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Heart and Soul, Chopsticks, and Other Piano Duets for Beginners

Whether you consider yourself a piano player or not, even if you’ve never had piano lessons, chances are that at some point in your life you have found yourself sitting side-by-side on a piano bench while a friend shows you how to play “Chopsticks” or “Heart and Soul.”

According to Wikipedia, “Chopsticks” was “…written in either 1877 or 1887, depending on the source, by Euphemia Allen under the pseudonym of Arthur de Lull (alternatively, Lulli). Allen, who was the sister of a music publisher, was supposedly only sixteen when she composed the piece, with arrangements for solo and duet. The [original] title Chop Waltz comes from Allen’s specification that the melody be played in two-part harmony with both hands held sideways, little fingers down, striking the keys with a chopping motion.”

(Although originally called “Chop Waltz” — and it is unclear exactly when the song became “Chopsticks” — the song is actually not a waltz as usually played. A traditional “waltz” is in 3/4 time. “Chopsticks” is generally played in 6/8 i.e.  1-2-3-4-5-6, 1-2-3-4-5-6, etc., with the piano “chops.” However, slowed down, i.e. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, etc., “Chopsticks” reverts to the “Chop Waltz”!)

As for the classic duet, “Heart and Soul,” everybody seems to know the tune. But ironically many don’t know the name of the song, or its genesis.

Hoagy Carmichael“Heart and Soul” is a pop standard written by one of America’s greatest songwriters, Hoagy Carmichael (“Georgia on My Mind,” “Stardust,” among many other memorable songs), with lyrics written by Frank Loesser (“Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”).

As is the case with many Hoagy Carmichael tunes, “Heart and Soul” has been extensively covered, including by crooning icons the likes of Dean Martin, Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald, jazz instrumental greats Dave Brubeck, Milt Jackson and Bud Powell, and even by the folk singing Livingston Taylor, brother of James Taylor (who successfully covered some pop standards himself, including “Handy Man” and “Mockingbird,” the latter with then-wife Carly Simon for her Hotcakes album in 1974).

“Heart and Soul” charted no less than seven times. In 1939, three versions charted: Larry Clinton (reaching #1), Eddy Duchin (reaching #12), and Al Donohue (reaching #16). The song charted again in 1952 by The Four Aces (#11), in 1956 by Larry Maddox (#57), in 1961 by The Cleftones (#18), and again in 1961 by Jan and Dean (#25).

You may remember a youthful Tom Hanks playing “Heart and Soul” with his feet (a great aerobic workout!) on a huge “keyboard” sprawled across the floor of a toy store in Big.

The children’s film Stuart Little also features the song, as does Superman Returns.

Heart and Soul Lyics
(Words by Frank Loesser, Music by Hoagy Carmichael)

Heart and soul, I fell in love with you
Heart and soul, the way a fool would do,
Because you held me tight
And stole a kiss in the night

Heart and soul, I begged to be adored
Lost control, and tumbled overboard
That magic night we kissed
There in the moon mist

Oh! but your lips were thrilling, much too thrilling
Never before were mine so strangely willing

But now I see, what one embrace can do
Look at me, it’s got me loving you
That little kiss you stole
Held all my heart and soul

Want to learn these duets? Heart and Soul & Other Duet Favorites contains:

Heart And Soul
(Put Another Nickel In) Music! Music! Music!
On Top Of Spaghetti
Any Dream Will Do
The Rainbow Connection
Raiders March

Piano Duets
Shop Piano Duets today!
Heart and Soul & Other Duet Favorites Collection for Piano four-hands. Series: Hal Leonard Piano Duet. 56 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (HL.290541)
See more info…

Update 11.04.12: A new generation of music fans was introduced to the classic “Heart and Soul” via Apple’s high profile commercial featuring the song being played as a duet on an iPad and the new iPad mini. Computers come and go, but STANDARDS remain! What a tremendous intellectual property is “Heart and Soul” with no signs of fading away, ever.