Round Midnight Advance Reharmonization Technique

Round midnight is one of Thelonious Monk’s most famous composition. Countless rendition have been made on it, but my favourite is undoubtedly the one posted by 7notemode on youtube. Which is in my opinion, one of the best piano player that has posted his own playing on youtube. So check out this video of Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight by 7notemode. A little advise, you might want to hold your jaws together, just in case they fall off..:)

Any musician who has played or heard Round Midnight before, would notice how 7notemode’s reharmonization are complex, but no less aesthetic. It is the purpose of this post to analyse these reharmonization techniques.

I’ve prepared a transcription of a few minutes of this video. But before we start our analysis, here is a chord chart of Round Midnight as you would normally find in fake books. Comparing my transcription with this chord chart later will be a very enlightening experience, when we see reharmonization at its best. Here it is.

round-midnight-lead-sheet-music-score

And here is my transcription of 7notemode’s Reharmonisation of Round Midnight, which is from 00:14 to 02:40 of the video above.

page1

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page2

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page3

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Quartal Voicings
Quartal Voicing is a beautiful way to voice your chords. Basically, it consists of three notes which are a 4th apart. Read more about quartal voicings here. 7notemode demonstrated the use of it beautifully in this song.

Observe these two bars, which are from the 1st and the 3rd line of the second page of the transcription, respectively.

round-midnight-reharmonization-transcription-a1.JPG

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In the first example, the chord that was supposed to be there was an Ebm chord. But by playing the quartal voicings in the left hand, consisting of the notes Eb, Ab and Db, we get the 1,11 and b7 of the Ebm chord, thus turning it into an Ebm11.
In the second example, the original chord in that bar was a Cm7(b5). But by playing the quartal voicings again, with the notes F, Bb and Eb, we get the 11, b7 and b3 of the Cm chord, thus turning it also into a Cm11.
These two examples show how two different type of quartal voicings can help produce an minor 11th sound to our original minor chord. For a better taste of quartal voicings in action, check out 01:14 and 01:29 of the video, which is where you will find example 1 and 2 played.

Chromatic chord movements
Anyone who has studied the circle of fifths and tritone substitutions should know quite well how chords can be moved chromatically, especially dominant 7th chords. Here we reach, what I personally think, one of the highlights of this video. Check out this two bars, which is from 01:05 of the video.

round-midnight-reharmonization-transcription-a3.JPG

Observe the left hand chords. The first chord consists of notes G#, D and G, which I would say is a rootless voicing of an E7#9 chord. The rest of the chords are just moving down chromatically, that would be an Eb7#9, D7#9 and a Db7#9. However, these are the original chords for these two bars.

round-midnight-lead-sheet-music-score-b3.JPG

Notice how they are completely different?? But 7notemode’s reharmonization chords still fits perfectly with the melody in the right hand. And to add more tension to it, as if there’s not enough yet, notice whole the last melody note, the G natural, fits into the last Db7#9 chord as a flatten 5th?? Pure art….
 
Harmonizing melody
Let’s take our attention away from chords for a moment, and look at another interesting technique seen in this playing. Round midnight is a song where you can often find the melody actually being the chord tones played in an arpeggio manner. Here are the 4 bars where this happens in the original song.

round-midnight-lead-sheet-music-score-b4.JPG

Instead of playing them straightforwardly, 7notemode creatively harmonized these notes, with the left hand, with notes that are a compound third below. Here is how he played it.

round-midnight-reharmonization-transcription-a4.JPG

I am sure you can find many similar examples in the video. So next time when you find your left hand free with nothing much to do in a certain part of a song, consider this option to add some color and flavor to your playing.

Altered Chords
Often, irregular chord extensions can be added to the original chords of a song, adding some spice into an otherwise boring harmony. Again, 7notemode gave us a nice demonstration of this. By comparing the transcription and the original chord charts, you can see how 7notemode just altered the quality of the original to produce some really nice interesting sounds. Here are a few examples.

round-midnight-reharmonization-transcription-a5.JPG

The original chord for this bar is an F7. But here we see a A and D#(Eb) in the left hand, and a G and C# in the right hand. Leaving out the root again, we see that these four notes gives us a F7+(add9).
Here’s another example.

round-midnight-reharmonization-transcription-a6

the original chord for this bar is an Abm7 followed by a Db7. The Db7 here however is altered by adding a D and G in the right hand, with the D being the b9, and the G being the b5. Any music student should know that the dominant 7th chord is the easiest chord to be altered. Keeping this in mind, always think about how you could do some alteration whenever you come across a dominant 7th chord in your playing. These are just two examples from my transcription, there are many more inside. Try analyzing them yourself, I guarantee you will learn a lot.

So before I sign off, I just have to thank 7notemode for his fantastic playing. 7notemode, you’re da man….

Have fun and enjoy… :D

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11 Comments

  • KCLau

    Reply Reply July 30, 2007

    This is probably the best analysis I read about the song Round Midnight. Great work!

  • Michael J

    Reply Reply August 11, 2008

    Thank you for such a wonderful site! You guys are just awesome to do somthing this special. Deeply valued and appreciated..

    God Bless
    Michael J

  • Sam S

    Reply Reply May 15, 2010

    Good analysis, v.helpful. Thanks a lot

  • Ben Strathmore

    Reply Reply July 20, 2010

    Absolutely outstanding. I was just about to transcribe the solo myself before i discovered this site. Thankyou so much for your work!

    • KCLau

      Reply Reply July 23, 2010

      Ben,

      Thanks! Can share with us the transcriptions you’ve already done? We can publish them here at Pianologist.

  • fluteguo

    Reply Reply September 23, 2011

    perfect analysis! I love it ,
    i’m from taiwan.

  • tenoreleven

    Reply Reply October 19, 2011

    While your analysis is wonderful and interesting. I love Monk like you do. Your technique is great. I don’t want to sound mean or nasty, but, man you really should learn how to swing. Your playing comes off stilted and contrived. Listen to the music not the notes… relax.

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