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Thread: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

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    Michael Grady MSGrady20's Avatar
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    Default Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Hi! I am a beginner mandolin player and I am wanting to learn jazz mandolin; however, I don't know what the first steps are to start learning it? Any help would be great! Thanks!
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    Registered User Steve Lavelle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Start by checking out all the resources at Jazzmando.com. Ffcp alone is worth the effort.
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Assuming you can already play the instrument, there is no "correct" way to learn. Ted's Jazzmando site mentioned above has a lot of info. So does my www.Jazz-Mandolin.com site.

    Learning tunes is one method. Start with easy tunes and advance to harder pieces as you go along.

    This one is easy to learn. Learn the melody and the chords.

    http://jazz-mandolin.com/mack%20the%20knife.html

    I am a big fan of the Barry Harris method if you want to learn bebop improvisation. I have done several videos on that. They, along with many other jazz mando instruction vids are here:
    http://jazz-mandolin.com/instruction%20videos.html


    You will eventually need to study keys, chords and chord construction, common progressions, what to play over each chord type, how to construct logical improvised lines, etc.

    Best of luck, a fun journey!
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    I moved to Georgia in the 70's and started to play mandolin. Everybody said "are you going to play bluegrass?" Being a Yankee I had no idea what that was and would reply, "No I want to play jazz." I was told to get a saxophone. One day I was listening to WREK-GA Tech FM radio and heard a Tony Trishka record with Andy Statman on mandolin. That was it for me. Yankees playing twisted jazz bluegrass.

    Learning to play any instrument is a slow baby step process. Ain't no short cuts but a good teacher helps. Lots of practice. My advice, practice, practice, and listen to the greats.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Choose a song you really really love that's somewhat simple and learn the components. First the melody, then the easiest chords you can find - especially the 3 note variants (plain major chords are acceptable and necessary). Then try to play the simplest chord melody version you can make up. Got a song stuck in your head? That's a good candidate.

    I found that starting with easy and simple quickly led me on an exciting journey of more and more complex and satisfying music. Even simple jazz progressions sound wonderful. Just start and learn to love the journey. Best of luck.
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Visentin View Post
    I moved to Georgia in the 70's and started to play mandolin. Everybody said "are you going to play bluegrass?" Being a Yankee I had no idea what that was and would reply, "No I want to play jazz." I was told to get a saxophone. One day I was listening to WREK-GA Tech FM radio and heard a Tony Trishka record with Andy Statman on mandolin.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    You will eventually need to study keys, chords and chord construction, common progressions, what to play over each chord type, how to construct logical improvised lines, etc.

    One does not learn to play "jazz mandolin" - one learns to play jazz, applicable to ANY instrument, be it sax, guitar or mandolin.

    Like Pete said, you need to learn ALL your scales in every key; you need to know chords and chord arpeggios; and you need to know how to play solos over those chords.

    This is the same for all instruments in jazz.

    The only thing unique about "jazz mandolin" is that the music is played on a mandolin, the music itself is just jazz.

    So to play jazz mandolin you have to dedicate yourself to being a jazz musician as it is the process of how music is played that defines jazz, not a set of particular tunes.

    Finally, to learn the language of jazz, you need to listen to a lot of recordings by the masters of jazz - Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Basie, Ellington, the Dorseys, Parker, Diz, Coltrane, and Miles Davis as the main innovators.

    Sadly there are no "important" jazz mandolin players in the sense that jazz books list influential players.

    One of my favorites was Jethro Burns, who had a wonderful swinging style of playing jazz.

    Just a few thoughts from a New Orleans native - as in "jazz is my folk music".

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    I am a big fan of the Barry Harris method if you want to learn bebop improvisation.
    That's an excellent choice - but I would not begin to learn jazz by starting with bop. Start with swing, like the guys that invented bop did.

    Once the basics of playing traditional and swing jazz have been learned, then it's time to learn "modern" jazz.

    I firmly believe you cannot play bop well unless you can play swing.

    You cannot play swing well unless you can play trad (aka "Dixieland") jazz.

    And you cannot play trad unless you can play the blues and ragtime.

    It's a historical progression:

    Blues and rags led to "Dixieland" which led to swing from which bebop was developed.

    So when you are ready, the Benny Harris method is excellent.

