Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Ain't She Sweet?" My Way

Have you ever written something so good you're suprised you wrote it?

I've sold only one piece of music, an original rag, and that didn't entail an exchange of money.  Not quite a vanity press (they didn't charge to print it), the agreement was that there'd be no money until it sold at least 100 copies.  I guess we know how well it did.

For years back in the '50s, my family spent nearly every summer Saturday night at Rocky Springs Park, along the quiet Conestoga Creek near Lancaster, PA.  The park was old even then.  The airplane ride, for example, featured bi-planes.  The carousel was magnificent...not just horses, but an ostrich, a lion and other animals raced around while a Wurlitzer 185 band organ accompanied the ride.  Whatever was being played, it almost always had some syncopation and it may have been a ragtime song.  I know that's where my passion for ragtime came from.

Through the years I've written several piano duet (1 piano, 4 hands) arrangements of rags as well as some other music.  Now I have a PrintMusic program, and I've come to realize that what I've been trying to do is make a piano sound like a player piano.  Recently I put in several songs from the '20s and '30s with "piano conceptions" by Fats Waller.

For whatever reason, Sunday night I started an arrangement of "Ain't She Sweet?"  At first, I thought I do another duet, but then I thought it would be more fun to write it as if I were a pianist.  I imitated the format of the Fats Waller project...the sheet music as it was sold and then Waller's concept.  What I knew I couldn't do was imitate Fats himself.  Rather than ask WWF(ats)D, I thought what I'd like to play, how I'd like it to sound...in the manner of stride and rag, but certainly not in imitation of a particular pianist.

I finished it last night and couldn't believe how much fun it was.  I include the vocal and put it in as written the first time.  Then I take over.  I start with the verse, and it's plain that something different has happened.  Then I go through the chorus just with piano, and then bring back the vocal at the bridge ("Just cast an eye in that direction") and go full-bore to the end.

What also amazed me was that I did it without a piano keyboard.  PrintMusic is like typing, and I knew where I wanted to go and just typed it in.  I truly think it's a fun piano tune.  I think it's probably more for piano roll than for an accompanist, but who I am to judge?  I couldn't play it anyway.

Why "Ain't She Sweet?"  Why not?  Sweet, indeed.

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