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Thread: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

  1. #26
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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.
    What he said!!! This was definitely my avenue into jazz. Much easier to bridge the gap from BG to swing/jazz when you pick tunes with similar and/or simple chord structures. You can always build upon that knowledge to go for the fancier stuff.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hayes Griffin View Post
    What he said!!! This was definitely my avenue into jazz. Much easier to bridge the gap from BG to swing/jazz when you pick tunes with similar and/or simple chord structures. You can always build upon that knowledge to go for the fancier stuff.
    I've had less success trying to go the other way, from jazz/swing to BG.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    What? Nobody mentioned All the Things You Are? It’s the perfect first tune. It’s the perfect standard.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    What? Nobody mentioned All the Things You Are? It’s the perfect first tune. It’s the perfect standard.
    Read more carefully.
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry View Post
    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.

    More often it is played in the key of g minor, probably never in G major. Of course, like many songs in a minor key it does visit the relative major, Bb flat, so it presents the opportunity to combine ii-V-I and ii-V-i in the two keys, and find interesting ways of transiting from one to the other.

    And, jazzwise, G major or g minor are in no way particularly "mandolin friendly". Even a beginner should get away from the idea of "easy" keys. Jazz mandolin is not "about" open strings.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    What? Nobody mentioned All the Things You Are? It’s the perfect first tune. It’s the perfect standard.
    First tune -- passing through five different keys? I believe its important to start with fairly simple harmonic structures, exploring various ways of spicing them up, playing through and around the chord notes, superimposing non-diatonic scales (e.g., dim and whole-tone), adding upper intervals and color notes (e.g., b5 and b9) etc., and achieving rhythmic freedom, phrasing across barlines and periods; otherwise you run the risk of developing into a one-chord-at-a time improviser.

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  12. #32
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    More often it is played in the key of g minor, probably never in G major. Of course, like many songs in a minor key it does visit the relative major, Bb flat, so it presents the opportunity to combine ii-V-I and ii-V-i in the two keys, and find interesting ways of transiting from one to the other.

    And, jazzwise, G major or g minor are in no way particularly "mandolin friendly". Even a beginner should get away from the idea of "easy" keys. Jazz mandolin is not "about" open strings.
    "Autumn Leaves" was sometimes played in Gm;
    jazz players play it in 4/4 and often in the "Real Book" key, Em.

    Great point about keys, mandolins, and open strings!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn_Leaves_(1945_song)

    " It is originally in G minor"

    It's a great tune to learn circle progressions and relative major/minor, good for beginners AND still fun to play at any level.

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    First tune -- passing through five different keys?
    "All the things You Are" was considered by jazz players to be a "difficult" tune when it was new. It's one of the great jazz improv songs though.

    It still is a great tune to study for all the reasons you mention, but after one has already learned a bit about how to negotiate ii-V's, key changes, etc.
    Last edited by DavidKOS; Feb-08-2021 at 9:07am.

  13. #33
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Wonderful advice from one & all. Great tunes & approach’s to pursuing Jazz.
    Going back to the initial question, what standard to learn, what standards to you like? What standard can you sit & hum along to? Sing along with? Start there. Find a Jazz version. It doesn’t have to be a “Jazz” tune. If someone asks, I want to play Jazz, who should I listen to? I ask, who do you listen to, that inspires you to play Jazz? If you aren’t listening to Jazz, why play it, maybe you don’t really like Jazz.
    Often when people don’t listen to Jazz, it’s confusing, sounds like a bunch of notes scales flying by. I think Billie’s Bounce, Strutting w BBQ, Giant Steps are great tunes. I’ve been listening to Jazz for 50 years. I know them. If someone is not a Jazz listener, they may not know where the head ends & the solo begins. I suggest finding songs you know & hear what a Jazz musician does with them. How they alter them melodically, harmonically, rhythmically. Look up Jazz versions of Beatles tunes. Loads out there. Jazz Christmas albums are a great source to hear Jazz approach’s to familiar tunes on different instruments & different styles, from Billie to Bill Evans. If you like Musicals, pick your favorite songs from musicals & learn them. Oscar Peterson did an album of just West side Story. Armstrong & Miles were known to take the seemingly most mundane Pop tune & turning out a Jazz masterpiece, Hello, Dolly & Surrey w Fringe on Top. Barney Kessel plays People on solo Guitar.
    Learn some familiar tunes first. Explore the possibilities, then branch out.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandopops View Post
    Find a Jazz version. It doesn’t have to be a “Jazz” tune.

    ... hear Jazz approaches to familiar tunes

    ....Armstrong & Miles were known to take the seemingly most mundane Pop tune & turning out a Jazz masterpiece, Hello, Dolly & Surrey w Fringe on Top. .
    Thanks, Joe, for reminding us that jazz is not so much a set of tunes as it is a way of playing almost any tune.

    My teachers in New Orleans said that you can jazz up any song. It's about swing the tune!

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Yes, David, very concisely put.
    We can all recommend for you to listen & learn everything on our favorites lists, from Honeysuckle Rose to Night in Tunisia. Yes, you should. Some of those tunes may be alien to you. So also, listen to Ramsey Lewis play A Hard Day’s Night & Wynton Marsalis play Let it Snow.
    Good swinging fun.
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    If someone has never played Jazz or improvised before, the first tune I start folks with is a two (I V7) chord version of Mack The Knife. When they are comfortable with that, add the IIm7 chord in.

