What A Difference A Day Makes

discover.learn.play jazz standard “What A Difference A Day Makes

What A Difference A Day Makes

Introduction : What A Difference A Day Makes

What A Difference A Day Makes” is one of my all time favorite jazz standards (fyi – I say this about practically every song I play – because it’s true!). I once heard it said that the mark of a great tune is that it can be performed a variety ways using various grooves, styles, and tempos. It can be performed by large and small ensembles or a soloist in a multitude of settings from concert halls to lounges to living rooms. Regardless of the tune treatment or venue, we always end up saying, “that’s a great tune!”. If indeed all these variables must be met in order to label a song as a “great tune” then “What A Difference A Day Makes” is a perfect example of a “great tune” – so many recordings and treatments of this classic by so many wonderful musicians.

Let’s discover, learn, and playWhat A Difference A Day Makes“. If it’s not already one of your favorite tunes, it soon will be.

Discover : What A Difference A Day Makes

“What a Diff’rence a Day Made” is a popular song originally written in Spanish by María Grever, a Mexican songwriter, in 1934 with the title, “Cuando vuelva a tu lado” (“When I Return to Your Side”). The song is also known in English as “What a Difference a Day Makes”, as popularized by Dinah Washington. The English lyrics were written by Stanley Adams, and was played by Harry Roy & his Orchestra. It was published in late 1934. The most successful early recording, in 1934, was by the Dorsey Brothers, although it was first recorded in English by Cleveland crooner Jimmie Ague.

Dinah Washington won a Grammy Award in 1959 for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance with this song. Her version was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. It also earned her first top ten Pop hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1975, Esther Phillips recorded her version of the song. Her comeback record had a disco feel to it. The Esther Phillips version reached number two on the disco charts. Her version also did well on the US soul and Top 40 charts. Phillips performed the song on Saturday Night Live, during its first season.

  • Andy Russell, a Mexican-American singer, recorded a bilingual version of the song in 1944 (Capitol #167, paired with “Don’t You Notice Anything New?”) which reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • Vaughn Monroe‘s 1955 version reached #60 in the US Music Vendor survey.
  • Bobby Darin‘s version of the song is on his album Winners released in 1964, although he recorded it in 1960.
  • Dean Martin covered it in his album Dino Latino in 1962.
  • Little Anthony and the Imperials about 1962,
  • Ben E. King covered the song on his album Ben E. King Sings for Soulful Lovers in 1962.
  • Lonnie Johnson covered the song on his album Losing Game.
  • Australian group The Black Sorrows released a version as their debut single in 1984. It was included on their debut studio album, Sonola.
  • It was recorded by Diana Ross in 1972, but not released until thirty-four years later when her Blue album was discovered in the Motown vaults and released in 2006.
  • An instrumental version featuring keyboardist Clare Fischer on piano with strings arranged by Jorge Calandrelli was recorded by Etore Stratta and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on their 1993 album Symphonic Boleros.
  • Natalie Cole recorded the song on her 1996 album Stardust, and later in 2013 a Spanish-English version was included as an iTunes bonus track of her album Natalie Cole en Español.
  • Barry Manilow recorded the song on his 2006 album The Greatest Songs of the Fifties.
  • In 2007 R&B/Dance singer Deborah Cox recorded the song for her album Destination Moon. Also in 2007, former Kiss drummer, Peter Criss, covered the song on his album One for All.
  • China Moses covered the song with Raphael Lemonnier in 2009 in their album This One’s for Dinah in 2009.
  • Deana Martin recorded “What a Difference a Day Made” on her 2009 album Volare.
  • Rod Stewart – Fly Me to the Moon… The Great American Songbook – Volume V (2010)
  • Julie Dawn and Roy Marsh and His Swingtette released a version of the track paired with “I am Going to Love That Guy” (this track bringing together Julie Dawn and Frank Deniz and His Spirits of Rhythm). The exact release date unknown at the moment (Decca 8034 Matrix numbers I 1320 and I 1322).
  • Other artists who covered the song include Sarah VaughanRenee OlsteadAretha Franklin on her 1964 album, Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah WashingtonEydie Gorme on her 1964 album, Freddy Fender recorded a version for his 1976 LP If You’re Ever in TexasEydie Gormé canta en Español con Los Panchos, Bobby Lewis (released on the single “Ace of Hearts 7622” in 1977), Cher performs the song in The Cher ShowLuis Miguel on his 1991 album RomanceLaura Fygi on The Latin Touch (2000), Jamie Cullum on his 2003 album, Twentysomething, and Gloria Estefan on her 2013 album, The Standards.
* the above information provided by Wikipedia

Learn : What A Difference A Day Makes

When learning a jazz standard like “What A Difference A Day Makes” (or any tune for that matter) you want to really learn the tune. In other words, you do not want to simply “memorize” the chord changes and melody in a specific key from a fake book – this is not learning a tune! I promise you, if you take this memorization approach you will never build a repertoire that “sticks” with you forever – your memory will fail, you will forget the details, you will forget the tune. Why? because you are trying to learn a tune (chord changes and melody) through your eyes and not through your ears! After-all, music is an aural art form not a visual art form (side thought – why do so many jazz teachers teach this art form with so much dependency on the eyes?). So, how should you learn “What A Difference A Day Makes“?

You always want to begin with a good set of chord changes (see my changes to What A Difference A Day Makes below). If you do not have access to a good set of changes then I recommend finding a recording of the tune by your favorite artist or a version of the tune that you enjoy so you can transcribe the changes using – yes, your ears! Once you have a solid set of chord changes, then analyze them using numbers that reflect the harmonic movement/function (you can use roman numerals like traditional jazz musicians or the Nashville number system illustrated below). Either way, you are notating what I like to call the “Harmonic DNA” of the tune. Once you have this in place you can play the changes in any key (provided you know your scales/keys). Likewise, I recommend learning the melody by ear (not by reading notes like you would in learning a classical piece of music). In doing so your melody playing will sound like you’re singing it (“vocal like”) and not like you’re reading it (“mechanical like”).

With your ears fully engaged in learning the chord changes, movement/function and the melody of “What A Difference A Day Makes” (or any tune) you have successfully synced your mental understanding of the tune, with your aural understanding, with your physical understanding. You will find that developing your ability to sync your mental + aural + physical skills in learning “What A Difference A Day Makes” expedites your learning of additional tunes. Why? Because all tunes share common chord progressions/movement that you will begin to identify quickly through aural recognition. Wow! This is truly learning a tune, this is truly learning music!

Here are some common/standard progressions in “What A Difference A Day Makes” to focus on syncing your mental, aural, and physical skills:

2-5-1 (measures 1 and 2 – measures 5,6 and 7)

1-4-3-b3 (measures 3 and 4, measures 19 and 20)

4-b7-3-b3 (measures 25, 26, 27 and 28)

1-b2-1 (coda/ending)

Listen to My Arrangement


What A Difference A Day Makes

Play : What A Difference A Day Makes

Below I have included a Play Along of my arrangement (minus me on the piano) for you to practice playing “What A Difference A Day Makes“. If you want to slow down my Play Along for “What A Difference A Day Makes” then I recommend using Anytune.


If you want to use my changes and create your own play along then I recommend using an app like iReal Pro

iReal Pro Music Book and Play Along

or software like Band In A Box.

Band In A Box

My Arrangement as a Play Along (no piano)


If you would like more insight regarding the playing of “What A Difference A Day Makes” (various stylistic treatments, piano voicings, improvisation approaches, etc.) then I invite you to join discover, learn, play (dlp)!

Final Thoughts : What A Difference A Day Makes

If you wish to discover, learn, and play What A Difference A Day Makes (and many other great jazz standards) you should consider becoming a dlp (discover.learn.play) member. You’ll have access to professional jazz instruction and guidance from a professional jazz music educator (me!). Your dlp membership gives you lifetime access to all of my instructional jazz videos (which you can access and study as often as you wish – again, for life!). Additionally, your own private Mavenlink support portal is established, hosted, and maintained allowing you to interact with me as often as needed each and every week. Likewise, you’ll receive tuition discounts if you ever choose to have private online jazz lessons with me through The Dallas School of Music.

I welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you may have regarding discover.learn.play so feel free to Email me drlawrence@dlpjazz.com or call me 972-380-8050 Ext. 211. Please take a moment and listen to a few of my recordings or follow me at SoundCloud to get a feel for how I play and approach this wonderful art form we call jazz.

I look forward to helping you discover, learn, and play jazz!

Best Wishes,
Dr. Bob Lawrence
The Dallas School of Music

Minor Chords