A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Lullaby Of Birdland” was composed by pianist George Shearing as the theme song for the original Birdland, the legendary jazz club that was named after Charlie “Bird” Parker. The tune used to be commonly played by instrumentalists as well as vocalists, but it seems to me that in recent decades it’s mainly performed by singers.

Learn the song in a few keys so you’re not caught off guard when a vocalist asks you to transpose it!

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.)

George Shearing: Lullaby Of Birdland

George Shearing: Live in 1987 (video)

Ella Fitzgerald

Mariah Carey: Live in Melbourne (video)

Just for fun, here’s Mariah Carey singing the song, which she loved as a child.

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
“Lullaby Of Birdland” seems to use a lot of chords at first glance, but it becomes a lot easier when you put them into groups.

Looking at the ‘A’ Section, you’ll see that some of the chords are related to the key of F minor and some are in Ab major. This isn’t surprising, since F minor and Ab major use the same key signature of 4 flats (they’re relative minor/major). Shearing is simply using a common I/vi/ii/V in each key, altering them to major or minor accordingly. Once you realize this, you’ll have a much easier time playing the song!

The bridge is straightforward too, beginning on F7 and moving around the circle of 4ths until it resolves to Ab major. It does this twice before leading into the last ‘A.’

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

Further links and resources:
George Shearing: In His Own Words
A short audio interview where Shearing tells the story of how he wrote “Lullaby Of Birdland”

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

Jazz Piano Video Course
This extensive, well-sequenced video course will get you playing jazz standards with a sense of flow and fluency.

Jazz Piano Lessons via Skype
Personal guidance from an expert, caring teacher. Beginning through Advanced.

Take a Free Jazz Piano Lesson

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