Composer Notes

Have you ever played a piece and wondered what was on the composer's mind as they were creating it? The purpose of these Composer Notes is to give you insight into the creative process behind the music in my piano books. The entries are a mixed bag of teaching hints, musical influences, alternate fingerings, structural analyses, and the care that went into creating collections suitable for teaching, learning and performing.

Click to enlarge the original manuscripts, listen to sound clips, and click on the link to the books page to find out how to order your copy. I am working on three new titles right now, and will upload the note entries for those books at the time of their release. Play on!

Jack and Jill went to the Beach — Late Elementary (Grade 2) F Major 4/4

August 17, 2009 With my focus back on this project, and a date at Holly Carr's house to talk about cover art the very next day, I panicked a bit. I had only four pieces so far, and thought I should have many more. At breakfast I asked my children which kids' songs I should make into popular music. Jack and Jill was called out. 'Of course', I thought, and after breakfast I went straight to the piano. There is a lick in the bridge of the Beach Boy's California Girls that sounds exactly like the beginning of Jack and Jill went up the Hill. I had always thought so, and knew this was the perfect occasion to capitalize on the similarity. The title and rhythmic groove pay homage to the surfer rock style of the mid-60's. I also love the connection of the bucket in the illustration, thinking Jack and Jill still have one, this time to play with at the beach.

Jack and Jill went to the Beach 

Available as part of Old MacDonald had the Blues.

The Babe in the Cradle goes Rock, Rock, Rock — (cut from book)

June 02, 2009 At this point I was scouring the house for children's books with printed song words. I liked the repeated words of this one and made up a fun piece to go with them. But I had made up this music from scratch and as my collection kept growing, this one no longer fit in with the others. I knew I had to stick with familiar music so the entire collection made sense. This one was eventually cut from the book.

 

The Wheels on the Bus go Ragtime — Early Intermediate (Grade 4) G Major 4/4

May 26, 2009 This project was now fully on my mind and I was mentally reviewing traditional music to find tunes that could be re-mixed into popular pieces. The broken chords in The Wheels on the Bus caught my attention and I sat down at the piano to try it in the Ragtime style. It worked! I wasn't truly happy with my first draft, as it went into the diminished hand-over-hand run too soon. I tried the V-I chord sequence but wasn't sure about it until September when I revisited the piece. I decided I liked it, so I wrote it in to build the excitement to the end, as the piece is now printed.

The Wheels on the Bus go Ragtime 

Available as part of Old MacDonald had the Blues.

Jazz! Goes the Weasel — Early Intermediate (Grade 3) G Major 4/4

May 20, 2009 I had a feeling I was on to a cool idea, if only I could find other traditional tunes that were equally adaptable to popular styles. I needed to find tunes that had titles I could twist, and music that was naturally inclined to the style suggested in the new title. Two days later I got my wish with Pop! Goes the Weasel. Inspired by Diana Krall's Quiet Nights concert (which I had attended just the week before), I played around with the tune. The original was in 6/8, but in the spirit of Krall's understated style I changed the opening rhythm into straight quarter notes that burst out with a jazzy rhythm and texture every so often.

Jazz! Goes the Weasel 

Available as part of Old MacDonald had the Blues.

Old MacDonald had the Blues — Elementary (Preparatory-Grade 2) F Blues 4/4

May 18, 2009 was a sunny spring day. Looking for student repertoire, I came across Boris Berlin's Old MacDonald had a Farm. I chuckled to myself, "Wouldn't it be funny if Old MacDonald had the Blues instead?" So I fiddled with the Old MacDonald tune in different keys, in the blues mode and with bluesy rhythms. In about a half an hour I had created the piece almost as you have it, except for one detail. It took me longer to decide on the D-flat7 harmony in measure 10. To simplify the notation I decided to nix the F Major key signature, which eliminated the need for several accidentals. I chose to simplify the spelling of the D-flat7 harmony, substituting the C-flat with a B. I also left out all of the rests to keep the score clean.

Old MacDonald had the Blues 

Available as part of Old MacDonald had the Blues.

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