"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."
August 30, 2011 | Tips and Tricks--Chords up our sleeves
We took a little time off this summer, but the Tips and Tricks section of JazzMando(over 300 articles now!) is up and running again with fresh material. Last week, we looked at previously explored material in developing mature comping skills, especially in using 3-note V7 chords. We can't stress enough how valuable these are in making all the background work you do behind a soloist sound new and interesting. It's not just playing the chords, but moving around to different inversions and patterns up and down the frets.
The next concept we investigate is how we can connect these chords, vertical glue in between them. One huge benefit to proficiency with these chords is the ease of moving into chord melody playing. When you use 3-note chords, you have an extra string to play melody. When you can move them up and down, you have even more access to fluid chord melody arrangements.
August 26, 2011 | Jazz Musicians Protocol--Coordination
Earlier this month, we mentioned some terrific advice from the streetwise wisdom off the website of brass musicians Ken and Harry Watters. Their common sense observations were great fodder for framing what a good jam session should look and feel like.
We want to revisit some of their thoughts on the administration of a session or gig. The guidelines this time are more about leadership, but most sessions tend toward a democratic approach, so everyone in the ensemble is responsible for know what good protocol is.
More (hopefully) helpful thoughts for the professional jazz musician
1) Whenever possible, pay the band BEFORE you socialize or break down the equipment. This allows them to leave at their own liberty when the gig is over.
2) Always try to pay the band AT the gig. If this isn't possible and the musicians must be paid later, let them know in advance. Being told (at the gig) that "the check will be mailed" can be an unpleasant surprise.
3) Don't start a gig before the designated start time, and unless you're being paid significantly more for overtime, end at the designated time. It's always better to leave the audience wanting more than less.
4) Don't call a tune that more than one person in the band is uncomfortable with.
5) If you are performing for a "listening" audience (clubs, concerts, etc.), introduce the players at least once every set.
6) Under normal circumstances, never make your musicians play for more than one hour before taking a break -- also remember that the audience needs breaks as well as the musicians.
7) Decide which tune is next WELL BEFORE the last one ends, so you don't spend 15 minutes between tunes. Or simply make out set lists.
8) Try to be as fair as you can with regard to how much you pay your musicians. If a gig pays very little, it makes more sense to simply divide the money evenly among the whole band (including yourself), rather than to take a chunk off the top and have your musicians make even less. You want to keep everyone happy if you can.
9) When forming a band, always try to consult with the drummer OR the bass player about which drummer OR bass player they would enjoy working with. This tends to insure that the band will groove.
10) If a member of your group misses a rehearsal without an excuse, talk with the person immediately. If a member misses a GIG without an excuse or a sub, fire that person. Remember, NO ONE is indispensable.
11) If a singer asks (more like DEMANDS) to sit in, be prepared to play "God Bless the Child," "Summertime," or "My Funny Valentine" in any key. 90% (more like 100%) of the time, that's what they'll call.
12) Try not to ever develop contempt for the audience during a gig, even if they are totally unresponsive or downright rude. If you find yourself performing for an unappreciative crowd, simply focus your energies on your music.
13) NEVER adjust the knobs (volume, etc.) on another musician's instrument. If you'd like that person to make adjustments in their sound, simply ask THEM to make the necessary changes.
14) Being the leader of a band, small or large, can be very hard. A band is very similar to a marriage - only between several people (rather than two). If the ATTITUDE of the band takes a nosedive for any reason, pinpoint the exact problem and try & fix it. If it cannot be fixed, sometimes a personnel change must be made. We are in music because we love what we do - not because of the steady paychecks & healthcare benefits. Do anything and everything you can to stay happy in your job.
15) Don't undercut the other professional bands in town (fee wise) just to insure that your band will work. This practice can anger your peers as well as hurt the overall scene for everyone.
16) Preserve your dignity. If a clubowner cancels you or your band more than once within a few days of the gig, STOP PLAYING THERE.
If you grew up in the 60's and 70's and watched evening prime time television at all, there's high probablity the Glen Campbell show was in your life. In addition to the variety show, the often underrated musician had quite a pedigree, from recording with the Champs, sessions with the Beach Boys, picking with sideman Johnny Hartford, pioneering Ovation guitars and a 12-string guitar instrumental album, and some beautiful classic collaborations with songwriter Jimmy Webb, including the following song re-recorded a few years with the Stone Temple Pilots. No mandolin content here, but you can't help but appreciate a really good tune.
