Archive for November, 2009


Some Things You Can Do To Make a Carol More Interesting

Saturday, November 28th, 2009
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There are several things you can do to make any song more interesting, not counting runs and fills and improvisations. Some of them include passing tones, substitute chords, half step slides, color tones, and so on. This short video using O Little Town Of Bethlehem as an example illustrates some of these things.

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Non-Harmonic Tones – What Are They?

Friday, November 27th, 2009
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Non-harmonic tones are simply melody notes that are not part of the chord in force at the moment. For example, if the chord is C7, the chord notes are C, E, G, and Bb. Any other note in the melody which is not one of those 4 notes is said to be non-harmonic — in other words, not a member of the C7 chord.

Sometimes non-harmonic tones can be quite dissonant; such as an F# in the melody while a C chord is in force. Usually the non-harmonic tone resolves to a chordal tone, hence resolving the dissonance into consonance. A good example of this is the 2nd note of the melody of “Maria” in West Side Story. There is a flat 5th juxtaposed against the tonic chord, but then resolved up 1/2 step to the 5th, creating a beautiful resolution.

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O Come All Ye Faithful (Piano Arranging In Different Keys)

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
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One of the wonderful benefits of knowing music theory well (including chords) is the choice you have in key selection. You’re not limited to playing a song in just one key — you can use several if you wish. Take a look at the video below on Adeste Fidelis:

The text to the Carol O Come All Ye Faithful was originally written in Latin (Adeste Fideles) and was intended to be a hymn, which it is, but has also come to be one of our beloved Christmas Carols about our Lord.

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

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Silent Night – How We Got One Of Our Greatest Christmas Carols

Saturday, November 7th, 2009
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The Story of “Silent Night”

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” Luke 2:8

In 1818, a group of actors were performing in many little towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they came to the tiny village of Oberndorf, where they planned to perform the story of Christ’s birth.
Sadly, the church’s organ wasn’t working and could not be repaired in time for the show. The actors ended up presenting their show in a private home. Their presentation touched the church’s assistant pastor, Josef Mohr. So, that night, instead of going straight home, Mohr instead went up to a hill overlooking the village.
At the peak of the hill, he gazed down on beautiful snowy village below. His thoughts kept drifting back to the Christmas play he had just encountered. He remembered a poem he had written years earlier, it was a reflection back on the night when Christ was born.
Mohr thought the lyrics could make a nice carol for his church to sing the following at the Christmas eve service, but he didn’t have a tune to sing it to. So, Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Using his guitar he composed a melody to attach the poem to.
On Christmas Eve, Gruber and Mohr sang the song to their small congregation.
Weeks later, a well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher came to repair the church’s organ. When he completed the task, Gruber tested the instrument by playing the song he had written for Mohr’s poem. Mauracher was very impressed and took “Silent Night” back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers, the Rainers and the Strassers, heard the song. Enthralled by it, both groups added “Silent Night” to their Christmas season repertoire.

The Strasser sisters exposed Northern Europe to the carol. In 1834, after their performance of “Silent Night” for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, he commanded his choir to sing it every Christmas eve.
The Rainers brought the song to the United States in 1839 where they sang it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside New York City’s Trinity Church.
In 1863, almost fifty years after being writing in German, “Silent Night” was translated into English. Then in 1871 the English version was published in an American hymnal: Charles Hutchins’ Sunday School Hymnal.

Silent night! holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
‘Round yon virgin mother and Child!
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the savior is born
Christ the savior is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord, at thy birth
Jesus Lord, at thy birth

For a complete course on arranging beautiful Chrismas carols, please go to Christmas Carols On The Piano

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