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Mandolin Lessons: The Christmas Song

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I have another Christmas carol for you.
The fabulous Mel Torme, Robert Wells
The Christmas Song, Chestnuts Roasting on
an Open Fire.
Worked out in the key of A for the
A little gift for you.
Hopefully, you can bring it around to the
rest of your friends and family.
So I'm gonna try
to break down this Christmas song for you
here, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.
I found the music in a couple of different
jazz fake books, and online it seems to be
the key of E-flat was the original or the
one that it appears a lot in.
Of course, if you are a singer you got to
find the key that works for you.
If you are a mandolin player, you kind of
bristle at the key of E Flat a little bit.
We are not big fans.
I'm encouraging everyone
to get comfortable with all keys.
I'm a big proponent of being able to get
in any key on the mandolin using those
closed position chords and scales.
But, if you're trying to play the chords
and the melody to a tune like this,
I found that, having the open strings
available to you is certainly helpful,
so, and I also wanted to move the melody
up to the high strings so
that I could have, a harmony below the
That was, that was kind of my main thing
was that playing in E-flat made that all,
most of your melodies down on the lower
So playing chords under that, didn't make
sense and
when you voice the chords above the
melody, you can't really hear the melody,
usually want the melody to sit on top.
So if we just look at the chords, that's a
good thing to do.
Good, good exercise before you dive into
trying the, trying to do both.
Just do each one, do the melody.
Nice tremolo, on the, quarter notes.
And non-tremolo on the eighths.
Even on some of the,
even on some of the 8th notes like bar
five I choose to not tremolo.
That, that E-sharp, don't let it fool you,
it's just an F note.
A lot of times, when I repeat a note,
that C-sharp happens three times in bar
I will hammer the third just to give it
a change of color and, and dynamic right
at that moment.
to differentiate it as a separate note,
otherwise, you end up.
Having to restart the tremolo for
each one.
Or you could choose to.
To not do it.
It just sounds a little dry.
The little hammer gives it a little wow,
like a violinist sliding in a note.
Same with bar 12, that open A.
As you come to that A,
rather than just playing it as an open A,
I slide to it on the G-string.
Now you have two As at bar 13.
I might chose to slide into the first one,
and play the second one as an open A.
Again, just for a color change, so that
each A doesn't sound exactly the same.
Now be very careful on these triplets, bar
6 and bar 14.
So that's, if your beat is here.
One, two, one and two.
You play bah, bah, bah, bah.
So in the course of two beats, you're
trying to fit three notes.
I mean luckily this is a tune that we all
know and have heard so much that I,
I don't think that a situation like that
is gonna be hard for most people.
But when you read it, get used to that
sort of physical feeling.
Whatever the words are.
Again set bar 17 at high G, I love to
slide into that.
The same with this E in 18, and I get the
double E.
Now that's not written like that.
I'm doubling each note, just for fun, just
to make it colorful and
interesting, bar 19.
On that, E-D-E at the end of, of, of 19.
I did a little pull off.
Off of an F-Sharp.
Again, just for change.
Sliding into the D at bar 22.
And your beat is here, how to deal with
all these weird triplets.
There's an eighth note triplet followed by
a quarter note triplet, bar 23.
Singing it the way it,
you remember the words is the best
if you were to, if you were to divide the
bar in half,
the division would come after the sec, the
first triplet.
So you got two eighth notes.
you're sighing over the the, the, the
downbeat, beat two.
So you got beat one is.
If you were to take away the tie,
it would sound like.
But with the tie.
Then the next half of the bar,
consists of two beats, where the B7 chord
That long, the second triplet, it's a
quarter note triplet.
Notice they don't have the line connecting
That is, three notes equal two, same as we
did in bar 6 and bar 14.
It's that feeling.
So you get.
Beat two is an eighth note triplet,
beat three is a quarter note triplet.
The whole bar again, one, two.
All this being said, it's
a heck of a lot easier to just remember
Reindeers really know how to fly.
On 27, 28, sliding in the A.
And on the last B, next to the last note
of the tune, the B note.
I do a little pull off from C-sharp,
to B and then I hit the open A in the down
So that's, some ideas to to trim below it.
Okay folks.
Can you try and give you a nice close up
version of this Christmas song here,
Chestnuts Roasting,
in an attempt to enable you to see each
voicing that I'm using as I.
Attempt to play the melody and the
The melody of course is on the upper voice
of each chord.
The A chord, I just do the simple bar that
I reach up to the high A.
The E7, two notes, I'm sorry, one note
And then the G-sharp I grab with the high
pinky, and
a bar to get the F-sharp, then off.
