Someday My Prince Will Come

If you are a baby-boomer like me, you grew up at the time when watching many of the Walt Disney feature films was part of your life experience. When we took my first grandson to his first movie in the theatre, it was another Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. I remember how impressed I was when I heard the music, because the Disney quality was still there even in this more contemporary style.

There is a major difference, however, between the Disney film scores from the past and those of today. It’s no surprise though, because the music for today’s post Someday My Prince Will Come was composed in 1937. As I have often said the standards from the American Popular Songbook (1920s – 1940s) were composed in a certain style that lends itself to individual interpretation and inspiration for the pianist.

Composer Frank Churchill (1901-1942) joined the Disney Studios in 1930 and wrote the commercially successful Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf from The Three Little Pigs. In fact, his songs composed for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs seven years later have contributed to the film’s long-term popularity and success. The American Film Institute ranked Someday My Prince Will Come at #19 right after When You Wish Upon a Star (another great standard) in its top 100 list of greatest songs in movie history.

Twenty years after Someday My Prince Will Come was composed, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck became so excited about this and other songs in his son’s Walt Disney songbook, that he recorded the ground breaking album, Dave Digs Disney. And so it was in 1957 that Someday My Prince Will Come entered the jazz standard repertoire.

Apparently the chord progressions of Someday My Prince Will Come were what caught the attention of so many jazz musicians after hearing the Brubeck version. Although this 32-measure song has several ii-V and ii-V-I chord progressions there are also some surprising chordal relationships. In the first ending of the song, the D minor 7th chord (itself a substitute for the expected Bb Major 7th chord-the I or tonic chord in the key of Bb) descends to a Db diminished 7th chord. This then drops another half step to C minor 7th. Not only is this unusual, since diminished 7th chords usually go up, but it happens twice.

Although I dedicate a great deal of my teaching towards showing piano students how to make effective use of ii-V and ii-V-I chord progressions in their song playing and arranging, I have found that I often discuss tertial relationships with students who are composing their own music. Tertial relationships are harmonic progressions that feature chordal relationships that move by 3rds instead by the usual 5ths. Low and behold, Someday My Prince Will Come contains two of these tertial relationships in the first four measures: Bb major 7th to D7 and Eb major 7th to G7.

In addition to being inspired by the Brubeck rendition as well as by the chord patterns provided by Someday My Prince Will Come, pianists have benefited from yet another musical source for playing this great tune. Three years after the release of the 1957 Brubeck LP, Miles Davis recorded the innovative album entitled Someday My Prince Will Come in 1961.

In addition to this being first of recording in which the famous Miles Davis Quintet included tenor saxophonist John Coltrane (who later created many of his own innovative recordings; I wrote about one of them in my blog post that featured My Favorite Things), there is a pedal point which appears periodically between verses. This technique of using a pedal point creates musical tension that draws the listener in as he anxiously awaits a resolution of the chord progression.

I you are interested in learning to play Someday My Prince Will Come; you will find many recordings that inspire you. Of course, our Mascari Piano Studios instructors will be delighted to help you with this.

However, in the meantime, here are the names of a few of the pianists whose renditions will encourage and enliven your own interpretation: Oscar Peterson (one of my earliest influences), Bill Evans (has had a profound impact on one of my adult students who switched from guitar to piano a few years ago), Keith Jarrett (whose recordings were my constant companion during my 14 year stint as pianist-in-residence at the Radisson Milford Hotel), Berklee College of Music professor Laszlo Gardony (who was Hudson Studio faculty member Robin Cho‘s jazz piano teacher), Jim Brickman (who came to my attention thanks to one of my Hudson Studio adult piano students), Kenny Werner (whose book Effortless Mastery I mentioned in my blog post Seven Summertime Solutions for Sustaining Your Music the Easy Way) and Chick Corea (one of my students performed Chick’s signature piece, Spain, in this year’s annual student recital).

With today’s post, we are at the conclusion of my jazz waltz blog post series. As I mentioned at the end of my Bossa nova series, you can help your fellow readers and me by telling us the names of your favorite jazz waltzes. This is very easy to do by simply leaving a note in the comments box below this post. Future posts will provide ample opportunities for bringing some of your favorite pieces to the attention of our piano playing community by featuring some of your suggestions.

This week also marks the final week of the Mascari Piano Studios‘s spring term. It is also significant because in addition to completing our 31st year at the Natick Piano Studio location, we are delighted to have finished our first year at our Hudson Piano Studio location.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, what should I do about the summer? How can I keep my (or my daughter or son’s) connection with my piano playing during July and August? We have vacation time, my daughter will be in camp, my son has a special sports schedule, and we don’t want so many weekly commitments.

There’s no need for concern. The Mascari Piano Studios’ unique Flexible Schedule Summer Piano Lessons are the solution for your dilemma.

Contact us today to find out how. Summer, fall, winter and spring, we’re here to help you Learn to play the music you love!

7 thoughts on “Someday My Prince Will Come

  1. You hit almost all of my favorites in your series!! Alice in Wonderland, Waltz for Debby, Blusette and Favorite things are all awesome.

    I also like the Christmas jazz waltzes like Greensleeves, Silent Night, and The Christmas Waltz.

    I love Tenderly and All Blues as waltzes or with a waltz feel to them.

  2. Occasionally I turn a number into a 3/4 from its original meter. Refreshes my mind and the music a bit.
    Back in Chatham

  3. Some other Jazz Waltzes: “A Child Is Born”, “Emily”, “Skating In Central Park”, “Full House”, “Moon River”, “Charade”, and “What’ll I Do”.

  4. Bruce,
    Thanks so much for these suggestions.
    I did a recording & blog post of “Emily” on June 9th in case you’ll like to check it out.
    “Moon River” and “A Child Is Born” were on my list to do, but I never got to them in the series. Adding these to your suggestions plus to some suggestions that others have made, suggests that I do another Jazz Waltz series in the fall.
    We’ll see how it “plays” out.
    Thanks again.
    Ed

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