Transcribe Skylark with Mark Turner

I stumbled across this album of Mark’s on Apple Music when driving back from my parents after a family visit. I’ve been a fan of Mark’s playing for years and this rendition of ‘Skylark’ just blew me away.

Skylark was composed by Hogay Carmichael, who wrote the melody, based on a Bix Beiderbecke cornet improvisation, as “Bix Licks”, for a project to turn the novel Young Man With a Horn into a Broadway musical. After that project failed, Carmichael brought in Johnny Mercer to write lyrics for the song. Mercer said that he struggled for a year after he got the music from Carmichael before he could get the lyrics right. Mercer recalled that Carmichael initially called him several times about the lyrics but had forgotten about the song by the time Mercer finally wrote them. The yearning expressed in the lyrics was based on Mercer’s longing for Judy Garland, with whom he had an affair.

Several artists recorded charting versions of the song in 1942, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra (vocal by Ray Eberle), Harry James and His Orchestra (vocal by Helen Forrest), Dinah Shore, and Bing Crosby.[6]

Before you start this project, spend some time listening to this playlist, it will help you understand Mark’s version and the subtitles of his improvisation.

Have you anything to say to me
Won’t you tell me where my love can be
Is there a meadow in the mist
Where someone’s waiting to be kissed
Have you seen a valley green with spring
Where my heart can go a-journeying
Over the shadows and the rain
To a blossom covered lane
And in your lonely flight
Haven’t you heard the music of the night
Wonderful music, faint as a will o’ the wisp
Crazy as a loon
Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon
I don’t know if you can find these things
But my heart is riding on your wings
So if you see them anywhere
Won’t you lead me there
I don’t know if you can find these things
But my heart is riding on your wings
So if you see them anywhere
Won’t you lead me there


Transcribe Skylark – Lesson One

In this lesson we are going to look at clips 1-3 of the ‘head’ or melody, you can find all the clips in this Dropbox folder. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES go looking for the lead sheet, trust your ears, they will be thankful that they didn’t have any help from your eyes, take your time and be realistic about what you can do in each session.

Transcribe Skylark – Lesson Two

In this lesson, I am solely dealing with clip 4 and turning it into ‘micro-clips’. Take your time, sing it and then play it SLOWLY!

Transcribe Skylark – Lesson Four

In this lesson we are transcribing clip seven which contains a fantastic diminished lick placed into the bridge of the melody of Skylark. Make sure you listen to this clip slowly, (I had to take it down to 25% in places in order to get this lick down).

Transcribe Skylark – Lesson Five

In Lesson 5 we are coming out of the Bridge back into the final section of the head. It gets high, (into altissmo on tenor), and contains another diminished run. 

Transcribe Skylark – Lesson Six

In this lesson, we will complete the head and start on Clip 11, which is the opening of Turner’s solo and highlights his use of triads as a building block for his solos. 
Remember, make sure you SING the clip before you start to play it, it needs to be an earworm if it’s ever got a chance of staying on your fingers!

Transcribe Skylark – Lesson Seven

In this lesson we are going to deal with Clip 12, the second clip from Mark Turner’s solo. It’s a great full-range of the tenor sax run from altissimo G down to low Bb…


Dan Forshaw

I'm passionate about creating inspirational experiences through music and other arts. A life changing experience under the influence of the music of John Coltrane lead to study in New York and London. My thesis was on the Theology of John Coltrane as expressed through A Love Supreme. I perform across Europe with various jazz groups and teach through my innovative website, I'm a total Apple Geek, Cricket, Rugby, F1 and Football fan and I'm learning to listen opinions before giving my own!