Tag Archives: lead sheet

Hotter latkes

Regular readers of this space will recall eight straight nights of posts last December devoted to my attempt at writing a Hanukkah song, “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke.” At that point, I didn’t yet have an electronic-transmission-friendly version of the lead sheet reflecting the slight tweaking that violinist Peter Jensen and I had given the tune since I first scrawled my handwritten version of the melody some months earlier.

Well, I finally broke down and bought me some music notation software — the formerly free Finale NotePad, now $9.95 in its 2009 edition. With the reconstituted Viper and His Famous Orchestra doing some shows later this summer, and with the limited time we’re going to have to actually all be in one place at one time to practice, I needed some way to make distance rehearsal more doable. I made “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke” my test case for the software, and I’m pretty happy how easy it was to figure out and getting something down quickly with even this cheapest version of the Finale line.

I’ve saved the result here for download, and you can then follow along with this recording of the Paint Branch Ramblers practicing it last November (it goes into Bill Monroe’s “Jerusalem Ridge” toward the end, but you can ignore that).


There are a few flies in the ointment. With NotePad, you apparently can’t add the grace notes I would have liked to get some of the more klezmer-y effects on paper. More problematically, you can’t do double bar lines to indicate the different sections (this song has clearly distinct A and B strains), and you can’t format the result so that it gives you 4 measures per line (which would make it easier to read and play along with).

I’ll also be testing out an open source program called MuseScore to see how that compares. I don’t need much in the way of bells & whistles, but it would be good to have a few key features that would enable me to put together better working lead sheets for practice purposes.

Hanukkah with the Viper, pt. 3

For the first night of Hanukkah, I posted a recent Paint Branch Ramblers recording of “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke.” And yesterday, I posted the cheat sheet for singing and playing along in accompaniment.

But what if you want to play the melody itself? Well, today’s post offers you a PDF of the handwritten lead sheet that Peter Jensen and I use to make our contribution on the violin and the cümbüş, respectively. Ignore the chord changes, which are hopelessly more complicated the ones we actually use. You can find the ones we use on the cheat sheet from yesterday’s post.

You should also note that we have made two small changes in the way that we actually play it and make those corrections on the music.

  • In measures 4 & 8, you can add a short cadenza to the final f# note, so that it runs down the D major scale (F#, E, D) following the same two-sixteenth one-eighth note figure that you’ll see at the start of measure 7. On this one, it creates a nicely heterophonous effect if NOT all the players do this every time.
  • The more important change is the reversal of the 2nd and 3rd notes in measure 7, so that it goes G, A, Bb rather than G, Bb, A. It’s a really small thing, but it makes a big difference in the way the textured pattern of that part works out.

    We don’t really solo over this, but if you wanted to try, the song basically uses two modes. I don’t know the names of either. For most of it – the parts where the chords is D major – it uses what I think of as the basic klezmer mode (i.e., the one that you’ll hear in “Hava Nagila” or “Misirlou”) of a scale built on D using the notes D, Eb, F#, G, A, Bb, C#, D. For measures 7 & 8, 11 & 12, and 15 & 16 (where the chords go D, C, C, D), it straightens out the scale a bit, so that you’re using D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C, D. Though, frankly, when I ad lib, I don’t worry about that.

    And we don’t think you should either. Come back tomorrow night for more latkes, served up hot and cold.