So the A chord simply has the C-sharp on
the top.
And I resolved with
the B-minor here keeping the C-sharp so
it's really a B-minor 9.
And I resolve to a B note that's not
really written there in the melody.
Two ways to do this.
One is open A and then fret the F-sharp.
And then bar the middle two and play the
At the C-sharp note you need to jump
through the E7.
And then.
I use the first finger to grab that B.
Gotta kinda give up the chord, the A7
After the C-sharp then the D.
Seven, four, seven, the open A.
And then simply add it back in our step
for the C-sharp, then F-sharp 6-4-0.
Two ways to play this D-minor.
One is here With the D on the bottom
7-3-2, or 1 in, or here.
Two, three, two if you can't make the
Here's the A, triplets, bar six,
C-sharp, open E, fret the F-sharp.
Here's the weird move.
E-flat minor,
you know, is this right, but
the melody is a G note, it's actually a
it's really the sus four of that E-flat
And then you play an A-flat chord.
And the F-sharp note is the flat seven of
It really should be called a G-flat.
And the E-sharp.
Is part of is the third of a D-flat chord.
That's 5 7-4-1.
This is the craziest part.
Another way to play it is up here, sorry I
didn't give you that first.
The, the E-sharp one is an F note, up here
on the eighth fret.
So E-flat minor sus.
A-flat sound.
There it is, D-sharp, D-flat.
Then the next bit, this is D-minor,
but it has a G note in the melody, and
then it's G7.
With an E note, so you could call it G13.
You could just play the C note if
you want, with the E or you could play a C
That's simply B-minor is 4-0-0-0
with an E note in the melody.
And the E7, 1-0-2 but actually.
Play the C-sharp, on the actual G.
Bar 9-10.
Nothing new.
I'm gonna give you another way to play
that bar 11.
A7 could be 6-5-0.
And then you grab the F-sharp here,
in line on the second string.
E-minor, 0-2-2-0.
A7 with the C-sharp on top.
F-sharp minor,
D-minor 6.
A, same as the other E-flat minor.
A-flat 7.
Here's where it changes.
That's bar 15.
C-sharp minor I do here.
6-6-4 and the melody is E,
C-sharp, so carry on in high E.
Come up to C-sharp.
Here's a fun way to play the F-sharp 7,
and then pluck.
The open E, so that's 9-8-9 there's the
and then E, E-minor, with the D there on
top, it's 4-4-5.
E7 with a G-sharp note on top, and
all you can do is really B and G-sharp,
but it looks like a resolution, and
it resolves nicely to this A chord,
B-sharp A.
Here, we come into the bridge, bar 17.
E-Minor has the G note.
you play the A7 then you just reach back
for those other notes.
The F-sharp, the open A, and the pinky B.
The A-minor is a bar in the middle of two
Here's another A7.
This time, it's 6-4-6-5.
So using the same shape of E-minor,
you simply have to get more of this
G/F-sharp, G/F-sharp.
A7 is the same, D I like all open 2-0-0-0.
D minor is great 0-0-1.
Top three strings.
And then I resolve to a G7, 0-3-2.
Here's your C chord with a D note on top,
Okay, F-sharp minor 7, but it's a B note.
What is that?
It's really an F-sharp minor sus four,
sus four is in the melody and B note, but
You resolves beautifully to this up B7,
2-1-2, B-minor 7
4-0-2, and then E7.
And back to the beginning,
well our 25 is like the beginning.
And like, that should really be A7 or 27.
The melody's the A note.
And I'm playing C-sharp in G under, six
and five.
E-minor, A7,
there's your C-sharp sound,
a little high open A.
Should be called C-sharp 7 plus five.
Here's bar 29, F-sharp,
sorry F-sharp minor is 6-4-0.
And C-sharp 7 is one, three.
Two, to the B note.
Is the melody.
A lot of chords here at the end so
here's bar 29.
A now with the C-sharp, F-sharp minor
chord with an E is 6-4-0-0.
G-sharp chord with the G-sharp note on top
is simply a G-sharp
chord with the G-sharp note on top.
[LAUGH] Then you just bring it up a half
step but transforming it into what looks
little like a D7 but
I'm drawing in a A diminish.
2-4-3-5, and a bar to get the F-sharp,
C-sharp minor, F-sharp minor, C-sharp
minor is
6-6-4-0, F-sharp minor is 6-4-0.
is 2-4-0-0, with an A note on top still.
An E7 is 1-2.
And A is A, double bar on the bottom okay,
I hope this helps.
[LAUGH] The solo man Lynn version.
All right look for you at the next holiday
Take care.
