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Musix Newsletter #15 • Fall 2010

The seasons have changed and once again the air is crisping up, the leaves are starting to turn, and Summer is a fading memory. In the next few months you’ll probably be spending more time indoors. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn that new song or technique that you’ve been putting off all Summer. For this Musix Newsletter #15 I picked out several songs and solos that I especially like, some from recent publications, others that I’ve been transcribing for future publication. Here’s a list of what’s in Musix Newsletter #15:


Swing/Jazz Mandolin Improvisation/Solo “Swingin’ Like ’42”

Swing/Jazz Guitar Improvisation/Solo: “St. James Infirmary”

Bluegrass Guitar solo: “There’s More Pretty Girls Than One”

Bluegrass/Old Time Mandolin solo: “The Old Man at the Mill”

Swing/Jazz Mandolin Chords & Melody: “Corrine, Corrina”

Christmas Guitar solo: “What Child is This?”

Christmas Mandolin solo: “The Friendly Beasts”

I recently received an email from a customer who is working with my “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Mandolin” book/CD set.

He wrote: “I really enjoy your Gypsy Swing vols 1 & 2 for the mandolin. I’ve pretty much learned the melodies and rhythms. What I have a hard time doing is making up good improv’s over the chords that relate to the melody...I would dearly love some sample improv breaks to go along with vols 1 & 2. I think it would sell great...Thanks for intro’ing the world to gypsy swing mandolin.”

I wrote back that I had been thinking about doing just that and was inspired to write out a few solos for songs from both my Gypsy Swing and Parking Lot Pickers’ Songbooks for this Musix Newsletter. Things got a little out of hand I ended up with quite a few solos. I guess I’m expecting a long, cold winter! Let me know if you like working with these solos or if you have any other comments on the concept. Contact@musixnow.com. To save space on the website the MP3s are at only one speed. In most of my books I include performances at both slow and regular speeds.

Swing/Jazz Mandolin Improvisation/Solo “Swingin’ Like ’42”
“Swingin’ Like ’42” is from “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm” book/CD set.
The song is based on the chord changes to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s wonderful “Swing 42.” You can use both the melody from my book along with this improvisation as solos on the changes to “Swing 42.” Be sure to learn the chord changes and the melody before you tackle solos and improvisation on the tune. If you don’t understand the melody and chords to the tune that a solo is based on, well, you’re kind of building on sand!

The chord changes to “Swingin’ Like ’42” are very typical I-vi-ii-V (“one-six-two-five”) changes that you’ll find everywhere in pop, jazz, and swing music. They’re often called “rhythm changes” after the classic Gershwin composition “I Got Rhythm.” If you want to play swing and jazz, it’s essential that you learn and understand 1-6-2-5 changes.

The first two measures of “Swingin’ Like ’42” have a I-vi-ii-V progression in the key of C. That progression is repeated in measures three and four. I think of the changes in measure five, Em7b5 to A7, as a kind of substitution for the I-vi. More accurately the Em7b5 to A7 change is a iii-VI. After that we have our familiar ii-V again. Following that is a very typical “turnaround” to get us back to the beginning of the song and essentially a repeat of the first eight measures.

The turnaround is also a variation of the I-vi-ii-V with the chords C-C#°7- Dm7- G7. I think of the C#°7 as a substitution for the Am7.

You’ll find a B7 at the end of the next eight measures. The B7 is kind of an unusual chord in the key of C but it’s acting here as a transition to the key of E. The B7 is the V dominant chord of the key of E and it shifts our ear to the new key. Using the V dominant chord of a new key is a very typical tool to facilitate a modulation. Measures 17 through 24 have our familiar I-vi-ii-V progression, just like we previously saw in the key of C in the first part of the tune, but this time the changes are in the key of E. At the end of this middle or “bridge” section we find another slightly unusual chord, the G7. Again, the G7 is the V dominant chord of the key of C and it will bring us back to that key for the final eight measures of the tune, which have the same chord changes as the first and second eight measures.

