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Christmas Day


How To Play Christmas Sheet Music

by Paul Tobey

The secret to playing Christmas sheet music is to make the melody prominent, get some rhythm happening underneath and bang out some chords to support the harmony of the song. And, while that may seem like a fairly simple concept, for most pianists it takes some practice. Here are some ideas that may help you.

First let's start with the melody. I think for some reason many musicians forget that the melody is the most important thing. I'll never forget this one time early on in my career when I got a gig with some prominent local jazz musicians. It all started out ok, but eventually we got into some tunes where I didn't know the melody very well. I was playing all kinds of way out improve and the bass player turned to me and said, "Hey man, just play the flippin melody!"

It was kind of embarrassing that's for sure. Anyway, I never forgot that and to this day I always put the melody before anything else. What does that mean? It means to get the melody right and make it the most prominent part of your playing. The next thing to go along with your melody is rhythm. It's so important that your playing has some feel to it. So often, pianists focus on getting the notes right and therefore lack the rhythm and feel of the music. If you can, play your music along with the radio or a recording. That will help you develop some feel.

Feel comes from playing with others. It comes from bassists, drummers and other instrumentalists. Even now when I'm playing solo piano concerts I can hear the drums and bass in my head and that will be very evident in my left first and sometimes in the right hand as well with rhythmic chords.

And, speaking of chords, you cannot forget to add a good dose of rich chord structures to your playing. Very often Christmas sheet music has chord symbols on it and you can take your lead from those symbols.

If you don't know how to read chord symbols here's a simple rule. If you see a simple triad chord symbol such as "G". That means it's a G major triad or 3-note chord. First plunk down a G then a major third above which is a "B" then a minor third above that which is a "D."

For minor chords the intervals are inverted. A minor interval first then a major interval on top of that. Then if you want to get really fancy add sevenths to your chord voicings. For example; if you see a G7 chord symbol that mean a major triad with another minor third stacked on top. In others word the chord would be in order from bottom to top; G, B, D and F.

If you see a Gmaj7 chord symbol it's the same as a G7 chord except the top note is an F# instead of an F. Or, think of it as a G major triad with another major third stacked on top.

The only other chord symbol is a minor seventh chord or G-7. This would be played as a G minor triad with a minor seventh stacked on top or; G, Bb, D and F.

While this may seem like a fairly simple approach to playing chord symbols it covers at least 85% of all Christmas sheet music. There are other chord symbols which you may come across from time to time but, like I said, that's pretty much it.

So, when practicing Christmas sheet music play the melody prominently and correctly in the right hand, add some rhythmic feel to it and drop in a good helping of chords to back up the harmony of the song. Christmas sheet music will never sound the same again.
About the Author

Give the gift of music with the ultimate Christmas Carol sing-a-long CD. It comes with the lyrics and the Christmas sheet music for all to enjoy.

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