We don't know how it happened, but our FFcP Fretboard Yoga for Mandolin Group page on Facebook has disappeared. We appreciated the opportunity for discussion and interactive feedback on Facebook, so we've created a separate new fan Page for this site over there. We'll be running feeds of our bi-daily News listings and weekly "Tips and Tricks."
We'll probably slip in some other interesting discoveries like videos, classified finds, and pictures of interesting things, so if you are on Facebook and haven't already "liked" JazzMando there, get started.
August 20, 2011 | Spelling out the chords melodically
Having written almost four dozen articles for Mel Bay's Mandolin Sessions webzine, it's hard to say which has been our personal favorite, but the readership has resoundingly raved about one in particular, the Mel Bay mandolin series' highest read (over 18,000 reads as of today). A look at Diatonic Arpeggios based on closed finger patterns (FFcP), we explored Major Arpeggios and later Minor. This can be an invaluable fingertip skill in readily interpreting chord members within major and minor scales.
Click image for download
Check the accompanying articles for further insights into how these can supercharge your ability to communicate the vertical (chord) structure of the song as you improvise:
August 18, 2011 | Effects for electric mandolin--video tour
If you've owned an electric mandolin (or are thinking of getting one), you may have had the itch to explore some effects pedals. If you hail from an acoustic background, this can be a terrifying journey, and for many, no discernable starting point. We have your relief.
From Marcos Moletta (his 4th mention here), 12 minute video tour of some of his cool toys, and the chance to experience how some of these work for an emando! So many things you can do, and this is a pretty good sampler from tremolo (no, not that kind), distortion, delay, octave, to a host of multi-effects, all as close as your feet. The Brazilian Guitarra Baiana authority offers some cool demonstrations, and a chance for you to get a glimpse of where to start.
Everyone loves a good end-of-summer blowout, whether it's seasonal clothes, or in the case of JazzMando sponsor Fiddler's Green Music Shop and their clearance sale, a gorgeous Breedlove Master Class McKenzie F mandolin.
Specs: Sitka Spruce top with highly flamed Maple back and sides, X-braced, internal pick-up, bone nut, ebony bridge, inlaid headstock. Instrument comes with a hardshell case (List $5999), Clearance price $2999 (50% off list). You don't see these on sale online often.
You'll want to check out the Austin Texas dealer's website for this and some other bargain fret deals!
August 14, 2011 | New Planet Waves PW-CT-12 NS Mini Headstock Tuner
Lots of electronic tuners out there available, and with some prices less than the cost of a good pizza, there's never been a better time to own more than one. (One in each case, right?) This means you can pack one that sits big and bulky on your studio desk, or a tiny one that transports with you easily in your case. We're keen on the ones that clamp to a headstock like the Snark tuner or the Planet Waves PW-CT-10. We especially like the latter because it lays more stealth than the brightly colored competitor, allowing the player to tune--not the audience.
Planet Waves just introduced yet another winner at the recent Winter NAMM show, the NS Mini Headstock tuner. Not much larger than the camera/watch battery that powers it, the unit can lay discreetly behind the headstock, and triggers green/red like its bigger sister. These will be available in September, and we'll be excited to see them. Street price is expected to be around $22. (You can buy them here for $17.99)
From the manufacturer's website:
"The NS Mini Headstock Tuner precisely tunes a wide variety of stringed instruments while its low-profile design blends with the aesthetics of your instrument, concealing it from your audience. The highly sensitive piezo transducer and backlit display allow for easy and accurate tuning in noisy, dim or well-lit environments, where other tuners fail. Enjoy effortless and inconspicuous tuning with the NS Mini Headstock Tuner."
*Low profile compact design
*High sensitivity piezo pickup allows for accurate tuning
*Easy to read display in both well lit & dark environments
*Adjustable calibration between 430hz and 450hz
Congratulations to Scott Tichenor and company for achieving a 50,000 milestone of MC Classifieds ads listings. This (free) Mandolin Cafe service has been the "go to" for a huge volume of personal sales, let alone an invaluable resource tracking the realistic street value of mandolins and related products for over a decade--around the world. We've enjoyed selling (and buying!) through there, and as a side benefit, have made new friends there, as well.
We thought we'd share some tips on successful selling in these classifieds, as well as the similar online options available...
SO, WHAT SELLS AROUND HERE?: Pictures. Clear representation, multiple angles with effective lighting, crisp resolution
Price. Don't tease, if you want to sell it, know what you want and name your specific price. Right there.
Promise less, deliver more. There is an art to underselling; you want your customer to keep it, not just buy it. Don't set him/her up for disappointment when that box arrives.