    I also suggest learning the older chord tone- chord arpeggio method of playing changes before learning the Aebersold-Baker chord scale method.

    https://www.jazzadvice.com/how-the-c...les-and-modes/

    https://www.berklee.edu/bt/121/chord.html

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    “Getting Into Jazz Mandolin” by Ted Eschliman is a nice launching point, and puts a lot of what’s on his website onto paper...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    D.K and P.M give good advice here...... there are many steps on the road to JAZZ and skipping any just makes the journey more difficult. Patient practice .... I am still working on the patient part. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    One thing that has helped me after years of being a bluegrass only guy, is just starting by learning the basic melody of several jazz standards. My first was Lady Be Good.
    The note choices and phrasing of even the very basic melody can really demonstrate some of the differences. Learning a few of those starts to give you a bit of the "language".

    There are the "real books" out there for download if you search them out which have many of these melodies. Don Stiernberg's Swing 220 record is a great place to start listening.
    Don also has some excellent courses on Sound Slice that are reasonably priced, but I found a bit too advanced for the very new jazz student at first.

    Pete Martin has done a great monthly series of posts here and provided chords and melodies to some tunes so check those out as well. He also has some good videos on his Youtube channel.
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    He won't do a direct link b/c that's gauche but Ted's Book Getting into Jazz Mandolin is a great resource.

    Jamie
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

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    Not for "beginner" players. (someone just switching over to mandolin from guitar or violin/fiddle is not a "beginner" musician)

    If you are a true "beginner" learn the basics and some common melodies/tunes before going "jazz" And prepare yourself by listening to some of the best CDs by various players. And learn to read standard notation, tab won't do the job if you pursue this genre.

    NH

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    Registered User Tom Morse's Avatar
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Lots of good advice here from some of the most seasoned cats at the Café. Kudos.

    Let me weigh in on the importance of listening, which some say you should do three times as much as you practice.

    A must-have recording for any aspiring jazz mandolinist has to be the David Grisman-produced “Back-To-Back” featuring Jethro Burns (Homer & Jethro) and Tiny Moore (5-string solid body mando for Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys) along with Shelly Manne on drums, Eldon Shamblin on guitar, and Ray Brown on bass. Put me on the jazz mandolin path with just one play.

    Tiny did an album called “Tiny Moore Music,” and someone (thank-you) has posted it on Youtube in its entirety. It’s hard to find. Even scarcer, Tiny did a book of transcripts to go with the album.

    Jethro recorded “Swing Low, Sweet Mandolin” with Don Stiernberg on rhythm guitar that is simply wonderful.

    And then there’s Don. Listen to anything and everything Sternberg’s ever done. My favorites include his CDs “Angel Eyes,” “Home Cookin’,” and “By George.” One of Don’s hottest go-to guitarists, John Carlini, did an album called “Further Adventures.” No mandolin content, but Don plays guitar on a couple numbers and, as far as string jazz goes, this gem is an exquisite listen.

    Austin’s Paul Glass tears it up on his CDs “Road To Home” and “One More Night.” Wish he’d come up and play New England.

    Back to Grisman. His live album with Stephane Grappelli features some great jazz standards. Grisman’s album Dawg Jazz/Dawg Grass has some cool takes, but his Miles Davis-inspired “So What” album with Jerry Garcia is even cooler still.

    Harder to find, but they’re out there are Homer and Jethro’s “Playing It Straight” and “It Ain’t Necessarily Square.” And violinist Joe Venuti teamed up with Jethro, Eldon, and pedal steel player Curly Chalker to record an amazing “S’Wonderful: 4 Giants of Swing.”

    Lastly, you need to be stalking him, studying his videos, and digging every thing this young guy named Aaron Weinstein is doing. OK. Aaron’s 33 years old, but the bow tie makes him look younger.

    Just the tip of the iceberg, man. So listen up. Have fun. Learn the ii-V7-I in every key and memorize the Amin7b9 and D7b9 chord patterns (they're dead simple).
    Jethro lives! (Tiny, too!)

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    QUESTION for Original Poster Michael:

    I'd like to recommend some things as far as first steps toward learning jazz mandolin, but I'm just wondering what sparked your interest...a certain player, recording, live band? Jazz played on other instruments? If you could share a bit of backround on what inspired or intrigued you, that will help me choose things to guide you towards...Thanks, and thanks for jumping in here. Greatest Instrument in the World, one of the greatest styles of music as well. It's gonna be fun!

