Christmas Number One Singles (UK) – The Nineties

Hello

Welcome to our second installment of UK Christmas Number One Singles – this time we’re taking a look at the nineties, when The Spice Girls, Cliff Richard and Queen were still fighting for the top spot (seems like a long time ago now).

1990 Cliff Richard “Saviour’s Day” (Strange, my memory must be failing me, as I thought Millennium Prayer was his last Christmas Number One.)





1991 Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” / “These Are the Days of Our Lives” (To quote wikipedia: “Bohemian Rhapsody reached number one again in 1991, after Freddie Mercury’s death, achieving total sales of 2,176,000 and becoming the UK’s third best selling single of all time—beaten only by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997″.)




These Are the Days of Our Lives





1992 Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You” (Originally released by Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston covered this tune for the movie Bodyguard, in which she starred alongside Kevin Costner.)




1993 Mr Blobby “Mr Blobby” (No comment!)




1994 East 17 “Stay Another Day” (The band’s lead singer Tony Mortimer had written this song about his brother’s suicide, and had not intended it to be a Christmas tune at all, but the record company thought otherwise, added some bells and released it just before Christmas.)




1995 Michael Jackson “Earth Song” (along with “We Are the World“, “Man in the Mirror” and “Heal the World“, Michael Jackson is here trying to show his more socially conscious side.)




1996 Spice Girls “2 Become 1” (This was the first ballad the Spice Girls released as a single.)




1997 Spice Girls “Too Much” (The sixth consecutive number-one single in the UK for “girl-power”.)




1998 Spice Girls “Goodbye” (The first single without Geri Halliwell for The Spice Girls, and the beginning of the end for the group.)




1999 Westlife “I Have A Dream” / “Seasons in the Sun” (Seasons in the Sun is actually a very loose English translation of the song “Le Moribond” by Jacques Brel.)




Season’s in the Sun




Check out the original English version by Terry Jacks here:




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Christmas Number One Singles (UK) – The Noughties

Hi

Christmas is drawing ever closer, and here in the UK there is a real fascination about who will have the Number One Single on Christmas Day. In the last few years it has rather predictably always been the winner of X-Factor, so if things go to plan for Simon Cowell and Co this would mean that Joe McElderry’s version of “The Climb” will take the No.1 spot.

Anyway, I thought I might take you through the UK Christmas Number One Singles, decade by decade, starting with our current decade.

2000 Bob The Builder “Can We Fix It?” (probably one of the more embarrassing No. Ones)





2001 Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman “Somethin’ Stupid” (Nicole and Robbie cover Frank and daughter Nancy Sinatra’s hit)





2002 Girls Aloud “Sound of the Underground” (groovy guitar line a la Misirlou)





2003 Michael Andrews & Gary Jules “Mad World” (a hauntingly beautiful reinterpretation of the Tears for Fears original from the eigthies, which sounds very different. It featured in the movie Donnie Darko. This video was shot by French director Michel Gondry, who also made the movies Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind and The Science of Sleep)





2004 Band Aid 20 “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (I have to say, I think the original version sounded better – but we’ll get to hear that when we get round to the eighties)





2005 Shayne Ward “That’s My Goal” (I have to be honest here, I cannot remember this one at all!)





2006 Leona Lewis “A Moment Like This” (another X-Factor winner)





2007 Leon Jackson “When You Believe” (… more X-Factor)





2008 Alexandra Burke “Hallelujah” (… is it me, or do the X-Factor winners al sound the same?)

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How to voice a sus chord easily on the piano

Last time round I explained how sus chords are constructed.

Here I’m going to show you a little trick on how to voice (play) any 7sus chord quite easily on the piano, and you’ll get a nice, full sound.

I’ll explain this in the context of a C7sus:

Take the root (bottom note), so in this case a C and play it in the left hand. Then look at the root in the right hand again, but go down two keys, So C to B to Bb. Now construct a major triad on this note, so a Bb major triad. Then play this with the C root in the left hand, and you’ll get a really nice sounding voicing. (Note that this chord includes a 4th (F) as well as a 2nd (D), but no 5th (G)):

As this chord is made up of a root and a completely separate major chord in its own right you can also write this chord as a slash chord: Bb/C.

Let’s pretend we have a slightly more difficult chord, say an Eb7sus.

So play the root (Eb) in the left hand, then go down two keys in the right hand, so Eb to D to Db, then construct a major chord on the Db, so a Db major triad and put it all together and you should get this:

The nice thing about sus chords and this type of voicing them is that you can even shift these around to different keys at random and get really nice textures. Here is an example – you can try this yourself by just shifting this voicing around the piano:

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Random sus chords

Lincoln Jaeger

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What is a sus chord?

You’ve probably been in this situation yourself: you are playing through one of your favourite pieces and getting along quite all right with the chord symbols until you come across a symbol includes the “sus”. For example: Csus4. What does this “sus” mean? Does it have anything to do with a sustain pedal?