Past. Build a reputation you can ultimately bank on--long term. Treat your buyers fairly, a collective, cumulative pattern builds credibility (and ultimately value) into your offerings over time. Most of the readership is in this addiction for the long haul, both as sellers and buyers ourselves. Sell. Buy. Repeat.
Promote. Share your ad with the social network tools provided, Facebook, Twitter, or your personal website. Selling is as much about exposure as it is value.
It started with a review of one of his 2-point mandolins almost 5 years ago. We were on schedule for a shipment, when Boise Idaho builder Austin Clark wrote to inform the finish was not 100% up to his high standards, and he was looking at a total refinish, and another two month delay. We wanted his best shot, and that he would go the extra mile spoke volumes about the pride in his craftsmanship. On delivery, we were blown away by the final product, so much so that we commissioned our own signature model shortly after, the Clark JM, a delicious 2-point Cherry Cola-burst with block fret inlay, K&K Twin pickup, and signature JM headstock logo.
We enjoyed interacting with the builder during the process, but the four years of actually owning and performing with the Clark JM has been a delight. It's been exciting to see his reputation (and his waiting list) grow.
August 8, 2011 | Jazz Musicians Protocol--Sitting in
Sitting in on an open jazz jam is not unlike joining a bluegrass session. Certain protocols remain unspoken, though necessary to keep the performance polite, positive, and satisfying. It's good to know these assumed rules, and even though they are posted at gig, the majority of the participants well conform, and expect you to as well.
From the website of brass musicians Ken and Harry Watters, here's about the most thorough list we've discovered. Talk amongst yourselves...
Some (hopefully) helpful thoughts for the professional jazz musician
1) When you attend someone else's gig, don't pull out your instrument until you're ASKED to sit in -- do not sit there noodling on your instrument. Warm up on your instrument BEFORE you get to the venue.
2) If you call a tune while sitting in at a jam session, make sure that you know it VERY well.
3) At a jam session, sit down after one tune unless you're ASKED to stay and play more.
4) After you play at a jam session, stay around for a while. It is rude to leave the venue the minute you're finished playing.
5) Stay sober enough to play well throughout the gig. The musician community is small, and word travels VERY fast.
6) Know the forms on tunes. Always remember that "Autumn Leaves" is AAB, as is "Song For My Father," and "Jordu" is AABA. These tunes are FREQUENTLY called at jam sessions, and soloists frequently end their solos in the wrong place.
7) Be ECONOMICAL with solo lengths -- ESPECIALLY at jam sessions. When you run dry of ideas,end your solo after that chorus. Be considerate of the drummer and bassist having to comp for a thousand choruses. Along these same lines, if there is another person onstage with you at a jam session that plays the same instrument, it's indeed polite to resist the urge to try & turn the session into a "pissing contest" (everyone reading this webpage knows exactly what I mean). This GREATLY annoys most rhythm sections that are called upon to "back" a jam session. Remember, music is NOT a sport.
8) The melody can be played by many intruments IF it is the type of melody that can be played in unison. Often, and particularly in slower tunes (i.e. ballads), it is best to have one instrument play the melody or split it up with another player (meaning someone else will take the bridge). On the slower tunes, everyone tends to have their own interpretation of the melody, and if it's played by more than one player it can sound very bad.
9) Often, the bass and drum solos are last before the restatement of the melody "out."
It's also customary, for the drum solo, to trade either "fours" or "eights" (depending on the tempo of the tune) with the rest of the band, with the first soloist starting his "four" first, and the soloists going in the order that they took their solos between drum breaks.
10) As a rhythm section member, be sensitive to the level of energy that the soloist is putting out. If a soloist wants to build energy, they will generally make it clear by the way they play. It is indeed rude to either NOT react to a soloist, or to try and force the energy level up (or down) without regard to what the soloist is doing. So, basically the rhythm section should ALWAYS be listening and reacting to the soloist.
11) NETWORK! This point cannot be stressed ENOUGH. Go to other people's gigs, support them, get to know them, and eventually sit in with them when they ask you. If you want to work, people have to know who you are, and that won't happen if you stay home. Don't be a "secret."
12) Pianists, guitarists, and bassists should not only know the chord progressions, but the MELODIES to tunes. This can also apply to drummers. ANYONE who is playing the melody on a tune (horns included) needs to know it CORRECTLY before embellishing it.
13) Horns and other "melody" instruments need to know the CHORD PROGRESSIONS to tunes as well as the melodies.
14) NEVER come back and take another complete solo on a tune that you've already HAD a complete solo on.
