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Great Mandolin Chord Voicings

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

After reading some threads on Mandolin Cafe, I realized I had some favorite chords of my very own. I found that using, “TablEdit,” software I could share my chords, and have them be heard! TablEdit is a magnificent, and free resource allowing sheet music to be heard. A link is provided here to view my chords in the tabledit format. I also included simple image files of the sheet music so you can be the judge.

Some dominant sound ideas

The chord name is provided under the tabs

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One good day of music makes up for many without.

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

This past Tuesday I was fortune enough to play with my band, as well as attend a concert myself. My gig was in the afternoon so by nightfall I was able to catch a show on the other side of Atlanta. A phenomenal string band. MilkDrive out of Austin Texas played at Eddie’s Attic. They have been a favorite of mine for years, seeing them live is impressive to say the least. They have embraced the string band for all it’s worth, all members playing guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. Music beyond genre classification. I had my mandolin with me so the guys were nice enough to play a few fiddle tunes with me after their show.

A humbling experience is almost always a good one, mandolin players are hard to find in Atlanta and all of a sudden I was surrounded by three. Not just any pickers, three master musicians with their own unique voice on any given instrument. I was way out of my league but, yet it sounded great. I also was taught some cool licks, and was reinvigorated to keep on practicing.

It seems, bluegrass musicians more than most tend to be inclusive not exclusive. A common understanding that music is not a pie eating contest, is an unspoken understanding in many circles. The allure of what I call, “contest thinking,” is done by all of us, and has it’s rewards, (serious concentrated practice.) The subtext understood is that even in contests subjective tastes dictate winners. Contests are judged by humans not computers or stop-watches.

Open jam sessions are a great way for someone to increase appreciation, and joy in music. It has numerous other benefits, including, forcing you to listen and make space in your playing. Play with others as much as possible!

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Original music by Sailing to Denver.

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Below is a promotional video for S and J’s woodfired pizza featuring some original music my band mates and I recorded recently.

If your interests include, great food, being ecologically conscience, supporting local farmers, and sustainability, I urge you to check out S and J’s.

My sister, brother-in-law, and friend, Brent Sandel run this small thriving business. In terms the music, Brent is also the composer of the song heard in the background. Apparently, being a musician is a full time job requiring also having a part time job in some cases. Brent is also the lead man of, “Sailing to Denver.” The album of originals is in the works and soon to come fruition. This recording is just the seed of a fully grown song soon to be released. This is just a taste test. Below is a link to the best pizza I have ever had.

S and J’s Woodfired Pizza

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Great time last night at the Tin Roof in Atlanta.

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

I’d like to thank the people over at the Tin Roof, as well as all of our STD fans for making last night a great show. Playing new original material in front of a crowd is a fresh experience for me. See ya down the road. Also, big thanks to Alex Gordon, who played a jaw-dropping opening set.

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Other great resources, 5th fret productions and Jazzmando

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The internet has changed music in inumerable ways. Everyday more and more musicians are using material on the web to learn their instrument. All players from the the very beginning stages to the most advanced can find useful information at the touch of a button. I am writing today to mention two sites that stick out for me as being especially beneficial. One for the acoustic guitar player, the other for the mandolin player pushing beyond bluegrass. 5th fret productions. is an amazing site that gives a basis for beginners as well as a push for the best flatpickers out there. Please check out 5th fret productions, is a great resource for any acoustic guitar player. His passion comes through even in the inevitably less than personal way instruction on the web works. Great stuff!

Coincidentally, Adam is the featured instructor this month in my favorite magazine, “Flatpicking Guitar Magazine”.

Adam is an experienced instructor who uses the internet as the great resource it stands to be. Skype lessons, free tabs, and great youtube videos are all employed as part of his teaching technique. His playing is tasteful, and concise, and as far as technique his is about as sound as they come. A great person to learn good habits from. As in most things, it is easier to make good guitar habits than it is to break bad ones.
Adam is an example of good habits in motion, and the best part is he describes it in ways accessible to a huge spectrum of players. The next site I am sharing today is for mandolin players, Jazzmando.

Ted Eschliman created the site, and also writes for Mel Bay instructional material. All great stuff! His book “Getting into Jazz Mandolin,” is a must have for any player wanting to do just that. On top of that his website is full of great free material, music theory, chord charts, exercises, etc. He also has a wealth of amazing archives on Mel Bay’s site. I strongly recommend you check Jazzmando out for your self right now.

Since my discovery of this site about a year ago my playing has matured and I have pulled myself out of a musical rut. My bandmates, and jam buddies noticed this difference to, that’s always nice. If you are a mandolin player who wants to be comfortable and creative improvising Jazzmando is your place to go.

I will share more sites and instructors who I find useful down the road. With the wealth of information available it is the quality of these site that sets them apart. While some delve into new music created by technology, others use technology to share a trade that is standing the test of time.

It’s what you make of it.

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Harmonic minor, it’s fun

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

As I get into practicing scales I have found that my ear prefers some over others. The pentatonic was great when all I wanted to do was play like Dickie Betts, but eventually one can get bored with it. This weeks blurb is the first installment of an example of a scale that my ear loves and that is utilized in more songs than you would think at first glance. Below is a video of me playing some songs with the harmonic minor scale in the meat of the melody.

I am gonna make this weeks short and sweet. The harmonic minor scale can be analyzed and put under the microscope but it’s sound is what I like most.

