You might play the melody
to get an idea of what the song sounds
like, but from there it's anything
goes. You just dig in with both hands
and all ten fingers and play your
own version by ear. The chords will
be your own, the melody might be only
vaguely similar to the original.
If you want to sound like a recording,
you can do that too with practice as
your fingers will gradually home in
by ear on what is needed for a more
standard kind of sound, but it's more
fun to play your own version. And
in any case this is the necessary first
step in training your ear to improvise
and play by ear.

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#1269737 - 09/17/09 05:08 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Gyro]
Mikka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/07
Posts: 27
Loc: UK
Have a look at my site at http://michaelsmusic.host22.com where you will find my piano arrangements of the standards, including most of the ones you mentioned. If you "reverse engineer" what I've done it might give you some ideas. I assume you understand the basics of harmony, but if not I started a sort of "Harmony for Dummies" series of articles many years ago. It never got finished, but it covers the fundamentals. If this would be of any use to you, I can let you have it. Contact me at jazza942-michaelsmusic@yahoo.co.uk. if interested.

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#1270056 - 09/17/09 04:53 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Gyro]
bluespianofan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/09
Posts: 102
Loc: Calgary, Alberta
Gyro, haven't the copy and paste buttons worn out yet on your keyboard! eek
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#1270464 - 09/18/09 11:44 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Gyro]
Nikalette Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/08
Posts: 1074
Loc: California
Gyro, I understand music theory, but you've confused me.

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#1270549 - 09/18/09 02:05 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Nikalette]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Nikalette, sit down at the piano,
and just dig in with both hands, and all
ten fingers, improvising purely
by ear. Anything and everything
goes here. Forget all you've ever
read in music theory books, as that's so
academic and hidebound, that it will
paralyze you when you try to improvise,
for fear of doing something that
a college prof. of jazz piano
will say is incorrect.

This is how an illiterate or person
with no education would play,
but that's exactly what you want,
to play purely by ear, without reference
to anything written in textbooks.
Here you might play chords (but these
are no chords in particular or texbook
voicings, just bunches of notes, by
ear) with the l.h., r.h., or both hands.
You might play scales or arpeggios
(no scales or arpeggios in
particular, just scale or arpeggio-like
runs, by ear) with the l.h., r.h., or
both hands. You might play polyrhythms
(nothing set, just polyrhythm-like
runs by ear). You might play rock-like,
or classical-like, or country-like,
etc. (but better to play space alien-like,
like no one has ever heard before;
you want be original when you
improvise, not follow textbook
patterns). And so forth.

This might sound terrible to an
ear used to listening to recordings.
But that's good. You want to be
original, not sound like everyone
else. But if you want to sound
like a cocktail lounge pianist, you can
do that too, after a while. For
example, play the sheet music version
of some popular tune. Then play
your own version by ear without looking
at the score and without trying
to remember what the actual
notes were. If you've done
some improvising as described above,
you'll be able to do this. Of
course it won't sound like the
original, but that's good; you want
to develop your own style of playing.
But if you want to sound more
conventional, the way a lounge
pianist plays, you can do that too
with practice, as your fingers will
eventually be able to home in on
the notes that will give a more
standard-sounding rendition--all of
this purely by ear, with no
consideration of anything written
in theory textbooks.

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#1270556 - 09/18/09 02:15 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Gyro]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
But ten fingers is too restrictive.
You don't want to put any limitations
on yourself when you improvise. You
can use anything: your palms, forearms,
fists, etc.

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#1270599 - 09/18/09 03:12 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Gyro]
Studio Joe Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/28/07
Posts: 1803
Loc: Decatur, Texas

Gyro, would you be willing to record and post a sample of what you are trying to tell us? I would love to hear it.
_________________________
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#1270839 - 09/19/09 12:58 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Studio Joe]
Jazz+ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/04
Posts: 838
Loc: Banned
LOL

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#1270841 - 09/19/09 01:00 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Jazz+]
Jazz+ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/04
Posts: 838
Loc: Banned
Shells in Left Hand (7th or 3rd)

Right Thumb on 7th or 3rd (whichever is NOT already being played by the Left Thumb)

Melody on top:


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#1270881 - 09/19/09 03:32 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Jazz+]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
Constructing a piano arrangement via a fake book requires you to learn at minimum some fundamental chordal harmony in that,that is what a fake book consists of ,the melody and the basic chordal harmony of the tune. When you study with a jazz pianist/teacher one on one you work on musical vocabulary,extensions,substitutions etc. as it applies to tunes.

