This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores a Vince Guaraldi Christmas with an analysis of two great jazz standards, "O'Christmas Tree", and "Christmas Time Is Here".
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Every JazzPianoSkills weekly podcast episode introduces aspiring jazz pianists to essential Jazz Piano Skills. Each Podcast episode explores a specific Jazz Piano Skill in depth. Today you will discover, learn, play a Vince Guaraldi Christmas. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
Charles Schulz's, Charlie Brown's Pianist, Vince Guaraldi
Form, melody, chords, and voicings for two classic Vince Guaraldi Christmas tunes.
Essential progressions, chord/scle relationships, and harmonic pairs to guide your development of improvisational ideas when playing the classic Vince Guaraldi Christmas tunes; O'Christmas Tree and Christmas Time Is Here.
For maximum musical growth, be sure to use the Jazz Piano Podcast Packets for this Jazz Piano Lesson. All three Podcast Packets are designed to help you gain insight and command of a specific Jazz Piano Skill. The Podcast Packets are invaluable educational tools to have at your fingertips while studying these two classic Vince Guaraldi Christmas tunes.
(ensemble assistance and practice tips)
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today you are going to discover Charles Schultz's, Charlie Brown's pianist, Vince Guaraldi.
You're going to learn form melody chords and voicings for two classic Vince girl de Christmas tunes. And you're going to play essential progressions, core scale relationships, and harmonic pairs to guide your development of improvisational ideas when playing the classic Vince Guaraldi. Christmas tunes those tunes Oh Christmas tree, and Christmas time is here. So as I always like to say regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner and intermediate player an advanced player even if you consider yourself an experienced and seasoned professional, you will find this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring a Vince Guaraldi Christmas to be very beneficial and festive. So if you are new to jazz piano skills, if you are a new jazz piano skills podcast listener, I want to take the time right now to personally invite you to become a jazz piano skills member. Visit jazz piano skills.com to learn how to activate your membership, and to check out all the abundance of jazz educational resources, materials, and services that are available for you to use to help you become an accomplished jazz pianist. For example, as a jazz piano skills member, you have access to all of the educational podcast packets, the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play alongs that I developed for every weekly podcast episode. Now, these are invaluable, invaluable educational tools that will be great that are great for you to utilize to help you gain a conceptual understanding of the jazz panel skills that we explore as well as to gain a physical command of those jazz piano skills. As a jazz piano skills member you also have access to the sequential jazz piano curriculum which is loaded this curriculum was loaded with comprehensive courses, all of them using a self-paced format, educational talks, interactive media, video demonstrations in all 12 keys of the jazz panel skill and of course, play along tracks for you to utilize as well. And as a jazz piano skills member, you also have a reserved seat in the online weekly master classes, which are in essence a one-hour online lesson with me each and every week. It comes with your jazz piano skills membership. And you also as a jazz panel skills member have access to the private jazz piano skills community. Now this community hosts a variety of engaging forums, podcast-specific forums, course-specific forums, and of course, just general jazz piano forums as well. And last, but certainly not least, as a jazz piano skills member, you have unlimited, private, personal, and professional educational support whenever and as often as you need it. So again, take a few seconds few minutes to visit jazz piano skills.com. To learn more about all the educational opportunities that await you and how to easily activate your membership. There are several membership plans to choose from, and I'm quite certain there's one that will be perfect for you. However, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Let me know. I'm always happy to spend some time with you answer any questions that you may have and to help you in any way that I possibly can. Okay, let's discover learn and play jazz piano let's discover learn and play. I'm totally pumped about this. A Vince girl the Christmas. Let's start. Let's begin with a little introduction to Vince Guaraldi especially for those of you who may not be aware of this fabulous jazz pianist. Mr. Grimaldi was born July 17, 1928. and died February 619 76 At the young age of 47. Way too young, he is best remembered as the pianist, the composer, the arranger for Charles Schultz. And of course, Charles Schultz was the mastermind behind the animated television adaptations of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts comic strip. So if you're a fan of Charlie Brown Line is Lucy in the whole gang. If you grew up in join boy named Charlie Brown, it's a great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. And of course, if you grew up listening, watching a Charlie Brown Christmas, as I just did the other night, and I did throughout my childhood, then you were enjoying, if you were checking out and enjoying Charlie Brown, you were enjoying the music of Vince Guaraldi.
