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Thread: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

  1. #51
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    " Well, hold up now, isn't jazz extremely melodic, melody after melody? Yes it is, it's just that some melodies are more accessible than others, more memorable, hummable, and so on. Others are more challenging.
    Technically jazz is extremely melodic, between tunes from the Great American Songbook, original jazz compositions, and what people play while improvising.

    That does not mean everyone likes the melodies themselves, nor the speed at which melodic ideas can go by in jazz.

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    Secondly if your time to play a break or solo comes and you "just play the melody", you are not improvising, unless you paraphrase the melody, make it your own by adding variations, adding a note, leaving a note out, playing a fill in the spaces between phrases of the melody, etc.
    Most musicians in almost any style of popular dance music have to make a melody their own, using the methods you mention.

    In traditional jazz there was also an element of just being able to "swing" any non-jazz melody.

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    I recommend to students who want to improvise that when they take a ride, break, solo, chorus, whatever that they not play THE melody but create ANOTHER melody. This is where the ii-V's,iim7b5-V7b9's, scales, modes, rows of tones, arpeggios, progressions, cadences, tensions, alterations, substitutions all come in. They are the elements from which we draw to create our new melody.
    That's the whole idea - all those tools, like the scales, modes, rows of tones, arpeggios, progressions, cadences, tensions, etc. you mention, are just the bits from which we create melodies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    Dawg said a line that has stuck with me also. At a workshop he said "I don't believe in improvisation. I think think of it as spontaneous composition."
    ........
    What do you cats think? Please help, I wrestle with this stuff all the time. And I mean no criticism to any of the assertions made by friends and colleagues above. Just trying to getting a clear sense of what do mean by melody. And how we can get better at improvising. And how we can get more people to listen to and like jazz. And the mandolin of course, greatest instrument of all. Thanks.
    Last part first..."how we can get more people to listen to and like jazz?"

    By playing jazz that is still creative and new but also is entertaining and even possibly danceable - like the jazz before bebop. Nothing against bop per se, but musically it's what Zappa refereed to as the "music of starvation".

    Jazz was the MOST popular form of music in America from app. WWI - WWII. Then jazz became "art" and not an entertainment music, as in dancing. That's why "modern" jazz has a small percentage of the listening audience. It's almost like classical music in its narrow appeal.

    "how we can get better at improvising."

    I don't mean to sound sarcastic but the only way you get better at improvising is to do a lot of improvising.

    When I teach, one thing I tell my newer jazz students is to give themselves permission to play lots of bad notes while they learn to solo.

    "spontaneous composition"

    Well, that's the real creative ideal, to be able to make new music in the moment that also has the elements of a composed work, in that it has a beginning, develops, has thematic continuity, and some sort of resolution, and has appropriate tension and release.

    And, as one of my teachers said, also tells you a story.

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  3. #52

    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    That's the reason tunes are used when teaching these musical elements.
    Except, often people don’t.
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  4. #53

    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Speaking as one who is scarcely a beginner in the jazz world but has worked a bit in bluegrass and fiddle tune improvisation one idea that has brought a lot of insight to me about improvisation and performance comes from the analogy of playing music to speaking. Speaking can range from written and scripted plays or public speeches and presentations with every word and syllable planned out even down to gesture, accent and intonation. This would be like classical orchestral performance. Or it can be casual conversation with nothing scripted but perhaps some conventions in speaking Like hello, how are you, I am fine etc. Or it can be totally off the wall stuff out of left field like my dearly beloved spouse drops on me every so often. It would be weird to script your casual conversation just as it would be presumptuous to start "improving" Shakespeare plays with your own edits on the fly.

    The best improvisations and my favorite performances have involved musical conversation between the performers. There is a topic, structure and outline in the melody, chord and song structure but the musicians discuss it between themselves gaining new insights as they pass the discussion back and forth. How far you go in this discussion depends on what limits the musicians decide to impose on themselves, their ability to express themselves, their understanding of the piece and how well they are able to reach to or match with one another. When it works it has spontaneity to it like a sparkling conversation. That is my ideal in improvisation in any musical style.

