How to play Stride piano

version en français Home Harlem and the
kings of stride
A story of
Fats Waller
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stride piano

One never knows, do one ?

Playing Stride in the 20’s fashion continues to be a "show".  A few followers have made it because of their patient listening, imitating and relentless practice. The very essence of this music is passed on to the initiated by ear and eye only. With time and practice, the ear makes it possible for the notes to become more clearly distinguishable. All that is left to do, in a manner of speaking, is to play these notes and measures over and over again hundreds of times, until there is a natural resemblance and a fixed quasi-unchanging tempo.

   The Mule Walk (J.P.Johnson)  par Louis Mazetier

Louis MazetierOn the other hand, seeing "Stride" is much more difficult because the smoky and shady nightclubs where any self-respecting "Stride" pianist would perform are few and far between. A must among others in good old France would be Louis MAZETIER, who, along with his orchestra the "Paris Washboard", could be cited as one who perpetuates this style in its purest tradition,

Elsewhere in the world, Dick HYMAN, Mike LIPSKIN, Neuville DICKIES, Bernd LHOTZKY, Stephanie TRICK, Paul ASARO, and Judy CARMICHAEL should also be mentioned. All of these talented pianists contribute to the eternal youthfulness of this almost century old music.

Cédric GRANELLE's stride version of RACHMANINOV Concerto n°2



  Sweet Savannah Sue (Brooks, Waller, Razaf) par Dick Hyman

Dick HymanAnd there are others. Be they dabblers or professionals, young or not so young, this style has its following, and numerous connoisseurs quickly crowd up to a piano playing the peaceful beat of a bit of Stride.

Success is only conceivable if, in addition to a good ear, one has also developed a skilled technique. The role of the left hand plays a determining factor; this, along with the importance of having a hand stretch which easily allows playing the "tenth" so abundantly used by the "Masters". (Georges Shearing once said that shaking hands with Fats gave one the impression of "grabbing a bunch of bananas). Players in the prime of their youth who may have explored the Hanon method, Chopin waltzes and Scott Joplin, would undoubtedly have a slight advantage when tackling this particular style. Nevertheless, this is not a sine qua non condition because the essential still remains the motivation and “the soul”.

Learning by ear and imitating has its limits at times. In this case, sheet music can be of great help. Much of it dealing with “Stride” piano or the music supposedly written by Fats Waller has only been published in recent years. This provides, of course, one solution. However,most have been either arranged in one way or another, or simplified and thus are not authentic transcriptions.
Here are songbooks that genuinely merit being cited here because of the richness of their content, and the remarkable work of transcription (note by note) provided by their authors.

A good workout is garanteed

P Marcorelles Scivales Paul Posnak

Fats Waller piano solos
Transcriptions de
Paul Marcorelles.

Harlem stride piano solos
transctiptions de
Ricardo Scivales
(Ecay Music)

Thomas Fats Waller
The great solos
transcriptions de
Paul Posnak
(Hall Leonard)

Another precious source coming out of England is the site of the late John Farrell on which you can find piano rolls, rare transcriptions and midi files. The visit is more than worthwhile.

All of this sheet music provides a closer walk with the Stride style of the Great Masters’. The difficulty of this music says a great deal about the pianistic qualities of these musicians. It will never favour a perfect imitation of our idols, but then there is not much interest in this, anyhow. If this were the case, one might just as well listen to the original. In any event, playing with one’s own particular sensitivity and style is always more preferable than any pale imitation.

It should never be forgotten that this music was largely improvised for the most part, and should, therefore, conserve its spontaneous, inventive, and even audacious character as much as possible.

Thank you for visiting these pages.

Since adolescence, Fats has been my old friend and (more than) forty years later, I am still an admirer of his style

What can I say about his eternal good humour which instantaneously lowers blood pressure and sweeps the stress away ?  (Yes, Yes, a doctor could confirm !)

I started to learn the piano quite early and I was lucky to play in many bands while continuing my job. To share this music is a great pleasure for me. Besides, this site is the opportunity of warm exchanges with devotees all around the world ;
Many thanks for your kind messages. Best Wishes

Jean-Carl Simonetti   (jcs.sim(at)

A short tribute available on  YouTube

CD Jean-Carl Simonetti

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références :
Ain't Misbehavin, the story of Fats Waller by Ed Kirkeby - Da capo press, NY
Fats Waller, Maurice Waller and Antony Calabrese - Schimmer books NY
Fats Waller, Alyn Shipton - Omnibus Press, London
Crédit photos : The Frank Driggs collection, M. Lipskin, S. Grossman, D.Schiedt
english version : Thanks to Jerry Zucker for his precious help

copyright 2000 / 2021  JCS


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