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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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Jazzmando weekly tip,

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

This week Ted Eschliman author of, “Getting into Jazz Mandolin,” used a video of mine as an example of chord economy and chord inversions. I’d like to thank the people of Jazzmando.com for featuring me in their weekly tip column. It is surreal being on the other side of the lesson, although it drove home I must continue spending time in the woodshed. Off I go.

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Miles Davis, “All Blues.”

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

I play once through the Miles Davis tune, “All Blues,” in the video below. “Kind of Blue,” being one of my favorite albums I often find my fingers trying to emulate it’s sounds. Thanks to the archives at Mel Bay some of my favorite album’s signature sounds have become tactile. A small dose of music theory is in my video details on my youtube channel. This video is a strong boost for any mandolins wishing to go where the grass is blue and beyond.

Chord charts of modal jazz songs are often simple, while the actual comping can be as intricate as one makes it. “All Blues,” has a moderate tempo and begins with 4 bars of G7. Here is my opportunity to emulate the tasteful piano playing of Bill Evans. Evans claimed to have avoided playing the tonic during the recording session. I call this style “sparse chord comping.”

Bill Evans musical genius knew no bounds, in that at any given time he knew the predetermined boundaries. Call it the “less is more,” approach or the, “law of reversed effort.” Established musical rules are heeded, themes are developed, and boundaries are pushed without them toppling over. His playing speaks for itself. For the musician, the understanding of modes can be one of the keys to unlocking this seductive style of playing.

Modes will be explained in full detail at a later date, for it is a lesson in and of it’s own. The basic theory is in playing through the major scale beginning on different scale degrees. If you were to play a C major scale starting on the 2nd scale degree, (D), up to D in the next octave, you are playing in the Dorian mode. If your fingers know the major scale through two octaves, your fingers also know the seven modes.

If I were to examine my lead playing over bars of G7 in, “All Blues,” I might tend to pick notes in G mixolydian, (Same notes as C major scale.) Or a Fmaj scale. For the dissonant, gypsy sound I love I might play something that fits into a C harmonic minor scale. Keep in mind…More important than following scale names is following one’s ear.

For the C7 passage I might use a four-finger closed position (FFCP) of the Bb major scale. Starting with my second finger on the G-string 3rd fret. The options are almost endless once you master your FFCP’s.

The FFCP method has helped my playing tremendously. It seems that visual learners like myself benefit instantly from viewing, then playing the FFCP’s! Horn keys like Eb and Bb no longer give me any trouble. Transposing solos is a cake walk. F and Bb, are now my favorite keys to solo in.

“Getting into Jazz Mandolin.” and Jazzmando.com are resources that have made mandolin playing much more enjoyable for me. They will do the same for you… and oh yeah, you will sound all the better as well.

Questions, comments encouraged.
More info on jazz, theory, modes, and fun to come. Remember, if it sounds good to you, someone else will like it too.

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Sweet Georgia Brown backtrack in F

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

This is the first recording in a series of backtracks I will be posting to my site. The tracks are meant to be played along to as practice for musicians tackling any instrument. I am in 440 tuning at 96bp, playing the song “Sweet Georgia Brown,” in the key of F which cromatically walks down to a D7 then goes around the circle of 5th’s in the A part. Here are the chords I am playing.

F, D7, G7, C7, Fmaj7, A7

The B part starts the same, deviates from the original melody, then has a turnaround

F, D7, G7, Dm, A7, Dm, A7, turnaround which is
F, D7, G7, C7 each held for 2 beats resolving back to F. This is called a 1-6-2-5 turnaround. Or I-VI7-II7-V7

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“Picky” My morning project

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Here is an original composition of mine. It’s two mandolin tracks by me. At the time my Guitar was getting a tune up. Nothing too sophisticated going on, no lyrics, just some easy listening I had in my head. The title is ironic on many levels. More to come! Here is Picky.

picky

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Nuages or something inspired by it?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I set up my recording gear yesterday and put down a few tracks. Look out for many more to come. At some point I pretended to play Django Reinhardt classic, Nuages.

Nuages

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