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How to Breathe Vitality into Holiday Hits


Did you know that playing Christmas and holiday songs can make you a better pianist and give you a wonderful ROI besides?

In this article, I'll not only tell you how to revitalize music of the season, but I'll also explain how you will truly reap the benefits of your many hours of piano practice at this time each year.

To do this, I'll show you the types of arrangements followed by performances that I used to transform 7 well-known holiday selections.


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas-Bass in 2

One of the best ways to play a medium tempo tune is to use the Bass in 2 accompaniment pattern. I learned to do this back in my early performing career when couples wanted to dance the Fox Trot.

Recently, when I was teaching one of my adult piano students how to play the bass in 2, he told me that he was quite familiar with the Fox Trot, because he met his wife when they were taking ballroom dance lessons. The rhythm is dotted quarter note - 8th note - dotted quarter note -8th note. The notes are based on the chords (root-5th-10th-5th). Have a listen to Have Yourself a Merry Christmas with Bass in 2


O Holy Night-Flowing Style

This song provides a beautiful contrast to the upbeat holiday tunes. The left hand accompaniment is a pattern of Root-5-8 in triplets (Root is the name of the chord; 5th is the 5th of the chord; 8 is the octave). This is a very effective way to keep the flow of a song moving. I've used it with Memory, The Impossible Dream, Send in the Clowns and other show tunes. It's an easy pattern that allows you to embellish the melody with your right hand. Have a listen to O Holy Night in a Flowing Style



God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen-Jazz Waltz

Although this Christmas carol is in written in 4/4 time, I was able to change the meter to 3/4 time. Once that was done, the Jazz Waltz accompaniment fell into place. I've done this with many songs over the years. even if it seems complicated, many of my adult piano students and teenaged students have learned to do this in a few lessons. Have a listen to: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen-Jazz Waltz style

I talked about the ways you could connect songs so that they flow from one to another. In my Holiday Hits Medley, I have included excerpts from four tunes: Let It Snow, Christmas Time is Here, Here Comes Santa Claus and Jingle Bells. Let it Snow uses bass in 2 as we discussed, Christmas Time Is Here is a straight forward waltz using the 10th system accompaniment, Here Comes Santa Claus uses the beguine bass accompaniment style and you can read about, learn how to play and listen to complete version of Jingle Bells with the shuffle bass in my recent blog post. For now, have a listen to my Medley of Holiday Hits:



How To Reap the Benefits of Piano Practice at This Time Each Year

In addition to my adults and teenaged students, I have a couple of 8 year old piano students this year. Even at their early first and second year levels of piano lessons, they have been playing lots of holiday selections that they have heard before. Fast forward to several of my teenagers who are now playing more advanced versions of Christmas songs. These students are starting to sound quite sophisticated because their current arrangements are at a much higher level than in past years. Why? because they already know the songs, the chords, the rhythm and musical; concepts that have taken their piano playing to a higher level.


Play Holiday Music Year After Year-See Your Improvement

Once of the most gratifying things about playing holiday music is that you can see how much progress you've made in the previous 12 months of practicing and learning the piano. Talk about a ROI!!!!


 
 

Diana Mascari has taught piano to hundreds of adults and children for more than 40 years. She holds two Masters of Music degrees from New England Conservatory and taught keyboard harmony to music majors while pursuing doctoral studies at Boston University. Her work as music director for a multi-cultural Presbyterian Church has continued for four decades, and her jazz and classical compositions have been performed worldwide. Diana has been performing for more than 50 years. From solo jazz piano (her first love) to commercial groups touring the East Coast to leading her own jazz ensembles at many colleges and jazz clubs throughout New England. For questions or comments, please get in touch with me

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