    The idea of having something to communicate with the music is a powerful one. We all know people who talk and talk while saying nothing, who talk foolishly, who talk over people's heads or down to them, who speak ungrammatically and crudely or who babble nonsense. There are musical analogies to all of this. Also we have experienced ideas emerging and developing as we speak and maybe this is where musical improvisation works well. Also powerful words and ideas can be uncomfortable. So can powerful music.

    Those are just a few thoughts maybe beyond jazz and what the thread is about.

    Thank you to all of you for your ideas. This has been one of my favorite threads I have read on this site. There is a lot to think about here.
    Last edited by CarlM; Nov-30-2018 at 11:10pm.

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  6. #54
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Musical conversation is as old in jazz as traditional New Orleans collective improvisation - which makes it maybe 120-ish years old in the style.

    Great post, CarlM, and one of my jazz playing buddies, a world-class reed player, likes it best when jazz is a "conversation" except that instead of words we use music as the medium.

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  8. #55

    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    The best improvisations and my favorite performances...
    We tend to equate the former with the later without any basis.
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    Thumbs up Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Interesting Video on ,, the circle of 5ths & music Theory..
    Using a Coltrane Classic..,

    https://www.facebook.com/VoxEarworm/...524626704/?t=0
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    It would be weird to script your casual conversation just as it would be presumptuous to start "improving" Shakespeare plays with your own edits on the fly.
    To expand your analogy, I've heard from Shakespearean actors that they improvise while doing a play. That is to say, that they more or less memorize the script, but get into character and speak as the character would, not following the exact script. Players in a professional production can deal with this, and perhaps add their own improvisation, only within strict limits though. On the other hand, I was in an amateur production with one professional actor in the cast; he threw the rest of us by not following the script exactly. For instance, he'd compact two short speeches into one while another actor would be nervously waiting for a cue which never came. I think that's quite similar to the situation of accomplished musicians who understand improvisation, and struggling musicians who fear any movement from the basic structure of a piece.

    By the way, my brother who teaches jazz and theory at a prominent conservatory, says that his formally trained students tell him, "I find improvisation hard -- I just don't get it." He tells them, "Well, of course not; it goes against everything you've been taught. You have to learn to approach music differently." He says, most music training teaches people to obey, while to improvise, they have to learn to be creative, cut loose and go their own way. I've learned a few things about improvisation by jamming with Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis, who are very nice, love playing, never criticize, and are available 24 hours a day on YouTube.
    Last edited by Ranald; Dec-01-2018 at 7:44pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    I've really been enjoying this thread! Lots of interesting analogies and big ideas about the genre, the nature of improvisation and jazz theory. I just wanted to throw a little idea in the ring. Of course Jazz is not instrument specific and great musical ideas can be absorbed from a player of any instrument. But a mandolinist wanting to play Jazz should, among other things...listen to and learn from guitar players! They've given us everything you could want to do in Jazz with a plectrum. Just about all of it is there on record. We just need to listen and catch up! Lots of voicings to be learned!

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FowB43JjyT4

    Of course there is the maestro
    Last edited by AMandolin; Dec-02-2018 at 2:04pm. Reason: can't seem to get it right
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by AaronWeinstein View Post
    But a mandolinist wanting to play Jazz should, among other things...listen to and learn from guitar players! They've given us everything you could want to do in Jazz with a plectrum. Just about all of it is there on record. We just need to listen and catch up! Lots of voicings to be learned!
    Excellent suggestions here from a true state of the art player!