15) When you're sitting in at a jam session, NEVER count off a tune so fast that ANYONE on the stand feels uncomfortable. This is rude.
16) LISTEN to the other players at jam sessions. You never know what you might learn and from who you might learn it.
17) Try & remember, once you feel that you've "arrived" as a player, your musical growing days are over. ALWAYS be absorbing new ideas, approaches, and concepts from anywhere you can.
18) Don't be a "jack of all trades, master of none." If you consider yourself to be a multi instrumentalist, there will indeed come a time that you should settle on ONE in order to begin the road to mastering it.
19) Here are some tunes that are commonly called at jazz gigs and jam sessions. The keys listed are usually what they are played in, but it is important to be able to play them in other keys as well:
All The Things You Are (Ab)
All Of Me (C)
There Is No Greater Love (Bb)
Days of Wine And Roses (F)
There Will Never Be Another You (Eb)
Blue Bossa (Cmi)
A Foggy Day (F)
Mother Of The Dead Man (JUST KIDDING!)
My Romance (Bb)
It Could Happen To You (Eb)
Au Privave (F)
Sonnymoon For Two (F)
Straight No Chaser (F or Bb)
Blue Monk (Bb)
Alone Together (Dmi)
Oleo (or any rhythm change tune -- usually Bb)
Softly As In a Morning Sunrise (Cmi)
Groovin' High (Eb)
Well You Needn't (F)
Moonlight in Vermont (Eb)
Out of Nowhere (G)
Song For My Father (Fmi)
Mr. P.C. (Cmi)
My Funny Valentine (Cmi)
My One and Only Love (C)
What is This Thing Called Love (C)
I Love You (F)
The Girl With EMPHASEMA (F) (Sorry. That's terrible, I know...)
Dolphin Dance (Eb -- tough tune)
Up Jumped Spring (Bb)
Joy Spring (F -- If this is called on a jam session, you are more than likely being tested; watch out for the changes in bars 6 & 7 of the bridge)
Body and Soul (Ebmi)
I'll Remember April (G)
Someday My Prince Will Come (Bb)
In a Sentimental Mood (Dmi or Bb mi)
In a Mellow Tone (Ab)
Autumn Leaves (Emi or Gmi)
If I Were a Bell (F)
Green Dolphin Street (in C or Eb)
So What (Dmi)
How High The Moon (G)
Have You Met Miss Jones (F)
Tune Up (D, but watch out)
No More Blues (Dmi -- LONG form)
We'll Be Together Again (C)
Blue Trane (Cmi)
Lullaby of Birdland (Fmi)
All Blues (G)
I Could Write a Book (C)
Black Orpheus (Ami)
But Not For Me (Eb or F)
Someone to Watch Over Me (Bb or Eb)
Take The A Train (C)
Just Friends (G)
How Insensitive (Dmi)
But Beautiful (any key)
Easy Living (F)
You Don't Know What Love Is (Fmi)
Autumn In New York (F)
Bye Bye Blackbird (F)
My Foolish Heart (C)
Willow Weep For Me (G)
If I Should Lose You (Gmi)
Everything Happens to Me (Bb)
Moment's Notice (Eb) (This tune is TRICKY. If you don't know it, READ IT.)
The Nearness of You (F)
It Had To Be You (Harry Connick's fault; in G)
Giant Steps (pretty much Eb - If someone calls this at a JAM SESSION, then they're wanting to show off. This is ridiculous. Let 'em have it.)
August 6, 2011 | Getting the latest with RSS feeds
It's been a little over five years since JazzMando announced its own RSS Feeds. If you aren't familiar by now, it's time for you to learn, because this is an excellent way of gathering the latest news items and updates from your favorite entertainment sources. It's a great way of having us come to you, rather than the other way around.
If you already know how to do this, all you have to do is go to the bottom of the page and click on one of the Quick Nav Links. If you're not familiar with RSS, this is a way of gathering our frequently updated (3 to 5 days) "What's New" and "Tips and Tricks" articles. Not that we don't want you to visit frequently, there are plenty more articles here! (Over 1500)
Our personal internet browser of choice is Google Chrome, and Google offers a very effective and simple browser with Google Reader. You can also go to Google and search for a multitude of other options. An RSS feed readers is also a great idea for you browser's home page. When you sign on, you get a list of all the latest at first glance.
Of course, you'll want to list the JazzMando first...
