seeking your help to clean up this score ("Christmas is Coming", Guaraldi)

• Jan 1, 2020 - 20:44

Hi everybody!

I have tackled one of my favorite piano solos, the jazzy Guaraldi tune "Christmas is Coming", but would value your help addressing some of the outstanding items. It's based on work by Caleb Xu and others, and those details are in the End Note of the score, attached. To my knowledge, this score with the solo section is not available anywhere else (free or paid).

Here are some areas I'd value your help. It's arguable that these should be separate posts, but I'm going to at least start with a single post.

  1. In section [C], I'd love to have the chord symbols all together above the treble staff, but as you can see the F and G sometimes have no anchor notes up there, so those symbols stay lower. I tried vertically offsetting them higher, but then when I changed the layout (I think to Page View or perhaps adding back in other instruments), then the grand staff got a huge white gap between staves. So I gave up on the offset and put it back to what you see here. Suggestions?

  2. Also in the solo [C], what's the best way to capture that jazzy, funky timing? As you can see, I've done it using dotted notes, but it definitely doesn't sound like the original. I run into this a lot when notating jazz. Suggestions on how to notate this timing??

  3. What do you call that poly-chord type arpeggio at the end that is common in jazz songs? It appears to be an F stacked on an EbM13. I'd love to understand this better. Is it just a fully-loaded EbM13 (with 9 and 11)? Is there a name people use for this type of ending?

  4. Anyone want to take a shot at making the Drum part match the recording? Or at least better than what we have?

  5. How about the walking bass on the solo? That part would be great to have scored out :-)

  6. Any other suggestions or corrections you'd like to offer??

Thanks in advance!



1) You can add chord symbols on any beat you want, notes or no notes. For example, ";" or Ctrl+5 to move by quarter note, Ctrl_4 to move by eighth, etc. See the Handbook under "Chord symbols" for more info.

2) Swing is normally notate using ordinary eighths. Add the "swing" text from the palette to get the playback to swing as well. Again, see the Handbook (under "Swing") for more info.

3) On an Eb chord, F is the 9, A the #11, and C the 13. So, Ebma13#11.

4) & 5) you're on your own, no substitute for just careful listening :-)

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Okay, thanks again!

For (1), I created rests on the top staff and added the chord symbols to that. The Control-1 through 9 shortcuts seem like they will be impossible for me to remember, so I'm not going to try to figure that out. What if you used power-of-two shortcuts? Eg, Ctrl-4 = 2^4 = 16th notes?

For (2), this was perfect. I added the Swing only to the piano right hand staff for part [C]. I have two suggestions for this:

a) in the Handbook, it might be helpful to clarify that the text you use is completely arbitrary, and that what controls the swinging is the settings in the Swing tab of the inspector. The docs suggest this by a couple things, but don't come out and say it; sometimes it seems like the text itself may drive it, partly from having a separate entry in the toolbar. Just a thought.

b) "undotting" the eighth note pairs was a bit of a chore, especially where chords were present spanning multiple voices. It would be really handy to have a "undot" feature to remove the dottiness of a pair of eighth notes. Perhaps this exists and I'm not aware of it??

Anyway, I have attached my result. I think it sounds and looks a lot better. Thanks!!

In reply to by Matt Fellenz

"To undot multiple notes, select them all with Shift-click or Ctrl-click and then just press Period."

Yes, thanks. That was the easy part :-) The more tedious part was dealing with the 16th note the followed the dotted 1/8th. That one had to be cut and pasted to the previous beat, and then converted to an 1/8th.

But I fixed them all now. And thanks to Mark's training, I know how to use Swing now, which solves the problem more elegantly and simply anyway, so hopefully I won't run into this much again.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"The shortcuts are the same as for note input - 4, 5, 6 for eighth, quarter, half, etc. It’s all sequential and hence trivial to remember, but if you prefer to think differently, you can customize these and most others in Edit / Preferences / Shortcuts."

Thanks for the tip about customizing them. I may do that. But I stand by my claim that these values are non-intuitive and that it's more sensible and memorable to use the power-of-two approach for these shortcuts. Eg, there's nothing about "4" that makes you think Cmd-4 will indicate an 1/8th. But 2^4=16 and makes sense. That's my view :-)

In reply to by reggoboy

What's intuitive for one person isn't necessarily for another. For many of us, being able to key in adjacent note values (eighth, quarter, half) with adjacent keys on the keyboard (4, 5 6) is far more intuitive. It's how the note icons are laid out on the toolbar (increasing durations L-R), so they correspond to the numbers on the keyboard which are also laid out L-R. And certainly anyone used to the similar shortcuts used in Finale or Sibelius or other programs using a similar approach would see it similarly. But sure, I could also imagine wanting to use 8 for eighth, 4 for quarter, etc. Probably more so for Americans than anyone else, since the term "quarter" isn't actually used in much of the world (eg, in Britain it's a "crotchet").

