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Thread: gypsy jazz mandolin

  1. #1
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    Default gypsy jazz mandolin

    I have been playing alot of gypsy jazz and mando, and I am somewhat stuck on a few riffs for soloing. any tips for soloing for gypsy jazz would be great

  2. #2
    mandolin's Lord Voldemort mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: gypsy jazz mandolin

    It's all on the records.

    When you're stuck, it's time to copy some solos off records, either transcribing breaks yourself, or getting them from books or off the web.

  3. #3
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Default Re: gypsy jazz mandolin

    You probably already know this, but for starters, I'd recommend anything by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Of course what they do so effortlessly is among the most sophisticated jazz improvising ever, so don't worry if you can't pull out the same extemporaneous phrases with the smoothness these guys achieve. Do learn some of their riffs, and then burn them into your finger memory.

    The band I played with, called its music "gypsy", although, it included Russian, Croatian, French Boulevard, and a fair amount of Klezmer. We even played Mexican pop, ("Maria Elena") and the upbeat theme from the movie, "Brazil". The accordion was king, although just as often, a fiddle could provide the same role of introducing the melody. In an odd sort of way, the mandolin style I invented in my Gypsy music stint didn't seem that different to me than bluegrass mandolin. I mostly kept the instrument chugging out chop chords and sliding double stops.

    At the first practice I brought an oval hole mandolin and an F5. Both have great sound. Both are loud. The oval hole is a jazz instrument, with lots of overtones and a resounding bass. The F5 cuts like nothing else. The guys requested that I play only the F5 in their band.

    When soloing, do your best to keep within the chord structure with phrasing that uses all the beats, and makes a fair use of double stops. Again, not unlike bluegrass. Unless/until your playing starts to approach the level of Reinhardt and Grappelli, or unless/until your rhythm section is able to keep the rhythm constant at the moment your chop chords stop, I'd avoid jazz phrasing that employs lots of silences.

    Of course, the main difference between bluegrass and gypsy is the scales used. I had trouble at the beginning of my tenure in the band, because I brought to this music a "westernized" mandolin muscle memory. My fingers would naturally settle on either the major third OR the minor third in any tune, and then stick with it for the duration of the tune. But a fair amount of these tunes actually use both the major third and the minor third. Some of the tunes hit the minor 3 going up and the major 3 going down the scale. It makes for great fun, improvising, once you get a handle on it. This same harmonic switch also arises, although less frequently, with the major and minor 6th.
    Explore some of my published music here

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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: gypsy jazz mandolin

    Also spend time looking through Jason Anick's youtube videos. He's John Jorgenson's violinist for the gypsy jazz quintet, has his own gypsy jazz group, and plays a fantastic mandolin. While there may be some transcriptions around for Grappelli's work, for the most part, you're on your own, unfortunately. The hard core gypsy jazzers in Europe don't spend any time writing stuff down. You know it or you don't. For associated guitar work, the Rosenberg trio has a bunch of youtube videos (sometimes guesting with Tchavolo Scmidtt) which are awesome.

    Here, just do this:


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    Default Re: gypsy jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    Also spend time looking through Jason Anick's youtube videos. He's John Jorgenson's violinist for the gypsy jazz quintet, has his own gypsy jazz group, and plays a fantastic mandolin. While there may be some transcriptions around for Grappelli's work, for the most part, you're on your own, unfortunately. The hard core gypsy jazzers in Europe don't spend any time writing stuff down. You know it or you don't. For associated guitar work, the Rosenberg trio has a bunch of youtube videos (sometimes guesting with Tchavolo Scmidtt) which are awesome.

    I thought i recognised that venue - the Theatre Antique in Vienne! I can see that from my window... an old roman amphitheatre set into the side of a hill, a fine summer venue and the only place i've ever seen Mike Compton play live.

    A few years ago now, for Django's centenary, the local quartier in Lyon held a Gypsy Jazz festival for a weekend - lots of great acts and it was nearly all free. The headliner was Tchavolo Schmitt guesting with Nuages de Swing... that was free too, not a bad weekend, all told.

    Another good group La Doigts de l'Homme


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    Default Re: gypsy jazz mandolin

    Violin, guitar... are not mandolin. I have a feeling that to play what Django or Stephan played is a wrong way to build a riff for soloing on the mandolin.
    I use to play with real gypsy players, and they are fond of phrasings crossing over the fingering of chords (for a gypsy musician, what you see (=fingering) and what you hear (=the notes) are very very important. Much more than the theory and "what are the arpeggio and scale i have to play" which is a real non-sense for them...).
    For example: When you have to improvise over a Am chord, how do you play that chord on your mandolin? In order to "sound" like a gypsy, you have to play Am6 (2232) or (5475), and, perhaps better, know where is the 9th (4x2x) and (xxx7) on those chord shapes.
    Try to play that:
    ---------------------------7------5--2----
    -------------2--0--3--7-------------------
    ----------2--------------------------------
    -2--4--5----------------------------------
    (all are swinging eight notes except "7" on the first string which is a quarter note).
    All that notes (except 0 on the 2d string, but it's an "A", root of that chord) are played like the fingering in the two chord shapes, with or without the 9th.
    Django did exactly the same thing, but with the fingering of the guitar... The melody is quite different, but on one side, it's a mandolin phrasing, and on the other side, it's a guitar phrasing...
    Last edited by Jean-Pierre WOOS; Oct-03-2013 at 6:03am.

  11. #8
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: gypsy jazz mandolin

    Nice post, Jean-Pierre. Your point about the intuitive nature, and not the overly-thought out theory-heavy modern jazz approach, is very much appreciated. I do think while the chord voicing may be different on the mandolin, the over-all effect is still easily achievable. Certainly Stephane did fine, and his violin is tuned the same way. Besides, if you play a mandolin, you want it to sound like a mandolin, not like a squeaky little guitar.

    But, back to the chord approach to soloing. This is a great way to start improvising in general, if you haven't done it this way. Christian Howes, jazz violinist, just did a workshop for us that used this to get all levels of string players improvising on a couple of different styles, from Pachelbel's Canon to Dark Eyes. Either using the chord shapes as arpeggios or with some slight jumbling of the order and timing, one can easily start improvising and then in time add the feel that makes a piece "Gypsy" or "Swing" or whatever. In two short hours, players from middle school to senior orchestra were tossing of very credible solos, which at the beginning of the session, they had no experience in doing.

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    Registered User pefjr's Avatar
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    Default Re: gypsy jazz mandolin

    I got my money worth with these Gypsy Swing I and II books and cd by Dix Bruce. One can get lost for about a year browsing the café resources. Go up to Home tab and then go into lessons and or Swing. In lessons look for the Four Finger Closed positions.
    I have the world in a jug, and the stopper in my hand.

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  15. #10
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    Default Re: gypsy jazz mandolin

    I think Frank Vignola has it down, and you can't go wrong with Atilla Zoller.

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