We've got first bar, A2, E7.
You know, I like having some open strings
if I can.
So 2, I'm sorry, 1-0-2-0.
Always nice, E7, A.
Now you've got B minor E7, second bar.
I would do the bottom three strings,
And you simply add 4-6-5.
Simply add that one, and that's B minor to
It's a classic 2-5.
Heading back to A.
B minor being the two chord, E7 being the
And we're back to A.
Now we've got E minor to A7 D.
A 2-5 to, to D.
The end of bar three.
E minor 7, A7 I would do.
It's not called an E minor 7, but that's
what I would play.
Again just wanna be one note.
Whenever you see a 2-5-1 progression,
there's a chance that you can do it by
just moving one note.
Cuz the two chords are so similar usually.
E-minor, A7, D.
[SOUND] I'm playing this D really simply
because what's coming next is C-Sharp 7
Sharp 5.
I don't actually play a seven, I play a
C-Sharp with a plus five, because.
[SOUND] As you see all I'm doing is moving
this chord.
Position back a half step and it becomes
People see C-Sharp 7 and
they go freaked out, what do I do?
Simply move the chord you are playing
backwards one the fret.
And leave that A open.
The normal note would be.
For C-Sharp would be G-Sharp.
But we're we're sharping it.
Making it G double Sharp of A.
There's your C-Sharp, 7 Sharp, five.
F-Sharp minor.
I like to go to things that are nearest
each other.
That's an F-Sharp minor.
D minor, 7-3-0.
Okay, I'm using the open A string a lot
through this whole area.
Fourth bar is D, C-Sharp with the open A,
F-Sharp with the open A, D minor with the
open A.
The least amount of motion I can find.
Keeps the voice leading really cozy, and
that you don't jump around.
E, then you're at bar six,
is where it starts getting hairy.
To analyze bar six you've got an A chord.
That E-Flat minor to A-Flat 7 to D-Flat,
think of that as 2-5-1 for the key of
Then D minor G7 C's, think of those three
as 2-5-1 for the key of C.
So however we do this, it's, you're taking
a chord progression, and
you're moving it down a half step 2-5-1 of
D-Flat 2-5-1 of G.
So your shapes can mirror this.
E Minor, E Flat Minor, A7, a simple
I know is 6-4-6-5-4-6 leads us to D-Flat.
you can play the D-Flat here at the sixth
6-6-7, I mean 6-6-8.
Or you can do a Bluegrass.
Not crazy about the Bluegrass position,
I like having a third in there.
And then D-minor.
That's a C.
Is the same kinda shape that we just did.
E-Flat, A-Flat, D.
Move it down then a half step.
D-minor, E7, C.
And this is the scariest moment in the
because it's such a, boy there's nothing
further away than a half step, you know.
Because it's like you're moving creepy
crawly style.
And you hear it in the melody.
Here's the E-Flat minor, A-Flat 7.
D-Flat 7, D minor, G7, C,
another 2-5, B Minor, E7,
A, leads us to Bar Nine.
You got this series of really three
Boom, boom, boom.
The first one is in bar, end of bar six.
2-5, a D-Flat.
Then the 2-5 of C is D minor G7, then the
2-5 of A is B minor E7.
Leads us to bar nine.
So the 2-5 is a, is a, is a modulation
Vehicle for modulation.
If you wanna go to a new key, do the 2-5
of it and you have,
it'll just lead you there naturally.
So it's a compositional tool really that,
that composers use in jazz especially as a
way of modulating.
Instead of just going someplace, the 2-5
helps lead you there in a soft way.
So you'll see these things in lots and
lots of jazz tunes.
Whenever you see a modulation,
chances are you're gonna see a 2-5 that's
gonna get you there.
So here we are at bar nine.
Repeating everything.
K, B-minor, A7,
all that is just like the beginning.
D minor, A7.
D, C-Sharp plus five, F-Sharp minor.
Here's another way to play D minor 6 at
bar 13.
Okay bar 14 is E-Flat to A-Flat
there's this.
It's as if we're going to D-Flat but
compositionally he does a fake out.
And instead of resolving it.
To D-Flat.
He introduces another one, C-Sharp,
F-Sharp, B minor.
That's the 2-5 of B minor.
So E-Flat minor, A-Flat,
really wants to pull to D-Flat, but we
Instead we do another modulation to
C-Sharp minor.
F-Sharp 7, B minor.
To the key of B minor.
Which is the 5.
I mean, which is the 2 of A to B Minor.
E7, as you see, leads us to A.
At the beginning of bar 16.
So it's a very cool.
Compositional trick.
