"St James Infirmary" uses the minor natural scale. We do of course have to use the harmonic minor's
sharped seventh to have the correct notes in the V7 chord. I am giving you the music below in three keys.
The original song is in D minor. It spans one octave. It's a fairly comfortable singing key. E minor in one tone
higher but still comfortable for most voices. A minor is not good for most voices, having to be sung too high
or to low, but I use it to illustrate the simplest key. The same right hand fingering can be used for all three
keys. The thumb never has to play a black key. The hand only has to shift position to play the third measure.
Saint James infirmary, Am
Now we are going to study "St James Infirmary" in detail. We are going to learn it in three keys with melody
and chords using lead sheets. We will start with the key of A minor. It's not the original key and not the best
key for singing. The melody is too high. We are starting with it because it's the simplest key. It's the relative
minor of the key of C with no sharps and flats. First let's look at the melody. We start with right hand
positioned over the first five notes of A minor. The notes are a, b, c, d, e or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. See the picture
above that shows the numbering of the right and left hand fingers. For all except the third measure, the
finger numbers and number that tells you the position of the note in the scale are the same. For the third
measure, you shift your thumb up to the fifth note in the scale e to play the higher notes. On the last beat of
the fourth measure, you shift back to playing the fifth note e with finger 5. For the rest of the song you stay in
this position, with the finger number and note numbers of the scale the same. The music below has the finger
numbers for the right hand over the melody so you should be able to easily figure out how to finger the
melody of the song. Try playing the melody by itself. Below the music, we have midi for the song with melody
and chords, keyboard chord pictures and instructions for backing the melody with chords.
In the music for this song, you are going to see a symbol that looks like the letter C where the time signature
belongs. It is the time signature and stands for common time. Common time is the same as four/four time,
with four beats to a measure and a quarter note getting one beat. Since four/four time is the most common
type of time used in our music, the common time symbol is often substituted for the 4/4 symbol
Some songs have notes that come in before the first measure. They are called pickup notes. For "St James
Infirmary it's two eight notes. As you count into the song "I" is on 4 down beat and "went" is on the + up beat.
Remember the + sign is said as "and" for our up beat eight note. Four and is 4+. Notice how when we repeat
we put the pickup notes in the last measure and repeat from our first measure on the word "down".
In "Timing The Music", we introduced a lot of time notation. We used "Some Folks Do" to introduce quarter,
half and whole notes. "Skip To My Lou" taught us the eight notes. Finally "Tom Dooley" introduce us to
syncopation. But we didn't apply everything I introduced there. "St James Infirmry" carries us a little further
in our study of timing. It has dotted half and quarter notes and the eight-quater-eight syncopation on a 3rd
and 4th beat instead of the 1st and second beat like "Tom Dooley". If you came directly here and don't
understand the simpler timing, you should study Timing The Notes first. If you came directly here and don't
understand minor keys you should study "Minor Scales" first.
"St Jame Infirmary" has syncopated timing. That means that some of the melody notes come in on up beats
with no note on the down beat. I first introduced syncopated timing with the song "Tom Dooley" in free music
lesson 5 "Musics Great Secret". In that lesson, I teach you how to play the song without using music. This is
a main site page with full navigation bars that can take you to any page on the site. Some pages like this
one are supplement pages to main pages and can only be accessed from their main page. The main page
for this page is "Minor Scales". To get back here or navigate from here to the rest of the you go there first. If
you need more knowledge about timing notes, you need to go to free music lesson 8, "Timing The Notes".
This main page has supplement song pages. One of these is "Tom Dooley, Piano". On this page you learn
how to play "Tom Dooley" using music lead sheets in three keys. It also gives you the piano chords for
backing the melody. This would be a good song to study along with "St James Infirmry" to get up to speed
with syncopated timing.
|St. James Infirmary, Am High Chords
|St James Infirmary, Piano
The picture to the left gives you the numbering of the fingers
to play the right hand melody and left hand chords for
keyboards. We have discussed this fingering in many other
lessons. You will need to reference it to play the songs on
this page so I have repeated it here.
|St. James Infirmary, Am Low Chords
Playing The Chords
The original key for "St James Infirmary" is D minor. When it's transposed up a fifth to A minor not only does
the melody get a bit high for singing but the chords get high also. Play the first midi with the high chords. For
the second midi, I transposed the chords down an octave to put them back in the bass clef. Listen to that
midi. That is where the chords are written on the lead sheet. When you play chords backing up the melody,
you really don't have to read the bass clef. You learn the fingering from the keyboard chord pictures and
then just go by the chord names above the music. The bass clef music does give you the rhythm, in this case
a simple one chord per beat. Notice how in end measures, we rest with no chord on the last beat. Note on
seventh chords you can leave out the fifth and it still sounds okay. For E7 that would be the fourth finger
note b. That makes it much easier to play. Also notice that even though A minor has no sharps in the key
signature, you need a g sharp for the third of the E7 chord. That is why we use the A minor harmonic scale,
with the g sharp accidental to build chords. Try playing the melody for ""St James Infirmary while backing it
with the chords.
St James Infirmary, Dm and Em
Below we have the music for "St James Infirmary in the original key of D minor and up one step to E minor.
Both are in a good singing range. We also have the piano picture chords for both keys. We use inversions
so that the chords can be played with very little finger movement. Note that the melody for both keys has very
similar fingering. Also the chords have very similar fingering. As stated before you can leave out the fifth of
the 7th chord. Practice playing the songs with melody and chords in these keys.