2017 Christmas Competition 🎅🎄🎁

2017 PianoGroove Christmas Competition :christmas_tree: :santa: :gift:

Hey all!

I’m excited to launch the 2017 PianoGroove Christmas Competition. This is mostly for fun, but also to encourage students to step out of their comfort zones and create their own jazz piano arrangement.

The challenge is to create an arrangement using a lead sheet from the Christmas Real Book.

Christmas tunes are perfect for creating jazz piano arrangements.:

  • The melodies are simple and memorable
  • the harmony tends to stay diatonic to the key that the tune is written in
  • The melody lines are perfect to reharmonise with passing chords, substitutions, altered chords and much more!

Scroll down for the competition entry details, prizes and judging criteria:

How Does It Work?

  1. Pick a tune from the Christmas Real Book

  2. Over the next month, create a solo jazz piano arrangement

  3. Create a video of yourself playing the arrangement. Extra points for a ‘Chirstmassy’ setting! :grinning:

  4. A poll will be created with all of the entires and the PianoGroove community will vote on the best arrangements.

  5. Three prizes are awarded to the winning arrangements (1st, 2nd & 3rd Place)

What Are The Prizes?

The 3 winners will receive both a PianoGroove Pro subscription and a Spotify Premium Subscription.

###1st Place:
12 month PianoGroove & Spotify Premium Subscription

###2nd Place:
6 month PianoGroove & Spotify Premium Subscription

###3rd Place:
3 month PianoGroove & Spotify Premium Subscription

note: if you are already on a PianoGroove annual plan, we would just extend your renewal date for the prize period.

How Are The Arrangements Judged?

The submissions will be judged on the following criteria:

  1. Melodic Phrasing - don’t just play the melody exactly as it’s written on the lead sheet… listen to a bunch of recordings to find melodic inspiration. Piano recordings, other instruments, vocal versions… you can find

  2. Use Of Passing Chords - get creative and harmonise those lonely melody notes with passing chords.

  3. Intro & Outros - a great jazz piano arrangement will contain an intro and outros to create a full and complete performance.

  4. Christmas Setting - This is not the primary focus but it should be taken into consideration… try to set up a festive scene or make yourself look festive… It’s Christmas after all!

  5. Annotate & Upload Your Lead Sheet - as an example, here is my lead sheet from the recent Christmas lesson: Merry Little Christmas.pdf (423.3 KB) … excuse my handwriting
    You should get into the habit of annotating lead sheets with your chords and voicings… this will also help other students see your choices and learn from your arrangement!

I will also be taking part but of course, I won’t be winning any of the prizes :smile:

I’m back at my parental home in Manchester, UK, for Christmas, and we conveniently have an upright piano next to the Christmas tree which will be the perfect setting for my video :santa: :christmas_tree:

In The Spirit Of Fun…

This competition is all in the spirit of festive fun and also to encourage more of a PianoGroove ‘family’ vibe here in the forum/community area.

Learning to arrange a lead sheet from scratch can be challenging, but with each one it becomes easier and easier.

Remember to listen to as many recordings as possible on YouTube/Spotify. My aim with this competition is to encourage students to take the first steps towards creating their own arrangements.

Over the next few weeks, I will be adding tips, pointers, and referencing PianoGroove lessons with how they can be applies to Christmas lead sheets.

A Final Note…

It’s PianoGroove’s 2nd Birthday next week which means I will have been teaching some of you for 2 years (even longer if you started with my YouTube tutorials).

One limitation of teaching online is that I don’t get to hear you all play.

I receive lots of comments and emails telling me that you like the tuition and are seeing big improvements, but this competition will finally give me the opportunity to hear you play which I think is awesome :grinning:

The Christmas Real Book (For C Instruments)

If anyone has any questions with the competition we can discuss in this thread :slight_smile:

Hey all,

Here’s a nice tip if you want to change the key of a jazz standard in the Christmas Real Book.

Firstly head over to the iRealPro Forum and download the 100 Holiday Tune Pack.

In the iRealPro, you can change the key of the tune with the click of a button.

For example, the original key of the latest tutorial on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is in C Major but I decided to arrange the tune in Ab Major.

I simply changed the key to Ab using the the key option in the bottom right.

You will have to transpose the melody which is part of the challenge.

Why would you want to do this?

  • You may have found some great recordings in a different key than the original
  • The iRealPro file may contain alternative chord changes that you can use in your arrangement.
  • You may prefer a different key signature than the original tune
  • You may enjoy and benefit the challenge of transposing the original form

More tips to follow :slight_smile:

Hey Hayden,

I love the idea of this competition! Thanks for setting it up.

Quick question: if we participate, how should we submit our entries? I’m hesitant to submit something because I’m still pretty new to jazz piano, but I love the idea and am planning on at least attempting something.


Hi Deven,

Glad you’re liking the competition idea.