Well no, it has nothing to do with a sustain pedal, but is simply short for “suspended”. So what has been suspended?

The 3rd of the chord (in the case of a C major chord the note E). Let me explain.

Take a bog standard C major chord:

Take away, or “suspend” the 3rd:

Now you add in a 4th instead, and you get a Csus4:

So the 3rd of the chord has been suspended and been replaced by the 4th note of the scale, in this case the F.

You could also suspend the 3rd and use the 2nd instead, so a Csus2:

Also quite common is using both a 2nd and a 4th in a chord at the same time:

You will also find that a minor 7th has been added, creating a C7sus4:

You could also add the 2nd instead of the 4th:

Or indeed both the 2nd and the 4th, which makes for a slightly messy looking chord:

The important thing to remember is that if you come across a chord symbol that symbol reads Csus that a Csus4 is implied as Csus is short for Csus4. By the same token, if you come across C7sus, indeed this is short for C7sus4. So:

Csus = Csus4
C7sus = C7sus4

Addendum:
Sus chords are very common in popular music and jazz due to their softer sound compared to straight major or minor chords, and the fact that you can make up a nice chord progression simply by creating a random progression of sus chords if you omit the 5th of the chord (more on that in the next posting). In classical music sus chords are often used in front of a dominant chord before a perfect cadence, i.e. Gsus G C.

Lincoln Jaeger

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The crazy cats have taken their horns and are woodshedding!

Yes indeed. You may ask yourself what this crazy headline is all about.

Well, haven written about how daunting it can be to get into the music of jazz, I thought I might use this blog to talk a little about the strange lingo, the colloquialisms, the vernaculars, call it what you want, basically the inside language that exists in the world of jazz.

Let’s start by de-mystifying the header shall we?

Cats = musicians (though most of you probably already knew this)
Horn = instrument (even if it’s now a horn!)
To Woodshed = to go and practice. This comes from the fact that some musicians have been known to go and practice in the shed in the garden. Most likely because practising can be quite a horrible cacophony for anyone to be subjected to.

So one could imagine a conversation between two jazz cats going something like this:

Cat A (Steve McQueen): “How’s your chops”
Cat B (Miles Davis): “My chops is beat”
Cat A: “Two bad – too much time in the shed?”
Cat B: “Naah, too much blowin on these gigs lately”
Cat A: “Oh yeah, been tryin’ out your new licks?”
Cat B: “Uh-huh, got some bad new hot licks!”
Cat A: “Good gig, was it?
Cat B: “The whole band was in the pocket”
Cat A: “Sweet, the whole bad was in the crease”

{…}

In plain English:

Cat A: “How is your playing” (chops could also refer to the lips of a brass player – they tend to get fatigued easily)
Cat B: “I’m worn out / I can’t play well / My lips/fingers etc are hurting”
Cat A: “Too bad – have you been practising too much?”
Cat B: “No, too much soloing/playing on these gigs lately”
Cat A: “Oh yeah, have you been trying out your snazzy new preconceived musical phrases (=licks)?”
Cat B: “Uh-huh, I’ve got some really good, fantastic new phrases” (bad=good)
Cat A: “Good gig, was it?”
Cat B: “The whole band was really playing like a unit, really grooving”
Cat A: “Sweet, the band was playing really well)”

Luckily our two jazz musicians decided to call it a day there, or we could have gone much longer…

As you can see, a bit of jazz language has actually found its way into main-stream language such as “cats” (musicians) and “bad” (good). Phrases like “The Big Apple” (New York), to “dig” (to like), “cans” (headphones) are said to have come from the world of jazz, though this is of course impossible to prove.

Regardless, there are of course many more expressions, so if you are interested in the meaning of such terms as:

  • Comping
  • Turnarounds/Turnbacks
  • Head
  • Trading Twos

… then please go to our Jazz Terms Glossary, where you can find even more jazz terms, including more technical expressions (with all the explanations) and all-round jazz madness!

Dig it.

Lincoln Jaeger

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How to get into jazz

Jazz can be a daunting style of music to get into. I myself have made the mistake of trying to introduce a friend to jazz by picking what I thought was just the right gig, only to find that that particular artist had decided it was time to go “far out” for this one concert and therefore ensuring that said friend would never, ever, ever go to a jazz gig again.

The image doesn’t always help either: middle aged (nothing wrong with that!) guys in berets smoking their Gitanes cigarettes whilst knowingly nodding to the strange exhortations of the band, while you feel like the only person in the venue who does not have a clue what is going on.

It can be intimidating. But then so can guitar shops :-)!

But have you been to a jazz gig recently? Certainly here in London town smoking in any indoor venues has been out for quite a while, so you can now at least breath! Berets don’t seem to be “en vogue” anymore either – so things are clearly looking up.

