Producer/session player John March picks two Ted Greene Christmas song arrangements – and creates a Holiday Medley.
Over the last few months, I have written pieces about having been a student of Ted Greene’s and wanting to help folks understand how to learn and play his solo Guitar arrangements. You can read those articles linked here – Exploring Arrangements of the late great Ted Greene, and Ted Greene’s Solo Guitar Arrangement of “The Look of Love”.
In this article, and in the spirit of the season, I would like to look at his arrangement of two Christmas songs that I assembled as part of a simple Medley. Ted loved Christmas songs and wrote some amazingly beautiful arrangements. I picked these two for the inner line work and the challenge of trying to connect them via improvised interludes and modulations.
Before I start a couple of simple technical things: Ted’s arrangements were written in his unique block style diagram, although if you look on his site (http://tedgreene.com/), you can see that a number of these lessons and arrangements have been notated in standard notation against the visual diagram style that he works with. If you are only working with one of his arrangements like this one that is notated in his style the basic idea is that there is a fundamental playing order to the notes based around the structure of the song and especially the melody. Black dots are played first followed by circles, x’s, then square, then triangle.
Knowing the melody of the song obviously is very important and understanding that Ted is trying to approach this from the point of view that the song is being sung by the soprano voice of the instrument and that the accompaniment and inner lines are supporting that melody and it’s all happening as one thing on a solo guitar. The way I learned Ted’s arrangements is I actually break it down into the smallest possible pieces and play that over and over again. In other words, I will look at the first one or two chords and learn to play them in sequence and then I will move onto the next one or two chords. I try and keep a singing or vocal quality to the melody and I try and keep a good sense of time unless I’m intentionally playing rubato.
His written arrangements below will link you to the full arrangement. Also, there is a link to my recording of the medley.
The charts for Ted’s full arrangement is here: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
I have said this before, but I am most certainly not a solo guitarist and so I try and put Ted’s arrangements into contexts where I can play the song. In this case I play a short introduction and then my own improvised version of Silent night, and then in between each section I improvise movements that allow for the modulations between various keys and also the different tempos or time signatures of the other two tunes.
Take a look at his arrangements, listen to my recording, and if you have questions I will look forward to answering them as best I can.
For me the most important thing is to try and keep Ted’s music alive and vital because I think that what he was offering was a very dynamic approach to exploring the instrument and being able to really find your own voice through harmony and melody on guitar.
The charts for Ted’s full arrangement is here: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
The link to my full recording is HERE:
PS: I recorded a tribute CD, where I attempted to interpret some of his extraordinary solo guitar arrangements as a recording, and that was released as a tribute to Ted with the approval of his partner Barbara. You can find out more information about that HERE:
My second Ted Greene Tribute CD has just finished recording and I am mixing and mastering over the next few weeks. Collaborators include Jazz Guitar Virtuoso Andreas Oberg and LA Session singer and B3 wizard Jeff Paris and many others! It will be available as a digital download on Bandcamp only. (I am a serious environmental activist, and cannot justify pressing a physical CD and putting more plastic out into the world, just to support my artistic endeavors, so Bandcamp is the only place where you will find and be able to purchase these recordings.) That said, for every CD download I will be donating $1 to https://onetreeplanted.org/ to plant a tree and try and work towards re-foresting the planet and reduce issues of climate change and $1 to Tedgreene.com in support of their efforts to keep Ted’s works alive and accessible.
I will post more news about this CD Soon!