    I also suggest IF you have a favorite player who you want to sound like and/or understand their approach, transcribe and learn their solos and comping. That and learning tunes May be the best thing as far as learning to play the music.
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by AaronWeinstein View Post
    I've really been enjoying this thread! Lots of interesting analogies and big ideas about the genre, the nature of improvisation and jazz theory. I just wanted to throw a little idea in the ring. Of course Jazz is not instrument specific and great musical ideas can be absorbed from a player of any instrument. But a mandolinist wanting to play Jazz should, among other things...listen to and learn from guitar players! They've given us everything you could want to do in Jazz with a plectrum. Just about all of it is there on record. We just need to listen and catch up! Lots of voicings to be learned!
    My main instrument is the guitar which I've been playing for 60 years, the mandolin only for 50 (off and on). I like to say that's there I learned music. Yet I'm sometimes frustrated even by the limitations of that instrument, compared to the piano. But, as I implied before, I believe you need to play a fuller chordal instrument in order to acquire a reasonably deep understanding of harmony. If there's a piano or guitar in the band I believe that the harmonic foundation can be safely left to them. And without such backing one can use very simple devices to imply fairly advanced harmonic structures. When I hear very elaborate "chord melody" arrangements I am often struck by the effort involved more than anything else.

    I'm not particularly interested in mandolin players, The ones I dig, e.g., Grisman, Marshall, and Flinner, are mainly composers, arrangers, leaders, and conceivers. And I don't really think of them as jazz musicians. If I've managed to pick up ideas from jazz musicians, apart from Charlie Christian, most of them were saxophonists. Which brings me to this wonderfully rich document: https://ethaniverson.com/rhythm-and-blues/oh-lady/

    Also note Iverson's thought-provoking comments at the end.

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  20. #62
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    If there's a piano or guitar in the band I believe that the harmonic foundation can be safely left to them. And without such backing one can use very simple devices to imply fairly advanced harmonic structures. When I hear very elaborate "chord melody" arrangements I am often struck by the effort involved more than anything else.

    I'm not particularly interested in mandolin players, The ones I dig, e.g., Grisman, Marshall, and Flinner, are mainly composers, arrangers, leaders, and conceivers. And I don't really think of them as jazz musicians. If I've managed to pick up ideas from jazz musicians, apart from Charlie Christian, most of them were saxophonists. Which brings me to this wonderfully rich document: https://ethaniverson.com/rhythm-and-blues/oh-lady/

    .
    First, I somewhat agree with your concept of leaving the rhythm section work to the rhythm section - I tend to use a mandolin in jazz more like a sax, clarinet or violin than a piano or chordal-guitar style. Even the influence from playing jazz guitar affects my melodic mandolin more than my chordal work.

    Of course it's useful to play chord on mandolin, but I like it better as a melodic instrument for jazz purposes.

    I tried to make a point earlier about differentiating musicians that are focused and in the jazz world, and musicians that play some "jazzy" tunes along with a wide variety of other style mandolin playing.

    Also, "improvising" alone does not make music into jazz, as any sort of style of music can be improvised to some degree. JAZZ improvisation has a history and tradition, a vocabulary, language, and repertoire that is quite broad but not all-inclusive.

    Great article!

    As one that advocates study of ALL periods of jazz, not just "modern" jazz, I love this:

    " Some of my peers regard earlier jazz as harmonically restricted. It’s less complicated, true. But those unworried diatonic/bluesy rubs seem more harmonically open than today’s common practice of carefully agreed-upon changes, substitute changes, and advanced extensions. Might it be time to go back to early jazz and worry about the changes a little less?"

    "for it’s technically and historically correct for the rhythm section not to be precisely together. It makes it “funky” or “raw.”"

    "These days, many young jazz players learn about how to play on standard chord changes by looking at a sheet from a Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long."

    I could have written that line.