Pretty cool. Now, besides his claim to fame as the pianist as the composer, the arranger for Charles Schulz, he also had a pretty darn nice jazz career, especially considering he only live to be 47. He had a pretty nice jazz career playing was such legends, jazz legends, his cow Jader and Woody Herman Ben Webster. Stan gets to name just a few. And if you're not familiar with Vince's 1962 album, this is the one that I can remember. This was one that I was introduced to Vince Guaraldi with, and its 1962 album it's called Jazz impressions of black Orpheus. And if you are not familiar with this album, if you're not familiar with this recording that I want to recommend, I want to strongly recommend that you check it out as soon as possible. So many great tunes on this album like Samba de Orpheus, Maha de carnival, or another names for that tune, black Orpheus, A day in the life of a fool. There's Moon River since I felt for you. And of course, also included in this on this album, is his Grammy Award-winning composition cast your fate to the wind. This album without a doubt this album should be in your library in your listening library. Absolutely. For sure. I read recently, we're Vince Guaraldi. once commented, this is a quote, right that he said, I don't think I'm a great piano player. But I would like to have people like me to play pretty tunes and, and reach the audience. And I hope some of those tunes will become standards. I want to write standards, not just hits. Well, interesting quote, right. I have a couple of quick thoughts about this Vince Guaraldi, quote, number one, Vince Guaraldi was an amazing pianist. I think it's so funny that he says I don't think I'm a great piano player. He was an amazing pianist. He plays with great energy, great expression, feeling and passion. And he also apparently was a very humble individual. Right, because he was a great pianist. And this may be why his humbleness may be why his music is so enjoyable because when he plays, you can tell you can immediately tell it's all about the music. And it's not about him. It's an invaluable lesson for all of us. And number two, he certainly accomplished his goal of writing standards, his work with Charles Schultz will live forever. And certainly his Christmas standard Christmas time is here which we will be exploring today. It has become a Christmas standard indeed. And a favorite for many, including myself, especially at this time of year. If this podcast episode does nothing else, but get you familiar with the music of jazz great Vince Guaraldi then this podcast episode has been a huge success. Check out his music you're gonna love it.
So the educational agenda for today is as follows number one. We are going to explore two Christmas tunes performed by Vince karate and Charles Schultz is a Charlie Brown Christmas. Those two tunes Oh Christmas tree or another name O Tannenbam, I love that and his original composition. Christmas time is here. Number two, I will perform Both pieces, and then walk you through the form, chords, and voicings that I use when playing these pieces. And number three, I will also highlight various progressions, chord scale relationships, and harmonic pairs that I suggest you should isolate when practicing for developing your improvisational ideas. So if you are a jazz piano skills member, I want you to take a few minutes right now to download and print the illustrations and the lead sheets for this podcast episode, you have access to all the podcast packets, and you should absolutely be using them when listening to this podcast. And of course, when listening to any of the podcasts, you should be using the podcast packets, and absolutely use them when practicing. So check out the download check out these podcast packets because the lead sheets are going to have these tunes laid out for us that we're going to go through today, as well as the voicings that I'm using. So again, just hit the pause button. Take a couple of minutes right now to access and download the podcast packets, the illustrations, and the lead sheets. And if you are listening to this podcast on any of the popular podcast directories such as Apple or Google, Amazon, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and on and on and on and on, then be sure to go to jazz piano skills podcast.com to download the podcast packets, you will find the active download links in the show notes. And one final but extremely important note if you're thinking that the music of Vince Guaraldi an old Christmas tree and Christmas time is here that we are about to discover, learn and play is in some ways or even if you feel it is all the way over your head. Then I would say to you okay, continue to listen, continue to grow, relax. By listening, you are going to just grow your jazz piano skills intellectually. The fact is that all skills I mentioned every week all skills are overhead when first introduced and that is precisely why the first step we always need to take in order to improve our musicianship is to step outside of our comfort zone. And listen, all musical growth begins upstairs mentally, conceptually before it can come out downstairs physically in your hands. So listen to this podcast lesson now to discover and learn the play will come in time, I guarantee it. Okay, we are going, to begin with, Oh Christmas tree. And so the very first thing I want to do is let's listen to this tune. So I'm going to bring the ensemble in. And I'm going to play a few choruses of O'Christmas Tree. I'm going to do my very best to do it in a kind of a Vince Guaraldi laid back style. And, and then we'll after we listen to it, then I'll break it apart. We'll go through it. You know section by section measure by measure. And I'll give you some insight and some pointers on how I approach playing this crate. Christmas standard. So let's check it out. Let's bring the ensemble in. Here we go. Oh Christmas tree
