Tim O'Leary

You can read my musical bio on the Author Bios Page by clicking here

Sep 122014
Liv Sings

Part of the genius of this composition is that the first chord (after the pickup notes) is the use of the first inversion of the IV chord, hence the D/F# notation. It immediately elevates it out of the class of “just another I IV V song”.

The artistry and richness of the voice–seemingly without effort–each note seems to contain all of the overtones of the fundamental note sung.

First verse transcribed by Tim OLeary
Visit Liv Mueller’s YouTube channel
Visit Liv Mueller’s Web site

Dec 282011

What should a music teacher do first? I make no claims to pedagogical expertise. I do have some ideas, though. And I would very much like to know what you think, and what your ideas are.

I only know something about voice, piano, and guitar. But there are some principles, concepts, and ideas that would apply to any instrument.

From the teacher’s point of view, just as a doctor has to work with a patient’s tolerability to a treatment, she must be aware of the student’s tolerability. Continue reading »

Mar 312011

Mar 302011

Demonstration Videos

These videos will be posted in the near future. They will consist of very brief demonstrations of some of the things I may have gone over with my students. These are intended for my students. Of course, anyone can watch them and comment upon them. This is what I have planned so far:

Guitar Videos

  • The three Chord Families 4-note harmonization of G major scale on strings 6/4/3/2
  • 4-note harmonization of C major scale on strings 4/3/2/1
  • Freddie Greene style comping
  • The first 16 bars of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” using sequences of 6/9, 7th, 13, 6/9
  • ii-V sequence using minor 7th->13b9
  • … to be continued…

Piano Videos

  • Basic open 4-note voicing of major scale
  • Use of the sostenuto pedal (Rhapsody in Blue and slow/med stride-style)
  • Re-harmonizing 11-V-! using sequences via altered dominant 7th chords – (G13b9->G7h +5#9)
  • A progression I learned from Arnold Schoenberg
  • Use of the Jazz Melodic Minor scale – (Ab MM/G Alt); (B MM/ Bb Alt)
  • A chord’s upper structure and good-sounding comp chords I learned from Mark Levine
  • … to be continued…
Mar 252011
Chet Baker

Chet Baker

Chet Baker Lives!

Chet Baker lived a hard life. But he was without peer as a singer and trumpet player. There are two recorded versions of him singing “My Funny Valentine”; one when he was very young, and one when he was at an age late in his life. What the latter lacks in freshness is compensated by the life-experiences of an older person. That is, it seems to have a deeper level of profundity than the former.

Feb 282011

Guitar Harmonics

This is just a brief into/example. To really learn this, look for alternative resources. (See the “Links to Other Music Sites” in the sidebar).

The basic pattern for making a guitar sound harp-like is to alternate notes “chimed” at (usually) 12 frets higher than fretted with notes played in the normal fashion. Some guitarists use pick and 4th finger; some use thumb pick and fingers; some use just fingers. Each harmonic, though, requires at least 2 fingers of your picking hand to execute it.

As a starting point, play at the 12th fret, and do not make chord with your left hand (we will get to that). The openly played strings will be D, G, B, and E, low to high; the harmonics will be played on E (6th string), A, D, G, B. Then there is a role-reversal of sorts (this is just one way of doing it). You can see this in the following sketch in the 2nd bar.


Some of the great jazz practitioners of this technique that I am familiar with are Ted Greene, Martin Taylor, Lenny Breau, Phillip DeGruy, and many others. Most classical guitarists are use this technique as well, when appropriate. For example, a perfect use of this technique is used by Lagoya & Presti in their recording of Debussy’s Claire de Lune.


Ted Greene
Martin Taylor
Lagoya & Ida Presti


Ted GreeneMartin TaylorLenny BreauAlexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti

Feb 272011

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) is one of the most important figures (if not the most important and influential figures, in all of Western Music. Yet, as often can be the case, by the end of his career, many considered him “old hat”. At the end of the Baroque period, the Classical style. Haydn was nearly an adult, and Mozart and Beethoven would be dominating the 2nd half of the 18th century.

(He) was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. – Donald Grout, (1980), A History of Western Music.

Feb 112011

ffAlexandre Lagoya (1929 – 1999) and Ida Presti (1924 – 1967)

Lagoya was already established as an A-list classical guitarist when he met and subsequently married Ida Presti. They became one of the most remarkable duos ever. The English critic and musicologist Tony Cornwall gives some insight into their particular magic in following quote:

In these tawdry times where great emphasis is given by the media to celebration of the purely physical side of humanity—sport, models, etc.—questions of the mind and heart are often given short shrift. At a time when intimacy between adults is most often identified with the sexual act, it is refreshing and invigorating to hear proof of the narrowness of this view and the possibilities that exist. If you listen to any of Lagoya-Presti’s playing—not just hearing, but actively engaging with the music—you will hear conversations of such intimacy that one at first feels embarrassed at being privy to them. It is hard at times to believe that two people could communicate so intricately. Given that both are playing classical guitars makes it all the more extraordinary– Tony Cornwall

Cicking the mp3 link below, you’ll haer their own arrangement for two guitars of Debussy’s Clair De Lune. The original piano piece is in Db Major. However, they have moved it up to D Major. One guitar is tuned to D (or Drop-D); the other in standard tuning. This allows a rich bass for the home key, when the ‘D’ guiter plays its lowest note. One of the signature parts of the song is a ii minor (here it is an ‘E’) that occurs early on, when the melody moves from a minor 9th, then root, then minor-major 7th, a minor 7th,all the while over a sustained E note. On a piano, the low note is sounded using the sostenuto pedal; on the guitar, the bass note is allowed to sustain. Here the note is played as low E on the standard tuned guitar. You will hear this at 1:10 (open E); then at 2:03. An open D (D also played in many other places in the song). Also notice the creative use of harmonics from 3:00-3:24. This technique effectively extends the sustainable range of the guitar.

