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Thread: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    I've been flatpicking guitar for the last 30 years and I picked up the Mandolin in August of last year. The bluegrass fiddle tunes are getting easier to pick out as the months pass. I'm wondering what is the jazz standard I should start with if I want to dip my toe in that water? I've always liked Limehouse blues, but I've heard people say Autumn Leaves is also a great starting point. Any advice from those with more experience would be great. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Autumn Leaves is fine, so is All of Me, Lady Be Good, Exactly like You, Minor Swing or Swing 42. Depends on where you want to go.

    The Charlie Parker route might start with My Little Suede Shoes or Billie's Bounce.

    I'm sure you'll hear of other entry points. Chording will be a whole new world too.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?


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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    If you are interested in playing any style of jazz, I'd suggest:

    1. Listening to a lot of the best players of all eras - particularly horn players - to help you internalize the sound and swing of jazz.

    2. Learn to play from the chord changes first, before you try to learn the chord/scale system. Many "modern" jazz teaching methods begin with the Aebersold-Coker-etc.
    methods of using the chord/scale system, and although that is a great way to extend one's jazz chops, the older chord tone/chord arpeggio system was the way I was taught by older jazz players and is the basis for the way most great jazz players played.

    3. Learn all you major and minor scales in all keys. You'll need them as many jazz tunes use several tonal centers, unlike many if not most folk tunes which tend to stay in one tonality.

    4. Have fun!

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    From a respected Cafe member (both the book and the website!):

    http://jazzmando.com/gijm_20835bcd.shtml
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    if you are looking for a bluegrass to swing bridge, Here's Del and the Boys doing Limehouse Blues


    Grisman of course has done a lot of swing but not necessarily with a BG twang like that

    There is nice Caravan version on the Bill Keith album "Bill Keith ‎– Something Auld, Something Newgrass, Something Borrowed, Something Bluegrass" with Grisman and Rice.

    In general Dawg Tony Mike Darol Todd Bela Jerry and Sam have recorded a lot of acoustic swing
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    if you are looking for a bluegrass to swing bridge, Here's Del and the Boys doing Limehouse Blues


    Grisman of course has done a lot of swing but not necessarily with a BG twang like that

    There is nice Caravan version on the Bill Keith album "Bill Keith ‎– Something Auld, Something Newgrass, Something Borrowed, Something Bluegrass" with Grisman and Rice.

    In general Dawg Tony Mike Darol Todd Bela Jerry and Sam have recorded a lot of acoustic swing
    That's some very nice playing, but to my ear that's much more BG than it is jazz.

    Of course the real issue is "what does one mean by jazz?"

    Trad New Orleans style? Chicago style? Big band swing? Gypsy jazz? Charlie Parker early bebop? Classic Miles and Trane? Mahavishnu? Dawg music?

    I also suggest any mandolinist interested in jazz study up on Jethro Burns.

    https://robcoleman.com/jethro/index.html

    This website has a number of lessons from the master, many of the tunes are jazz standards. 7 zip files worth.

    and

    http://www.acousticoasisdownloads.co...-Sessions.html

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    FWIW
    I have benefited HUGELY from taking just the first two lessons from Aaron Weinstein. He offers them on the video mtg format you prefer. He also offers a discount in cost if you purchase 4 lessons at a time. It pays off. Incentive for both him to teach, and you to take the lessons and get though the rough spots.
    He can be found on Instagram. If you contact him there he can give you his email address.
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    DavidKos- I specifically meant Western Maryland acoustic swing jazz played in the bluegrass style by a band with at least 3 members from the same family.
    Its a very sort of sub sub genre.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    If you are interested in playing any style of jazz, I'd suggest:

    1. Listening to a lot of the best players of all eras - particularly horn players - to help you internalize the sound and swing of jazz.

    2. Learn to play from the chord changes first, before you try to learn the chord/scale system. Many "modern" jazz teaching methods begin with the Aebersold-Coker-etc.
    methods of using the chord/scale system, and although that is a great way to extend one's jazz chops, the older chord tone/chord arpeggio system was the way I was taught by older jazz players and is the basis for the way most great jazz players played.

    3. Learn all you major and minor scales in all keys. You'll need them as many jazz tunes use several tonal centers, unlike many if not most folk tunes which tend to stay in one tonality.

