Jonny May
Quick Tip

Learning Focus
  • Lead Sheets
  • Songs
Music Style
  • Contemporary
  • Holiday
Free Lessons

Get free weekly lessons, practice tips, and downloadable resources to your inbox!

A beautiful melody beckons for a beautiful arrangement. And of all the holiday melodies, “O Holy Night” is among the most breathtaking. In today’s Quick Tip, you’ll learn how to play a beautiful contemporary piano arrangement of “O Holy Night” using transferable techniques that you can apply to other melodies as well. You’ll learn:

  • Outer-Inner Rocking in Melody
  • 10th Interval Accompaniment

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advance pianist, you will be able to apply these piano techniques to perform “O Holy Night” in time for this holiday season.

Let’s jump in!

“O Holy Night” Contemporary Piano

To begin, let’s take a look at an excerpt from the arrangement you’ll be learning. The left hand uses a broken chord pattern while the melody is embedded in an animated right hand figure that is characteristic of contemporary piano arrangements.

Learn O Holy Night Piano Excerpt

What a beautiful sound. Next, we’ll break that down to its essential components.

“O Holy Night” Piano Accompaniment

First and foremost, you’ll want to establish a solid foundation for the accompaniment in your left hand. Let’s examine the left hand part  in isolation.

O Holy Night Piano Accompaniment 10th Interval

As you can see, the left pattern uses each of the three chord tones in the following arrangement:

Contemporary Piano Accompaniment Pattern Left Hand

This arrangement can be described as using a “spread” accompaniment pattern because the interval from the lowest note to the highest note is a 10th. Distributing the chord tones over the interval of a 10th makes your accompaniment sound rich and full with deep bass notes and midrange tones in the baritone register. As a result, the texture is full without being too muddy. However, if you need to simply the accompaniment, you can apply the same overall shape to a smaller span. Here are two alternatives you might also consider.

Piano Accompaniment Reduced Span

Great job! Now, let’s learn the melodic treatment of “O Holy Night” used in this piano arrangement.

“Outer-Inner Rocking”

This arrangement sets the melody within the context of continuous movement using a technique called “outer-inner rocking.” This creates an animated texture that is both beautiful and impressive, though not quite as difficult at is sounds. To apply this technique, you’ll first want to select an inversion for each chord that places the melody note on top. Next, you’ll simultaneously play each melody note with the bottom note of the chord—these are the “outer” notes. Finally, fill in the empty spaces between melody notes with the “inner” chord tone. As a result, you will have a texture of perpetual motion. However, since the movement is bounded within familiar chord shapes, it is also very accessible.

Outer-Inner Melody Rocking Right Hand Piano Arranging Technique

Great job! You’ve now learned the essence of this arrangement. Next, try playing along with the backing track that is included with today’s lesson. The backing track is downloadable from the bottom of this page after logging in with your member.

If you’d like learn even more exciting contemporary piano techniques for “O Holy Night,” check out the following full-length courses based on this tune:

Also, our Holiday Collection is packed with dozens of additional courses and arrangements featuring your favorite Christmas tunes in a variety of styles including ragtime, rhumba, swing, jazz waltz, bossa nova and cocktail jazz.

Thanks for learning with us today. We hope to see you again soon!


Blog written by Michael LaDisa / Quick Tip by Jonny May


More Free Lessons

There's more to playing standards on piano than single-note melodies. Discover 6 ways to add harmony notes to jazz melodies for a fuller sound.

Explore 5 levels of passing chords that you can use to personalize tunes, add variety and increase harmonic expressiveness.

Discover pro insights on how to dress up Erroll Garner's "Misty" with intermediate and advanced jazz piano concepts and techniques.

Looking for downloads?

Subscribe to a membership plan for full access to this Quick Tip's sheet music and backing tracks!

Start Your Free Trial

Join Us

Get instant access to this Quick Tip and other member features with a PWJ membership!

Guided Learning Tracks

View guided learning tracks for all music styles and skill levels

Progress Tracking

Complete lessons and courses as you track your learning progress

Downloadable Resources

Download Sheet Music and Backing Tracks

Community Forums

Engage with other PWJ members in our member-only community forums

Become a better piano player today. Join with the 14-Day Free Trial today!

Get Started