Kember - Ba ba doo bah


John Kember is a British composer who studied at Trinity College of Music, London.

"Here is a composer and teacher who understands the jazz piano idiom and how to train positively, thoroughly and progressively." - John York

- 'Piano' July/August 2005

Pupil Match & Suitability

This is already a popular piece, for obvious reasons. It is fun to play, has a great jazzy feel to it and sounds really cool !

There are no difficulties which would restrict a pianist on account of hand size. A student will need to have or to cultivate a good sense of rhythm since this piece relies upon a strong sense of pulse throughout.

Style & Tempo

This is a swing style jazz piece. Using the scat syllables Bah-ba-doo-bah can help to get across the swing feel as heard here:

Phrasing & Articulation

The jazz phrasing whilst needing to have the swing feel, is often hard to get.

Listen to these two versions, the first in a good jazz swing style, and the second rather too classical.

Tone & Texture

This piece is cool !

Therefore think about the musical sounds you might elicit.

There is a definite melodic line which might be drawn out by thinking about the softer tones of a saxophone.

Be certain that the bass line is not too loud and intrusive. It will not sound nice if it has the feeling of being 'thumped out.'


This is not technically demanding although it does require good independence of hands so that the RH syncopations do not intrude upon nor disturb the solid LH walking bass.


The fingering is fairly straight forward.

However, in bars 5 - 6 and 13 - 14 in the LH you might consider using the thumb to go under onto the E natural. Therefore instead of the fingering being:

1-1-2-2- 3-3-4-4- 5

it could be:

1-1-2-2- 1-1-2-2- 3

This would make for a stronger and probably more rhythmic feel here.

Teaching Strategies

Getting a really confident and taut sense of rhythm is the most important aspect here.

Use existing tracks of any relevant swing style music to get a solid sense of the swing feel. Be careful to choose suitable music at around the same tempo.

Over emphasizing the swing feel by making the 'ba's' of 'Bah-ba-doo-bah' as emphatic as you can often helps to make the jazz phrasing and feel much stronger.

Yes, this may feel wrong (for the classically trained person), but it is a move in the right direction.

Practice Tips

Using a metronome is going to be very beneficial here.

Don't just get it clicking on every crotchet beat, but use it clicking to minims, perhaps first on beats 1 and 3, then later on 2 and 4.


As already mentioned, the tautness of the swing feel and consistency of pulse is likely to be of most concern.

There are also some coordination issues, most likely to occur in bars 1 and 2, so be sure to do plenty of additional rhythm games away from the notes to get these potential rhythmic distraction dealt with early on.

Final Performance

Listen to the three versions of this piece, starting with a sound performance, followed by a good one and finishing with an excellent one.

List the qualities you hear, such as:

rhythmic feel

jazz phrasing


tonal and dynamic detail

balance between hands

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