My Funny Valentine

This weeks download is My Funny Valentine by Rodgers and Hart. It is one of my favorite jazz songs. This version is arranged for a solo guitar by my old guitar teacher Eric Waters.

My playing style is the result of spending most of my musical career outside of a band. I would spend most of my time in my room playing for myself. The result was that I gravitated towards classical guitar. I love The Clash, but playing Clampdown by yourself is not as satisfying as one would think it would be. So I started playing classical pieces because they sounded good when I played them alone. The solitary nature of my playing led me to a lot of finger picking. To this day, I still don't play with a pick, even when playing rock music. I briefly entertained ideas of being the first great punk rock fingerpicker.

Eric arranged this song for me because most of my playing was alone. We had studied some jazz charts, but it is difficult to play jazz by yourself. The interaction of the band members is paramount in any jazz song, and while I am pretty good at communicating with myself, the dialog isn't very interesting or audible.

When he arranged this song, Eric taught me how a song is constructed, how to analyze melodies and harmonies, and how to convey the essential nature of a song with as few parts as possible. For example, the chords for the opening four bars of the song are: | C- | C-(maj 7) | C-7 | C-6| (note, - means minor). Here is what the chords look like on a staff:

As you can see, the chords create a descending line in the top voice. When Eric arranged the song, he put that line into the bass, and kept the G that is constant throughout all of the chords because it occurs on an open string on the guitar and thus doesn't tie up the left hand. The A in the C-6 chord in measure 4 also leads nicely to the Ab maj7 that occurs in measure 5. The result is that the essential nature of the chords, and the harmonies that they imply is conveyed with only two notes.

I have mentioned Eric before, but the influence that he had on me cannot be overstated. During some lessons, we would just sit and talk about music for the whole time. At first my mother was a little upset, why pay for music lessons if you are not going to play any music. Eventually she decided that paying for guitar lessons was cheaper than paying for a therapist.

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