    Next is something like Lady Be Good (basic 4 chord version) or Sweet Sue. Then onto dominant 7 circle progressions like Sweet Georgia Brown or Right or Wrong. After that Rhythm changes.

    There is no "correct" order to learn anything. Just have fun!!
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pieterjan5000 View Post
    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.
    +1 Don Stiernberg's soundslice.com courses are great. For listening, you can also stream great jazz from https://wdcb.org/

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    The blues.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Bing and Satchmo might be able to get you going ... Soon you'll be able to say, now you has jazz. Just simplify.

    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    I'm trying to remember where I saw the idea that you didn't know a song till you could play it with two hands on the piano. Not play it on piano - the left hand playing the root note of the chord or a two finger chord and the right hand playing a melody. Also, i'm reiterating 'Getting into Jazz Mandolin' by Ted Eschliman. Also Don Stiernberg's recordings, and Jethro Burns recordings. (And why not, Chris Biesterfieldt's album too, And Jason Anick's...)
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  29. #41
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    First tune -- passing through five different keys? I believe its important to start with fairly simple harmonic structures, exploring various ways of spicing them up, playing through and around the chord notes, superimposing non-diatonic scales (e.g., dim and whole-tone), adding upper intervals and color notes (e.g., b5 and b9) etc., and achieving rhythmic freedom, phrasing across barlines and periods; otherwise you run the risk of developing into a one-chord-at-a time improviser.

    Yes, but it is the closest thing to straight circle of 4ths there is. And the melody is pretty straight forward-the 3rd. A great tune for learning.

    But I think most of us who play learned to play over blues and rhythm before anything else. I know I did.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Great thread. Lots of tunes to check out.

    I think of playing jazz like punk. It's an attitude, the way you approach the song. Some of the tunes I list aren't jazz but I approach them with a jazz mindset.

    Some of the early jazz style tunes I learned with a Django style band/Hot Club. They aren't all jazz tunes but these are the ones that I remember getting down early:
    All of Me
    Lady Be Good
    Take the A Train
    Take 5
    Minor Swing
    Djangology (nice fun descending chords)
    Swing 42
    Dark Eyes
    Beginning to See the Light
    Sweet Georgia
    Bossa Dorado
    Cosmic Ramblers - Bluegrass, Americana (facebook.com/cosmicramblers)
    HotQua String Band - Gypsy Swing, Latin Bluegrass
    Bit By Bugs - Funky Jazz
    Red Tail - Duo Folk/Americana/Jazz

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Don't forget Andy Statman's Jazz Mandolin series from Homespun. It is designed for people coming from Bill Monroe and bluegrass. Andy himself may be teaching online...
    David Herman

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Did someone say "I'm Beginning To See The Light?"



    Sorry about the wind noise.
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Love the video. It must have been fun doing it.
    Nic Gellie

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Thanks. It was. We were having quite a time working up videos for our promo reel. Especially Luna, self-appointed costume director. I believe we both had to be peeled out of these clothes. This shoot was a bit tricky, with the wind noise. Should have waited for it to calm down, but this was in coastal Maine, so ... The end was priceless, though - she did bump into the camera. A bit of editing fixed that.
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    More often it is played in the key of g minor, probably never in G major. Of course, like many songs in a minor key it does visit the relative major, Bb flat, so it presents the opportunity to combine ii-V-I and ii-V-i in the two keys, and find interesting ways of transiting from one to the other.

    And, jazzwise, G major or g minor are in no way particularly "mandolin friendly". Even a beginner should get away from the idea of "easy" keys. Jazz mandolin is not "about" open strings.
    I beg to differ Autumn Leaves is often played in the key of G or you can say Em. The Real Book version is in Em (or G major). One sharp F#.

    And I find G/Em to be an extremely friendly key on the mandolin. One of the friendliest in fact. An easy key to read standard notation and why not employ some open strings when you can.

    G minor is also a great mandolin key.

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  40. #48
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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    All this talk about what key a song "is in" or "should be in" drives me nuts. I used to go around and around with the lead singer in my former band, who insisted on doing songs in the same key as whatever version he'd found on youtube. For example, he insisted we do "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" in the same key The Andrews Sisters used - Ebm, a key which gave me fits. I suggested moving it to Em, which was no problem for the female singer, singing lead on this. He wouldn't have it, claiming some sort of authenticity. My contention was then, as it is now:

    There are two reasons to choose a key for a song: what's best for the singer, what's best for the instruments.

    In this example, it didn't matter what the Andrews Sisters did. They probably did it in that key for either or both of the reasons above. Both of those reasons were reason enough to put it in Em for us. He just wouldn't have it.

    I did some research one day. Turns out the song is from an old Eddie Cantor musical, and was written in the key of Am/C.

    In the example, placing "Autumn Leaves" in Gm/Bb was possibly done to accomodate horns, which favor flat keys, I hear. G is a great key for mandolin. Do it in G if you want.

    PS: My favorite keys are G, A, and D, and their relative minors. C and E aren't far behind.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    All this talk about what key a song "is in" or "should be in" drives me nuts.
    If I recall the legends about him, Charlie Parker used to practice a tune in all 12 keys.

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    Default Re: Where to start with Jazz Mandolin?

    That's smart if you're dedicated to free improvization. If you're in the middle of jamming and you find yourself quoting a different tune than what you'd started playing, you can't stop what you're doing and change key to the one you're accustomed to playing it in, or the one it "should be in" - you have to keep going. It's best to be ready in case that happens.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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