well, I'd like to talk to you about the
mandolin in a, kind of more general, way.
One of the cool things about ArtistsWorks
is that they're, expanding every day.
And this site of mine of course will
I'll be including jazz and Brazilian music
and all different kinds of music,
you know, just because that's who I am as
And we first focused on bluegrass here,
which I hope you appreciate.
It's been a gasp putting these together.
And but main point is that there's a lot
more to come.
We have a lot more plans to keep adding
keep adding concepts, and bringing a lot
of friends in too.
And my mandolin world has expanded
tremendously over the last four or
I've learned so much about this little
instrument, and where it came from and
where it went after it after it left
Of course we all know the mandolin, you
know, in Italy has a bowl-back and
in most of Europe, that's still what they
play today in, in classical music.
And I've learned all about the history of
the mandolin and from the fabulous
Caterina Lichtenberg, who I hope to have
on here for an interview.
And she can tell you in great detail all
the pre-Italian mandolins that were the
baroque mandolins before they had,
even before they had metal frets and metal
strings there was an instrument
with gut frets and gut strings and you
play it with a feather.
And it's an extraordinary sound.
It's, it's kind of amazing.
So from there the mandolin ends up, you
know, coming over from Italy and
coming to America, but it also went to a
lot of other places.
And of course today you have mandolin
in places like Venezuela and Colombia, and
Brazil is the great,
mandolin tradition of playing choro,
And I've had the honor of playing with
some of the greatest musicians down there,
from Hamilton de Holanda to Daniella
There's so many fabulous mandolinists in
that country and
if any of them are coming anywhere near,
if I find myself down there, we'll be
bringing a camera along and, and
bring them in the studio to explain their
tradition and tell you about the history.
It's fascinating to me that the mandolin
traveled to all these places and
just immediately, embraced the traditions
of the music in,
in whatever culture it was in.
And over the century it, you know,
techniques developed for
playing the music from those regions.
And that's essentially what happened in
We had this fabulous mandolin craze around
the turn of the twentieth century
from the 1900 to about 1920, there were
mandolin orchestras everywhere.
There still are many around the country,
but I think the heyday
was when the Gibson Company was really
pumping out tons of these instruments.
And mostly for the amateur musicians who
were reading music, it was a,
kind of upper middle class thing to do, to
have a little mandolin orchestra.
That's when they were playing with
mandolas and mandocellos and
So I'll be bringing in some of those
instruments later on to show you.
But soon after that big heyday in the 20s
fell into the hands of, of country people
and, and became so popular in bluegrass.
And that's really the tradition that I'm
coming from is the,
the history of the American mandolin.
And it wasn't really about reading music
or playing classical music,
it was about playing folk music.
But over the course of this century, of
course, we've seen it grow and seen so
many elements come back into the mandolin,
mandolinists discovering their traditions
of the European classical music.
And then also discovering that oh, wait,
you can play jazz on this instrument, and
you can, you can study the music from
Brazil, or Venezuela or whereever.
And we're living in this amazing time
of course, with all this access we have to
each other's traditions.
We have people like Jethro Burns to thank
showing us that the mandolin can be a jazz
I mean, you can play solo chord jazz tunes
Or, you know, David Grisman writing his
own music, and sort of, kind of,
giving birth to the whole generation of
who are finding their own way to find
their own voice on the instrument.
So much has happened in this, in this
But I would love to play for you a a
Brazilian tune, and give you
a little insight into that just to show
the breadth of of styles, you know.
I know there's a lot of you out there who
are already playing this music.
So even though we call ourselves bluegrass
we might have a, a toe in some other
waters here and there, right?
So I'll do a tune that I recorded with my
Choro band called No Me Tocas.
I think it means don't touch me or maybe
it means don't touch my tuckus.
I'm not sure.
But [LAUGH] it's in A minor.
Okay, this is about Brazilian rhythms, and
I think the fascinating thing for most of
us about, about this style is, you know,
how do you play the rhythm on the mandolin
that's gonna really insinuate a Brazilian
percussion ensemble, which is essentially
what we're trying to do.
I fell in love with this style because
going to Brazil and seeing these groups
playing in these little cafes and, and
little bars, it, it's reminded so
much of bluegrass because you have, you
know, there's a guitarist, a mandolin,
maybe a clarinet or a flute and one or two
guys playing percussion instruments.
I remember hearing this music, [COUGH] on
cassette, you know,
in 1979 and not knowing what I was even
Just heard a jumble of sounds and thought,
wow, that is swinging, that is cool.
What, what is that, you know, what are
those sounds in the background?
Having never seen the instruments myself,
it, it took a while.
But they also use a seven string guitar,
which has a extra low B or C string.
And these guys often play bass rounds in
out of the melody, kind of an improvised
baseline and they have a lot of freedom
because typically in a choro group there
is no bass player.
So, that gives the seven-string guitarist
all this freedom to
just run these bass notes kind of.
