From Lead Sheet to Arrangement


At the heart of solo jazz piano playing lies the use of spread and rootless voicings. But to truly transform a simple lead sheet into a captivating piece of music involves digging deeper into the jazz player's bag of tricks and employing an array of arranging and reharmonization techniques to develop and intensify the underlying character of the melody and harmony of the tune. Each lesson in this series features a comparison of a fully realized two-handed arrangement of a tune with it's basic lead sheet that will reveal the techniques and devices used to transform the piece from a melody and chord symbols to a finished arrangement.
One of the most beautiful of the old English Christmas carols, this 20 measure, through-composed 18th century piece has been reharmonized with rich, colorful jazz chords and voicings in this lesson. Enjoy playing this full two-handed arrangement from your tablet or pc using the onscreen practice sessions or from a printout of the downloadable pdf. Try your hand at applying the techniques used in this lesson to a tune of your choice. Everything is demonstrated note-by-note and chord-by-chord so you can see how all of the pieces come together in this much requested holiday favorite.
Starting out life as a Big Band staple, this hit tune of 1941 soon became a jazz standard through the recordings of John Coltrane and Bill Evans. In this lesson, the rich changes of this 32 bar AABA tune are left largely intact in this solo jazz piano arrangement and treated subtly with a range of standard voicing techniques including spread voicings, rootless voicings with added tension, upper structure triads, double lead, drop 2 voicings, sus chords, substitute dominants and a walking bass line in the bridge. The transformation of the plain lead sheet is demonstrated note-by-note and chord-by-chord resulting in a full two-handed arrangement that you can play directly from your tablet or pc using the onscreen practice sessions or from a printout of the fully annotated downloadable pdf.
A range of voicing, reharmonization and arranging techniques are used to create the arrangement of this "beautiful" Jimmy Van Heusen ballad. In this lesson, watch as each device is implemented to elevate the already gorgeous melody and harmony of this 1947 jazz standard into an engaging solo jazz piano arrangement. After the lesson, download and play the fully annotated piece.
Here is a jazz arrangement of our national anthem. Incorporating a wide range of reharmonization and arranging devices- substitutions, upper structures, deceptive cadences and non-functional harmony among them- you will no doubt enjoy hearing this familiar melody juxtaposed with the chromatic sounds of the reharmonized chords.
The folk tune "America the Beautiful" is an elegant 16 measure melody harmonized with basic primary chords, I, IV and V7. In this lesson, this simple tune is transformed into a richly harmonized jazz piece using four basic reharmonization devices: seventh chords, cycle extension, functional substitution and, for lack of a better term, "messing with dominant chords." Print and play the full arrangement and learn to apply these techniques using the exercises in the downloadable pdf practice sessions included with the lesson.
Sarah Jane Cion's jazz ballad, "The Safflower," is presented in the first lesson of this series to demonstrate how to get from a lead sheet to a complete arrangement using various arranging and reharmonization techniques. By supplementing spread and rootless voicings with upper structure triads, related ii chords, deceptive cadences, sus chords, constant structures and other devices, this already beautiful tune is elevated into a engaging and compelling piece of music.