absolutely love that tune, right? So funny man, every time I play that I can't help but the Think of Charlie Brown Snoopy, right, you know that little scraggly Christmas tree with the, with the ornament on it, you know, it's just great. I guess it reminds me of childhood as well. So. So now I want to, let's break this tune apart. And if you have the podcast packets with you, you have the lead sheet so you have the chord changes in front of you. And I want to just point out a few things right away. And also if you have the illustrations, you have the voicings mapped out the contemporary voicings and these are the primary voicings that I use throughout the tune. We'll talk about those in a minute. But this is a simple little tune, right? It's 16 measures long, so it's not, it's not lengthy by any stretch of the imagination. And I actually think of it in two sections on a Section A B section which are which is indicated marked on your lead sheet, we're in the key of F. And you can see right away let's talk about section one you can see right away in section one, some very familiar chord changes, right, we have the F major going to the G minor, E minor, D seven, with a flat nine, G minor
F major so in the key of F right this is all diatonic movement more or less right? The one chord, two chord, three-chord, six dominant, 251.
That five chord takes us back and we repeat the exact same thing again
lovely. Now, the B section remains pretty diatonic to the key of F as well and it goes like this
Okay, so what's happening there? F major
where it gets tricky. You get to a diminishment that is seven flat nine, G minor to C seven lotta chords in one measure right one on each beat. Then we start on the sharp four half diminished in this B flat seven moving to the half steps
she down taking us back to the beginning. Okay, so you can see that Oh, Christmas tree. Nice little form 16 measures in length, two different sections, how I like to think about it. And it's pretty much all diatonic motion in the key of F. So if you look at section A again if you are going to begin practicing any kind of improvisation and you want to use some kind of chord scale Relationship approach. You know, it's interesting that the scale of F would work over the entire A section. Even with the D dominant seven flat nine, you can make the F major scale work, that F major scale would just include the sharp nine and a flat 13 wouldn't necessarily have the flat nine sound in that scale. But it certainly can work over that D dominant seven. So you could simplify your improvisational approach, and just keep it all F major through that entire A section. Now the B section starts off diatonic again in the key of F with a 1625 chord motion chord movement, but then we get to the last measure of line three there, right, we get to that a half diminish the seven flat nine G minor seven, C seven, so we have, in essence, a minor 251, a half diminished, going to D seven, flat nine going to G minor, but then that G minor can also serve a dual function as the two chord leanness to that C dominant seven the five chord, right, so they're improvisationally speaking, I like to think of the the a half diminished, and the D seven flat nine G minor, I like to use the fifth mode harmonic minor scale or the or the the flat nine flat 13 sound in my improv. It's really pretty.
Lean back to that G minor, then we have the B minor seven, flat five, which is the sharp four, I treat that as a Locrian. Coming from the like the C major scale slide down to the B flat seven, which would be point me to the key of E flat and E flat major scale, then I have from there a 36251 taking me back strong resolution going right back in the key of F. And then my last chord, my C seven alter that I like to playing the fully altered scale on that take me back to the beginning.
So it's a very simple song not only in terms of form, but it's a very simple song in terms of the harmonic motion. It's primarily diatonic, he of F movement, the last two weeks improvisationally speaking, we put a great emphasis on developing your linear improvisational lines, you know, thinking linearly as opposed to thinking vertically, right more horizontal. This is a great tool to practice that because you can use that F major scale, moving through these chords and start practicing playing lines that stretch through the bar lines and connect seamlessly connect the various courts not too difficult to do when you can use the same scale over a series of chords, which you can certainly do and Oh, Christmas tree harmonic pairs, I would draw your attention to the very last line the B half diminished going through the B flat seven. That's a great harmonic pair to practice or the B flat seven slide and down to the A minor seven. Those are great harmonic pairs to practice as we outlined in the last two podcast episodes. So Oh, Christmas tree is a great song not only because it's the time of year, right, but it's one that I think you can get your hands on the chord, the chord changes, and get your hands on the melody and do some nice, simple improvisational work over the top of these chords. And you can do it rather quickly. Now the second tool that we're going to look at today is a Vince Guaraldi original, this is his tune. Christmas time is here. It's a little bit more involved than Oh Christmas tree, but it is equally as beautiful. So I want to start off again as I did with a Christmas tree and I want to play Christmas time is here for you. So I want to bring the ensemble back in let's listen to it first want to play a couple of choruses. Then we'll break it apart as well. So here we go. Let's check it out. Christmas time is here.