You can pick up the JazzMando feeds here by entering the following URL links to your own RSS Reader: What's New: http://jazzmando.com/new/index.rdf Tips and Tricks: http://jazzmando.com/tips/index.rdf
Some other cool ones:
Mandolin Cafe News http://www.mandolincafe.com/cafe.xml
Mandolin Cafe Classifieds http://www.mandolincafe.com/classifieds.xml
August 4, 2011 | Reader review; 1st Annual Jim Richter Rock-n-Blues Mandolin Camp
Summer is ripe with festival and workshop opportunities, and we wanted to share the experiences and feedback of reader Ron Bird, who drove 550 miles from Arkansas to attend a week of Rock and Blues instruction in Bloomington, Indiana. There's nothing like the social interaction of a jam and hands-on teaching from a pro to help advance a player's understanding of an instrument. We encourage everyone to take advantage of these events in your area, and the inaugural Jim Richter Rock-n-Blues Camp would have been a great place to start.
Special thanks to Ron for the insight!
"Back in April while surfing the mandolin boards I found that Jim Richter of mandolin blues fame was going to put on his first camp in Bloomington Indiana in the middle of July. Being a newer player and have never attended a camp before, I was interested especially from a blues and rock mandolin standpoint. So I signed up! About 2 weeks before the camp, Jim emailed us all and started a bit of an email chain so that the attendees could introduce themselves and get a discussion going about the camp, our thoughts, hopes and dreams about our future as mandolin players.
We (my wife and I) arrived on Thursday night to attend the unofficial start of the camp with a concert performed by Gordon Bonham (a great blue guitarist and singer) and Jim Richter on mandolin. Many of the attendees and about 40-50 people braved the 100 degree in the shade temperatures to watch and hear some blues that Thursday evening and were treated to some great music along with a debut performance on the bass guitar by 10 year old Gus Richter.
After the concert we headed back to the Grant Street Inn (camp location) to cool off and to meet and jam a little for the evening. Jim also showed which was a bit of a surprise to me. I had only thought that he would attend a bit of a structured jam on Saturday night. Not so! Jim came and stayed and was totally accessible throughout camp. The Grant Street Inn was also a great place to hold camp. Good food, service, and a very reasonable rate negotiated for the camp.
Friday was opening day where most came and went as they wished with a lot of good picking and getting to know each other in the lobby. Jim started private lessons in the afternoon and I happened to be first. The lesson was what I had hoped for with Jim really having good instruction and advice for me. Mostly this appeared to be because he took the time before the lesson and camp to read through my material that I had sent him earlier and could truly see where I am in mandolin playing. It looked like all lessons that afternoon ran late with Jim making sure that each had a good, full lesson. Then, after supper, we all met again in our camp room for more informal jamming. The jams were great as an informal tool to get more settles into the camp mode and to get more practice playing with other people. Jim just jammed along but gave a lot of his knowledge during these. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. Either way, he passed on a ton of good info during these sessions.
Saturday started with more good breakfast at the Inn and more lessons in the morning before the official workshop. Then we all settled down in out meeting area to start the workshop. This turned into a good two-sided discussion with Jim about different aspects of philosophy, technique, practice, blues, rock, arrangement and jamming. While we could obviously talk about these subjects for days/weeks/etc. Jim did a great job of discussing all topics without making it feel rushed.
Saturday night--more jamming! Whew. Most of us were getting pretty tired but feeling good enough to do another night of jamming until late. A lot of brevity, comradeship and plenty of picking helped to round the weekend and camp.
Overall, I was highly pleased with Jim Richter's 1st Annual Rock and Blues Camp. Jim showed a great skill for speaking and conveying thoughts throughout to those of us at all levels. He obviously has a lot of experience in speaking and teaching. It also felt like Jim put his heart into the camp like he does his music. If there was one thing I'd add there might be more small group instruction. I've heard that Jim has already addressed that and is making plans to include one or more instructors to help out next year.
With a full amount of structured help given to all, I came away feeling like I have an organized approach to my playing and a good 'Zen' feeling about what I want from my playing. With this year‚s great bunch of attendees and the well ran camp, I've already asked for a reservation to next year's camp."
2011 Camp website
13 attendees from Canada, Michigan, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio, and Virginia
Camp cost - $90
30 minute private lesson with Jim - $20
As if the recent Mandolin Cafe 10 Questions interview with world renown artist/teacher/author John McGann wasn't enough, the Bostonian multi-instrument has bedazzled us once again with this terrific YouTube video, this solo rendition of the '70s Yes classic, "Clap" on his Sobell octave mandolin. A veritable one-man orchestra, McGann tears this one up, and the piece translates well from guitar to the OM.