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Learn to play the 1920s and ’30s chord melody and rhythm guitar styles of Eddie Lang, Nick Lucas, Freddie Green, Carl Kress, and other early jazz greats. With chord melody solos to popular swing melodies, advanced rhythm guitar techniques, and acoustic jazz picking techniques.
Matt Munisteri is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter based in New York City. A freewheeling and virtuosic guitarist on both acoustic and electric guitar—in music both modern and old-fashioned—he credits the early jazz plectrists of the 1920s and ’30s with providing the foundation for his technique and musical direction. As one of a relatively small number of authoritative acoustic jazz guitarists playing swing and early jazz, Matt has recorded extensively and is a first-call guitarist when a “period” sound is sought for CDs, film scores, and commercials. He has performed on A Prairie Home Companion, Jazz Night in America: Jazz at Lincoln Center, E-Town, Mountain Stage, and Michael Feinstein’s Song Travels.
Learn some of the essential chord voicings you’ll need to know to start playing 1920s-style chord melody, including the three major and minor triad voicings on the top three strings. With Notation/Tab
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The Roots of Jazz Guitar Matt Munisteri talks about the acoustic jazz guitar styles of the 1920s and ’30s that he’ll be teaching in this course, as exemplified by players like Eddie Lang, Nick Lucas, Dick McDonough, Carl Kress, Lonnie Johnson, and others.
Matt Munisteri’s 1930 Gibson L-5 Guitar Matt talks about one of his 1930 Gibson L-5 guitars in this video. He discusses the history of the L-5 a bit and how he acquired this particular instrument.
CHORD MELODY BASICS
ROOTS OF JAZZ RHYTHM GUITAR
MORE CHORD MELODY VOICINGS
DYAD RHYTHM There are times when you’re playing with a band, especially if you’re playing an amplified archtop guitar, that the sound of full chords is too much. In this lesson Matt shows you a style of rhythm he’s developed that involves playing two-note chords, or dyads. He uses “Pennies from Heaven” as an example of dyad rhythm, explaining which notes of the chord are essential to include in the dyad, and walking you through the dyad voicings he uses to play “Pennies from Heaven.”
TURNAROUNDS In this lesson, you’ll learn some cycles of chords that can be used as intros, endings, and turnarounds between sections of a song. Matt starts with the common iii–Vi–ii–V progression, explaining the basic progression and giving you a few examples of iii–Vi–ii–V turnarounds in the keys of F and Eb. Next he shows you the common I–I7–IV–iv turnaround often used as an ending by people like Eddie Lang and Nick Lucas. Then he goes on to cover turnarounds with a diminished chord substituted for the VI, both a diminished chord built on the root and one a half step above the root. Finally, he shows you how, once you’ve learned a number of turnarounds, you can use them to play solos on “rhythm changes” (the chords to “I Got a Rhythm”), which is used for many songs.
MORE JAZZ SONGS
Exactly Like You “Exactly Like You” is a well-known tune from the swing and Gypsy jazz repertoire. It’s in the key of C and has a distinctive melody, featuring a phrase of descending parallel fourths over the I chord and then the II7. Matt starts by singing it through so you can hear the melody and the basic chord progression. Then he shows you a chord melody arrangement of “Exactly Like You,” a basic version as well as some variations with internal movement.
Tiptoe Through the Tulips Nick Lucas’s biggest hit was undoubtedly his 1929 recording of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” Matt starts by singing and playing the song, showing you the chords he uses to back up the melody. Lucas’s solos on “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” combine the melody with arpeggios and some of his odd distinctive flourishes. The solo you’ll learn here is a combination of some of Matt’s favorite Lucas licks and a few of his own. The bridge is more of a chord melody solo and includes a couple of strange harmonic choices typical of Lucas’s playing.
Blue Guitar Stomp “Blue Guitar Stomp” is an early jazz/blues guitar tune recorded by Clifford Hayes’s Louisville Stompers in 1927 with Cal Smith on guitar. Smith played it on tenor guitar, but it works just as well on standard guitar, although there are some tricky fingerings. Matt walks you through the first two choruses Smith played, showing you the fingerings he uses to match Smith’s phrasing.
Chinatown The jazz standard “Chinatown” is popular among traditional jazz, Gypsy jazz, early swing, and Western swing musicians. “Chinatown, My Chinatown” was written in 1906 and became a jazz classic when Louis Armstrong recorded it in the early 1930s. It’s usually played at a very fast tempo, and the chord melody arrangement you’ll learn here includes some subtle things that you can still play when the tempo heats up.