Is that a gorgeous piece of music? Or is that a gorgeous piece of music? It's beautiful. So this first and foremost the very first thing that we need to address right away with Christmas time is here is that it's in three four time it's technically a waltz right three beats in a measure. So it's going to have a different feel a different groove than oh Christmas, Oh Christmas tree. So I think of this is your classic A be a form we have an A section eight measures long followed by another a section eight measures long followed by a bridge, eight measures long and then returned to the A section for another a measure. So it's a classic, a be a form 32 measures in length, three sections being identical. And a four Section B in the bridge, slightly different. So let's walk through the ACE section first. So we have an F major seven E flat nine sharp 11. The melody itself is the sharp 11. Listen again.
A natural and melody against my E flat nine gives us the sharp 11 sound and then it repeats itself. And here we have the sharp four half diminished again. I told you it was common. Sharp for half diminished the B minor seven flat five. These slides down half step. Another half step down A flat minor,
G minor seven.
F major nine and the melody note is the note G which is the ninth. So that sharp for half diminished. For the second half of the A section here, sharp for slimdown a half step to four minor slide down a half step to a minor slide down a half step to A flat minor, sliding down a half step to G minor, very common motion in a lot of standards quite actually.
That's it that's the entire A section so it sounds like this.
So if you learned that those eight measures, you've learned three fourths of the tune, the bridge moves into the key of D flat, that key center, and we get this goes to G flat, or I should say an F sharp, nine, sharp 11, back to our D flat major sharp, nine sharp 11, then we have the same kind of motion again that we experienced in the A section
D flat nine sharp 11. And again, the sharp 11 Is the melody. So that's the bridge. Okay, so I want to talk a little bit about the harmonic pairs that I would be practicing. This is very different. There's not the diatonic motion that you we experienced an old Christmas tree where we could use one scale over the entire A section. Here, we're going to have to be a little more crafty with our improvisational choices. And so we're going to lean on our harmonic pairs that we discover learned and played in the last two podcast episodes. So the very first harmonic pair that I would encourage you to isolate is the F major seven to the E flat nine sharp 11, the first two measures of the piece, right. So for the F major seven, you could certainly work off the F major scale for the E flat nine sharp 11, you're going to work off the dominant sharp 11 scale, right, so you're a F major E flat, nine sharp 11. Those two scales, F major to E flat, sharp above, and five dominance. So I would isolate those two courts side by side, and I would practice my linear improvisation connecting those two scales as one creating melodic ideas that flow through the bar line and seamlessly connect those two harmonic sounds. Now, next harmonic pairs are very interesting in the second four measures of the A section right, so the B half diminished, again, I would treat as a locrian, the B flat minor, I'm going to treat that as a two chord as a Dorian, which would point me to the key of A flat, A minor would, again, as Dorian would point me to the key of G, A flat minor would point me to the key of G flat, I'm treating all these minor errors as two chords, G minor, of course, the to coordinate key of F to my C dominant to my F major. So what you basically have cascading down you have starting with that B half diminished flat five, you have the key of C, then you have the key of A flat key a G, the key of G flat, sliding down to the key of F. So I would work those harmonic pairs, I'd work B half diminished the B flat minor, I'd work B flat minor to A minor as a harmonic pair, I'd practice A flat minor to G minor, as a harmonic pair. And then I practice my G minor C seven F major, my 251, I would practice that linearly as well using the F major scale. So that's it for the A section of Christmas time is here, all harmonic pairs very different than Oh, Christmas tree, where it was very linear, we could practice our linear improvisation but do so using one scale primarily through the entire tune. Here, not so much. So much harmonic motion moving and all these chords are pointing us to different key centers. And our job is to have to be able to seamlessly connect those improvisationally speaking. But the great thing is it's an ABA form. So if you practice this A section, you're really practicing three-quarters of the tune at one time. Now when we get to the bridge, I would use harmonic pair. Practicing again and I would match up my D flat major seven with my F sharp nine sharp 11 Right and practice those two again, the D flat major seven I would treat as Ionian, so I would play the D flat major seven scale and for the F sharp nine sharp 11 I'd play the dominant sharp 11 scale again, I would also encourage you to play the half whole diminished scale. I have not done a podcast at So don't that sound yet, but that is coming here soon after the new year. So either one of those two choices, if you're already familiar with the half whole diminished scale, that's a great one to use over the dominant nine sharp 11 sound, not only for the F sharp, nine sharp 11, but for the E flat nine sharp 11 In measures in measure two and four in the very first line as well. Okay, so then the second line of the of the B section starting on the A minor seven, treat that as a two chord, actually,
