Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stella's back

Weird things happen in music. How do I put it?

There's that one tune I never liked. It's one of the most famous American standards of all times, and I don't even know it. I can't sing it from memory. Give me a lead sheet and I can barely make sense out of it.

Everyone who's ever played any song from The Great American Songbook has played it. Everyone has sung it.

By now you know which tune I mean (as if the title wasn't completely obvious). Stella by Starlight.

So what's wrong with me?

I know. I got it. I checked out my music library (recently converted all my CDs to FLAC), and these are the cats playing Stella: Keny Werner, Kenny Drew, Chick Corea McCoy Tyner, etc... (I'm not much into singers)
None of whom bothers to stay even remotely close to the melody. That's how famous the tune is. How's a young fellow like me suppose to know it then?

There's another angle to it. Many pianists believe that learning tunes from leadsheets is a waste of time. You should learn tunes from records. I never bought it. I can play 'Fly me to the moon' in my sleep. Half drunk I'll still know the melody. I don't need to transcribe it.
That's because I already did... without realizing it ...

So there I was determined to learn Stella.
Went to my favorite source for everything: Youtube! Typed Stella by Starlight, picked up the first video that came up. Anita O'Day. Not bad. It'll do. Here it is:

Off I go transcribing the melody. Took about an hour I think. After only one hour, I no longer have any problem remembering the melody. Sorry I can't post the transcription. I could, but I really don't think I'm supposed to...
So it does work to get melodies off records, but get it from singers. Sinatra, King Cole whatever. You don't have to like it, but at least, it stays close to the original.

And now of course I have Stella in my head. I'm going to make something with it, not quite sure what yet. I'm working out some harmonies for it, (very) loosely based on the O'Day version. I'll use some tricks I got from 7NoteMode and see what I can do with it.

I'll also try the chord tone approach. All of that coming up soon.

Keep playing.

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