Chord Combinations for the Lizard Ear, Cont’d From the Pros!
By Ted Eschliman
About The Lizard Brain
The premise of last month’s Jazz Mandology was simple. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in the rules and construction principles of music theory, and we forget to JUST LISTEN. An architect can look at a structure and get lost in the math and physics in the design, and miss the notion that the building is just simply–beautiful. Musicians, same thing. It’s this “Lizard Brain” appeal, the subconsciously primal satisfaction of a great mandolin chord combination we wanted to explore, and last time we uncovered a few of our own out of the arsenal of personal favorites.
Review: April 2010, Chord Combinations for the Lizard Ear http://www.mandolinsessions.com/?p=567
We decided to take this concept to some of our favorite professionals in the industry, and we asked them “What are your personal ‘Lizard Ear’ chords? When you audition someone’s instrument to sample its full sonority, or just like to hit something in the privacy of the front porch, pleasant and primal, what are your special chords and/or chord combinations?” We were pleased to get so many that we can’t even fit them in this session, so we’ll be bringing you another installment of these next time, too.
Stick with the mission of the article and listen to these first for sound. Play them; get them into your ears and fingers. Later, you might want to use the brain for chord analysis and transposition, but for now, just listen. We hope these might be fodder for a whole new fertile field of chord voicings for you, as well.
The first batch of chords is from author and master musician Wayne Fugate whose experience in bluegrass, jazz, and classical styles, having benefited from the tutelage of Mike Marshall and Barry Mitterhoff, has brought him to stage and studio with some of acoustic music’s finest, including Tony Trischka, Mark Cosgrove, and the New York Mandolin Orchestra. We’d like to let the cat out of the bag and tell you about a project he has in the oven at Mel Bay, he’s taken about 35 Bach keyboard pieces and arranged them for instruments of equal voice (two mandolins, two violins, etc.) The bulk of the work is done except for the accompaniment CD and he’s enlisted some pretty great players to join him in the recording. Perhaps a CD for commercial release will come out of it, too.
Wayne weighs in first with “a nice chord sequence that could be used as an ending for a tune in G.”
“And two that could end a tune in Cm.”
Wayne reports, “These chords come from the opening of a Mike Marshall composition, ‘Jacob Do Bandolim’ which he recorded with his group ‘Montreaux’ on the CD ‘Sign Language’ in 1987. I just love the way these chords sound together!”
Vermonter Will Patton continues to break new ground with a healthy discography of incredible acoustic string jazz. He has wielded his classic Gibson teens A body instrument on four widely popular CD projects, “Peripherique,” “Lattitudes and Departures,” “String Theory,” and his latest, “6th Street Runaround,” every one of them an intense study, a virtual laboratory in gypsy, bebop, and South American jazz . By the time you read this, he will be immersed in his west coast US tour in the Bay Area mostly, and another recording project. He recounts, “The new CD progress is slow & steady. I’ve got about 6 or 7 new tunes, including some more trad material – waltzes and purty songs, which I love messing with.” For instrumentally “investigative” chords he tells us, “I’m most likely to strum a big G6 or C6 type chord. I like to hear the open strings and get the top to vibrating.”
Letting the A & E strings ring he continues, “I like those circle of 5ths:”
“And this progression:”
The fact that you’re reading this article on the internet is a pretty good clue you’re familiar with the work of the web’s premiere resource for mandolin information, including news, break-through products, mandolin celebrity interviews, and discussion. Scott Tichenor has been one of the most important catalysts for the explosion in the mandolin’s popularity over the last two decades with his website, the MandolinCafe.com. What many don’t know is he is an incredible picker himself, and quite often teaches clinics in and around his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. Scott graced us with a precious 5-chord tidbit in which he explains, “This pattern is based on the opening chords of the early jazz standard ‘Slow Boat To China.’ Hard for me to pick up a mandolin and not do this at some point in the session (I call it mindless chord noodling), and the pattern goes beyond what I’ve provided and just keeps moving up the neck.
For the first, you *could* play that as a G7 as a four-note chord with root on the E and it would work, but the second as an A7–not in that song to my (lizard) ear. I’m from the school of 3-notes per chord on the mandolin for this kind of music. That E string can just go off in the corner and wait to be called upon. What I like about this: smooth transition. Very little hand movement results in great chord tones that free up other musicians. Very guitar-like in some ways.”
Canadian Tonemeister, Emory Lester contributes, “Attached is a small chart of chords that I ‘like’ to mess with (like when I try out a mandolin, etc.). I also use these in my songs, and many others as well. Each one is a ‘different flavor of Doritos,’ as an old cowboy once told me.”
He adds modestly, “I don’t have an ‘educated’ musical background, and for the most part I am an ‘instinct’ player, soI don’t really know the ‘official’ name of some of these chords…. If you recognize these or can figure their definition out, please feel free to add that to them. Also, I [listed] eight of them, categorized together in ‘pairs’.”
Emory’s “Reminiscing Today” project is scheduled for ‘re-release’ in mid-June, with Music River Productions from North Carolina Also, Mark Johnson and his new ‘Acoustic Vision‘ was just released, along with ‘Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa’, who he has been touring with now for over a year.
We’ve enjoyed getting to know Bebop and Texas Swingmaster Paul Glasse personally over the last few years. Paul has an exceptional pioneer spirit and has taken his Monteleone A body acoustic mandolin and his fiery Signature 5-string Stevens electric mandolin places no one ever dared venture before. We’ve had the pleasure of working with him in some clinics, and part of his “different way to skin a cat” approach to chord voicings is his extraordinary nimble fingers. Some of his chords could be a challenge to those of us with fat, stubby finger, but the results are very much worth the effort. Take a look at these chords and give them time to settle in as you stretch into some new positions. (Note he tends to live by the “every string has a finger” approach, verses using barre chords.) Paul explains the left chord diagram, “Not sure what is best to call this one as it’s got both an augmented fifth and a perfect fifth. (Do we call the first one a flat sixth in this case?) I treat this like a very aggressive dominant V chord in the key of G. So: D alt of some sort…” Again, our point about getting too wrapped up in the details, this is an excellent example of “just going for a sound.” As he mentioned, think of it as some form of a V7 chord. Season to taste!
Continuing, “Double stops implying I vi ii V in key of G (I use this sequence as: G, E7#9, Am7, D aug):”
“Altered III/VI/ii/V stuff in key of G:”
Now, Paul totally changes gears. “Sometimes it’s nice to play up all the open ringy stuff mandolin provides in certain keys, not specifying (or committing to) thirds in many of the chords. Here’s a I V IV I option in the key of A. With the exception of the closing chord this works in major or minor — this also works well for that so-called “modal” non-committal, major-minor, bluesy stuff.”
As we mentioned, we had too many to print this time, but we’ve got more coming from John McGann, Evan Marshall, Eva Scow, Jamie Masefield, and a few surprises. Meantime, get to know these chords; enjoy them as they are first and foremost, then later tear them up and apply them to other positions, or tinker with the ingredients you like to make a recipe for a totally new cake.
By the way, if you ever want a title summary of all the JazzMandology topics (over three dozen, now!) here’s a page that lists them: http://jazzmando.com/mandolin_sessions.shtml. There’s a lot to uncover there, and Mel Bay Publishing has brought these all to you for free. Pretty generous, huh? Share them with your Facebook and Twitter friends.
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Guest contributor websites:
Wayne Fugate: http://www.facebook.com/wayne.fugate
Scott Tichenor: http://mandolincafe.com
Emory Lester: http://www.emorylester.com/
Will Patton: http://wpatton.com/
Paul Glasse: http://paulglasse.com/