There are 2 ways to submit the video:

  1. Send me the video via www.wetransfer.com
    Just enter my email address hayden@pianogroove.com, upload the file and hit send.
    I will then upload as an unlisted video and post the videos here in the forum. This will be on or just before Christmas day

  2. Upload it to YouTube.
    Select “unlisted video” and that means that it can only be viewed from the direct link (ie. it will not be publicly visible on YouTube). You can then post the YouTube link in this forum thread. I will then create a poll, for the community to vote on their favourites.

I honestly wouldn’t worry that you are new to jazz. The idea is that you are now pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to create an arrangement… that is how you progress.

I always say that students will gain a deeper understanding of my theoretical teachings when they spend the time to apply it themselves. Once you reapply a voicing or harmonisation technique to a new jazz standard you will retain the information much better than by simply watching my lessons.

Some students have sent me mp3 recordings of themselves playing and I’m always impressed with the arrangements. They are personal and unique to their musical studies, influences, and the musicians they have listening to.

Some have even given me musical ideas to explore which is awesome! And imagine if, as a community, we can all benefit from this… how cool would that be!

That’s the longer term plan of the community forum initiative, I just wish I had more hours in the day! :smile:

I will post some more guidance here later today. Remember that you will find it very difficult Deven… the first one is always the hardest. The key is to listen to every version of the song before attempting the arrangement.

Any other questions just let me know :slight_smile:

Hi, Hayden

I like to participate in the Christmas Competition for 2017.

Here is my entry. It’s White Christmas.

The music score with annotation is attached below.
There are three files.

Take care.


p/s Congratulations on your two-year anniversary. You have been doing excellent jobs.


Hi Toshihiro :wave:

Thank you for making the 1st submission and such a beautiful arrangement!

Nice job adding the intro, outro and fills and thanks for uploading your transcription so that others can learn from it.

I will create a poll with all of the submissions and post it in this thread, so that the community can vote on their favourite.

I’ll be making a performance video and a tutorial on the Christmas song I have chosen, I’ll publish both of these on the 24th :slight_smile:

Hi Everyone,

My submission is the tune “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” by Walter Kent.

This is the acoustic piano at my home in Manchester. I usually play on my Roland RD 700 but I thought the Christmas tree in the backdrop would be a nice setting to make the video :slight_smile:

I’ve also created a tutorial on the tune here. You can find this in the Christmas lesson course: Jazz Christmas Piano Lessons | Learn Jazz Piano Christmas Songs with PDFs

Here’s the chord changes and a transcription of the head of the tune:

I’ll Be Home For Christmas Score.pdf (350.2 KB)

I’ll Be Home For Christmas Transcription.pdf (37.9 KB)

I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas - remember it’s not too late to submit a festive arrangement if you have one :smiley:


1 Like


Hey Toshihiro,

Congratulations, you are the winner of this year’s Christams competition :tada:

I will email you shorty with some information on redeeming the 1st place prize :slight_smile:

Hi Toshihiro,

I liked your entry a lot. Well done for the prize too.

I’m still in the lessons process and learning a lot, so thank you Hayden again for your work.

Happy holidays to all the community and my best wishes for a healthy, peaceful and musically inspiring 2018.


1 Like

Thanks Ody… it’s a pleasure to have you as part of the PianoGroove community.

I have some exciting things in store over the next few months over for the rest of 2018… I’ll be announcing the plans to all students in the next couple of days :slight_smile:

Have a wonderful New Year!

Hi, Hayden

I told my wife about the winning. She said she’s gonna
buy a bottle of wine to celebrate it !

It took two weeks for me to create the arrangement. The intro, outro,
melody lines, and passing chords. Then I had to make a number of
recordings because of the mistakes I made while it being recorded.

Anyway, I enjoyed it , and as you mentioned, the competition is
an good opportunity to step up the level.

So, I like to thank you for the opportunity.


Hi, Ody

I am happy that you like my performance.
Thank you very much.

Yes, I 100% agree with you. Mastering Jazz Piano is such a time-consuming process.
There are so many things to learn. Chords, chord-voicing, scales, 251s, and many more.

Don’t worry. We have Hayden. We will be mastering little by little,
step by step. You know, he is very good at it.

Ody, I wish you and your family have a happy holiday and happy new year!

Thank you.


p/s I enjoyed Hayden’s I’ll be home for Christmas, too. It’s beautiful.

1 Like

Thank you so much Toshihiro.

And yes, you are right, so many things to learn and master, but that is also what makes Jazz and generally learning so fulfilling, one can never learn enough.

Take care,

Thanks Toshihiro :slight_smile:

I have some exciting new plans for 2018 - I’ll be sending an email to all students in the next few days. It will be nice to get some input and feedback on my plans for the direction of PianoGroove during 2018.

Wishing you all a very happy new year :tada: :smiley: