Composers Corner: Scary Tales Songbook by Lisa Donovan Lukas

An inside look at Lisa Donovan Lukas's popular Halloween songbook "Scary Tales" that will be a hit with late beginners in your studio before, during, and after the spooky season!

Composers Corner: Scary Tales Songbook by Lisa Donovan Lukas

🧐 About the “Scary Tales” songbook:

I love Halloween! It’s such an imaginative holiday. Halloween was always extra special growing up because it is also my sister’s birthday. We would build haunted “houses” with old sheets and furniture, create home-made costumes, listen to scary music, hang spider webs out of string and yarn, make “eyeballs” (cold grapes in a bowl), dress up as ghosts, goblins, witches, anything and everything scary we could think of. Not to mention the candy! (Athough, I’m trying to forget about that now, because I really need to cut out the sugar—but I digress).

This Halloween, I am dedicating and giving special thanks to Jennifer Eklund-Beaty for the opportunity to immerse myself in the season again and for the chance to create this group of frightfully fun showcase solos for late beginners. It was really nice to think of all the things I love about Halloween and to invent pieces that would musically express those ideas and images.

The title “Scary Tales” came to me because I was thinking about my songbook series Fantasies and Fairy Tales, and I thought it would be so much fun to add some scary tales to go along with the more whimsical fairy tales in those volumes.

🎧 Listen to the Scary Tales songbook:

Let’s take a look at some more details about a few of my personal favorites from the Scary Tales songbook!

🧟‍♂️ “Goblin Party!” (also available as a single)

“Goblin Party!” is centered around C minor, and is very hand-friendly as the main theme lies comfortably under both the right and left hands. It is playfully upbeat, and reflects the mischief and merry-making we can imagine is happening at a party full of goblins!

🎃 “Pumpkin Patch Groove” (also available as a single)

With “Pumpkin Patch Groove,” I wanted to capture the fun of taking a trip to the pumpkin patch and choosing that perfect pumpkin to bring home and carve up into a jack-o-lantern. This cheerful piece is in G Major, has an ABA structure, and has swinging boogie and blues elements that are a lot of fun to play!

🐺 “Wandering Werewolf”

“Wandering Werewolf” is in D minor and creates intensity by exploring the lower register of the piano to start with and moves up the octave for a repeat of the same theme. The left hand is a driving ostinato on a single note: D. We have an ABA form, and the contrasting middle section has a melodic theme in the right hand, while the left hand moves between perfect fifths, and minor and major sixths.

👻 “Shadowy Specters”

I have always loved playing around with a raised 4th in a major scale. In “Shadowy Specters,” we are centered in F major, and yet we also have the B- natural in the melody which adds a mysterious other-worldly element to the music. When we play the same motive over the dominant C, starting in measure 13, we have an F-sharp as well. Very creepy!

Another thing that I think helps to contribute to a sense of the supernatural in the music is going from F minor (with the A-flat in measures 9 and 10) back to F major (A-natural, in measures 11 and 12), and then again at the end.

If you enjoyed this songbook we would also recommend:

👋 If you enjoyed the Scary Tales songbook with your students we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Lisa Donovan Lukas
Written by Lisa Donovan Lukas
Lisa Donovan Lukas holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Composition from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. She worked for many years as a proofreader-copyist for film composers at Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Disney, and JoAnn Kane Music Service. A prolific composer/lyricist and lifelong pianist, Lisa maintains an active piano studio where she enjoys teaching piano, music composition, and songwriting.


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