    4. Have fun!
    Great advice. Especially #1. And to get anywhere eventually #3 is a must. I dipped my toe in jazz mandolin, and I was not ready.
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    I agree with starting out by listening - what you want to play, listen closely so that you can internalize the substance of what you wish to attain in your playing. The few who have taken the route of playing jazz on mandolin each emphasize a different sensibility. Jethro is the one to start with, but Don Stiernberg, Tiny Moore, Johnny Gimble, the Dawg, Will Patton, Paul Glasse, Danny Knicely and others have taken the mandolin to places that are usually not thought of as the usual mandolin genres. But also listen, with your whole body, to music that you want to play & let that guide you. Some great resources have been mentioned and are increasingly becoming available for mandolinists who want to play swing or jazz mandolin. Listen & play!

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  22. #12

    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    I agree with all the points about listening, etc.

    As far as instructional resources go, my personal (take it FWIW) opinion is that the four best foundational books that will lead you into jazz on the mandolin are:

    Niles Hokkanen: the Pentatonic Mandolin and Bluegrass Up The Neck (go to Elderly Instruments’ website and you can order them)

    &

    Joe Carr: Rhythm Changes and Western Swing Fiddle (Mel Bay). These are both underrated - mandolin players should check each out unless you are already versed in chord substitutions and riffs that parallel the jazzier progressions.

    After all of the above, terrific resources like Getting Into Jazz Mandolin, Mel Bay’s Jethro Burns book, and Aaron Weinstein’s Chord Melody Mandolin book will make so much more sense.

    My personal epiphanies were with Bluegrass Up The Neck and Western Swing Fiddle. The latter has the word “fiddle” but it is taught in a way that works equally well for the mandolin.

    After that, you might try to find an out-of-print copy of Stacy Phillips’s “Western Swing Fiddle,” and then the various Mel Bay books related to Gypsy Jazz and Stephane Grappelli, Jazz Fiddle Wizard, etc.

    The first four books (Niles Hokkanen and Joe Carr) that I mentioned above are immensely helpful, unless you already have a good grasp of position playing up the neck, substituting other chord pentatonics for the standard I IV V pentatonics (not just Ionian and bluesy/minor Aeolian/relative minor pentatonics), and chord movement (rhythm changes) that tracks the progression of walking bass lines.

    And if you can buy a copy of Stacy Phillips’s Western Swing Fiddle book, I can’t strongly enough recommend it. I bought every fiddle book (that I didn’t already have) from Stacy about a year before he passed away and I count myself extremely fortunate. He congratulated me on buying 2-3 years worth of learning material (along the lines of, “that should keep you busy for the next few years”) but I still haven’t finished with his material (RIP, great one).

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    3 and 4 chord swing tunes are a good place to start. Western swing has lots of those, so that may be a good way in. Easy trad jazz (aka Dixieland) is a good way too.
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  26. #14

    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    I'm personally attempting this journey as well and highly recommend the courses Don Stiernberg has put on soundslice: https://www.soundslice.com/users/DonStiernberg/courses/. I find they make things easily digestible with a focus on tunes which also makes things fun. I'm doing these in combination with the "Getting Into Jazz Mandolin" book that has been mentioned already. Fantastic book to build a framework and get a daily routine set up. Other than that I totally agree with the others to listen with focus and also transcribe as much as you can. If you're not already doing so, try to do a harmonic analysis of every song you take on.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    3 and 4 chord swing tunes are a good place to start. Western swing has lots of those, so that may be a good way in. Easy trad jazz (aka Dixieland) is a good way too.
    I've taught students using a "historical" approach to jazz:

    You can't play bop unless you can play swing.

    You can't play swing unless you can play "Dixieland".

    And you can't play Dixieland without knowing the blues.

    So as you say, using some of the older trad tunes with fewer and simpler chord changes is a great way to learn, and to transition from BG/old time/roots/Americana to jazz playing.

    There are tunes in both repertoires: "Make me a Pallet on Your Floor", "Salty Dog", "Careless Love", "Frankie and Johnnie", "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It", etc.

    The biggest thing I've noticed when helping folk musicians learn to play jazz is that most folk players are melody oriented, whereas jazz soloing is based on the chord changes.

    Thus, it's important to know your chords and to know how to create new melodies based on those chords.

    Great suggestions by many of you, too!

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    re-reading the original post I see the poster was asking for suggestions of tunes, and coming from a flat-pick fiddle backround. So here comes a bunch of that. Not to suggest that the book and listening recommendations are wrong or bad, they are solid for sure. Here's also a mess of tunes....

    stuff that gets played at the jams
    Honeysuckle Rose
    Back Home Again In Indiana
    Sweet Georgia Brown
    Caravan
    Pennies From Heaven
    How High the Moon
    After you've gone
    Sunnyside of the Street
    ain't Misbehavin'
    I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
    Lady Be Good, All of Me, and Minor Swing have been played at virtually every swing jam I've been to. As my friend David Surrette said yesterday in reference to certain standards, they recall the Yogi Berra quote about a restaurant: "Nobody goes there any more, it's too popular". These 3 tunes are like that..pretty beaten up, but for a reason--they are great and fun to play.

