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Mandolin Lessons: Minor Swing

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All right, folks.
Well, this is in response to a whole bunch
chatter that's been going on about the
tune Minor Swing.
People seem to be wanting to learn that
It's the classic Django Reinhardt,
Stephane Grappelli tune.
But I recorded it in about 1979 with Davis
Tony Rice, Stephane Grappelli, and Eddie
Gomez on the bass.
And that group did a slightly different
version of it.
We changed the key.
We put it in D-Minor instead of A-Minor.
So I'm gonna show you that one
first before moving on to the Django
original version.
It's a very straight ahead tune, it's in
And, and the cool thing about the melody
is that it simply
uses the notes of the arpeggio of each
So on the D-Minor chord.
It uses D, F, and A.
When it goes to G-Minor,
it simply outlines the notes of a G-Minor
chord, which are G, B-Flat, and D.
you could play that any number of ways.
When you get into to that shortly.
And then it goes to an A chord and
that outlines the notes of the A chord,
which are A, C-Sharp, and E.
And then it ends with this little F to D
thing, with a D-Minor chord.
So it give, I'll play it for you kind of
roughly the way we did it.
One, two, one, two, three, four.
Bass takes a little fill here.
And bridge, G minor to A, to D-Minor.
G minor, E, A.
G minor, A, D-Minor.
So that's pretty much it.
So it's kinda stripped down version from
what Bangelo and Stephan did.
So I'm going to move up close to the
camera here so you can really see how I'm
fingering these, [NOISE] these arpeggios,
to really get a feeling for how they work.
Although, maybe before I do that, let's,
let's run through the chords.
D-Minor chord.
I play it down here in first position two,
three, five.
You could bring it up seven frets and well
up to the seventh fret and
it becomes a G-Minor chord.
Six, five, seven is an A7 chord.
Doesn't have an A note in it, but don't
let that bother you.
C-Sharp, G, and E.
It's wonderful A7 at the sixth fret there,
the fifth fret,
sixth fret, and seventh fret.
And it it's very, very functional for so
many different times you need to make
And then it resolves back into D-Minor.
Let me go through that one more time.
One, two, a one, two, three, D-Minor.
A7, A-Minor.
Then it starts again.
And then we're into the bridge,
which is G-Minor.
The chords happen twice as often now.
D-Minor, at least for that first one.
G-Minor, then E7, A7.
And that's a little rhythmic kick.
And then you're back to the top.
D, D-Minor.
G-Minor and then A7, then D-Minor, and
that's the whole form.
What I did was A and then I repeated the
and then I did the whole B, and then I did
one A.
A, A, B, A form.
So now you need to start the A's again, A,
A, B, A.
So you end up with three A's, cuz you
gotta play one at the end of the first
four, and then you gotta play two more at
the beginning of the next.
You may have heard over that A7.
Something going on there on the top note.
What I did was I took the A7 and this top
note is an E note,
that's the five of the A7.
I simply sharp fived and went back to
normal five.
And it just does this beautiful thing
where it creates a little leading tone.
And it wants to pull back, right,
once you create that tension, it wants to
resolve back to itself.
And it certainly leads nicely into the D
note, for
the, good at setting you up for the
D-Minor chord.
All right, so that's just a little extra
something, if you will.
So that's the most stripped down version I
can think of, of the chords.
Of course there's many different things
you can do with a tune like this.
One of, one of the things that comes to
mind is to look and
see how many different places you could
play these chords in, on your mandolin.
So if you go up the neck, to see this kind
of D-Minor.
Then you, you just,
comes right over to the G-Minor that you
were playing.
But it might lead you up to this A7 if you
wanted to stay if you wanted
to stay up that high.
Here's this other A7 then that's 9, 11,
I'll get on the bottom three strings.
I might resolve to this A7.
So D-Minor.
D-Minor and
A7 and back to the top for the second act.
D-Minor, then you stay there.
Then you go to the bridge.
So where else can we play the bridge?
I believe I played it in first position
the first time.
A7 and then D-Minor.
Lets find a way to play it up the neck.
So we'll stay on this G-Minor that's up
here. [MUSIC]
And then well go over to A7.
to say this sorta I call it a bluegrass D
Seven, two, five.
G minor, and this E7.
So this E and A is beautiful,
because its five of five.
Two, five in the key of D-Minor.
But its what's nice about it is its.
The top note stays E when you simply
moving the bottom two notes down from E7
we have seven,
six, seven and for the A7 you have six,
five, seven.
So it's simply rocking those two notes
backwards one fret.
And that creates beautiful voice leading.
Because what it does is it moves the least
amount of motion,
the least amount of space.
Each note has to move a half step each.
Then we're back to a D-Minor for
the A section.
G-Minor, high A7, bar resolve there.
Let's go now to another way of playing
lets say the bridge.
We're just gonna focus on the bridge for a
G minor has this nice open G minor of
But there's this one up here.
It's a little bit like a D minor split-up.
It's 5-5-6, on the top three strings.
I might put the seventh fret here on
the low strings.
So that's a nice G minor also.
[MUSIC} And it would lead nicely to this
kind of A7, bar A7, and then D minor.