I used the recording on the CD that comes with the “Gypsy Swing” book to practice and compose this solo. I turned it on and just played the first thing that came into my head. I used the slow version of the recording to tighten up the solo and the help me transcribe it to paper and eventually into the computer.

The melody, chord diagrams, and recordings to “Swingin’ Like ’42,” and eleven other great swing & jazz tunes are in “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Mandolin, Vol. I.” “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Mandolin, Vol. II” has twelve more great songs to learn. “Swingin’ Like ’42” is an instrumental with no lyrics but most of the other songs are well-known standards with lyrics that everybody in the jazz world plays. We also have guitar editions of both volumes of the “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm” sets. There’s a guitar solo below from “Vol. II.”

I posted a video on YouTube of me playing mandolin on “Stumbling,” another song from “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Mandolin, Vol. II.” Here’s the link: “Stumbling Video.

You can also watch a video of me playing guitar and improvising on “Whispering,” from “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Guitar, Vol. II.” Here’s the link: “Whispering” Video.

Swing/Jazz Guitar Improvisation/Solo: “St. James Infirmary”
“St. James Infirmary” is from my “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Guitar, Vol. II” book/CD set. “St. James Infirmary” is a classic New Orleans D minor blues. The melody in the book is written in two octaves, first the lower and then the upper. The solo is structured the same way and mostly with closed position (fretted) notes. There will be some stretches in the first part for those of you not so used to playing on the big wide frets. Never fear, in the second half of the solo you’ll go up the neck to more finger friendly fretting.

I wanted the solo to reference the melody so I included a lot of the same melodic elements. I do take some liberties but listeners will know that I’m soloing on “St. James Infirmary.”

The song is usually performed quite slowly, almost like a dirge, so I took the opportunity to add in some triplets in measures 2, 4, 5,12, and 13. With triplets you have to get a special stroller and all kinds of other baby equipment and it’s really expensive. Triplets in notation are three notes played over one beat. With eighth notes you play two notes over one beat. Eighth notes are counted “one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and” while triplets are counted “one-two-three, two-two-three, three-two-three, four-two-three.” If you find this confusing, listen to the MP3 which again, is presented at only one speed to save space on the website. With most of my books I include audio at both slow and regular speeds.

I added a couple pull offs in measures 2, 10, and 14. If they give you trouble, leave them out for now. You’ll want to add them in eventually as they add a nice flavor to the solo.

As with the “Swingin‘ Like ’42” above, I used the recording on the CD that comes with the “Gypsy Swing” book to work up this solo.The melody, chord diagrams, and recordings to “St. James Infirmary,” and eleven other great swing & jazz tunes are in “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Guitar, Vol. II.” “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Guitar, Vol. I” has twelve more great songs to learn. We also have mandolin editions of both “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm sets. You can watch a YouTube video of me playing guitar and improvising on “Whispering,” from “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Guitar, Vol. II.” Here’s the link: “Whispering” Video.

I recently posted a video to accompany my latest Flatpicking Guitar Magazine column in their special Swing & Jazz issue. I play “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” and demonstrate how to “rhythmize” a solo from the melody. The video is split screen and shows the solo at slow and regular speeds. “Indiana” is also from “Gypsy Swing & Hot Club Rhythm for Guitar, Vol. II.” Here’s the link: “Indiana.”

Bluegrass /Flatpicking Guitar solo: “There’s More Pretty Girls Than One”
“There’s More Pretty Girls Than One” is from my “Parking Lot Pickers’ Songbook”/CDs set, in this case for guitar. We also have editions of the book for mandolin, banjo, dobro, fiddle, and soon, bass. In the past few weeks I’ve been proofing the bass edition and every time I go through the over 215 songs in the book, I get distracted by how much I enjoy these songs. Instead of simply proofing the text and manuscript, I wind up playing through the songs, singing, and making up solos. The next couple solos come out of these proofing sessions. Sorry for the delay in getting the bass book proofed. It could not be helped and I was having fun!

