Old Macdonald by Ella Fitzgerald on Throwback Thursday

Member and PIO! Songs Editor Val Smalkin recommends this classic and we can see why!

I grew up in a family of jazz musicians so Ella Fitzgerald is still the Queen for me. Children can be introduced to sophisticated music through Ella’s version. I always wondered if she did this for her children. The year of this video is 1983 so I’m guessing yes, but it could have been for grandchildren. What can one say about Ella’s voice that has not already been said? Every time I listen to her I am blown away by her absolute true pitch and inspired improvs. Did you know that I have a pair of her shoes that a friend got from her estate and gave to me? I put them on for inspiration.

Just like 2 + 2 = 4, or 3+1=4, Old MacDonald can be sung many different ways but it’s still the same song.
Rhythm: Take the root notes (in this video Eb and Bb) using tone bars, glocks, whatever you have, and have Eb play on beat 1, and Bb play on beat 3…keeping time.
Ostinatos: One group repeats on quarter notes  ||: G, Ab, Bb, Ab :||
              Another group plays on half notes ||: Bb, Eb :||
              The original Group keeps playing on half notes  ||: Eb, Bb :||


  1. Just noticed they modulate up! You’re going to need more tone bars!!!

  2. WOWEEE! Scat singing animal sounds. “How you gonna keep them down on the farm” indeed!!! This is the best version I’ve ever heard – so inspiring. Thanks!

  3. This is so liberating!!! Thanks, Val. I have never heard this version and it’a a blast! My voice won’t do what hers could do, but I certainly can break out of the old 4/4 rhythm!

  4. This is sooo awesome! Wowed!

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