I might choose to keep my top notes barred
here, because what I've done is I'm, I'm
sort of featuring the top notes on the
I'm playing chords that really bring out
these top notes of the, the top strings.
And so I wanna keep, their voice leading
up there consistent, and
I want it to make sense, as, as I move to
the new chord.
I want it to have da, da, da, da, da, da,
da, da, da, da, da, da, da.
That's a nice little motion,
if I keep that top note there.
And then, then, that's the kind of thing
we want to look for
when we're playing rhythm is is a kind of,
almost a melody on the top note of our
chord that's like like a long melody.
Chords, you know, corresponding within the
chords changes.
So, in the case of the bridge, you end up
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na.
Na, na, na, na, na.
And what happened there.
I went through this G minor and then I
went to E7
but I'm adding a Flat 9 to that E7.
Here's the E7.
That's an E7 Flat 9.
And then, it ends at the bar, A7.
All right?
And again that creates a nice little,
sort of, melodic motif.
You can kind of hear,
it's almost like a horn section, playing
little hits behind the, behind the solos.
All right?
I'm gonna get a tiny bit more fancy now.
And walk you through some other options.
You're hanging out on a D-Minor for what
seems like kind of a long time.
Before going to that G-Minor.
So, why not walk up diatonically through
the chords of D-Minor scale?
But the chord scale.
So, what would they be?
If we just walk up three chords,
they are D minor, E minor, F and back to D
Obsessively creating this little melody
and a nice little walk-up.
So, we're not just chugging,
on D minor for, for two bars or
four bars, however you count it.
We're actually now creating a little
Did the same with G minor.
We took the G minor up to A minor and
B-flat, and back to G minor.
So, once you've established this kind of
motion; ba,
ba, ba, ba, It also doesn't have to be
rhythmically square.
It can start to have syncopation in it.
Ba, ba, ba, ba. Ba, ba, ba, ba. And that's
when we start to sound jazzy, right,
because we're really playing off the idea
of a rhythm section.
we're pretending we're the piano player.
And you hear those kinds of figures in all
kinds of instruments, you know, like I
said earlier,
could be horn sections doing that, or it
can be a piano player comping.
When I say comping you know, playing
background groove.
But it's it's not, it's not continuously
the same riff.
It's got variety in it.
One, two, three.
Okay, so what do I do with it now?
I'm simply,
instead of taking the whole chord up I'm
simply playing around with the top note.
Okay, so the D minor.
We're moving that D up to an E, or
back down to the C sharp.
That's D, C sharp, D, E.
I'm just calling out the top note now.
The chord is still D minor, but I'm
introducing these color tones.
The C sharp is a minor with a major
and the E is a minor nine, you don't even
need to worry about that.
This, it's just a melodic fragment that's
occurring on the upper part of the chord.
G-minor with F-sharp on top, G-minor,
G-minor with A on top, G-minor.
Now the A7.
This can transform from A7
to A7 sharp five, back to A7 to A7 sharp,
flat five.
That's the five.
I'm just playing around with the five.
Flat, regular, sharp, regular, and it
that lead us
back to that D note, D note, D chord, D
minor chord.
All right?
S,o these are a few little things.
The other thing that you might.
I find
myself doing in jams a lot is just playing
two notes.
I'm just playing two note fragment chords.
The most basic would be the D and F.
And walking that up,
D minor, E minor, F, which is 11th and
Now here I
took the G minor as a B-flatted G note,
just two notes down there.
Then I chromatically walk
to the top and down, G, F-sharp, F, E.
And I'm still thinking of that as G-minor,
but it's just this little tension builder.
Go to the A, and play it as C sharp and A.
Just those two notes.
And then sharp the A, that's a B flat now,
That's a flat nine.
Back to the A, and then to a G natural.
G, A.
So, again, just messing with that, that
upper note of that double stop.
then we resolve back to the D minor in
this way.
It just creates a beautiful little, little
melodic fragments that lead,
that lead the chords.
So, we're not just stagnant.
Now, this is, this is stuff that you have
to be a little bit careful with
it because it's, it's a little bit of a
sharp knife.
You can't, you're not playing lead.
You know, you're still accompanying the
Your thing should not stand out that much.
It shouldn't be like, hey, look at all the
stuff I can do behind this guy.
It, it should be tasty and,
and, and things that that just support,
support, support.
They, they're always be, sitting back
behind the soloist.
You're listening to the soloist, you're,
you're hearing where his holes are,
you're seeing if there's an opportunity to
add anything.
If, if it's needed,
if it creates nice sounds that he's having
fun soloing over, you're gold.
All right?
So, let's move onto the melody, now.
Plenty to, plenty to play with there.
As I said, the melody's simply D, F, A.
G, B flat, D.
C Sharp E, F, D.
You could choose if you like, to play it
all open, open D.
But to me it brings so much and it sounds
so different than the F note.
This keeps it kinda in that cool dark
space by fretting it up the neck.
the G first finger 5th fret 3rd string.
B flat and D right there.
A right out with kinda of a bluegrass chop
and then F to D.
All right?
Other places we might be able to do that.
Why not learn it up here as well.