I suggest you study with a jazz pianist/teacher one on one. Of course it is important to find an individual who can communicate to you which is the difference between a good teacher and just a good player.

I always felt a solid foundation as for a basis of improvisation is to study the masters.Take that tune and play it like George Shearing,Oscar Peterson,Erroll Gardner,Bud Powell,Bill Evans would have played it. From studying the masters one hopefully will derive at a style of your own eventually. To improvise with no basis or foundation will definitely achieve a style of your own but you will be limited in your sources to draw off of. I always tell pianists that if you can read and play/improvise by ear you have an unfair advantage to one which can only do one or the other. Actually once you know the rules than you can break them creatively,no problem. One exception might be Stevie Wonder. Good luck if you think you can do it on your own,you're gonna need it.
wink


Edited by pianobroker (09/19/09 03:34 AM)
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#1270944 - 09/19/09 09:22 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: pianobroker]
flat13sharp11 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 117
Loc: Lancashire, UK
I am at some point going to be going for some lessons. But in the mean time I want to get the basics down, and then maybe ask him about arranging from fake books. I just want to learn tunes, I know you need to know your theory, but it can very boring after a while, so applying it to a tune is more beneficial as your learning theory and building your repertoire.
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#1271041 - 09/19/09 12:59 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Gyro]
Nikalette Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/08
Posts: 1074
Loc: California
Gyro,

I think what you wrote is very interesting and it makes some sense.

So much of what we learn in music is by rote. What you describe may be very similar to the way a musical genius such as Mozart or Chopin might have learned piano and composed, since they were playing at age 5 or so, they didn't learn in the conventional way, and since they were composing also at an early age, no doubt they did not learn composition rules. As Chopin said (paraphrased) his goal was to create a whole new world in music.

As for jazz/blues/boogie, there were many early musicians who were self taught and who didn't have any lessons, didn't know rules, but learned and played by ear.

And most of us are inhibited in improvisation by our fear of not "sounding right", breaking rules, fear.

So what you are saying is to play with abandon, don't be afraid to make mistakes, play as if you didn't know the rules, and just have some fun.

That's pretty good advice.

Back when I used to write songs for guitar and voice, I had learned a few chords from a folk guitar TV show, then learned songs by ear from records, and did get some songbooks. I knew no music theory, I just learned and composed by ear.

And I wrote a lot of songs in those days. I don't write songs anymore, and I know so much more.

So I do think you're on to something. You're an original, Gyro.

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#1271044 - 09/19/09 01:00 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Gyro]
Nikalette Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/08
Posts: 1074
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Gyro
But ten fingers is too restrictive.
You don't want to put any limitations
on yourself when you improvise. You
can use anything: your palms, forearms,
fists, etc.


Jerry Lee Lewis used his feet also.

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#1271045 - 09/19/09 01:01 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Jazz+]
Nikalette Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/08
Posts: 1074
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Jazz+
Shells in Left Hand (7th or 3rd)

Right Thumb on 7th or 3rd (whichever is NOT already being played by the Left Thumb)

Melody on top:



Simplicity...it's a beautiful thing!

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#1271387 - 09/20/09 02:12 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Nikalette]
Jazz+ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/04
Posts: 838
Loc: Banned
It's not so simple... try playing any Real Book tune that way in tempo with a great feel without pre-practicing it.

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#1277569 - 09/29/09 08:17 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: flat13sharp11]
Swingin' Barb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 889
Loc: North Carolina
Originally Posted By: flat13sharp11
When I look at a lead sheet, the melody need needs to go top, and then work out a nice voicing from there??


I learned how to do this in The Sudnow Method. The bottom line for that course is learning how to do your own arrangements from a lead sheet. The course is a different approach from most other courses you will find online. But, it does work!