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    Michael Grady MSGrady20's Avatar
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    I wanted to play bluegrass for the longest, but after hearing gypsy jazz I started finding myself more attracted to that style of music. I just love the way the music sounds when I listen to it. Honestly jazz is fairly new to me and I don't know a lot of popular jazz musicians other than Django Reinhardt and some of the others that were mentioned in the above posts. Thanks for reaching out as well as everyone who has posted great information in this thread.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Morse View Post
    Let me weigh in on the importance of listening, which some say you should do three times as much as you practice.
    I was about to say the same thing but Tom beat me to it. +1 and then some. All excellent advice. Certainly true for jazz but also for almost any other genre you want to play.
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Morse View Post

    Let me weigh in on the importance of listening, which some say you should do three times as much as you practice.

    Harder to find, but they’re out there are Homer and Jethro’s “Playing It Straight”
    Anything "Tiny Moore" is worth listening to! “Playing It Straight” is wonderful and a must-hear for mandolinists that play jazz.

    Back to listening...I cannot over-estimate the need for any aspiring jazz player to listen to as many styles of jazz and as many players as possible.

    Not to be repetitive, but listen to players of other instruments. It helps!

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MSGrady20 View Post
    after hearing gypsy jazz I started finding myself more attracted to that style of music. .
    Gypsy jazz is an amazing mix of American music and European sensibilities...with a touch of Manouche thrown in.

    The tunes a attractive, the players are extroverts, and the style is fun. General audiences (an archaic term ) like it, as opposed to many other jazz styles that are not popular to the public.

    That why I mostly have been performing as a "Gypsy jazz" jazz player...something I loved and studied in the early 70's when it was not so easy to get instructional material.

    But it's still jazz. It's called Gypsy jazz, but in his lifetime Django was the French guitar player that played American music. Go figure.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Not sure just what David means by "important" but here's Paul Glasse, Austin home-boy.

    He may be cutting as sharp as a jazz mandolinist as anyone these days.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Another example of contemporary jazz mandolin. Jason Anick:

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Ted Eschliman and Pete Martin are not just the place to start, they're the place to continue as well. Get ahold of both men's books - Getting into Jazz Mandolin, and Pete has several books. Work through them. They compliment each other.

    Also, in the town I'm in, being a 'jazz' musician means that you studied jazz at a certain institution, and no others need apply. Ignore anyone who tells you you can't. But of course, listen to good and constructive criticism.
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Not sure just what David means by "important"
    "Important" as in listed in almost all jazz history books as a major innovator in the development of jazz. The majority of jazz studies just do not rank ANY mandolin players in the company of the greats like Armstrong, Parker, Davis, etc.

    That's not to say jazz mandolinists are not fine players - but in a certain sense there has been no player that changed the face of jazz in the way that the most influential players of horns and piano have.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    "Important" as in listed in almost all jazz history books as a major innovator in the development of jazz. The majority of jazz studies just do not rank ANY mandolin players in the company of the greats like Armstrong, Parker, Davis, etc.

    That's not to say jazz mandolinists are not fine players - but in a certain sense there has been no player that changed the face of jazz in the way that the most influential players of horns and piano have.
    You're right, but this is the problem: jazz has become so institutionalised that there is a 'right' way and a 'wrong' way. Yet, Jethro Burns, Jason Anick, Chris Biesterfieldt, Don Stiernberg, Dave Appollon, Mike Marshall, David Grisman, Sam Bush, can be just as innovative and exciting as Armstrong, Monk, Davis, Coleman, Parker, Gillespie. (Not always, of course, but there are moments) (and list in no order). Bela Fleck and Tony Trishka and Bill Evans on banjo...

    I guess we work out - 1) Jazz is dead and is being curated. You can only play it on certain instruments, and each instrument must follow a certain format (though you can be creative within that format). This has happened with musch music. Write a sonata, and try and break the rules. Or write a sympony. Or even a musical.

    or 2) Jazz to survive needs to remember that the great players innovated - they broke the rules and pushed the format further. They also caught an audience. Jazz currently holds something like 2% of the recording sales... maybe we need innovators - real ones, not just 'sounds like Miles, or Alan Holdsworth, or Parker'. Maybe it's waiting for its next innovator. Maybe that's the OP.