Feb 042011
Renee Fleming

Renee Fleming (1959 - )

Renee Fleming (1959 – ) is primarily a classical musician, although her interests in music and singing span a wide field. Her resume of opera appearances and roles is exhausting, reflecting a busy career of many years.

Her musical pedigree is stellar. Both of her parents were music teachers. She studied at both the Eastman School of Music and at Julliard. It is no wonder that a talented and dedicated singer such as her got to be an A-List opera singer.

However, unlike most of the “old-school” classical musicians, she has always applied her musical interests towards the performance of all kinds of music. While at the Eastman School of Music, she sang in a jazz trio, and later, at Julliard, played gigs to help pay for her schooling. It is not surprising that she has expressed an increasing desire and preference for performing concerts, rather than operas. From a recent Wall Street Journal interview, she said

It’s unlikely I will learn any more operas than I already do”.f
Commenting on the classical music “traditionalists” vs. those who reinterpret the opera standards. “I’m not a reactionary. I’ve loved some of [these productions] when they’ve been well thought out. I have no problem with edgy, as long as it’s not vulgar or disrespectful of the piece.

In addition to numerous Classical and Operatic recording, she has also recorded with many well-know popular and jazz artists including Elton John, John Bolton, lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, and others. In the movie, “Lord of the Rings” she sang a song in an imaginary language. She has recorded albums in her name covering songs by Leonard Cohen, Jefferson Airplane, and others. She sings on Yo Yo Ma’s CD/DVD on 2009. (Yo Yo Ma is another classical musician unafraid to venture into other genres). On this album, she sang “Touch the Hand of Lover”, written by jazz singer, pianist and composer Blossom Dearie.

On that particular DVD, Yo Yo Ma also collaborated with Diana Krall on one song, James Taylor on another, and so on. In 2009, Renee sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel”, at the Presidential Inauguration, where Yo Yo Ma and many other popular and classical musicians also played.

Renee Fleming (Wikipedia)

Jan 162011

Ihe sheet music excerpt below is the first few bars of the tune “On Green Dolphin Street”. Take a look at the last two measures before the final C chord (measures 9 and 10). The chord symbols say Dm7 and G7, or ii7-V7. Usually, in fake or real books, these are the chords you play (not what I put in the bass clef). In an actual playing situation, you certainly wouldn’t want to play the bridge the way I’ve suggested each time–it would get old very fast. Like spoken language, the more ways you can say the same thing, the more fluent you are with your vocabulary. In many cases, the dm7/G7  is just a subdivision of on what could be G7 for 2 measures. Here, those 2 measures are functioning as Dominant harmony. For a moment, leave the bass line out of the analysis, as it is just walking up from D to G. The inner 3 voices in the bass clef, have a similar pattern as the whole-note walk down in the post Alternative Voicing for Piano (1). The difference is that here they are moving up in minor thirds every other beat. They are, again, simple major triads in 2nd inversion, falling on the downbeats. On the offbeats, the chords follow the same pattern again as in the post Alternative Voicing for Piano (1). If you care to analyze deeper, beat 3 of measure 9 is an implied G7#9. Beat 1 of measure 10 is a G7b9+11 (aka Db/G7). Beat 3, measure 10 is a G13b9 (easy to do on a guitar, as well)..

The song is usually played with latin beat through the A section, and swing for the bridge (at the Dm7). Also, the bridge continues with a parallel section in the key of Eb (not shown).


Jan 142011
One of the top swing-based pianists of the past 25 years

One of the top swing-based pianists of the past 25 years

Dave McKenna (1930 – 2008) is the undisputed master of left hand bass for jazz pianists. What he did with his left hand was much deeper than just that. He changed the function of the left hand often in his playing. His right hand was also exceptionally fluid and had a beautiful tone as if he were playing Chopin.

In the following video clip, he plays “Lulu’s Back in Town”. You can observe how he changes the function of his left hand. Towards the end of the clip, he modulates six times through increasingly ascending keys.

Here he plays “Serenade in Blue”. The camera is always on his hands. You’ll see that he has incredible economy of motion. He plays block chords, left hand bass, left hand “strumming” chords and so on. The secret to his “feel” is when he phrases the melody behind the beat, as singers often do, and plays bass on the beat and chords slightly ahead of the beat.

McKenna knew by heart something like a kabillion songs, and he could play them in any key. He often played medleys, with song-to-song connections ranging from the obvious to the somewhat obscure, but based around a theme. Here he is playing a Rodgers and Hart medley.

Dave McKenna on Wikipedia