Birthday Variations, The First Set of 22
A New Age
Each birthday quite literally brings in a “new age.” So why not celebrate with music in a New Age piano style?
Beethoven in F Major
This Birthday Variation is in the style of young Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770 to March 26, 1827) playing in a major key. Compare (and combine?) this piece with the next Variation in which an older Beethoven is in one of his many minor moods.
Beethoven in F Minor
This Birthday Variation is in the style of an older Ludwig van Beethoven than we heard in the previous Variation. The two Variations make a nice pair.
This Birthday Variation is in the style of a hymn. There are quiet sections akin to a choir singing in four-part harmony, and contrasting sections that are fuller, like the choir accompanied by an orchestra.
This Birthday Variation is in the style of a tango. It’s in the key of C minor for enhanced dramatic impact!
This Variation is in a blues style. The harmonies are made of 9th and 13th chords rather than the more commonly used 7th chords. If you like, repeat the piece and improvise new melodies using an F blues scale: F, A-flat, B-flat, B, C, and E-flat. Watch a video.
This Variation is in the style of Dave Brubeck’s famous Take Five (which was actually composed by saxophonist Paul Desmond). It’s in 5/4 time, which means it has one more beat per measure than the usual four.
Before or after playing this piece, performers are advised to announce to the person with the birthday, “Take five years off your age.”
Caribbean Birthday Dance
This Birthday Variation is in the style of a Haitian dance. Play it to add sunshine, fun, and rhythm to any birthday celebration.
Chopin’s Birthday Nocturne
This Variation is in the style of Chopin’s famous Nocturne in E-flat. It is especially for people who enjoy Chopin’s music or who were born in February or March. Chopin was born in 1810, but the actual day of birth is in dispute. It may be February 22 or March 1. Take your pick!
This Birthday Variation sounds as if it might have been composed by a young Claude Debussy. This piece is especially for those who enjoy the music of Debussy or who were born in August. Debussy was born August 22, 1862.
This Birthday Variation is in the style of Elton John. It’s especially for those who like his music or who were born in March. Elton John was born on March 25, 1947.
This Birthday Variations is an etude, a study in “chord inversions.” So say “happy birthday,” learn chord inversions, and sound impressively virtuosic all at the same time!
This Birthday Variation is in the style of Fats Domino, the early rock-and-roll pianist. It’s especially for those that like this style of music and for those that were born in February. Fats Domino was born on February 26, 1928.
This Variation is in the style of finger exercises such as those by Hanon or Czerny. That means you can now get some exercise and say “happy birthday” at the same time. Note to performers: You are to have a slightly bored look on your face when you are on this tonal treadmill.
Flight of the Birthday Bee
This Birthday Variation is a take-off on the piece Flight of the Bumblebee composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1899. The fingering may seem strange at first, but it’s been road tested at high speeds and it works. Good luck on this piece!
Gershwin (Rhapsody in Birthday)
This Birthday Variation is in the style of George Gershwin. This Variation is especially for those who like Gershwin or who were born in the month of September. Gershwin was born on September 26, 1898. When playing the piece for someone, performers are advised to announce loudly after the final notes: By George, it’s your birthday!
This Birthday Variation is in the style of gospel piano music. Raise the roof!
Happy Bach Day
This Birthday Variation is in the style of a Bach Invention. A birthday is a time to reinvent yourself! This Variation is for those who love Bach, piano music, or were born in the month of March. Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685, the first day of spring.
Happy Montuno to You
This Birthday Variation is in the style of some Cuban-based dance music. A montuno is a highly syncopated rhythmic figure played by the pianist in the band.
Heart and Soul Birthday
This Birthday Variation is a take-off on the familiar four-bar chord progression played both by pianists and non-pianists. But rather than the tune to Heart and Soul played on top, it’s now the birthday tune. This piece can easily be made into an instant piano duet. The top person simply plays the melody in the score while the bottom person plays the familiar accompaniment over and over, until the last note is played.
Here Comes the Birthday
This Birthday Variation sounds like the Wedding March (popularly known as Here Comes the Bride). A man once commented to me that the Wedding March reminded him of music being played for two soldiers about to go into battle! This Variation is especially for those whose wedding or wedding anniversary is the same day as their birthday.
Hungarian Birthday Dance
This Birthday Variation was inspired by Brahms’ Hungarian Dances (which were inspired by actual Hungarian dances!).