How to play JAZZ on the mandolin

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 Surround Notes in Soloing

Red Garland jazz


The idea of surrounding a note before playing that specific note is as old as music itself.  Surrounds can create a logical clash that resolves when the final note is played, making for a more interesting musical line.  If a player can add this to their improvising, it can improve their sound a lot. 

Bebop players took this surround idea to new heights, using the idea of a TARGET note and SURROUNDING and APPROACHING that target in very cool ways.  Charlie Parker, Red Garland, Hampton Hawes and most other boppers used this quite a bit. Clifford Brown probably developed it to its highest degree.  Any Clifford solo will show a ton of this (check out Clifford's Confirmation solo on the transcriptions page).

Look at the example below.  Our target is the C note.  We surround it by playing a B and D just before C.  Play this and listen how it works. 

Surround lick 1


We can use more notes as a run up to B or down to D before the final resolution to C.

surround notes 2


In the music examples above, we used only notes in the key, which here are just the notes of the C major scale.  Surround notes can easily be chromatic as well.  Here are 2 improvised lines I hear often on bebop recordings.

surround 3


You can surround to any chord tone.  Here is a surround to G, the 5th of a C chord with cool chromatic approaches.

surround 4


Here is a surround to E, the 3rd of a C chord.

surround 5


Here is a phrase shown on the improvising page under "Bebop Phrase 2".  The "X's" are chord tones (root, 3rd, fifth, sixth, seventh).  Look how they are used as targets and approached either chromatically or chromatic/surround.  Also notice how it sounds so much like bebop era improvisation. 

bebop phrase 2


Eventually practice these ideas in all keys on all common chord types.  You can find more on this subject by downloading the free PDF book Bebop Mandolin: Target Notes and Chromatic Approaches by going to the books page HERE.



Best of luck and have fun learning Jazz!

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