Revisiting My Favorite Tunes: I Could Write a Book
It was close to 9 years ago, when Robin Cho, one of our Hudson Studio piano teachers, asked me to do an arrangement of I Could Write a Book to use with one of her piano students. As I looked back at the blog article that I had written that year about our featured selection, I noticed that I was caught off guard by the request.
Apparently, I hadn’t thought about or played this wonderful Rodgers and Hart standard until that time. However, in an effort to help one of our adolescent piano students not to mention her teacher, I spent time with the tune and created an arrangement that was suitable for this teenaged student.
Although Robin had a music degree from Berklee College of Music, she was uncertain about how to “translate” her more advanced piano arrangement (which she learned from her teacher Laszlo Gardony) into a more basic but still effective rendition of I Could Write a Book. Her request was a joy to answer and brought me back in touch with this wonderful standard.
Despite the fact that I had not only arranged I Could Write a Book but had also recorded and subsequently wrote a blog about it, I had absolutely no recollection of any of this until a couple of months ago. One day one of my teenaged students was playing through her repertoire of songs that I had previously taught her how to play. Although I had suggested that she learn this wonderful standard, it wasn’t until that particular lesson that I decided to revisit this tune for my own repertoire.
Having arranged, played, recorded and written about so many standards over the past 9 years (since that 2011 blog post), it wasn’t until then that I located the music for I Could Write a Book in the Real Book and started going over it. It didn’t take long for me to get comfortable with it. Like so many of the great standards, the combination of the 32 bar (measure) form and the marvelously rich ii-V and ii-V-I chord progressions made revisiting this tune a true joy.
Practicing the piano involves becoming familiar with a piece of music. I’ll never forget what Barry Green wrote in The Inner Game of Music: “no music is difficult; rather it is unfamiliar”. Because I have learned and played so many standards, I Could Write a Book was familiar to me. However, there are a couple of chord sequences that required more practice so the music would flow as well as it did in the rest of the song. I have found that situation to be true of many standards.
That’s why I enjoy teaching students how to play them. Once they become “familiar” with a few of them, they are introduced to the musical treasures found in the Great American Songbook. When musical icons like James Taylor decide to dedicate entire CD’s to this great repertoire at one point in their careers, it is clear that teaching students of all ages, especially teenagers and adult piano students how to play songs by Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and other great composers of that era, is an opportunity to enrich their lives and those whose lives they touch.
When you listen to today’s video recording of I Could Write a Book,
I hope you’ll understand why I appreciate this incredibly rich musical repertoire as well as helping and watching my students come to feel the same way.
How about you?
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Instead of going stir crazy because of social distancing, why not take this season of your life to do something you’ve always wanted to do: learn to play the music you love.
And you can do just that online with the help of Diana Mascari's patient, encouraging and experienced teaching.