It has been a challenging year for all of us, and I hope that you find yourself in a position to wind down a little bit and enjoy the holiday season.
While long and cold nights try their best to make me miserable, I absolutely love this time of the year for the music.
Several centuries of Christmas tradition have brought forth a cornucopia of wonderful tunes designed to fill the homes and hearts of people.
This is in fact great news for licksters like you and I!
You may remember (from my incessant preaching all year long):
Picking up musical themes by ear and turning them into new shapes and
forms is one of the most valuable skills you can possibly acquire as a
Indeed, the holiday season offers an excellent opportunity to absorb and engage with the finest musical material, and I encourage you to take advantage of this!
I have made it a personal tradition to take a Christmas tune every year and turn it into an arrangement of my own. I also try to weave in some musical vocabulary I acquired over the course of the year.
Today, I picked one of my childhood favorites: “Stille Nacht” a.k.a. “Silent Night”.
Below is my attempt to turn it into a jazz ballad version. Please enjoy!
You may have heard some musical patterns and phrases in there, all of which I encourage you to use in your own solos.
As a holiday gift to you I packaged some of the musical material into short licks:
“The Sweet Sus”
The trick here is to insert a suspended chord right before hitting the “home” chord (C). In the example above this would be G7 > Gsus (not to be confused with the baby in the manger) > C.
This maintains some tension before ending a melody and makes the final resolution all the more satisfying.
“The Playful Turnaround”
This fits over any 5-1 progression, in this case from a C7 to F. The point is to stretch the C7 over an entire measure with interesting “filler”, before moving on in the key of F.
“The Block Appoggiatura”
An appoggiatura (AH-POH-JAH-TOO-RAH) is an embellishing note, usually one step above or below the note it precedes, also known as a grace note. This idea can be extended to chords.
In the lick above I use two successive “grace chords”, first below and then above the target chord of Am. Bill Evans uses this technique to great effect and I have made it one of my staples.
There you go. This should be enough material to keep you busy over the holidays.
Once again, I implore you to take some of these musical snippets and experiment on them!
Can you come up with any variations?
If so, feel free to share your new licks here on the LickStack.
Or can you take these themes and insert them into a different Christmas song?
If so, a good place to post your experiment would be the LickStack subreddit.
Enjoy your time with your friends and loved ones. I will see you next year!