    Learn the forms of jazz. Then break the rules. And don't listen to anyone who tells you 'you're doing it wrong'. The whole history of jazz is 'doing it wrong'. Armstrong's alleged criticism of bop as 'Chinese music', or Miles' disdain for the technique of bop. The traditionalists dislike of Metheny. Learn it on the mandolin, or learn it on the tin-whistle, or learn it on the bagpipes. (All of these instruments have great jazz players). Until we fail, we haven't succeeded.
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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    You're right, but this is the problem: jazz has become so institutionalised that there is a 'right' way and a 'wrong' way. Yet, Jethro Burns, Jason Anick, Chris Biesterfieldt, Don Stiernberg, Dave Appollon, Mike Marshall, David Grisman, Sam Bush, can be just as innovative and exciting as Armstrong, Monk, Davis, Coleman, Parker, Gillespie. (Not always, of course, but there are moments) (and list in no order). Bela Fleck and Tony Trishka and Bill Evans on banjo...

    I don't deny the musical greatness of the mandolinists you mention.

    However without Armstrong those guys wouldn't even be PLAYING jazz.

    I'm a New Orleans native, and know the history of the music as I learned directly from players that worked with Armstrong.

    However, we agree on the "institutionalization" problem in jazz today.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    I guess we work out - 1) Jazz is dead and is being curated. You can only play it on certain instruments, and each instrument must follow a certain format (though you can be creative within that format). This has happened with much music. Write a sonata, and try and break the rules. Or write a symphony. Or even a musical.
    Read "The End of Early Music" for more on this subject!

    Jazz is also "dead" when players insist that everything has to be over-reharmonized and every chord has to be substituted with an even more dissonant chord, and anytime you feel like it throw in a #4 (#11), etc.

    Cookie-cutter thinking has ruined jazz.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    or 2) Jazz to survive needs to remember that the great players innovated - they broke the rules and pushed the format further. They also caught an audience.
    It's waiting both for a new innovation that is listenable - free jazz and such is not audience friendly!

    Back to Armstrong - he was also an entertainer! Yes he was the first important innovative jazz soloist, but he was a consummate entertainer.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Learn the forms of jazz. Then break the rules. And don't listen to anyone who tells you 'you're doing it wrong'. The whole history of jazz is 'doing it wrong'. Armstrong's alleged criticism of bop as 'Chinese music', or Miles' disdain for the technique of bop. The traditionalists dislike of Metheny. Learn it on the mandolin, or learn it on the tin-whistle, or learn it on the bagpipes. (All of these instruments have great jazz players). Until we fail, we haven't succeeded.
    I'm with you on this.

    Learn what already is - then go you own way musically.

    However, new jazz innovation does need to be built on tradition. SunRa's band played some out there stuff - but could also swing hard when they played more inside stuff.

    "Learn the forms of jazz. Then break the rules...don't listen to anyone who tells you 'you're doing it wrong'. "

    Some rules are like gravity, they cannot be broken - like the need to know your instrument, whatever it is, and to know scales, chords, and such. You can innovate a style, but a CMAJ9 chord is what it is.

    Thus sometimes a player can be doing it wrong - such as not playing the notes of the correct chord! One needs to be able to play the melody of a head "correctly" so as to blend with other players in a group.

    So there are times when a player NEEDS to be told that they are wrong. Every player I know has stories about having their @ss handed to them at an early jam session when they were not yet fully competent jazzers. That's how we learned to play better.

    But apart from non-negotiable musical issues like harmony, playing in tune and in time, etc., sounding like yourself is entirely up to you! and that's where any jazz player has the ability to make the music their own.

    One of my teachers (Dalton Rousseau of the Original Crescent City Jazz Band, I think) used to say:

    "Why you wanna sound like him? You gonna be on the radio one night and yo mamma's not gonna know it's you?"

    Yes be original...but know the tradition too.

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    Default Re: Want to learn Jazz mandolin

    Don Stiernberg (post above) has 4 courses on Soundslice that provide excellent instructional value.

    Pete Martin’s books and Getting Into Jazz Mando are also excellent. I have gotten so much out of those three resources.

    Pete also has a number of well done videos on various subjects, scales, improvisation, etc.

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