Lang Licks and “Got Everything But You”You’ve learned about some aspects of Eddie Lang’s rhythm style, but there are some key things that Eddie Lang does in his single-note lines that make his playing distinctive. Matt shows one of his signature runs, along with some variations, all of which lead into the third of the chord, often in the key of D or Eb. You can hear this very clearly on his recording with singer Alma Rotter of “Got Everything But You,”which includes a solo where Lang plays a wild version of the lick. Matt plays and sings “Got Everything But You” and then shows you Lang’s solo.
Memories of You The beautiful ballad “Memories of You” was written in 1930 by pianist Eubie Blake and lyricist Andy Razaf. In his arrangement, Matt plays the melody of the A part primarily on the third string, with voicings on the lower strings of the guitar, as opposed to most of the other chord melody arrangements you’ve learned so far, which have put the melody on the first string. The bridge moves up into the upper octave with voicings that will be more familiar from previous lessons.
Happy Feet “Happy Feet” is a favorite of 1920s hot-jazz aficionados, and was originally recorded by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra with Bing Crosby. It’s in the key of Eb, but starts on the relative minor of Eb: C minor. Matt’s chord melody arrangement of “Happy Feet” requires more pick control than some arrangements, with chord voicings that don’t move around as much, but you’ll need to be careful which strings you’re hitting with your pick in order to bring out the melody.
A Little Love, A Little Kiss Eddie Lang’s solo guitar piece “A Little Love, A Little Kiss” was written in the first decade of the 20th century by the Italian composer Lao Silesu. Matt’s version is based on Lang’s but has evolved somewhat since he first learned it 20 years ago or so. The piece is played rubato, and is a reflection of Lang’s European background more than the blues tradition. Matt talks about playing rubato, using the intro to the tune to demonstrate and then walks you through his arrangement of “A Little Love, A Little Kiss.”
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter The 1930s jazz standard “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” was popularized by Fats Waller. It’s often played at a fast tempo, but Fats recorded it at a medium tempo, which is reflected in Matt’s chord-melody arrangement of the song. In addition to a basic chord-melody arrangement, Matt shows you some idiomatic 1920s and ’30s chord-melody style variations with a lot of internal movement.
Chicken à la Swing: Melody Guitar A and B PartsThis is the first installment in a three-part lesson on the classic guitar duet “Chicken à la Swing,” written by Dick McDonough and recorded in 1937 by McDonough and Carl Kress. You’ll learn both guitar parts to all five sections (and intro) of the tune, starting with the melody part, which was played by Dick McDonough. In this installment of the lesson, Matt shows you the intro, A part, and B part.
Chicken à la Swing: Melody Guitar C and D Parts The C section of “Chicken à la Swing” is in the key of F, and Dick McDonough’s melody part consists of single-note lines. It’s a short eight-bar part that is repeated with minor variations. After the C part, there’s a two-bar interlude where the tempo abruptly comes down to about half time, and the fourth part continues at the slower tempo, with a series of ascending thirds and some string bends up the neck. After the D section, there’s a repeat of the A section, followed by the intro, with a two-bar ending.
Chicken à la Swing: Carl Kress’s Part In this lesson, you’ll learn Carl Kress’s guitar part to “Chicken à la Swing,” an accompaniment to Dick McDonough’s melody part, but not exactly a rhythm guitar part, as Kress plays bass lines and counter melodies as well as chords.
Fascinating Rhythm “Fascinating Rhythm” is a Gershwin song from the 1924 musical “Lady Be Good” and was made famous by Cliff Edwards and Fred Astaire. It’s rhythmically challenging, harmonically complex, and is often played at a fast tempo. Matt starts by whistling the melody while playing rhythm so you can hear the basic chord progression with the melody. Then he walks you through his arrangement of the tune, which features some banjo-style passages. He finishes by giving you advice on picking technique.
Wabash Blues The song “Wabash Blues” was popular with country and early jazz musicians, with recordings by the Delmore Brothers and Bob Wills as well as Duke Ellington and Sidney Bechet, among others. Matt’s chord melody arrangement “Wabash Blues” is centered in 1930s-style jazz, with some cool contrary motion lines and different ways to fill in the melody when a note is held for a bar or more.
Contrary Motion Fingerbusters In this lesson, Matt gives you some examples of the kinds of contrary motion phrases he uses inspired by early jazz guitarists and pianists. He talks about what inspired these lines and gives you a few one- and two-bar examples in a few different keys.
Two Sleepy People “Two Sleepy People” was written by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser for the 1938 film Thanks for the Memory, where the song was sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross, but Fats Waller’s recorded version is probably the most popular. Matt’s chord melody arrangement in the key of Eb uses a lot of full voicings, with some bass notes on the fifth and sixth strings, and block chords on the top, giving it a 1930s-style swing guitar flavor.
Check out these songs and guitarists featured in the Roots of Jazz Guitar course.