    I wish the article had gone on longer.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    I am finding the difference between short phrase 'improvised' fills supporting a vocal and solos to be very interesting. Any 'freedom' in the solo is 180 degrees from the constraints of complimenting the vocal melodically and fitting timing to the lyric phrase. It seems fewer notes can be harder to play. Thinking and working on the different opportunities for providing color vs. solo has been educational, as has this great thread.
    <><><>><<><><>
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  24. #64
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Martin View Post
    I am finding the difference between short phrase 'improvised' fills supporting a vocal and solos to be very interesting. Any 'freedom' in the solo is 180 degrees from the constraints of complimenting the vocal melodically and fitting timing to the lyric phrase. It seems fewer notes can be harder to play. Thinking and working on the different opportunities for providing color vs. solo has been educational, as has this great thread.
    Accompanying a singer and playing fill-ins between vocal phrases is an art in and of itself. It uses the same toolkit as soloing but it certainly is a different thing.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    If there's a piano or guitar in the band I believe that the harmonic foundation can be safely left to them.
    Hi again. I've heard an idea too often--the notion that because the mandolin has only 4 different strings, it doesn't have the capability to be a "fully functional harmonic instrument" in the same way as a guitar.

    Sure, the guitar has an extra 2 strings--3 if you're dealing with Van Eps people. But lots of jazz guitar voicings have only 3 or 4 notes...and a "version" of those voicings are often playable on the mandolin--something you need to invert one of the inner voicings. But still.

    The point is, mandolinist shouldn't be let off the harmonic hook. Let's aspire to the same expectations we have for any great jazz guitarist. Our instrument can function as the sole chordal (aka harmonic) voice in a trio, or a duo for that matter, it can play fills behind a singer--it can contribute little rhythm figures. It can do all of those things!

    The possibilities are endless, so let's keep searching for exciting ways to make this instrument "work" in Jazz.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by AaronWeinstein View Post
    Hi again. I've heard an idea too often--the notion that because the mandolin has only 4 different strings,
    ......
    The point is, mandolinist shouldn't be let off the harmonic hook.
    First, your chordal mandolin work is world-class.

    Second, I was one of folks that generally likes to play mandolin as a melodic instrument over a guitar or piano rhythm section.

    Third, most important, if you play jazz, no one gets "let off the harmonic hook".

    Even when playing single note line you need to know the changes - or at least hear the basic changes at a high level as per the last ralph johansson post.

    I do not believe musically you get to leave anything to another player. Now, as an arranger, yes, sometimes certain instruments, due to sound or function, work best in an ensemble when suited to particular roles.

    But if you are the soloist, be it mandolin or what-not, the piano or guitar cannot keep you own harmonic focus nor time. You are responsible for you own time and tuning and form...even unaccompanied.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Third, most important, if you play jazz, no one gets "let off the harmonic hook".

    Even when playing single note line you need to know the changes - or at least hear the basic changes at a high level as per the last ralph johansson post..
    To clarify, I was speaking in terms of accompaniment, comping etc.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by AaronWeinstein View Post
    To clarify, I was speaking in terms of accompaniment, comping etc.
    Of course, - able to play chords as needed for accompaniment.

    And then there's the very hip chordal-melody mix you play so well!

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Firstly, I want to thank @DavidKOS for his comments on my ramblings a couple of pages back. Rather than expand on all his points (and diminish mine further), I do want to say the rules I was talking about breaking were the rules of 'form'.

    However, David did make an excellent point about having your arrogance handed to you on a plate in a jam - this is a major part of many musical folk stories - Robert Johnson, Coltrane, Coleman, even Eminem in hip hop goes through it (allegedly - it's documented in his Eight Mile movie.) The point is they all go away and get better. But it's an important rite of passage. Sometimes it's not brutal - sometimes it's a jam where you realize you're way outclassed, but noone else has really noticed (or are too polite to say anything). Sometimes it's a bad gig with a tough audience (welcome to Australia), and sometimes it's a brutal experience with your betters. It's important though.

    Apart from that, we're on exactly the same page. He just put it way better than I did - and I appreciate his musical background.