They're, they're the ones having the most
fun in some ways.
And then the mandolin is thought of,
traditionally it was thought of as a lead
You know, the mandolins did not play much
rhythm until more recently.
Now the younger generation, of course,
They have an instrument there called a
which is a octave high guitar with four
It's tuned like a five string, the top
strings of a five string banjo, but
an octave higher.
So it's an open G chord, D, B, G, D.
A little bit like a ukulele, but with
And this is the instrument that plays the
And this is what mandolin players, if
they're playing rhythm,
they're actually imitating the sound of a
The percussion instruments come out, of
course, of the great samba schools.
And there's an instrument called a,
called a pandeiro, which is a tambourine
But the jingles are cut into themselves so
that when you hit it, the,
the sound is very quick and sharp.
So consequently you can play a lot of
really complicated rhythms with
your right hand on this instrument.
And they typically mute the back of it.
And these are muted and unmuted with
their, with their right hand.
So, here's this guy playing this
tambourine but making the sound of about
four different percussionists with this
That's why I love the sound of a choro
group cuz its not so loud you know,
you have the, the groove and the energy of
a big ensemble but
its all happening on something small.
In this, in these samba groups though, the
big, the big percussion ensembles that
play that play for carnivale, they have a
big drum called a surdo.
And that's the drum that hits the big
And I think that probably the strangest
thing for us, as Americans,
about trying to get into a Brazilian
groove, a Samba groove or
a Choro groove or even Bassanova, is that
the big beats are on the two and
four rather than on the one and three.
Typically in American music the one, the
strong down beat is, is always the big,
the big beat, but here in this, in this,
in the Brazilian groove.
[NOISE] That's the big,
the big beat, it's on B2.
The music is typically in 2/4, and it has
it's that second group of 16ths that gets
the big drum.
You, in these large ensembles you have a
of laying out the framework of the 16ths.
And you have an instrument called a
which is just a little skinhead drum made
of wood and you play it with a stick.
And you t, you tap the front of it with a
you mute the back of it with your, with
your other hand as you're holding it.
And it is the instrument the, typically
So you have these three sounds going on.
The big drums.
those three sounds provide the essential
machine, you know,
the, the engine room of a big samba.
So here we are.
As mandolinists typically we're trying to
play the rhythm of the tambourine.
That's what the little cavaquinho, the
little guitar instrument would be copying.
One, two, one, two.
that's the, that's the essence of what we
Of course there's many, many variations on
And in fact I put out a book of choro
in the very back of it I have a whole list
Various syncopations that you could do
with the tambourine and
apply to the mandolin.
So, let's look at this tune, No Me Toques,
now from a rhythmic perspective.
let's look at this tune, No Me Tocas, just
from a rhythmic perspective.
So again we're in two-four.
One, two, one, two.
And we're playing.
Now, a lot of times,
oh, how do you strum that, you know,
what's the strumming pattern on that?
What I do is what, you know, I'm,
we're trained as Bluegrass mandolinist to
keep the hand always going back and forth.
And so I'm gonna teach it to you that way.
In Brazil, when you see guys play these
rhythms, they don't.
They're often switching up.
They'll often do the whole pattern with
just down strokes.
But for now, just so you get this feeling
in your body, I think it's a,
a good entree into this style if you just
keep your hand going back and forth.
So, my hand is going back and forth and
I'm just inserting where the ups are, in
relationship to the downs.
And I'm, I'm not changing anything.
It never stops.
I would just practice going back and
forth between those two chords, until you
feel really comfortable with this pocket.
And I'm changing to different kinds of A
And different kinds of E sevens.
All right, good luck with that.
I'd like to talk about song form.
And the typical song form in Brazilian
Choro in particular.
These tunes are kind of inspired by or, or
took on the,
the forms of a lot of the Italian
mazurkas, and German polkas maybe,
because there were so many people of those
groups that ended up in Brazil.
But typically they have three sections.
A section, the B section, and the C
It's often called the trio.
And if you're in the A section,
typically you would play the A section
twice, then the B section twice.
And then you would come back and
play the A section once before going on to
the C section twice.
And then come back to the A one more time
at the end for the final A.
So I think it's called a rondo form.
A A, B B, A, C C, A.
A A, B B, A, C C, A.
So, that A gets played quite a bit of
So typically what you'll hear choro bands
do is pass the form around.
Like, the mandolin player might play the
first A, but
then on the repeat of it he'll hand it off
to the clarinet player.
Then the mandolin player would play the B,
and the clarinet would play,
would play the repeat of it.
And then maybe they would come back to the
one of them might improvise over the chord
And then do the same on the two Cs.
Flip it, like that.
So we're gonna play No Me Tocas now.
I've got a rhythm track here, of mandolin,
playing that rhythm that I showed you.
And I'll play the melody and then you can
play along with me or
play it with the rhythm track as you like.
Here's No Me Tocas.
>> Two, and one, two, three.