You make the listener think they're gonna
go someplace, but instead,
you send them someplace else.
Which, which, in fact leads them right
back home, to the mother key.
Pretty, pretty hip device.
And the, and the E-Flat Minor.
Led us to D-Flat earlier.
So it's a way of harkening at something
that your mind already has heard.
And instead.
You wrap it around, and bring it on home.
That's the end of the, what we call the A
Now we're headed into,
to bar 17 which I think was the B.
Bar 17, 18, and 19, E minor A,
E minor A is all 2-5 of D which is the
beginning of Bar 20.
So all those things are pretending.
I'm going to D, nope.
I'm going to D, nope.
I'm going to D, yep.
E minor, the two.
Now we play right there in first position,
and the D is fine as an open chord.
Then D minor G7, C, bar 21, leads us,
that's a 2-5 of C.
I like C major 7 here,
cuz it's a jazzy sound, D minor, I would
play 5-3-5,
again, the G to make it a G7, [INAUDIBLE].
Low note back to three, I'm sorry, four,
three, five, and a C major 7,
you get that bar in the middle of two
strings, I'm playing C on the fifth fret.
So now F-Sharp to B7.
What that is is a 2-5 of E.
All right?
F-Sharp minor, and I'll play
here 6-4 of B7, you could play here.
In first position, 2-1-2.
And then this is another device that gets
used a lot.
You do a 2-5 and now he's turned the B7
into a minor at the beginning of bar 24.
Making it minor again turns it into the 2
the 2-5 going back to A in bar 25.
Very cool sound, a sound you'll hear a
So we have F-Sharp, B7, B minor, E7, A And
it, again it's a way to wrap us back to
the key of A so
that we can finish this tune [LAUGH].
F-Sharp minor.
Couple different ways you could do it.
You could go up here.
But then you're kinda stuck.
And that's one, that's option.
Here it is,
9-7-9 is F-Sharp minor.
8-7-9 is B7.
Now were going to, what's the easiest way
to transform this into B minor 7 is
to bring the B note down and make it look
just like a B chord.
7-7-9 is actually B minor 7 in this
And the closest E7.
And that is quite beautiful voice leading,
you must admit, because again, not much is
moving, one note at a time.
Move one note, you're at B7, move one
note, you're at B minor 7, bring the notes
from the top down and you're at E.
So the whole back part of the tune, is the
2-5 of A, 2-5 of D.
The D, I like as a major 7.
And here's another way to play it.
I'm going to give
you another version of C-Sharp, 7 Sharp 5,
second half part of 28.
I actually didn't write the Sharp 5 note
in there, but I'm going to right now.
That's C-Sharp 7, right?
You already know C7 like this.
Simply C-Sharp, and the upper note would
be bar only as a fifth but by Sharp again.
It's now C-Sharp 7, Sharp 5.
F-Sharp minor,
C-Sharp 7, A, F-Sharp, G-Sharp.
I do a very square G-Sharp.
And then I do this diminished,
only because it leads so nicely.
It's really, looks like a D7, but
in this instance it's functioning as an A
A, F-Sharp C, A, that's 2-4-3-5.
So what's the easiest way to play this
next to the last bar?
A chord on every beat.
So we want stuff that's close by.
Here's C-Sharp minor.
5, 6-6-7.
F-Sharp minor's really beautiful right
6-4-0 and a nice easy B minor 7 is
simply stick the fourth fret with the
other two strings open.
And this E7 is nice.
And it leads back to A,
any kind of A you wish, I don't mind
though, the open one, really.
So there's your chords, and a sort of
theoretical analysis, numerically, of them
all, which is hopefully handy.
It's something you guys should be thinking
Rather than just grabbing chords and
saying oh,
it's an E-Flat, oh it's an A-Flat.
Little bit of why is not a bad thing.
What is that chord trying to tell us and,
and where is it leading us.
And how does it relate to what comes right
after it.
So seeing these little chunks of 2-5's
here and there in a tune like this.
It's really gonna to help you.
Because as a improviser, it's also giving
you a tonal center.
When you see D Minor, G7, C,
you should be thinking about during that
time I'm in the Key of C.
I'm talking about Bar 8 right now.
If you back up into the middle part of Bar
7 or Bar 6.
Sorry, I was talking about part seven.
The E-Flat, minor A, Flat 7, D-Flat, that
whole area is the key of D-Flat.
So, you know, you could almost draw boxes
around these sections and think of them.
This is that key for that moment when
you're improvising.
And it, it certainly help you.
All right goodo nice work.
Hope you enjoyed this.
We will now go the solo mandolin version.
Take care.