I’d like to share my most popular composition Aeolian King with you: It was created in about 20 minutes while waiting for a new piano student to arrive at my house, and is a very easy tune designed to free up improvisation for pianists. The trick is, you really can’t hit a bad sounding note if you just stay on the white keys, because the whole tune is based on the A natural minor (Aeolian) scale. I have played Aeolian King for church services, weddings, memorials, and it is even featured on an exercise video by Ann Smith. But most of all this is the piece I give my piano students who are new to improvisation to help them relax.
While looking at the music below take a listen to Aeolian King from my recent Peace Prayer album by clicking here: Aeolian King
Below find the basic melody & chord chart or lead sheet:
To download the chart, click here. It is also on the Downloads page.
Notice that the chords are either major or minor triads – all are the same shape and built using only white keys. Students can play the simple triad in their left hand (LH) around or slighly below middle ‘C’, learn the melody in their RH, and improvise new melodies the next time through using only white keys. (If a note sounds unpleasant just move quickly up or down a key and that should fix the temporary dissonance.)
This next example shows Aeolian King with a handy LH technique called The Broken 10th, which creates a full sounding accompaniment. This more challenging device should be practiced enough to feel comfortable with keeping a slow steady rhythm before adding in RH improvisation. Students are encouraged to begin with simple RH rhythms and focus on keeping the beat with time smoothly flowing in the LH:
To download the chart, click here. It is also on the Downloads page.
More piano/keyboard improvisation lessons for how to play this tune and others can be found in my book/audio methods The Aspiring Jazz Pianist and The Complete Church Pianist. Books found here.
Both the meditative listening album Peace Prayer & the instructional companion album for The Complete Church Pianist: A Piano/Keyboard Method with Tips for Inspired Improvisation and Worship are found here: CD Baby artist page.
I hope you have fun playing Aeolian King and it frees up your improv!
It’s normally a lively Christmas Season full of parties, pageants, and performances – including outdoor concert venues for musicians, strolling carolers, and elaborately festive church services, but this December 2017 is different. Santa Barbara along with Montecito, Summerland, Carpenteria, Ojai, Santa Paula, Ventura and other nearby cities are having quite the challenge with fires, smoke, power outages, and evacuations.
We musicians wait till the last hour to hear if a gig is still happening, we check the air quality, look at maps to see if the location has been evacuated, and no one can say for certain what will happen if the winds stir fire and ash up again. We are all truly playing this season by ear. Continue reading “Music for Troubled Times”
The history behind the story also known as…
Bob Takes The 101: A Road Trip Musical Story/Game
Last Spring our keyboard & bass duo was invited to play a charity fundraising event held in the lovely gardens of El Mirador Estate, Montecito (pictured above). The 2017 theme was “California Dreaming” – they requested that we play as many CA themed tunes as we could – naturally Robert Kim Collins and I included a fair share of West Coast Jazz too. 😉
Once again I turned to musical friends and posted an inquiry on Facebook asking for tune titles specifically written about places in California. I also gathered ideas from my father Frank Denke’s album made for an insurance company in the 1950’s called, Melodies of California: Continue reading “CA Here I Come!”
Okay, I will be first to admit it: I occasionally dash off very bad charts to fling at my trusted musical partners the night of the gig when I am in a big hurry. I am a jazz & church pianist, vocal accompanist, and sometimes sing a few numbers on my gigs too – yet, even when I know better, now and then I fall short and exhibit CSS symptoms. Although this article resembles ‘preaching to the choir’ (including myself in that group) – it is a more detailed exploration into writing music extracted from my blog, Do You Suffer Chick Singer Syndrome?)
I’d like to share a few examples ranging from pitiful to pretty good charts (both lyric and lead sheets), that I have either personally penned or have been instructed to “Just read the chart and listen to the YouTube link and figure it out.”
The following levels apply to charts written by today’s jazz and church musicians, vocalists, accompanists and band members. Remember, men and women can suffer Chick Singer Syndrome – even superbly talented ones! So with a touch of humor, kindly read on. Continue reading “Do You Hand Out Bad Charts?”
How To Play the Musical “Guess that YOU-tune” Game:
The host will want a copy of Debbie Denke’s album, It’s All About YOU!*
Additionally the host will want a pencil for each guest, a fun dessert to serve for intermission, a prize for the winner (I suggest something musical like an album or a music book as an award), and have copies of the list of clues for each guest (or a page with blank lines numbered 1-16), plus a copies of the lyrics to #16 It Had To Be You. Clues and lyrics are found in this site under the Downloads tab above. Allow about 90 minutes to play this game.
Continue reading “It’s All About YOU! Party Game”
It all started with the opportunity to play an intimate concert for about 6 couples in the home of some former jazz piano students of mine. This husband and wife invite close friends over for an hour concert (with a dessert break in the middle) dedicated to the memory of Marty’s great aunt – a piano teacher who willed them her grand piano. It is a sweet gig for me, especially since I get to work up solo piano repertoire and select what I wish to play for a small, very appreciative audience. Continue reading “It’s All About YOU!”
Do you hand out bad charts? Show up late for rehearsals and/or gigs? Assume the other musicians in the band will schlep your gear and bring the P.A.?
YOU, my friend, may indeed suffer Chick Singer Syndrome! (Or at least your bandmates suffer because you have it.) And, not to be sexist here, guys can have CSS too.
Caution: The following article is not meant to be taken too seriously, but if any working musician starts to exhibit the following symptoms you are hereby forwarned. 😉 * Continue reading “Do you suffer ‘Chick Singer’ Syndrome?”
“Make the people happy.” My 20 year old self blinked incredulously at my father’s comment to my question, “What makes you want to keep being a professional pianist and what are your goals with your music now?” Frank Denke simply smiled and said again, “I just want to make the people happy!” Continue reading “Make The People Happy”
What makes an amazing gift? (1/6/16)
There is delight in unwrapping a special surprise inside a colorful bag or ripping open wrapping paper decorated with ribbons and bows to uncover a thoughtful gift. Yet there are many priceless gifts that don’t cost a thing (except maybe time, talent, or kindness) which can mean so much to brighten someone’s life. Continue reading “Amazing Gifts”
Musicians – here is a post about additional tune requests you may encounter doing that special ceremony!
True Tales from a Wedding Pianist Part 1 discussed the essential tunes a musician needs to play for a no frills basic wedding, and Part 2 was about a wild encounter I had with a last minute call from the Father of The Bride (scrambling to honor his detailed requests for his daughter’s ‘perfect wedding’). Continue reading “Extras for The Wedding Pianist: True Tales Part 3”