by Gjermund Sivertsen
Over The Rainbow - Keith Jarrett Transcription

Welcome to this presentation of Keith Jarrett's Over The Rainbow. In this little lesson I've transcribed one of his version of the tune, and also analysed the whole arrangement/improvisation.

I hope you enjoy!

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The 10 first observations from Keith Jarrett’s Over The Rainbow.

One of the most beautiful recordings made by jazz musicians is Keith Jarrett’s Over The Rainbow. But what makes it so appealing?

Here are the 10 out of 20 of my observations of the original recording. If you happen to be one of my students, note that I will give you a full analysis in lesson 48.

Here we go:

Observation 1:
Split the chord by playing the root/melody first, then the chord-notes on the off-beat or 2nd beat. He did this throughout the whole tune.


Observation 2: Harmony :
He plays lots of sus4 to 3 and 10ths. It can almost be considered to be the foundation on the harmonic landscape of this tune (the way he played it), but of course, there are many other ingredients too.


Observation 3:
He was skipping the root note (as the bass-note), to create a variation. The “normal” way to play a chord when playing solo-piano is to play the root + harmony notes. Sometimes it can be useful to play a rootless voicing. Please note: If you play a rootless voicing, you can still include the root as long as it is not working like a bass-note.

Here is an example in bar 3, where the chord is a C7(#11). Before this, he played the root note at the bottom in a low register.

Observation 4:
When the melody (right hand) is "still," then he "moves" the harmony with his left hand by creating a movement with the left hand. (Counterpoint) An example of this "effect" you can find in bar 7 where he plays a separate melody with his left hand:

Observation 5:
Instead of playing the full chord at once, he moves a note or two up/down before playing the whole chord. I find this effect to be a brilliant way to create tension. See two examples in bar 9 and 10:

Observation 6:
Jarrett is tweaking the melody a lot. It is (almost) mandatory if you want to play jazz well. Don’t play the tune just like it is. Instead: Add your ideas to the melody.

See an example here in bar 11-12:

The melody is originally like this:
(If you’re a student of mine, you can play through the syncope-exercise that you can find in the bonus section)
As you can tell, the difference is quite big, but this is partly what makes
jazz so interesting!

Observation 7: Once you recreate a melody-line, see if you can connect a “response” to the new melody-line. (Just like Jarrett did. Please see above in bar 11-12)

Observation 8:
He waits very long until he resolves some of the chords.
(In this case: 4th beat):

As he plays in bar 14, he is not revealing his D7 chord right away. He plays around the chord, so it is ending on a D7(b9) as late as the 4th beat. It is a detail that makes a difference, and in my opinion, sounds great in that context.

Observation 9:
In the B-part, he plays a beautiful movement with his left hand as a
contrast to the "Normal" melody. The question is if he arranged it like this or if it was just pure improvisation. Either way, I find this to be very beautiful!

Observation 10: The dynamics varies from pp to ff.

This tune was a ballad, but still, he plays at times very loud!
I’m speaking a lot about tweaking the core elements. If you
don’t know what they are:

  1. The melody
  2. The harmony
  3. The rhythm
  4. The dynamics

Jarret was tweaking the core elements throughout the whole
piece, but more than anything: Pay attention to the way he
plays from super-silent to very loud and dramatic.

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Here we come to an end of part 1 of the observations of what
Keith Jarrett was doing when he played Over the Rainbow.

So what have we learned and how to apply all of this

First of all: If you copy note-by-note what others are playing,
then you will learn so much more than reading a document like
this. It is just a supplement to the task of copying from others,
something I recommend you always do if you want to learn how
to play jazz piano well. It is what I did a lot, and I’m still doing
it to insert new musical ideas into my brain.

Then, once you and I play, we’ll pull from the ideas we have been copying from the masters, such as Keith Jarrett.

By writing and reading analysis like this one, we gain more
awareness and clarity.

  1. You can get better clarity about what was played by the masters.
  2. You can gain awareness about how you are currently playing.
  3. You can get clarity about what you can do to sound better.

If you think something sounds good, there are some essential
questions asking and other matters that can be a waste of time.

Questions worth asking:
What did he do to sound that good? What can I do to sound more like that? Where can I apply some of what I learned from XYZ (Insert jazz pianist)?

Waste of time-questions: Why did he play a chord such as the
Dmi7(b5) leading down to a C#7 with a b5 AND a b13…

You’ll rarely get the right answer to WHY a musician plays this
or that. Their decisions are made from a long process of learning, listening, exploring, and experimenting. My advice is to stay away from the why-questions, as they are, in most cases, not easy to answer.

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Thanks for taking the time to read this far.
I hope this was of help, and I wish you good luck in your journey of becoming a better jazz pianist.

Do you have questions or comments?
Reach out to [email protected]

Take care of your music!


-=Gjermund Sivertsen=-

Founder of the Jazz Piano Step-by-Step Course