    Now, to the OP - the debate on harmony has been interesting. I'm a mess as a jazz guitarist - I can do it, but the chords ... I keep them simple. That fourth than third on the guitar...

    on the Mando, the harmonies made sense - fifths all round - so everything, at least to me, makes sense. Diads, Triads, and the occasional four-note chords gives a much richer harmonic substance than you might think. As @Aaron Weinstein pointed out, most guitarists only use three or four note chords anyway, and the mandolin starts at the third fret of the guitar (in a sense). My few lessons in jazz on guitar were done with the great Australian jazz player George Golla - I'll never forget him pointing at the guitar's third fret and saying 'there's nothing past this one'. (I was retrenched just after starting so had to let him go, but the few lessons I had with him stuck hard).

    With the Mando, everything is there - but the possibilities are more varied than the guitar. And if you have a five string, you have a greater range...
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    On the guitar, "there ain't no money past the third fret"
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    On the guitar, "there ain't no money past the third fret"
    except they mean between the 3rd fret and the nut!

    not like mandolin above the 7th fret

    Seriously, much 30's rhythm guitar was based on 6-4-3 string voicings that lay between the 3rd and 10th or so fret.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    To expand your analogy, I've heard from Shakespearean actors that they improvise while doing a play. That is to say, that they more or less memorize the script, but get into character and speak as the character would, not following the exact script. Players in a professional production can deal with this, and perhaps add their own improvisation, only within strict limits though. On the other hand, I was in an amateur production with one professional actor in the cast; he threw the rest of us by not following the script exactly. For instance, he'd compact two short speeches into one while another actor would be nervously waiting for a cue which never came. I think that's quite similar to the situation of accomplished musicians who understand improvisation, and struggling musicians who fear any movement from the basic structure of a piece.

    By the way, my brother who teaches jazz and theory at a prominent conservatory, says that his formally trained students tell him, "I find improvisation hard -- I just don't get it." He tells them, "Well, of course not; it goes against everything you've been taught. You have to learn to approach music differently." He says, most music training teaches people to obey, while to improvise, they have to learn to be creative, cut loose and go their own way. I've learned a few things about improvisation by jamming with Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis, who are very nice, love playing, never criticize, and are available 24 hours a day on YouTube.
    those limits would have to be strict, wouldn't they?:

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    Maybe this is why I never became a professional actor...
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post




    and the mandolin starts at the third fret of the guitar (in a sense). My few lessons in jazz on guitar were done with the great Australian jazz player George Golla - I'll never forget him pointing at the guitar's third fret and saying 'there's nothing past this one'. (I was retrenched just after starting so had to let him go, but the few lessons I had with him stuck hard).

    With the Mando, everything is there - but the possibilities are more varied than the guitar. And if you have a five string, you have a greater range...
    "starts at the third fret of the guitar (in a sense)". What sense??

    "everything is there", "more varied". Different, maybe, but more varied, I doubt that.

    One thing I've noted about the mandolin is that you can often state a melody credibly, with much simpler means, on the mando than on the guitar. FOr many of the melodies I know I would need more ntoes and richer chords on the guitar. Don't know why.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    "starts at the third fret of the guitar (in a sense)". What sense??

    "everything is there", "more varied". Different, maybe, but more varied, I doubt that.

    One thing I've noted about the mandolin is that you can often state a melody credibly, with much simpler means, on the mando than on the guitar. FOr many of the melodies I know I would need more ntoes and richer chords on the guitar. Don't know why.
    The low G on the mandolin is the G at the third fret of the guitar on the low E string. That’s the sense I was aiming for.

    As for the melodies, parallel fifths tuning. Why that works better? I’d have to examine it.
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  40. #75
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    The low G on the mandolin is the G at the third fret of the guitar on the low E string. That’s the sense I was aiming for.
    That's the guitar's written pitch on the staff - the actual pitch of the guitar is an octave lower, the mandolin's G string corresponds to the pitch of the open G string on the guitar.



    http://www.hago.org.uk/faqs/transposition/

    "In fact, the classical guitar is a transposing instrument because the sounded note is an octave below the notated note."

    So from a music reading POV, yes, the written G notes are as you say, but the actual pitches are not the same.

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