View Full Version : Creating Medleys

Apr-05-2004, 12:31pm
What do you look for in tunes, melody, rythymically, and key to make your own medleys? Also, what do you do to incoporate each tune so that there is a seamless transitional flow from one tune to the other.

When I listen to medleys by professional muscians, it is often hard to tell where one melody line leaves off and the other begins. We like playing medleys but have yet to understand how to tie them together with those seamless transitions, so for now, 3=3 pieces played with no real transition.

I am not the real musician, but am working to learn theory. Better late than never.:D


Apr-05-2004, 3:54pm
good question harwilli


Apr-05-2004, 6:38pm
I'm new to mando, but in fiddle, what I look for is a part of the song that ends on the same note as the next song begins, then do a little jig from one to the other, for example Cock of the North ends on B and 100 Pipers begins on B so I end Cock of the North B then a quick A and right back in on B to start the 100 Pipers. As well, I find if I do medleys that are in the same key it's a lot easier for me. But like I said, I'm new to mandolin, and I'm not much more than a beginner on fiddle so I don't have a whole lot of knowledge about it. Hope this little bit helps.:)

Apr-06-2004, 11:29am
there are a couple ways going about this. my best friend and i love to just sit down and play non-stop, which means we do string a lot of songs together. as far as putting like fiddle tunes and such together, we wrote little bits as fillers. other than bluegrass we listen to a lot of grateful dead. if you have ever listened to them then you might know that they were some of the best as string song after song together and you never knew where one started and the next began. a great example would be when they went from china cat sunflower into i know you rider.

it really does help if the songs you want to play are in the same key, but if they are not, no big deal. but you might want to understand a little about music theory. i would say the easiest was would to be to write a filler in between songs. i have written several fillers for each transition. a real easy filler would to do an 8 note run, the 1st 4 in key of the last song and the last 4 in the key you are moving into. you also might want to fool around with changing the tempo. but remember you goal is to make it as smooth as possible.

Apr-06-2004, 11:58am
like the other guy said, there are a lot of ways to go about this.
one way is to some how "get to" the 5 chord before going into the next song.
so it doesnt matter what keys the songs are in.

before I say this, I hope to god I am using the word cadence correctly.

say song #1 is in A maj
song #2 is in D minor
song # 3 is in Gm

well for #1 into #2:
#2 is in D minor, so you want to use that A as a "cadence" to let you down into the D minor. #so the filler could be anything, just end it on A or A7. (for what they call the dominant cadence) or you could use the subdom, which is the IV chord.

so for #3, in Gm, well D7 would make a dominant cadence. so I would write some chord change that lands me on the D7 and then I can go on into the Gm and it sounds like it was written to be that way all along.

what about a song from F maj to Eb maj.
ok, well Bb would be the dominant candence chord for Eb, so I would write a little walk that lands me on a Bb, maybe something like (F, Fm, Ab7, Eb7 to Bb)
the walk thru chords dont matter, as long as you give it that candence to lead you in.

a lot of times, guys just use a real basic tonic to 5 chord device. you probably own the grisman/grappelli album as we all do... listen to his medleys, just a basic I-V connector, nothing more

Apr-06-2004, 12:02pm
but you probably dont want to use this method too often or it gets predictable.

Michael H Geimer
Apr-06-2004, 12:44pm
Another device to try is the Call-and-Response method. It works great for instrumental medleys. The idea is that one instrument plays song (a), then hands off to a different instrument who takes it away into song (b).

Blake/Rice do a great job of this with their medley of Little Beggarman into Gilderoy.

Apr-06-2004, 1:17pm
Thanks defyngravity, jeff and benig,

Def, what you describe is the sound I am looking for and yes, the Dead were definetely masters at it as well as Dawg, Norman Blake, and a host of others. Irish musicians do it on the fly as they play tons of tunes together in sessions. Unfortunately, I don't live near enough to participate in any and learn by watching, asking, and doing. I am going to give it a go with your suggestion and write some fillers. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Jeff, I have printed out what you suggested and am working with those steps now. Thanks a ton.

Benig, I like that idea and we are just beginning to try that within some of the tunes we play, however, I had never thought of that as a device for transition. I like it!!! Thanks.

Any more ideas, or suggestions I will take and run with.

BTW, the first medley we put together, needs a lot of help. All three tunes are in G, so that part is easy. We start with Girl I Left Behind in 4/4, then move into Garry Ownen in 6/8, then into Turkey in the Straw, back to 4/4. So the notes are not as difficult in that medley as the transition from 4/4 to 6/8 back to 4/4. Any ideas for that medley?

We also have put together Lone Star Rag in C 2/4 leading into San Antonio Rose in D 4/4 leading into Faded Love in D 4/4.

Thanks for the help, I have food for thought and chewing. And will take as much as we can get.


