Turn Out The Stars


This week my lesson was to learn the song, “Turn out the Stars by Bill Evans”. For those of you may not remember it, this song is an old jazz standard that in the beginning is a harmonic nightmare. It is also a hauntingly beautiful ballad. By the time I can actually play it, it will be transformed into an elegant, masterpiece written by a true virtuoso.  I read that Bill Evans wrote it after the death of his father. I was not able to confirm that story, (although I admit to nothing more than a quick Google Slap,) so I may just be starting a rumor. Bill probably won’t mind since he left us quite a while ago. I do wish he was here. He is probably my favorite piano player of all time, and thanks to his recordings, I am constantly rediscovering his songs with a new found delight.

This week, I am learning all kinds of things. The first of which is, “Trust yourself!” I have spent the week second guessing myself. Does that sharp 5 really sound good in that measure or should I settle on the 6?, I really like the flat 9 and the sharp 11 in that chord, but should I do that?, etc. I spent the first three days on the first three lines, second guessing every choice I made. Now there is some benefit to questioning your choices but when they paralyze your effort to proceed, something has to change.

This is where I learned my second lesson, “Own your choice!” I got to the place where I could trust that I made the right choice, so now I have to play that sharp 13 with the gusto it requires. I can no longer be tentative with my choice I have to be bold and confident. “Own you choice.” Requires me to embrace the choice I made and I must muster the courage to play it. I always hear baseball players say if you strike out, at least go down swinging.

After a week of working on this song it was ok at the beginning, frustrating in the middle and just plain painful by the end. A quick lesson with my piano teacher and I am reassured that I am on the right track. It is amazing just how much a pat on the back can do for my confidence. So I guess my next lesson is, “Touch base with an expert!” He offered some suggestions and a few different voicings and complimented me on a couple of my choices and I am off and playing again. I know that this song will soon be resting at the end of my fingertips. Some songs simply make you smile when you can finally play them. In the mean time I will keep practicing.

….and so it goes! This song has turned into much more than a simple music lesson for me. It has become a journey that any artist can relate to. I must learn to first and foremost, Trust myself. I do indeed know what I am doing. Second I need to, own my choice and finally I need to touch base with an expert….or a friend in the field!  It is simply a good idea to get a little confirmation on your direction.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. This is my favorite Bill Evans song. There’s a ton of chords but somehow they flow seamlessly.

    1. I love Waltz for Debbie as well!

    2. The more I play Turn out the Stars, the more I recognize the simplicity of the chord movements. I do think this song is inching its way past Waltz for Debbie on my Bill Evans favorite song list.

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