That just leaves the music. If you want to get into jazz, picking out a random gig is probably not the best way to go about it: you might have selected the latest avant garde cutting edge Bass Clarinet Cross Over Project, or Craig’s Octogenarian Dixieland Swingers – but you won’t really know until you’ve turned up.

So here are three albums that I would recommend as a great starting point for getting into the music called jazz. None of these are going to hurt your eardrums, nor your pocket (the itunes links go to the uk store, amazon links to the .co.uk site):

Kind of BlueMiles Davis (often referred to as being one of the best music albums ever, not just for jazz). Stand-out tracks:
All Blues
We also have the Miles Davis Tumpet Solo on All Blues
So What
You can get the sound recording at: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue / Amazon

Getz/GilbertoAntonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, Stan Getz. This is the album that introduced Bossa Nova to the world and launched the evergreen “Girl from Ipanema”. Stand-out tracks:
The Girl from Ipanema
Desafinado
Corcovado
One Note Samba
You can get the sound recording at: Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto & Stan Getz - Getz / Gilberto / Amazon

Time OutDave Brubeck. Columbia records had to be convinced to release this, yet it had the jazz hit Take Five on it. Stand-out tracks:
Take Five
Blue Rondo A La Turk
You can get the sound recording at: The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out / Amazon

I could extend this list further, but I can say without doubt that these three albums, after much consideration, and having introduced them to many a non-jazz lover, are the three most sure-fire ways to introduce the most sceptical person to jazz.

Now go out and buy, and dig them :-)!

Lincoln Jaeger

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We've been busy…

We’ve not posted for a while – very remiss of us! However, we have been very busy over the last few months, adding two new languages to our site: Dutch and Swedish as well as adding Swedish Kroner as a currency.

So a big welcome to our new users in Sweden and Holland, even if this blog is in English :-).

Soon we will also add Danish and Norwegian (as well as the local currencies to go with these new territories), which means we will have added a total of 7 new languages in the space of 13 months.

What else has been happening? Well we have been preparing the new videos that we have promised you in previous blogs, so get ready for more regular videos, blog postings and fascinating downloads that will open up the world of Jazz to you in the new year.

And finally we’ve also been celebrating our 4th birthday in October. The site went live in October 2005 in English and German with just a 1,000 arrangements. Since then we have grown to over 30,000 arrangements and have welcomed users from another 5 new languages to our site.

So to finish, who better to play us a little Happy Birthday tune than Wynton Marsalis and his Septet:

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Gershwin Blue Sheet Music

Hi

I often get requests from students to play Gershwin pieces. Rhapsody in Blue is however, hard to play and very long, though we do have it on our site here.

So I thought I might write a little piece in the style of George Geshwin that is easier to play, and not too long. We have two arrangements of this piece, one an easier level in G major, and the original version in Ab major. You can see me playing it below, and check out the sheet music here.

Take care

Lincoln

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Susan Boyle (Britain's Got Talent): Sheet Music For "I Dreamed a Dream" (Les Miserables)

Hi everyone

If you are living in the UK, then you would have be hard-pressed to miss the furore about Susan Boyle, the 47 year old contestant on the TV talent show Britain’s Got Talent. For anyone who did miss, here is a link to youtube.

Even for someone like myself who has no interest in TV Talent show this is worth watching, as it’s great tv/theatre and a great story. It’s also a great lesson that you cannot always judge a book by its cover. The quick run-down is that the 47 year church-going Boyle, who has a very friendly, unpretentious, but also un-flamboyant appearance, walks on stage to general sniggering of the audience.

The panel also looks distinctly un-impressed. But then she sings, with what is a truly angelic voice, and seeing the reaction of everyone in the hall is priceless. If you’d like to emulate Susan, then you can get hold of the sheet music for I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables here.

Take care

Lincoln

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Answer To Teaser Question

Here is the answer to our teaser question about musical notation.

Just a quick reminder. I had given this one bar example, where there appear to be too many notes (6 beats worth) in the right hand:

:

The reason why this works is because there are two separate voices in the right hand.

This is the first voice:

And this is the second voice:

As you can see, there is a two beat rest at the start of the bar in the example above. Normally you would show this when adding the two voices together:

However, as you can see this means that the rest would have to hang in between two staves, which does not look very neat. As the second voice does not enter until the third beat of the bar, it is therefore fine to omit the rest at the start of the bar, as it does not lead to any rhythmic unclarity.

***

The second, more complicated example I gave looked like this:

Again, there are two voices, here is voice one:

And here is the second voice:

As the piece (Debussy’s Claire de Lune) consistently uses triplets, it is quite common the omit the triplet sign, which was done here. Furthermore the notes on beats 2 and 3 have been written into the right hand stave, indicating the the left hand part may be played by the right hand. So the entire left hand part written in the left hand would look like this:

And finally, as the two voices share the same note on beat three (G Sharp), you have to take the note head of the longer value as done here, or write the notes next to each other, which the editor did not choose to do. Had he done so it would look like this:

Hope that all makes sense.

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