Anyhow, again, feel free to customize, both the note input and chord symbol shortcuts. But the point here is, the shortcuts used for chord symbol entry are exactly the same as those for note input, and hence shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has been using the program for any length of time.

In reply to by reggoboy's more sensible and memorable to use the power-of-two approach for these shortcuts. Eg, there's nothing about "4" that makes you think Cmd-4 will indicate an 1/8th. But 2^4=16 and makes sense. That's my view.

So, Cmd-2.82842712474619 must indicate an eighth note - because 2^2.82842712474619 = 8 and is sensible and memorable... or am I missing something?

I, personally, find this more memorable:


Regards. ;-)

In reply to by SteveBlower

Haha, Steve. Yes, you are correct.

So I was proposing:

Cmd-0 = Whole note (2^0=1)
Cmd-1 = Half note (2^1=2)
Cmd-2 = Quarter note (2^2=4)
Cmd-3 = Eighth note (2^3=8)
Cmd-4 = Sixteenth note (2^4=16)
Cmd-5 = 32nd note (2^5=32)
Cmd-6 = 64th note (2^6=64)

I seriously doubt many people will miss shortcuts for advancing double whole notes and "longa", but if they do, I guess you could continue to use Cmd-8 and Cmd-9.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks again for these great tips.

One issue with the Swing. I turned it on on measure 48 and off on 94. But I noticed at the end on measure 140 that it's swinging again, and I can't figure out why or how to turn that off. (Attached)

I did observe that the swinging notes in 140 are on Voice 2. Is that significant? I don't see anything in the settings that says that Swing is voice-specific.

In reply to by reggoboy

Your "straight" text isn't actually set to turn off swing at all, it's set to do nothing. You would need to check the box to enable it, and then check the "none" radio button to make it turn it swing off. Also you need to use System rather than Staff text if you want all staves affected. That's why the drums never went into swing. And that's why the Swing element on the palette is already set up to be System text.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Aha, perfect. That fixed it.

So for the record, I modified the "Straight" text tag with Swing Settings = Checked and Swing = Off. Clearly, Swing Settings = Unchecked doesn't disable swing but rather leaves any existing settings intact. Clear enough.

Thanks! Sounds pretty good now!

And yes, I deliberately did Staff text because I didn't want the bass and left hand, for example, to swing. But I confess that I'm not sure whether it would be more correct to have the bass and drums swing as well. Don't the leads often swing against a straight rhythm section? Or do they typically all swing together?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Okay, thanks again, Marc!

I'm not sure about the other instruments; I'm going to have to play with that more.

But first, I have a more basic "swing" problem in the left hand I'm now trying to resolve.

Please consider the left hand of Measure 89, attached. From what I hear, the left hand notes actually anticipate the beat a little, ahead of the right hand strikes. To try to address this, I made a change in M. 87, shifting the LH notes ahead by 1/8th.

But this seems clumsy and it sounds too exaggerated, like my previous attempt, compared to using the "Swing" feature. But the latter doesn't appear to have a way to "anticipate" a beat, does it? If you have a feature for this, I'd love to use it. Otherwise, I might have to change all those notes to be more like M. 87?

Thanks in advance!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for your reply, Marc.

Okay, I've spent a while both trying to understand what you're suggesting and also experimenting with snippets of my score and various Swing settings, all with Swing set as System Text rather than Staff Text, and I have a few points of feedback:

1) I'm not sure how having Swing apply to the bass staff is going to help the problem I stated because most of those notes are 1/4 notes, and I don't see any property on the Swing properties tab that will swing 1/4 notes

2) Even if I could get 1/4 notes to swing, how does this help me achieve the goal of having a chord ANTICIPATE a beat? My understanding from reading the docs is that it causes the second note of a pair to be slightly delayed.

Am I missing something here?

I will attach the snippet I'm playing with which shows two ways of timing the left hand.

Attachment Size
experiment with swinging left hand.mscz 32.93 KB

In reply to by reggoboy

You have to notate the anticipation if you want to hear it. I was observing that the reason the anticipation sounded too extreme is that it was not swung. That is, the notes you had on 3& and 4& were on “real” 3& and 4&, not “swung” 3& and 4&, which are later and would sound much better.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Aha and thank you and my test results agree with this!

For the record, I seem to get a desirable result by moving the anticipated chord 1/8 step early but then swing it fairly aggressively (75%, see snippet above) to reduce the effect.

I agree it sounds pretty good. So I’m going to have to go move a ton of things in the LH to the left 1/8, but it will be worth it.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

“Mostly you'd expect everyone to swing, or no one. Sometimes the drums might have a more exaggerated swing in the ride than others. Having swing melody against straight rhythm section is not entirely unheard of but surely rare.”

Maybe I will tackle a walking bass line after all. Since that is in straight fourths, it should be unaffected by a “system” swing setting, right?

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