First finger, 7th fret.
D, F, A, 7-11, and 7.
Then the G is now on the twelfth fret,
below string.
And an eighth, and twelfth.
And the A is first finger, 7th fret.
F, G.
If you want to be proper you can stay in
position, you
hammer to the F,
play the D with your pinky.
many of us would run back here to this D
What if we wanted to go up an octave?
D, F, A.
That's the same shape as this.
Just up an octave.
G, B flat, D,
again the same shape as first position.
A same as the first position but
now the 12th fret second string.
And you end with F, D.
[SOUND] 13 and 10.
All right, so that gives you a whole bunch
of areas to play that A part in.
But what about the B.
Well, you're free to play what you like.
That's completely with the territory.
G, A7, D.
And what you see about this set of chords.
Is they, they,
they're, they're very very related cuz
it's 4, 5, and 1, except for the E7.
[SOUND] It's the one that's a little bit
different, but the four chord.
Has a lot of the same notes as D minor.
The A7 now.
I really like to stress that
when you get to the A, A7 you should
really be playing out of the A7.
like to keep it in that kind of gypsy
It is [INAUDIBLE] after all.
A, B flat, C sharp.
D, E, F, G, A.
Most important note being the C
sharp note.
It has to be introduced following the
course of that A7.
In order for it to sound like a dominant
And G natural has to really be stressed.
And then it resolves to D minor.
But it's that feeling of being on the C
That's gonna bring it home,
to make it feel like when you finally get
back to D, you're really doing something.
What I don't like to see to much is when
people just stay in D minor pentatonic for
the whole solo.
matter if it's G minor or D minor or A7,
they stay right here.
And, and arguably you could survive with
that because that C natural is going to be
like a flat third.
Heard against the A.
it's not gonna sound wrong, it's gonna
sound bluesy for a minute.
But boy, I sure love when I hear people
really making the changes.
And, and really trying to be in D minor.
Then G minor.
Then A.
Then D minor again then A.
You know,
what makes that feel like G to me is to
start on G note.
Or to start on B flat.
And third in the root, because if you just
nothing's changed.
It's just running, running patterns.
So think about that.
The song is a beautiful vehicle for, for
thinking about that because the melody is
So you know, play off the melody and
you're kinda doing it.
[LAUGH] One of the.
Tricks I like to use is play a half step
below each of the melody notes.
Right so D, would be C.
F and it would be E, below the F note.
A, B, G sharp.
If you want, you know, if you do a lot
of closed positions you can see where
they are maybe a little clearer.
Then G minor.
G, F sharp,
B flat, A, D, C sharp, D, G, F sharp.
A, A, G sharp, C sharp,
C natural, E, E flat.
A, G sharp, A.
This will really expand your, your notion
of, of the finger board and, and
the possibilities.
And it's a extremely melodic thing to do,
you know, cuz it,
it just has this really intentional
release and it just, it fits.
It works great.
So I went to the bridge.
[SOUND] G minor.
[SOUND] D minor.
G minor.
Here's the biggest change in the tune.
this E7 [NOISE] really needs to contain
this G-sharp note.
That's your arpeggio for E7.
Then it resolves to A.
So really practice that.
Practice [NOISE] making that E7 to A7
arpeggio leap.
Get all kinds of starting points,
you know, start from the root.
Start from the third.
Start from the fifth.
I mean, I would do that on each chord of
this whole tune, very slowly.
You know,
can you begin your solo on the third of
each chord.
[SOUND] Three.
[SOUND] On the D minor would be an F.
And your G minor would be B flat.
On the A of a B, C-sharp.
Come back to the D, B, F.
A will be C-sharp.
G minor.
True I use to sing rhythmic figure,
over and over as we change and that's,
that's fine.
It's A chord, C-sharp.
You get the idea?
Now start on the fifth.
For a D minor that would be an A note.
And inevitably it'll lead, you know, it,
notes like this, they each have a certain
And they will, lead you, [NOISE] they will
suggest a melody.
Just by virtue of how they push [NOISE]
harmonically against the harmony at
that moment.
And they each have their own quality,
color what have you.
And, and so and, and so you're on a D
You know A.
It wants to do that.
Whereas the F note.
Is a different kind of thing.
And the D.
You know,
they're bluesy each one of these in their
But they're different they function
And they pull at the harmony.
So there you have it.
I hope this [LAUGH] helps everybody
understand this piece a little bit better.
Certainly, find your mandolin playing
buddy and play the harmony to this melody.
It's one of the easiest tunes to play
harmony to.
Because everyone simply goes up to the
next inversion of the B minor chord.
And so [NOISE] it's on the next voice.
So, this guy [NOISE] started on the root.
And it started on the third.
And go to the seventh.
To the top mark.
[SOUND] For the A chord.
[SOUND] G natural.
[SOUND] For the A sound.
[SOUND] And the high harmony might be.
[SOUND] One.
[SOUND] Three.
And something like that.
[SOUND] E-flat.
[SOUND] C-sharp.
[SOUND] That's the upper part of that.
All right.
Big work.
[LAUGH] Thank you guys.
Hope this helps you out a little bit.