Barb
_________________________
A Sudnow Method Fanatic
"Color tones, can't live without them"

To hear how I have progressed since 2006, check out: http://b.kane.home.mindspring.com

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#1278598 - 10/01/09 11:24 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: pianobroker]
Hop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/08
Posts: 654
Loc: Hudson, FL
Originally Posted By: pianobroker
...I suggest you study with a jazz pianist/teacher one on one. Of course it is important to find an individual who can communicate to you which is the difference between a good teacher and just a good player...

...Good luck if you think you can do it on your own,you're gonna need it.
wink


I couldn't agree more. Further, you will likely need guidance on physical preparation to properly perform the more demanding aspects of performance.

Hop
_________________________
HG178, Roland FP-5, Casio PX 130

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#1278721 - 10/01/09 02:35 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: flat13sharp11]
Cudo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 127
Loc: Heidelberg, Germany
Originally Posted By: flat13sharp11
Hi guys,

I just wanted to see how you go about making your own version of a standard just from the lead sheet.

....I have My Romance sorted ...


Hi,

Jazz+ allready wrote the right thing.

Here maybe another helpful advice.

If you want to take two guidetones and you don't want to to sacrifice the fundamental in the left hand, it's getting hard to play this in one hand. You have to split it up to both hands.

Remember, Guidetones are usually the seventh or the third of a chord. So if you take the seventh in the left hand, you will take the third in the right hand and viceversa.
Aditionally the left hand has now to play the root and the right hand the melody. This principally is enough to make a standard tune sound ok.
It is a good thing, in the beginning, marking just the harmonic rhythm with the 2 guidtones which constitute now the inner voices. In our example this would be halfnotes for the guidetones.



Edited by Cudo (10/01/09 02:36 PM)

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#1278911 - 10/01/09 08:31 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Cudo]
Roger Ransom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1227
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
Surprisingly I agree almost completely with Gyro. That's essentially what I did to learn to improvise and to play from Fake Books. I have done it so long now that it's 2nd nature to just let my mind control my fingers depending on my mood. It's almost like being on auto pilot and I will often sit down with a lead sheet and wonder how I am going to play it and then just wade in.

I love playing classical music but it is a whole different mentality and set of skills. The goal there seems to be to try to play it like someone else and exactly the same every time. Improvising is just about as opposite of that as you can get. Fun and satisfying!

I have tried to study jazz theory a few times because - well - I thought I should, but I too found it horribly boring and dry. I will never be a renowned jazz musician and don't care. I hear jazz musicians say that jazz means freedom of expression but then they start discussing all these rigid rules and theory that sort of negates the 'freedom of expression' thing. It's sort of like a saying I used to hear in a large company I worked for once. They claimed to like 'wild ducks' but they really meant they liked 'wild ducks' as long as they flew in formation.

Just learn the basic rules to form chords and have at it. It gets better and more fun with time. I love it!

Just my thoughts and it works for me.
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#1279704 - 10/02/09 11:44 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Roger Ransom]
paulette Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/29/09
Posts: 17
Loc: Virginia, USA
All of you have some great ideas. I have tried many approaches. I think you have to build your basic harmonic vocab.Keep studying, listening( to recordings and live musicians).Get together with other musicians. Play ,talk about ideas. Experiment. Above all, have fun.

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#1280137 - 10/03/09 06:28 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: flat13sharp11]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1484
Loc: NY
Quote:
I just wanted to see how you go about making your own version of a standard just from the lead sheet.

I think making up your own song arrangements from a fake book and being creative is the most fun thing to do! smile I never play from a sheet music arrangement anymore, now that I've learned the techniques for making my own interesting arrangements. As mentioned here, a good start is to note the general chord progression/structure of a song. For example, in "Stranger in Paradise", you can see right away the main theme is the very common "ii-V-I" chord progression. You can then take it from there and create a full and beautiful arrangement from that starting point using a variety of techniques and ideas. (BTW, I teach these types of arranging techniques in my new instructional video, which in addition to runs and fills explains left-hand accompaniment techniques, chord progressions and chord voicings, etc., in detail, and includes the demonstrated song's lead sheet). smile