The formula for the harmonic minor is: 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7.

The large interval between the b6 and 7 really make it unique.

Because of the natural 7 it is best used over the V (5 chord).

For example the E harmonic minor scale sounds best over a B7 chord. Both contain the Eb, which is the 7th degree of E and the 3rd of B.

Play with this scale and more tips on how to use it coming. Keep in mind and Flamenco, Spanish, or Gypsy music really uses this.

Next we will talk about the Spanish Phrygian: 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7
this is also know as the Gypsy scale. For you theory nuts, yes it is also the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale.

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One of a kind style and sound from Aaron Weinstein

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Last week I discussed imitating styles, listening to other instruments, and how that facilitates etching out one’s own unique sound. This week I am posting an example of a one of a kind sound in action. Aaron Weinstein is an amazing mandolin player as well as a phenomenal violin player. On the mandolin he does something that sets him apart from all other mandolin players I have listened to, check out the video below to see what I mean.

He plays beautiful, clean, full-sounding chord solo arrangements for solo mandolin. In Aaron’s hands one can truly hear the versatility and range the mandolin has. I have heard others do similar things, Jethro Burns at times, Evan Marshall in his own way, but Aaron has found a niche seemingly untouched by the mandolin world.

“Chord melody,” or chord solo playing, as it often is called in the guitar world has been around. Joe Pass, George Van Eps, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Ted Greene are a few to listen to in the jazz realm. Then you’ve got players like Chet Atkins (does it all), and Andres Segovia who play’s classical guitar weaving multiple parts together. The idea is to play a song usually played with a big band or at least multiple instruments with just one. Chord economics I like to call it.

So why not mandolin? A few reasons seem to have kept this niche from being fully carved. It requires some super difficult chops! Advanced harmonic understanding and arranging, playing cleanly through extreme technical difficulty, (not having six strings and five fingers picking independently like the guitar gods mentioned earlier). A great ear for jazz language is required, hearing the walking bass lines, turnarounds, counterpoint, polyrhythms, and harmonies.

Aaron was nice enough to correspond to some e-mailed questions of mine. He gave me great advice, “listen to the greats, and listen some more.” He turned me on to Joe Pass who is out of this world. Thanks Aaron for the advice and inspirational playing. If one listens to the greats enough, eventually it becomes part of one’s musical vocabulary. Jazz standards are a fun, effective way to learn some new languages.

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Today starts weekly Wednesday musical ruminations!

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

In an effort to organize the instructional material I have here on my site, I will from now on add only one lesson a week. This helps me focus my posts and helps you know when to make room in the woodshed. This Wednesday I am discussing how to expand one’s sound, or musical vocabulary. Next Wednesday I will provide musical examples.

My advice to expand one’s sound might appear in opposition to past posts where I have stressed individuality and having an original one of a kind sound. Having an “original one of a kind sound,” is a very difficult process but here I help simplify it some.

A long amount of time must be spent on all three aspects listed below to eventually chisel away one’s own unique style. Paradoxically the three aspects are based on copying playing styles that already exist.

First, listening to many different instruments and countless genres of music is needed. Spending enough time to commit songs and sounds to memory. If you can hum it on your own and hear it in your head you are making progress. Think of songs you already know and ones you like and would like to learn.

Second is, attempting to replicate the tones and intervals our ears are drawn to. First do this in the context of similar songs, then in others outside the imaginary genre compartment. Let me say this post is about music in general not instrument specific. The more instruments you play and listen to, the better off you are. Attempting to play a horn melody I have in my head on mandolin is a simple trick I find helpful for me. My replications sound far from identical, but progress can be made fairly quickly.

The third and final general aspect of finding one’s own sound is in differentiation. After a few different playing styles can be played comfortably one can pick and chose how to mix and match techniques. Be it chord melody, (which I will get to,) single line playing or a combination.

Instead of being intimidated by this task, go back to the very first step. Simply listening to music is quite easy. Like anything we do, our level of focus is crucial, take some time to really listen. Pick out instrumentation, chord changes, dominant chords, rhythm changes, etc. It is great, fun, easy practice. Till next week find a band or a song that is new to you that you like and commit it to memory. Good listening.

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Doc Watson is the greatest

Monday, May 28th, 2012

I could write a novel about how much I admire Doc Watson as a person and how I first fell in love with his music, but I will keep it short. Below is a video of me attempting to play Salt Creek as arranged by Doc Watson.

When I was 16 years old my father bought me the homespun instructional video with Doc Watson sharing secrets and Steve Kaufman playing with him and highlighting techniques that made him unique. I still to this day use the VHS I have to improve my guitar playing. Doc’s kind manner, humble attitude, and smokin’ playing has made him a musical icon.

One of the most influential American musicians for any acoustic player. In folk, bluegrass, country, swing, traditional, and beyond his playing and singing has touched many of us already. As well as many more young guns to come who will be lucky enough be turned on to Doc for the first time. His music defines timeless.

I did get to see Doc live once, my father took me to the Variety Playhouse. I knew the songs he played and wanted to go home and practice so one day I could do that. That experience changed my life. My family wishes Doc and his family only the best, because he is the best. No doubt in my mind. His message will forever be received.

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When You Awake by The Band

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

This is a masterpiece of a song I attempt to sing. Written by the band, performed by Jake Cohan

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