Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
Tips & Tricks Mel Bay Mandolin Sessions








Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

Blues 501 (Jazz!)
When three chords just aren't enough...

Basic "High School" 12 Bar Blues Pattern:

Great for the high school garage band, but chances are, if you've been hangin' around, you really ARE looking for more adventure than the "High School" Blues Progression.

Time for some "graduate" work...

Advanced Blues Progressions

Jazzers take this to a much more stimulating dimension by inserting some ii V7 I chords and a few (Dominant Functioning) diminished chords to the preceding obscenely static progression:

"Basic Jazz Blues" Progression:

"Swing Blues" Progression:

Consenting Adults: Look for opportunities to insert a quick ii V7 progression when you hang on a tonic (F) or subdominant (Bb) chord long enough. If the rest of the group is keeping it simple, this is a way of "freshening" without going out of the boundaries of consensual harmonic structure, or weirding the others out with complex extended chords.

"Bebop Blues" Progression

"Bird Blues" Progression

Turnaround... Look at me!

Note the wonderful variety of alternatives at your fingertips (pun intended) in the last two measures of the progressions. These two measures can give a stagnant session vitality and refreshment, simply by varying the "Turnaround," key-defining end to the pattern. These are several alternatives:


You may take advantage of the transitory nature of these measures and not worry too much about Major 7 or Minor 7. The measures go by fast enough that if you play a major 3rd over a minor chord, it will hardly be noticed. As long as you resolve properly, there is much liberty, so don't be afraid to mix these up.

Oh, just a "minor" thing...

Minor Blues Progression

Alternate Minor Blues Progression

Modal (Minor) Blues Progression

Depending on how intimate the ensemble is, it might be helpful to talk through these changes beforehand, but part of the beauty of this more sophisticated approach to the blues IS the spontaneity of mixing these changes up. Generally they happen fast enough that even major & minor chord clashes go by quick enough. Again the approach is "Function;" the goal is to set up they key at the beginning of the head. As long as this is clearly established, there is much liberty in what variations are used.

New at
Sample Turnaround Patterns for drilling!
Master them and transpose them into all keys.

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