Here is an example of a song arrangement I put together from a fake book lead sheet:

Stranger in Paradise


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#1280318 - 10/04/09 03:00 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Elssa]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
When you pick a tune from a fake book you approach it differently as for what type of tune it is. You would not approach "Take the A train " like you would "Over the Rainbow"

Keep it simple: If it is a ballad lets say with some melodic movement. You play the melody note on top with the right hand and you play the tonic/bass note in the left hand. You fill in the remaining chord tones(stock chords) and you play the linear passing notes of the melody between the chord changes. That is the basic formula of creating a solo ballad arrangement.You have to learn to walk before you run via chordal substitutions,extensions.b5 etc. as for your traditional jazz harmony.

Free form improvisation is all well and good with no limitations,no rules,no structure as long as you are playing solo.
Try playing that approach on a gig with pro players whom before that night you've never even met. Nobody will ever hire you.

I know extrodinary players that do substitutions on substitutions which is hip, but try getting a call back. The goal is to learn both to read and improvise by ear.You got unlimited sources at your fingertips. cool


Edited by pianobroker (10/04/09 03:06 AM)
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#1280546 - 10/04/09 01:23 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: pianobroker]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1484
Loc: NY
Originally Posted By: pianobroker
When you pick a tune from a fake book you approach it differently as for what type of tune it is.


I agree.. You first need to determine if the song's more of a ballad or swing/stride type of tune. smile I teach a specific Ballad Style left-hand pattern in my video, as well (Technique #2 of www.learnpianowithelssa.com).

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#1280562 - 10/04/09 01:53 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Elssa]
Jazz+ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/04
Posts: 838
Loc: Banned
You can always do an arrangement in this style:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3OOwglVldI

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#1280588 - 10/04/09 02:53 PM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Jazz+]
pianobroker Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 4309
Loc: North Hollywood CA.
Originally Posted By: Jazz+
You can always do an arrangement in this style:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3OOwglVldI


I heard some sour notes and rhythmic mistakes in bars 24-26.
Alot of freedom in this arrangement. grin

My assessment has always been if you can't discern if something sounds good or bad ,it's bad.
Sounds OK to me. Some would consider it shredding. wink



Edited by pianobroker (10/04/09 05:15 PM)
_________________________
www.pastperfectpiano.com
Largest selection in the USA
100+Steinway and M&H grands
Warehouse showroom Onsite Restoration
Preowned & Restored
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z8RvhXGKzY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Voo0zumHGgE

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#1280893 - 10/05/09 12:49 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: pianobroker]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1484
Loc: NY
Quote:
I just wanted to see how you go about making your own version of a standard just from the lead sheet.


Some songs can go either way or be a mix of left-hand styles. With "Misty" here, I'm using mostly a slow swing/stride left-hand pattern, but am also throwing in a little of my ballad style technique for variety. Both styles can give good movement/flow to a song.

MISTY

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#1280927 - 10/05/09 02:49 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Elssa]
Ragtime Clown Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/08
Posts: 684
Loc: Ireland

Elssa, what a nice rendition of 'Misty'. I see a fee different influences and styles here - Suds/PianoMagic and of course your own arrangement.

Is this played by ear or do you have a printed arrangement of this?

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#1280934 - 10/05/09 03:15 AM Re: Making a piano arrangement from a Fake Book Lead Sheet [Re: Ragtime Clown]
Elssa Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 1484
Loc: NY
Quote:
Is this played by ear or do you have a printed arrangement of this?


Thanks, Ragtime. So glad you enjoyed it. This is all my own arrangement (The tremolos were inspired by Errol Garner, though, of course). smile I studied with an awesome jazz pianist many years ago, who was my biggest influence, but the runs and fills here, etc. are my own (and I teach them along with a variety of other arrangement techniques in my instructional video, available here: www.learnpianowithelssa.com). My course provides a lead sheet along with the video.

I have a lot of classical training and am an advanced sight reader but play mostly by ear and lead sheet now as a general guide, using modern chord substitutions and my runs and fills, which are based on these chords/theory, etc. I enjoy the creative aspect of playing more than anything now.

What have you been up to lately with your playing?

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