I take that back and actually treat that as a three chord in the key of F, and then the E flat nine, I would treat as a five chord pointed me to the key of A flat, then the D nine would point me to the key of G, the A flat seven would point me to the key of D flat, the G minor seven, the key of F, and then the D flat nine, point me to the key of G flat, which within the C's 13 would point me to the key of F, so I'd slide down to the key of F. So heart lots of harmonic pairs here to work with right, the E minor to the E, flat nine, great harmonic pair, E flat nine to D nine, wonderful, a flat or D nine to a flat, nother great harmonic pair, a flat, seven, G minor seven, great harmonic pair, and then G minor seven, the D flat nine, D flat nine, the feet C 13. The song is laced with all kinds of harmonic pairings that you can isolate, to practice your linear improvisation. Now with regard to the voicings, again, I would draw your attention to the illustrations, the podcast packets, the illustrations that you hit your have that have access to again once again I use primarily quarter voicings, the fourth the voicing sounds, contemporary shell voicings when I'm playing this song, so it kind of sounds like
very transparent, very open, very contemporary sound and I have all those voicings mapped out for you in the illustrations in the podcast packets that you can explore and study as well. As you can see with both of these tones, right Oh, Christmas tree, Christmas time is here. Both lovely songs to have under your fingers again, especially during this time of the year. Oh Christmas tree 16 measures in length. Christmas time is here. 32 measures in length old Christmas tree four four time. Christmas time is here three four time, Oh Christmas tree, primarily diatonic chord motion in the key of F which allows you to practice linear improvisational ideas using the F major scale. Christmas time is here takes you through all kinds of key centers, which is perfect for practicing the harmonic pairs that we explored. And we discussed in the last two podcast episodes. So as we always do, we unpack a ton of information in a very short period of time within each one of these podcast episodes, and today was certainly no exception as we explored a Vince Guaraldi Christmas and the standards Oh Christmas tree and Christmas time is here. And once again, I want to encourage you to use the podcast packets, the illustrations, which have all the voicings mapped out for you, the lead sheets are there. They give you the harmonic progressions that we walked through today the chord changes for each one of these tunes. And as you've heard me say over and over and over again your conceptual understanding ultimately determines your physical development. So the time that you invest in studying the harmonic structure and form and chord changes and voicings of old Christmas tree and Christmas time is here. The return on your investment can not be adequately expressed as always, even with working with these Christmas tunes always be patient. Developing mature professional jazz piano skills takes time. So begin structuring your study and your improvisation development after the demonstrations that I modeled for you today in this podcast episode and you will begin to see and you will begin to feel and you will begin to hear your musical progress I guarantee it. Well, I hope you have found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring events growing Aldi Christmas, to be insightful, to be beneficial. And of course, I hope you find it to be kind of festive as I mentioned earlier. I want to remind everyone no master class this week or next week. Instead, I want you to spend some time, some precious time with family and friends. And I want to personally wish you and your family a joyous and merry Christmas and I want to wish you all many many blessings and 2022. As always, you can reach me by phone with any questions that you may have. 972-380-8050 my office extension is 211 or if you're more comfortable reaching out by email, my email address is Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com. Or you can use the handy little SpeakPipe widget found throughout the jazz piano skills website. Well, there is my cue. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy the music events girl. Enjoy old Christmas trees and Christmas times. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play. Jazz Piano Merry Christmas.