I sing “There’s More Pretty Girls Than One” in the key of D capoed at the second fret. Obviously you can capo it anywhere on the neck or not at all. The solo includes lots of Maybelle-esque hammer ons. (You know, “Maybelle-esque” is probably a term that neither Maybelle, Sara, or A.P. ever used. Maybe I’m getting above my raisin’.)

I posted a video of Jim Nunally and I playing a few songs from The Parking Lot Pickers’ Songbook. Here’s the link for the video: Jim & Dix Picking.

By the way, Jim Nunally has just released his second great instructional DVD The Art of Rhythm Guitar Vol. 2: Walks and Runs. It teaches 40 bass walks and runs for the keys of A, G, C, D, E, F, capo skills, left hand techniques, pick sounds, and includes on-screen tablature and standard notation. Check it out! The Art of Rhythm Guitar Vol. 2: Walks and Runs.

Bluegrass/Old Time Mandolin solo: “The Old Man at the Mill”
Here’s a fun solo to “The Old Man at the Mill,” (sometimes called “Same Old Man”) again from my Parking Lot Pickers’ Songbook/CDs set, this time for mandolin. One of the difficulties of playing an inventive solo on any song is to take a melody, which might be perfect for a voice, and turn it into a solo that sounds legit on an instrument. There are an infinite number of approaches that you can use to do this, limited only by your imagination and facility on the instrument.

For this double solo on “The Old Man at the Mill,” I stayed close to the melody, especially on the first time through the song. In measure 11, I vary my approach and start out with a G chord arpeggio. I’ve heard Frank Wakefield do this brilliantly so I’m trying to channel his playing here.

A variation of this solo could also be used on a song like “Groundhog,” which has a similar melody and chords. “Groundhog” is also in Parking Lot Pickers’ Songbook. “The Old Man at the Mill” has wonderful lyrics which are all in the book.

I posted a video of Jim Nunally and I playing a few songs from The Parking Lot Pickers’ Songbook. He’s on guitar, I’m mostly on mandolin. Here’s the link: Jim & Dix Picking.

Swing/Jazz Mandolin Chords & Melody: “Corrine, Corrina”
This version of “Corrine, Corrina” is from my DVD “Swing & Jazz Mandolin: Chords, Rhythm, and Songs.” Play along with the MP3, learn the chords first and then try the melody. After that, work on your solos.

The first time through the melody I leave out the tremolo but add it in on the second time around. You can use tremolo effectively in any style of music, including jazz. On the DVD we spent a fair amount of time discussing and practicing swing/jazz rhythm comps. On the MP3 you can hear what I call the “cha-chuk, cha-chuk” comp on “Corrine, Corrina” where you fret and strum the chord on beat one, let it ring a bit, then strum again on beat two and choke off the chord so it doesn’t ring as much as on beat one. Do the same thing for beats three and four. That’s one way to establish a really grooving swing mandolin rhythm comp.

The “Swing & Jazz Mandolin” DVD is aimed at beginners to the style and is designed to get you up and swinging on the mandolin. The main focus is on chord forms and songs and the goal is to build a useful repertoire of both. The DVD teaches eight great songs played by swing/jazz musicians all over the world. We also talk about how to get that “swing feel” in your rhythm comp. It’s a “play-along” DVD so you can join the jam session and learn each chord progression at both slow and regular speed. I hope you’ll check it out.

Christmas Guitar solo: “What Child is This?”
If you’ve followed our past newsletters, you know that I always like to include some holiday fare, especially this time of year. Last year my “Christmas Favorites for Solo Guitar (30 Best Loved Traditional Songs for Bluegrass Guitar)” book/CD set was published and I posted videos of me playing some of the songs. Here’s the music and an MP3 to another of songs from the book, one of my special favorites, “What Child is This?”