    Bebop Heads that resemble fiddle tunes by virtue of featuring long flowing lines of connected eighth notes;
    Four Brothers by jimmy guiffre
    Anthropology, Donna Lee, Ornithology by Charlie Parker. Coincidentally, Anthropology is based on I Got Rhythm, Donna Lee on Indiana, and Ornithology on How High the Moon
    Anything else written or played by Charlie Parker--the ultimate in brilliant linear melodies created spontaneously or otherwise

    Actual fiddle tunes with jazzier harmonic structures and swingier time feel
    Beaumont Rag
    Snowflake Reel
    "Texas" or "Contest" tunes such as Tom and Jerry, Sally Johnson, Sally Goodin' or anything with Sally in the title. Also Grey Eagle

    Western Swing
    Blues for Dixie
    Wabash Blues
    Panhandle Rag

    Django tunes besides Minor Swing, or tunes as played by Django
    Manoir des mis Rieves
    Djangology
    Douce Ambiance
    Belleville
    Blues en Mineur
    Moppin' the Bride
    note: tunes like "All of Me", "Blue Skies", lady Be good, etc. are sometimes mistakenly referred to as "Gypsy Jazz". Django enjoyed playing American jazz tunes of his time.

    actual jazz standards, drawn from Tin Pan Alley/Broadway shows/Hollywood films and the like
    Autumn Leaves
    Avalon
    I'll See You In My Dreams
    It Had to Be You
    Someone to Watch Over Me, S'Wonderful, The Man I Love,But Not for Me...anything written by George Gershwin
    Satin Doll, Prelude to A Kiss, Sophisticated Lady,Don't Get around Much anymore...anything written by Duke Ellington
    I'm Old Fashioned, All the Things You Are...anything written by Jerome Kern
    Come Fly With Me, It Could Happen to You, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Like Someone In Love...anything written by Jimmy Van Heusen
    Stardust, Georgia On My Mind, Skylark and anything written by Hoagy Carmichael
    It might As Well Be Spring, I Could Write A Book, My Funny Valentine and anything by Rodgers and Hart
    Stormy Weather, Come Rain or Come Shine, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and anything written by Harold Arlen

    jazz compositions (as opposed to show tunes used as jazz vehicles)
    Jitterbug Waltz Fats Waller
    Joy Spring Clifford Brown
    Goodbye Porkpie Hat Charles Mingus
    Three Views of A Secret Jaco Pastorius

    tunes associated with Louis Armstrong
    Struttin' With Some Barbecue
    When You're Smiling
    Swing That Music
    Dinah

    Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes/songs. Beyond category. Very educational and soul nourishing in terms of chords and progressions
    Chega De Saudade
    Once I Loved
    Meditation
    Triste

    Happy Pickin' and Tune Hunting. Keep it fun. Straight Ahead and All the Best,
    donnie

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  31. #17
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    Here's also a mess of tunes....

    stuff that gets played at the jams
    ... Bebop Heads that resemble fiddle tunes
    ...Actual fiddle tunes with jazzier harmonic structures and swingier time
    ...Western Swing
    ...Django tunes.
    ... actual jazz standards
    ... jazz compositions.
    ...tunes associated with Louis Armstrong
    ... Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes/songs
    A great list!

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    I can't recommend Dix Bruce's Gypsy Jazz mandolin books. There is a new version out which combines the two.

    Lots of the original Gypsy Jazz standards and lots of fun playing them.
    Nic Gellie

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Gellie View Post
    I can't recommend Dix Bruce's Gypsy Jazz mandolin books. There is a new version out which combines the two.

    Lots of the original Gypsy Jazz standards and lots of fun playing them.
    I think he did some trad jazz books too.

  34. #20

    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Gellie View Post
    I can't recommend Dix Bruce's Gypsy Jazz mandolin books.
    I'm assuming the word "enough" was accidentally dropped. *chuckle* I do like those books, and even ordered the new edition when it came out.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Yes I meant I can't recommend highly enough. A Freudian slip on my part.

