• Aaron Weinstein On His Mandolin Chord Melody System Book on Mel Bay

    Aaron Weinstein's Chord Melody System isn't so much a method book as it is a concise "strategy." It's a peak behind the curtain of what every mandolinist assumed from watching his YouTube videos was some kind of magical wizard operating byzantine levers and adroit pulleys, far beyond the comprehension of mortals and us common folk musicians.

    What is perceived from the outside as mystery and complexity is merely a handful of concise tricks and tools.

    In this book, Weinstein avoids the charade of soul-eating, complex music theory and exposes the dirty secret of what master mandolinists have known all along — the instrument's 5th tuning was wired for chord mobility and comprehensible transposition, pun intended. Through brief explanation and an astute series of straightforward etudes, he unlocks the gate to a world of self-contained aesthetic instrumental satisfaction. Chord Melody mastery is truly the ultimate solo experience.

    This will be the best 52 pages of education any intermediate or advanced beginning mandolinist will encounter.

    Ted Eschliman
    Author and Industry Consultant

    What was the inspiration for your new book Mandolin Chord Melody System on Mel Bay?

    Well, on a fairly regular basis I'd receive notes from people in response to my chord melody YouTube videos, and they'd often ask if I had transcriptions of my chord melody arrangements, which I don't. But because it seemed like there was interest in chord melody mandolin playing, I figured, why not put together a guide to help learn this style and give mandolinists the tools to create their own chord melody arrangements.

    I brought the idea for the book to Bill Bay who was terrifically enthusiastic. So I sharpened my pencils and went to work.

    Playing bass lines on mandolin is just one of the concepts some are going to have to wrap their brain around.

    Maybe it's the idea of associating bass lines with a soprano instrument like the mandolin that seems odd. But in a nutshell, while the bass lines we might play on the mandolin are going to be a few octaves higher than where they'd be played on a double bass, bass lines played on a mandolin can function in the same way as they would on a upright bass.

    You allude to musical similarities between Bach and solo mandolin in the book. Tell us about that.

    I think the Bach violin sonatas show us just how much can be implied on a single instrument. I mean, turn to just about any page of the sonatas and you'll often find a melody, harmony, implied bass lines — it's all there.

    We found the use of the single melody you build on throughout the first half of the book to be a great way to connect with what you were teaching. Can you walk us through that process?

    Essentially, in the book we take a single melody line and turn it into a chord melody arrangement, one step at a time. We start by deciding what of the melody to play as single notes and what to play as chords. Then we decide on specific chord voicings. And then we just need to get our fingers to do what we want them to.

    In our previous interview you mentioned studying the guitar playing of greats like Bucky Pizzarelli who you've performed with, Carl Kress, George Van Eps, and Howard Alden. For someone new to hearing solo jazz guitar could you recommend three recordings for a student new to the solo concept?

    Wow. Just three? Well, these are by no means "the best" cause in music, there is no such thing as, "best." But as far as great solo jazz guitar albums, I'd say, there's nothing better than:

    Joe Pass: Virtuoso
    Any of Bucky Pizzarelli's solo guitar albums on the Arbors label
    Frank Vignola: Blues for a Gypsy

    Have you given thought to a solo mandolin recording?

    Well, I'll tell you what. You find a record label dying for a solo jazz mandolin album and I'll consider it. Deal?

    Deal. We're serious! Aside from the book, as a professional musician living in New York City, what kind of work are you taking on, performing or otherwise?

    I do lots of different kinds of performing — with my own trio, and as a guest with other soloists and singers as well as writing arrangements. I know that's kind of vague but really, every week is so different, it's hard to generalize.

    Will Mel Bay host video content of any parts of the book?

    There are no plans at the moment but it's probably best to check with them. But I'll likely make videos of some of the etudes.

    Anything else you'd like to add about the book?

    I'd just like to say that I'm really happy with the book and hope that it'll be a helpful resource for those interested in learning chord melody on the mandolin. And it not like I kept the good stuff secret. Really, everything you need to know, all the "tricks" — if you want to call them that, are in the book. All you have to do is read it.

    A few non-music related questions. You're a self-proclaimed "bow tie rights activist." What exactly does that entail?

    Well, I'd rather leave that one alone cause I mean, really, if you have to ask...

    In a recent publicity photo, Chris Thile was wearing a bow tie, hand tied, not a clip-on. Your response?

    There's a reason he is a MacArthur genius.

    For visitors to New York City where would you recommend they shop for a fine bow tie?

    Paul Stuart, Madison Avenue at 45th Street.

    Aaron, best of luck with the book and we'll be watching for you on YouTube.


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    Comments 44 Comments
    1. Werner Jaekel's Avatar
      Werner Jaekel -
      Thank You, Aaron, for this book and sharing your work. Just what I wanted, after investing many hours exploring this subject
      I think it is a GREAT book.

      Maybe you share more of your ideas ? Very interesting
    1. Mgottlieb's Avatar
      Mgottlieb -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scott Tichenor View Post
      Well, good then. Glad you said that. We've ironed this all out then and won't need to discuss further. You don't think publishers include enough free samples for your personal tastes for a $15 product, and you don't like the work I do on interviews for products such as this.

      Carry on.

      Just ordered the book, looks great for me, a 66 yr old newbie with 5.5 months of focussed melodic practice under his belt. THANKS!
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting today's anniversary of this interview.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the 5 year anniversary of this remarkable book. Aaron just keeps getting better and better!