“What Child is This?” has the same basic melody and chords as “Greensleeves.” This arrangement uses eighth note or down-up strums instead of the single quarter note strums. Try playing “What Child is This?” with both single quarter note strums and double eighth note strums. The F chord shown below shows up for the first time in measure five. The E7 appears in measure seven.

In the solo below you’ll see that I included the lyrics printed in a small size to save space. My intent was to show the relationship between the solo and the lyric rather than have it serve as a song sheet. You can download a free, full color, lyric book from my website with the lyrics to “What Child is This?” and all the other 29 songs from my “Christmas Favorites for Solo Guitar” book. It’s perfect for sing-alongs and caroling sessions. I guarantee it will come in handy if you work with singers. Here’s the Link: Christmas Lyrics Booklet.

As I mentioned above, I posted a video on YouTube of me playing a few other songs from the book (“We Three Kings of Orient Are,” “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” “Toyland,” and “The Friendly Beasts”). Here’s the link: Christmas Guitar.

Christmas Mandolin solo: “The Friendly Beasts”
While we’re on holiday music, here’s a double stop arrangement of “The Friendly Beasts.” It’s one of my new favorite holiday songs. I haven’t known it long, just a few years, but I love singing and playing it. I believe I heard it first on a Louvin Brothers Christmas recording.

I included open string notes in many of the double stops. I like that sound. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to move those double stops easily up and down the fingerboard unless you substitute fretted notes for any open string notes.

I play “The Friendly Beasts” in the key of F and one of the exercises that this arrangement offers is practice at moving from quarter notes without tremolo (measures 1 — 3) into half notes with tremolo (measures 4, 5, etc.). Fretting hand fingerings are shown under the standard notation and above the TAB. On the double stops the upper number refers to the higher note of the double stop, the number below to the lower note of the pair.

I play tremolo on the half notes only. Try playing tremolo all the way through.

In the Christmas videos I uploaded to YouTube I play “The Friendly Beasts” on guitar. Here’s the link if you want to take a peek: Christmas Guitar.

If you’d like to have the lyrics to “The Friendly Beasts” and 29 other great Christmas favorites, here’s the link: Christmas Lyrics Booklet. It’s perfect for sing-alongs and caroling sessions. I guarantee it will come in handy if you work with singers.


Nothing for the fiddlers
Sorry to say I have no music, zip, nil, bupkis, nada, zero, for you fiddlers in this Musix Newsletter. Hopefully next time. I did post an interesting 2-part interview and demonstration with ace violinist Jeremy Cohen, my co-author on the book/2CD set “Swing Jazz Violin with Hot-Club Rhythm.” In the interview Jeremy talks about and offers tips and secrets on how to play swing and jazz on the fiddle. He also plays some to songs from the book. Here are the YouTube links:

Jeremy Cohen Interview, Part 1 of 2


Jeremy Cohen Interview, Part 2 of 2

Here’s the link to the “Swing Jazz Violin with Hot-Club Rhythm” book/2 CDs set on my website.

Whew, that’s a lot of material! Better get busy, especially on those Christmas tunes. Have a lovely Fall and Winter.

All the best,
Dix

“Swingin’ Like ’42” sheet music .pdf

“Swingin’ Like ’42” MP3

“St. James Infirmary” sheet music .pdf

“St. James Infirmary” MP3

“There’s More Pretty Girls Than One” sheet music .pdf

“There’s More Pretty Girls Than One” MP3

“The Old Man at the Mill” sheet music .pdf

“The Old Man at the Mill” MP3

“Corrine, Corrina” sheet music .pdf

“Corrine, Corrina” MP3

“What Child is This?” sheet music .pdf

“What Child is This?” MP3

“The Friendly Beasts” sheet music .pdf

“The Friendly Beasts” MP3