In this Christmastime is Here piano tutorial, I show you how to play a beautiful jazz piano arrangement of this classic song from the beloved Charlie Brown Christmas movie. In a few steps, you will be confident playing and singing this beautiful arrangement.
In this tutorial, I am going to take you through a simple three step process to sing and play the piano with beautiful jazz piano voicings. We will use a simple five step process, which will help you to stay organized and master each step.
Let’s get started!
Step #1: Play the melody and bass notes of Christmastime is Here
I chose the key of C for this song, since it works best for sopranos, altos and baritones. If you have a tenor voice, you might want to choose a higher key.
Our first step it to play the melody in the right hand, while your left hand plays the roots of the chords. This ensures that you have a strong sense of the melody and have learned it again the skeleton (the bass note) of the harmony. Add the vocals as soon as you are able
Step #2: Play the Chords of Christmastime is Here
Your next step is to play the root position chords in the right hand, while your left hand play the roots of the chords. Ignore any upper extensions like 9ths or 11ths for now: the goal is to just get your comfortable with the chord qualities. When you are ready, add the vocals.
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Step #3: Learn the Jazz Piano voicings
I am using a combination of accompaniment strategies here. Use the 3-5-7-9 strategy for some of them and the 3 note shell voicings for others. I have chosen voicings based on where it makes sense for this song.
Want to learn more jazz piano voicings? Check out this post!
Step #4: Improvised Solo on Christmastime is HEre
If you want to take an improvised solo, I recommend you solo using a four measure vamp. This is an easy and effective way to solo that doensn’t require a ton of theory knowledge or jazz skills.
Solo using the scales
The first option for an improvised solo is to use these scales. The first scale is a C major scale. The second scale is what we call the Lydian Dominant, which has a #4 and a b7.
Practice each of these scales from the root to the 9th as written below and then experiment with making melodies using the notes of the scales.
Solo using chord structures
For the Cma7 chord, you should practice 1-3-5-7-9-7-5-3-1. For the Bb7#11, I am actually showing you the 1-3-5-7-9-7-5-3-1 of an F-ma7 chord. Why? Because it gives a stronger feeling of the #11 quality. Play it through and you’ll hear how gorgeous it is.
Practice each of these structures as written and then experiment with making melodies using the notes of the scales.
Step #5: Put it All Together and play Christmastime is Here
Now that you have done all of the hard work, you can put it all together.
1. Introduction: Play the last four bars of the song
2. Sing and play the melody
3. Improvise on the vamp using the scales and/or the chord structures
4. Sing and play starting at the bridge “Sleigh bells in the air”
5. Do a broad ritardando at the end to complete the song.
Take each step and repeat it as much as needed until you are able to play without errors. You can tuck a copy of the lead sheet in your pocket, or challenge yourself to memorize it.
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