    Don Stiernberg's post is a classic. He put his heart and soul into that.
    Nic Gellie

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    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shnmclr View Post
    I've been flatpicking guitar for the last 30 years and I picked up the Mandolin in August of last year. The bluegrass fiddle tunes are getting easier to pick out as the months pass. I'm wondering what is the jazz standard I should start with if I want to dip my toe in that water? I've always liked Limehouse blues, but I've heard people say Autumn Leaves is also a great starting point. Any advice from those with more experience would be great. Thanks!
    I like the advice Bill Frisell gives. Pick a tune and really learn it...learn it inside and out. Explore the many possibilities with the harmony. Learn the melody in multiple positions on the fingerboard. Autumn Leaves is the ultimate first jazz tune. It has a memorable melody. Great for ensemble playing or turning it into a solo chord melody arrangement. Play it slow and brooding or swing it. Also there are literally thousands of versions you can listen to for inspiration. Dozens of backings tracks on YouTube; hundreds of free lessons (good and bad) on YT also. And it is often played in the mandolin friendly key of G. Most importantly the song contains both major and minor ii V I cadences. Learning how to play convincing lines lines over both minor and major ii V I's will get you a long way in jazz.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Donnie gives us a long list, Bill Frisell says learn one tune. Both are correct, you have to start with one tune, but you have to learn lots of tunes. The first tune will show what the basic idea is, but while you work on that tune, add another. Keep going back to the first, and the second.

    Music is not created according to a plan, and there is no correct route to facility and familiarity with the tunes and conventions of jazz. Only learning to play tunes in their complete form, the melody, the bass line, the harmony, and the style, leads to progress. Every tune explains more about harmony. For example, "Autumn Leaves" teaches the Circle of Fifths. Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" teaches swing rhythm (impossible to hear that tune any other way). Absolutely necessary is Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm", to teach the chord changes called "rhythm changes", the scaffold on which dozens of jazz tunes are built.

    But any one tune can only teach a small peephole view on its own. It is when you realize that something from one tune shows up in a new tune, and you understand a little more. True understanding is when you have learned a lot of tunes, the way others play them, and different ways to play them such as slower, faster, Latin instead of swing or vice versa.

    The advice to learn a given tune in multiple keys is excessive and unnecessary, for me. You won't have to play that tune in more than one or two keys. But find it elsewhere on the fingerboard, to learn more than one place where notes can be found.

    In a workshop I enjoyed over the last couple of years, before Covid, our group suggested tunes, and we chose a list of ten or twelve. Those got played each week for about three months, which averaged to one new tune a week. But we played the whole list each session. We learned from each other what worked and what did not.

    For me, Fats Waller is an easy entry, familiar songs and easy rhythm establish a foundation. New Orleans jazz is foundational but more style-dependent and not easy to emulate at first. Swing, comprising Ellington, Gershwin, the older show tunes, sits comfortably on stringed instruments, if the common keys do not. Bop gets challenging, so leave Charlie Parker and later for the future.
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  40. #24
    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wright View Post
    Donnie gives us a long list, Bill Frisell says learn one tune. Both are correct, you have to start with one tune, but you have to learn lots of tunes. The first tune will show what the basic idea is, but while you work on that tune, add another. Keep going back to the first, and the second.
    Yes specifically responding to the OP's request (is he even checking here?) I suggest take a small step first. Throwing two dozen tunes at a newcomer is overwhelming. Learn Autumn Leaves really well. What you learn will transfer over to your next standard as you say. I find a similarity in learning fiddle tunes. After a while you come to recognize the similarities AND differences between fiddle tunes and learning new ones becomes easier and easier. It helps if you like the tune Autumn Leaves if not pick one you really love. Maybe that is the most important thing?

    Bruce Forman has a great list of 10 "must know" jazz tunes. A podcast on Guitar #### explains his reasoning as to why he picked those tunes. Listen here

    Here is Bruce's list:

    Summertime
    Honeysuckle Rose
    Take the A Train
    Autumn Leaves
    All The Things You Are
    There Will Never Be Another
    You Just Friends
    Green Dolphin Street
    Ain’t Misbehaving
    Stella by Starlight
    Plus...
    (Blues)
    (Rhythm Changes)

    Also learning jazz is like exercise you have to be consistent to show results. I've been hammering away at it for years and I am still terrible yet I feel like I am finally beginning to make some headway

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  42. #25

    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    I have just been dipping my toe into this for a while but am not real far along. One adjustment I found you will have to make from a bluegrass or traditional music background is that you have to learn to play in flatted keys. It helped me a lot playing in a band for a while with sax and horn players so I was forced to learn some of it. The bluegrassers will often change keys to a more friendly key like Doc Watson did changing Beaumont Rag from the traditional key of F to C. Jazz is primarily written in horn keys like F, Bb, Eb, Ab.

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