What’s Your Name For This Familiar Melody?

I almost called it “Testing Out A Gooseneck Cell Phone Holder For The Purpose of Showing a Bird’s Eye View For Clearer Teaching of Online Students And Improved Filming Of Piano Tutorials”, but decided to call my 58 second experiment instead, Name This Tune…

This pretty Appalachian folk tune is known by many titles, both sacred & secular. (It’s the first etude to learn in my instructional book, The Complete Church Pianist: A Piano/Keyboard Method with Tips for Inspired Improvisation and Worship. https://www.amazon.com/Debbie-Denke/e/B001HD3VPK Folk names for this tune include: O Waly, Waly, Water Is Wide, Wide Is The Water, The River is Wide, while depending on your church denomination it may be called As the Hart Longs or Psalm 42 (Free Methodist), Though I May Speak (Presbyterian), O Bravest Fire (Unitarian). The lyrics vary as much as the titles when I’ve played this in various house of worship. Do you know another name for this pretty tune? If so, please share in the comments.

The gooseneck phone holder I bought for about $15 from Amazon.com  appears to be a good investment clipped onto my piano’s music rack. I extended the 27 inch firm swan-like neck above the keyboard where it held my iPhone 6 with a clip designed to hold phones/cameras about 3 inches wide:

Cell Phone Clip On Stand Holder with Grip Flexible Long Arm Gooseneck Bracket Mount Clamp Compatible with iPhone X/8/7/6/6S Plus Samsung S8/S7, Used for Bed, Desktop, Black

Cell Phone Clip On Stand Holder with Grip Flexible Long Arm Gooseneck Bracket Mount Clamp Compatible with iPhone X/8/7/6/6S Plus Samsung S8/S7, Used for Bed, Desktop, Black

Getting the best horizontal view of the keyboard while capturing my hands upon the most used range took some flipping/rotating of the video after filming. Next I downloaded it to my laptop and ran it through Quick Time Player, because my phone indiscriminately wanted to pose the keyboard image vertically up and down in portrait mode (like an accordion). The short video took considerable time (after getting the image lined up properly); I next moved it into iMovie to try to improve the clarity, lable, tag, and sent it off to YouTube. Perhaps with upgraded equipment or more technical knowledge the process would have been quicker?

I auditioned the gooseneck view with online piano students, and only dropped the phone once per lesson onto the keys, putting its first cracks in the screen. Students, however, concurred that the bird’s eye view was helpful! One suggested a scrim would improve the bright lighting from the noontime studio skylight in order to make the white keys more distinct. What do you think?


Got The Blues? Tips on How To Play a Slow Blues in G

It’s over 100º outside, we are all getting a bit bored with “socially distancing”, and let’s face it – today is a great day to learn to play a very slow, hot, blues.

This tutorial came together after giving several of my online piano students tips on the basic 12 bar blues, common blues endings/turnarounds, typical jazz blues substitutions – plus my “covid bubble hubby” music partner and I had just performed a live Zoom concert from our home studio to friends’ living rooms across the country in their own “covid bubbles”. I extracted a video section of us improvising over Parker’s Mood. The tune is essentially Charlie Parker’s immortalized solo created over the 12 bar blues, later made into a lyric version by King Pleasure.

Lyrics start off with: “I’m feeling low down and blue, my heart is full of sorrow!   Don’t know what I’m comin’ to, where will I be tomorrow?”…. which I think perfectly expresses my own mood of late. (On another side note, we celebrate this year 2020 as Bird’s 100th birthday, so we wanted to be sure to include a salute to the renowned alto sax player Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker in our show.)

I’ve included a harmonic analysis (notated after the fact), on the video of my solo over the G blues, sharing tips about both typical and atypical things jazz musicians might do when improvising. Certain chord ideas my partner and I talked about in advance (the major 7th chords at the ending for example), while others were reactions formed on the spot. Jazz artists listening intently may intuitively respond to each other, or at least seemingly so. Good soloists are usually aware there is a basic form or skeleton structure to a tune, perhaps feeling this on a subconcious level. This is achieved usually after musicians put in the practice hours on their own instrument, and have learned a shared vocabulary so they can improvise convincingly over the standard forms like The Blues with other musicians! Below the video are some printed ideas:

Just in case you wish to do further research, here are some RH ideas:

The G Blues Scale: G  Bb  C  Db  D  F  G

The E Blues Scale: E  G  A  Bb  B  D  E (I call this the Other Blues Scale)

Ideas about the Blues in books/audio methods by Debbie Denke: https://www.amazon.com/author/debbiedenkemusic

The Aspiring Jazz Pianist: (pages 54 – 62)                                                                  Amazing Phrasing – Keyboard (ideas 7, 8, 43, 49)                                                          The Complete Church Pianist (Gospel ideas pages 35 – 36)

Here are some common turnarounds in the key of G:









8 Ways to Play 4 Notes: If I Had You (solo piano ideas)

If I Had You (1929) is a cute YOUtune that can be played various tempos; I chose to arrange it with a slow swinging ‘saunter through the park’ feel.  The tutorial part of this first video explores 8 different ways to harmonize the opening 4 chromatic melody notes in the main body of the tune. Watch the video all the way through, and you will get a bird’s eye view of many stylistic solo piano devices such as single note or octave bass lines, broken 10ths, soft swing bass, and the Bud Powell LH shell voicing using the root and 7th, which are all suitable for small hands.

Just in case you don’t want to miss the charming romantic lyrics this second video has them included:

When The Saints Go Marching In (Lesson in Jazz Harmony)

Memorial Weekend 2020 felt like a relevant time to revisit this recording of When The Saints Go Marching In, to honor the lives of heroes lost during both the past and most recent of days. The concept of my arrangement was similar to a New Orleans Funeral or Celebration of Life – a contemplative piano introduction, followed by a jubilant jazz band send off: Continue reading “When The Saints Go Marching In (Lesson in Jazz Harmony)”

Explaining the Greek Modes

Observe today’s music theory illustration pictured above. Notice the photo of these colorful Four O’clock Flowers – each bloom is unique, but they all are linked together as a family that grows from the same parent plant.

This week one of my newer adult piano students eagerly read ahead in my book Amazing Phrasing – Keyboard, and got a bit confused trying to understand the Greek modes/scales we refer to in both jazz & traditional music theory. During her first lesson this enthusiastic lady Continue reading “Explaining the Greek Modes”

Adding Chords to a Jazz Ballad: Skylark Tutorial

Ever wonder how jazz musicians come up with inspired chords when playing ballads? Reharmonization can be a fun experiment to try!  Watch my video to find 3 ways to create a compelling bass line plus some sweet chord voicings to play under the melody of Hoagy Carmichael’s classic composition Skylark: