A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
Not to be confused with the 1975 pop song of the same name, Irving Berlin’s classic “All By Myself” was composed in 1921 and has withstood the test of time.

Here are some recommended videos/recordings:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Bennie Kruger And His Orchestra

This recording, from 1921, is representative of how the tune would have been originally played. It’s very much in the style of 1920s popular music and there are lots of interesting orchestrational details, such as the fanfare-like trumpets at 0:55.

Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Songbook

As always, Ella shows us how it’s done!

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Although “All By Myself” isn’t widely played at jam sessions, it's a fun tune and works very well as a vehicle for jazz improvisation. Irving Berlin was a master song craftsman, and you'll notice a lot of subtle details in the way Berlin constructed the song, such as how the E chord in m.12 anticipates the more prominent resolution to E7 later on in the piece.
“All By Myself,” like many tunes from the early days of jazz, sounds great in a variety of jazz styles. Try playing the song with a stride left hand at first, and then go for a bebop approach. See if you can think of any additional options.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
All By Myself: Journey Through The Real Book #9

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

All By Myself: Wikipedia

Original sheet music (in Public Domain)
It can be fun to play through an old tune’s sheet music. You’ll get a sense of its original rhythm and chord voicings. In the case of “All By Myself,” the musical arrangement isn’t not too far from the early jazz of the time!

All By Myself playalong track

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