Apr-06-2004, 1:45pm
whatever chord path you choose, it sounds real good when it lands on the "v" chord. #( key of G #V chord would be D.)

you could almost arbitrarily jot down some chords with a pencil, and just end it on the V chord of the next song's key.

on those trade offs, per benig, yeh those are neato. we like to sometimes change keys for the trade offs too, even in the SAME SONG, its real cool, like an old 1950's gimmick.
say the song is in G, and you are soloing, when the guitar player takes his turn, jack the whole song up into A maj, up a whole step, it goes "whoooopeee !" when you do it.:p

Apr-06-2004, 1:47pm
on the time changes, I dont know those songs, maybe it would sound cool if you superimposed the 6/8 melody over the 4/4 and let the measures work themselves into sync , then click it into 6/8 ?

just ideas from a mutant.

Michael H Geimer
Apr-06-2004, 1:57pm
I like Jeff's polyrhythym idea ... but it's admittedly sick-n-twisted. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

How 'bout a more danceable approach of playing the 6/8 melody as if it were triplets againt the 4/4 time. Granted , that would effectively introduce a tempo change to Garry Ownen ... but to the listener, it should come across as a seemless groove.

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and = 4/4
1-plet 2-plet 1-plet 2-plet = 6/8

- Benig

Jim M.
Apr-06-2004, 2:36pm
I like Jeff and Benignus' ideas, but for, maybe, a simpler approach, you stop playing the melody and have the rhythm section do a couple of measures of chord progression in the new rhythm and then jump back in with the melody.

Apr-06-2004, 4:46pm
ok changing time signatures....4/4 to 6/8 to 4/4....well heres a thought. when you are playing the first tune in 4/4 and you come to the end do a retard(slow down)and do a decrescendo. then while the rythm players almost come to a stop, the mando should kick in with the tune in 6/8 doing a crescendo and getting faster.....then all of the sudden the rest of the guys kick in. this will give a really cool effect...sounds really cool. then when you are changing back into 4/4 i would just write a little filler.

quick question whats your pick strokes on the 6/8? down, up or is it down, down, up, down, down, up?

that might change how you transition into the third song

Apr-06-2004, 7:23pm
Try whistling or humming a melody in your head, out of the blue, that contains elements of each song. This is easier for your brain to do without the mandolin in your hands. Once you have something that sounds good, then sit down and pick it out on your axe.

Apr-07-2004, 3:05pm
Thanks all, I am chewing on everything that all have written so far and talking to my colleagues about. Their eyes roll back into their heads and they grin and tell me , let us know when ya work it out good buddy and we'll jes foller along. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

We have enough medleys that I can take all of the suggestions and definetly find use for them. I am working on one now. The three tunes are Cape Breton Jig, Charlie Hunter, and St Anne's Reel. It is really interesting because the version I have for St Annes is written in 4/8 with the other two in 6/8 which I think will flow nicely once I work out a way to connect them smoothly.

If there are any more suggestions, on the music theory part of weaving medleys together, I sure would like to hear them. Already, this has helped me tremendously. Thanks all!!!


May-07-2004, 2:41pm
I've been learning some theory and my solution is secondary dominance. so say you wou playing in A and your next song is in E. Even though E is in A to transition into it you can play the chord based off the fifth of the chord you want to go into. So in this case the fifth of E is B so you play a B or B7 chord and that is the transition chord. Then you must resolve into an E chord. So thats one way to transition.

PS...you can do that in the middle of a song too like in house of the rising son in Am; the last line goes Am->E major-> the next line that begins with Am. Even though E major isn't in the key of Am you can play it in that last line becuase E id the fifth of an Am chord which is the chord it resolves into. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/blues.gif

Michael H Geimer
May-18-2004, 11:55am
Here's a cool variation on your secondary dominace solution.
Song (1) is in the key of Amaj.
Song (2) is in the key of Emaj.

Song (1) resolves with a V -> I cadence, and the melody resolves from the leading tone (G#) into the tonic (A). Highly common.

So, instead of resolving song (1) into the I chord, we can substitute the VImin (F#min) in place of the I chord (A). The fun comes when the melody unexpectedly resolves as a minor third instead of the tonic.

Now F#min happens to be a fifth away from B7, which happens to be a fifth away from E ... the tonic of song (2). The whole thing can also be expressed as a standard II -> V -> I progression in the key E.

This solution prevents song (1) from harmonically resolving until it completes the turn-around / key change and lands on the first measure of song (2).

Of course, this is that part of music that get a little too close to math for most people. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

- Benig

May-18-2004, 4:20pm
Difficult subject, somehow itīs all about the ears listening, isnīt it?
But - Iīd second jeffshuniak on the A-D-G thing.(Or D-G-C and so on). I have experienced that "advancing" somehow increases the feeling of what is going on - like moving to "a higher level" each time you change to tune. On the other hand, a good fiddler friend of mine sometimes does it the other way, and itīs great too.
In Celtic music itīs known to do a tripple like A-G-A, or even better: have the middle number as a minor, just to straighten up the majors surrounding it!

Really! Foloow your heart. Try a dousin tunes and do whatever sounds best. Music is for the living!