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Thread: Need Clarification: Jethro Burn's three string chord style

  1. #1
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    Default Need Clarification: Jethro Burn's three string chord style

    Hi!
    How do I know if a chord is in Root position, 1st inversion, 2nd inversion?? I was reading about Jethro burn's three string chord style, where they talk about root on top, third on top, fifth on top.

    I have a doubt why are they talking about top? Every where on the internet they say the note on the bottom decides the position of the cord.

    Now for example ( I've seen piano players doing that)
    C maj chord= C E G
    Root position CEG ( where C is the lowest/bottom)
    1st Inversion EGC ( E the lowest/bottom)
    2nd Inversion GCE ( G is the lowest/bottom)
    Where, the lowest is the bass note

    The above example doesn't hold true for Jethro burn's three string chord style.
    in the Root position C maj Chord= x578( G is the lowest/bottom)
    1st Inversion= 557x =( C is the lowest/bottom)
    2nd inversion= x233 ( E is the lowest/bottom)

    Is it a special case where we need to look at the top ?? what about other chords on the Mandolin?


    What about two finger chords?
    C = 2nd inversion?
    D = Root position
    G = Root position??
    Am I correct?

    Thanks
    “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."

  2. #2
    Registered User Don Julin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Clarification: Jethro Burn's three string chord style

    I have pondered this question many times. This is what I have come up with. The traditional naming method of root position, first inversion, second inversion comes from the world of piano. The method of naming the top note comes from the world of tenor banjo. Imagine a vaudeville banjo player strumming away covering melody and chords simultaneously. Jazz guitar players use similar technique were the melody and chords are played all at once. Jethro was known for his solo mandolin arrangements that include the integration of the melody and the chords (and much more). Get the books and see for yourself! To me, this is the reason we teach the Jethro method based on the top (melody) note. For example let's imagine we are working on a solo mandolin arrangement of Autumn Leaves. The first few melody notes are e-f#-g-c. Let's say for the sake of this discussion that we are going to play e-f#-g with single notes but want a chord to accompany the c note at the end of that run. The chord at that moment is an Am7 so by finding an Am7 with a c note on top, you will have the appropriate chord voicing that covers the melody and the chord at the same time. I hope this helps.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Need Clarification: Jethro Burn's three string chord style

    Have you seen this in tenor banjo books? I thought naming the inversion after the bass tone was universal and Jethro was idiosyncratic.

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: Need Clarification: Jethro Burn's three string chord style

    Hi Don!
    Thanks for your reply

    Jethro Burn's three string chord style is pretty easy to understand, may be I should not confuse myself by mixing it up with the piano theory. For this particular style of chords I should be looking at the top only.

    Do you think, it's important to understand all these concepts(for a budding Mandolin player) or just accept the way they are? ultimately what matters is music !!

    Thanks for your time
    “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."

  7. #5

    Default Re: Need Clarification: Jethro Burn's three string chord style

    Don's only referring to basic inversions, re piano, but they're fundamental too in every stringed instrument I've played. There are only twelve (maj, min, 7th, dim) to remember - from there you can alter, form extensions, etc, if you want. Approaching the instrument with choral theory is a valuable tool.

    Re: numbering the inversion by the top note, as Don mentioned, is the way i studied banjo. In gtr and bass, we do use the root, and piano too iirc. But it's only a way to distinguish them.

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Need Clarification: Jethro Burn's three string chord style

    The word "inversion" refers to which chord note is in the bass, which includes all of the instruments playing. Since mandolin is rarely the lowest instrument playing, "inversion" doesn't really apply. If you are talking about chord-melody playing, naming a position by the top note makes sense. Calling them "inversions" may be incorrect, but we don't have a better word.

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Need Clarification: Jethro Burn's three string chord style

    Only talking about triads here (except for 7ths, dim) for which 'inversion' is the correct parlance. We play lots of alterations, but that's getting ahead of ourselves here (in clarifying what the OP termed "piano theory").

    Oops, meant to say 'chord theory' above, not 'choral'..

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