Transposing Songs - "The Nearness Of You"

My first post. A huge fan of PianoGroove for learning
Analysis of songs this way is very helpful. This post makes sense to me. I’m glad to know it is a bit tricky for even you all to know what is minor and major. For me …either way, the 251’s can be written as you did with
2/6 5/6 6…
my question is… should we analyze every song this way and try to transpose as an exercise? It becomes so comfortable to play each song in its familiar key… but singers have to sing in their range so we’ll be asked to transpose. Do you write the numbers above the chords on the lead sheet or just write it out somewhere else? I’m trying to get your opinion for a goal and a path to knowing how to get to where I can change keys without having to go back and relearn as if it is a new song

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Wellcome in the community Dave !!

I let Hayden answering … but about the number it is just a shortcut i use it will be a better idea to write them this way
ii/vi V7/vi … of course

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Welcome Dave!

Glad to hear you are enjoying the PianoGroove syllabus and teaching method.

Yes I must admit that numeric harmony puts me a little outside of my comfort zone. It was something I never paid any attention to when starting out playing solo piano from lead sheets. Whilst I’ve always identified the 251s and other common cadences, I never paid much attention to the overall movement of the harmony in the tunes I was playing.

So I’m finding it interesting to discuss this stuff.

I think in an ideal world, if time permits, yes this would be a very worthwhile exercise.

As you highlight this is important when working with singers to be able to play the harmony in the range of the singers voice.

I must admit that I find that prospect of transposing tunes in real time quite daunting at this stage of my musical development.

I’ve been working with our voice/piano teacher - @Lyndol - in NYC the last few weeks and we were working on the tune “The Nearness Of You”. It’s one of my favourite tunes to play solo piano and I had always played it in the key of F Major.

We had planned to jam whilst I was here and Lyndol mentioned to me that she sings it in Bb Major so I spent the time to explore the numeric harmony and transpose the form into Bb.

That process was easier than I thought it would be and we had fun playing over it. However, I think that if I transposed it around more keys - or even all 12 - then my understanding of the tune would be much better. An ‘extra level of enlightenment’ if you will :grin:

So yes I think if time permits, definitely transpose the tunes you are playing.

I also get the feeling that the more of this stuff I do, the easer it will become. Already from transposing a limited number of tunes, I see a lot of similarities and relationships in the harmonic movement which makes the overall task much easier.

When working on “The Nearness Of You” I memorised the numerics without writing anything down, which turned out to be much less information that I thought it would be.

The tune follows an AABA Form and so learning the numeric harmony of the first 8 bars gave me the ‘blueprint’ for almost 75% of the tune. There is a 4-bar extension in the final A Section which is another important detail to remember.

Anyhow, here’s the first 4 bars from the iRealPro chord chart:

I simplified it to the following information:

  • Imaj7 chord in bar 1
  • 251 to IV in bars 2 & 3
  • IVdim7 in bar 4
  • 2 back-to-back 3625 progressions for bars 5 through 8

I find it quite easy to remember those 4 details without writing it down, and I have the feeling that if I took that around all 12 keys, I would learn a lot about harmony, as well as memorising that tune for life in the process.

I think this would make a great lesson topic using “The Nearness Of You” as an example tune for us to transpose. Leave this with me.

Perhaps try that tune yourself Dave, or another tune you are working on, and let us know how it works out.

We have a numeric harmony study on “There Will Never Be Another You” which you can find in our course on “How To Play In A Jazz Band”:

For the performance video, Lyndol kindly sung the melody in Eb which she mentioned isn’t her best key, but it made it much easier for me play over the tune as it’s the key I first learnt it in.

Eb is also a very common key for standards so I’m naturally more comfortable with harmonies and melodies in that key.

I think it could be very interesting to develop this aspect of the site further Dave. Perhaps we could have a dedicated section of the website which covers numeric harmony analysis. I think that would be a great addition.


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Wow! Thanks for the quick reply
You all are amazing.
I love the nearness of you. I play it in F as well, but I use iReal pro and anytune pro to play along with recordings. Anytune pro is valuable to me as iReal pro. It allows speed up and slow down.
Norah Jones plays the nearness of you I think in G. ( not sure). But I’m going to try to learn that by the numeric chords and see how it goes. If you do it in a lesson that would be great.
Again… thanks

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Thanks Dave.

Funnily enough I was listening to the Norah Jones version to get some inspiration before jamming with Lyndol.

I just played along with the record, and to my ears, Norah Jones sings it in C Major.

Try playing along with the record using these chords Dave:

  • Cmaj7 (Imaj7 for bar 1)
  • G-7, C7, Fmaj7 (251 to IV in bars 2 and 3)
  • Fdim7 (IVdim7 in bar 4) - I realised i made a mistake in my post above… it’s IVdim7, not bIVdim7 … I will correct this now.
  • E-7 A7 D-7 G7 x2 (3625 repeated twice for bars 5 through 8)

Those chords sounds great to my ears when playing along with the Norah Jones record.

Norah uses some nice fills using C Major Blues / A Minor Blues. She adds some nice grace notes from the Eb to the E which sounds beautiful and fills the space very tastefully in my opinion.

We should definitely do a study on this tune.


ps. this is the version I was listening to:

I’m blown away…
I will try it out.

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Thanks! That is perfect and I can now play along with the recording in its original key

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I just saw this and funnily enough I called Nearness of You last Sunday at a jazz jam!
I had been speaking with a jazz pianist just before I went up who is a singer as well,. I mentioned to him that I wanted to call that tune, but wasn’t sure if the guys would be able to transpose it on the spot to Bb. He was a hard core jazzer and came from the belief that you should never use a chart. He doesn’t believe in the ireal pro app, and always transposes every song into all 12 keys. He recognized he is a bit old school in this but felt that it should be easy to go from F to Bb for most of the musicians there.
Turns out the pianist did need to use his ireal app, and let me tell you, he was a PHENOMENAL pianist. The bassist on the other hand had no problem at all transposing on the spot. I think all can agree the ideal is to have all these standards memorized, and easily transposed to all 12. But the reality is we are all just doing our best, and any steps towards that ideal are rewarded with greater depth of understanding, and ease in playing for sure.
Personally, transposing tunes that have easy harmonies, such as pop and blues, has become possible for me to do on the spot. Mainly because I do have to transpose so often for myself as a singer to find the right key.
But I still have trouble remembering the more complicated harmonies of jazz standards. Even Tunes that I’ve played for Years and years, I’ll go blank on when in performance situations. Maybe I have become a bit dependent on charts. I’ve heard that when you play in all 12 keys, the harmony gets burned in your brain. So I’m thinking I need to step up my practice in this area. Thanks for the inspiration!

Hayden, I’ve loved this album since it came out. This would be a fine song to work up. The pianist, by the way, is Norah Jones. (Did you know that her father was Ravi Shankar, the sitar player?)

Opps my bad!.. I’ll amend my post above.

I haven’t listened to the whole album… just this tune in preparation for a jam with Lyndol. I have added the album to my listening list.

Lyndol and myself have been working on vocal play along tracks for our students. They will soon be available in Lyndol’s courses.

Here’s one for “The Nearness of You” - I’m still working on the layout:

Lyndol sings the tune in Bb.

We have more of these vocal play-a-long tracks, including some versions with me playing along, perhaps I can also get the light up keyboard in there too.

The idea is that our students can play along with the tracks to get some experience playing with vocalists.

I covered the tune in F major a while back for a solo piano tutorial:

I found it a nice easy tune to transpose.

And no I didn’t know that either. Interesting stuff.