Duke Ellington: It Don't Mean a Thing

Duke Ellington
Cover of Duke Ellington


 "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington, with lyrics by Irving Mills, now accepted as a jazz standard. The music was written and arranged by Ellington in August 1931 during intermissions at Chicago's Lincoln Tavern and was first recorded by Ellington and his orchestra for Brunswick Records (Br 6265) on February 2, 1932. Ivie Anderson sang the vocal and trombonist Joe Nanton and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges played the instrumental solos. The title was based on the oft stated credo of Ellington's former trumpeter Bubber Miley, who was dying of tuberculosis. The song became famous, Ellington wrote, "as the expression of a sentiment which prevailed among jazz musicians at the time." Probably the first song to use the phrase "swing" in the title, it introduced the term into everyday language and presaged the swing era by three years. The Ellington band played the song continually over the years and recorded it numerous times, most often with trumpeter Ray Nance as vocalist."
You can see the list of notable recording artists, here.


"You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it."
Duke Ellington
 


So, here I am playing this famous song that I love on my old acoustic piano,  that so badly needs tuning. I slowed the tempo down quite a bit so you can listen to the chord changes. 


  Chords I Am Playing in the Video

Gm    Gm/F   Eb7 D7    Gm  Gm/F    Em7b5  Eb7
What good is melody, what good is mu - sic

Gm     Gm/F    Em7b5    Eb7      D7#5  Gm
If it ain't possessin' something sweet?

Gm/7         Eb7 D7    Gm Gm/F   Em7b5  Eb7
It ain't the melody, it ain't the mu - sic --

Gm      Gm/F      Em7b5     Eb7       A7/E  Eb7   D7
There's something else that makes the tune complete.


   Gm                  Gm/F   Eb7  D7       Gm
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing --

C7/G             Gb7b5            Cm7/F       Bb6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat.

D7#5 Gm   Gm/F  Em7b5   Eb7    D7#5   Db7    C7          
It don't mean a thing, all you got to do is sing --

C7/G               Gb7b5               Cm7/F                   Bb6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat.


F#dim7  Bb7                                    Eb
It makes no diff'rence if that rhythm's sweet or hot,

F#m7  C7       F#dim7  C7             F7   G7
Just give that rhythm ev'rything you got.


D7#5   Gm               Gm/F   Eb7   D7      Gm
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing --

C7/G             Gb7b57                             
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat,

Cm7/F                                Bb6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-waaaa.
 
You might want to check out this software that will help you with your rhythm, 
especially for practice and recording time, Back Pocket Band Video. 

I found a chord chart, easy one online:

It Don't Mean A Thing
(If It Ain't Got That Swing)

Words & Music by Duke Ellington, 1932
Recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, 1966


Em           D        C           C7   B7
What good is melody, what good is mu - sic

Em           D         C           C7   B7
If it ain't possessin' something sweet?

Em           D       C            C7   B7
It ain't the melody, it ain't the mu - sic --

        Em                   D        C        C7   B7
There's something else that makes the tune complete.


   Em            B+          Em7            Em6
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing --

A7               D7               G6               C7  B7
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat.

   Em            B+            Em7          Em6
It don't mean a thing, all you got to do is sing --

A7               D7               G6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat.


Dm7          G7                CM7/6             CM7
It makes no diff'rence if that rhythm's sweet or hot,

Em7            A7     D7             C7   B7
Just give that rhythm ev'rything you got.


   Em            B+   Cdim   Em7   Cdim      Em6
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing --

A7               D7               G6               Gdim
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat,

A7               Cdim                  G6
Doo-wat doo-wat, doo-wat doo-wat, doo-waaaa.

Chord Credit: The Guitar Guy

From a former post, here's chords to When My Sugar Walks Down The Street.

Some more cool songs by the Duke:

Ain't Misbehaving
Blue Skies
Come Rain or Come Shine
Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington Version)


Many Jazz Standards, from All of Me to You Turned the tables on Me can be found in adding this songbook to your library, The Best Jazz Standards Ever (Best Ever)

Best,

 




"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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Monday Music Quote: Warming Up




 From the website of Levon Ichkhanian:

 "Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderness"
Rumi

Warming Up by Levon Ichkhanian

Warming up is a very personal experience, almost ritualistic. I once interviewed a world-renowned classical guitarist who told me that on the day of the performance he doesn't look at the music he will be playing. Instead, his warm-up is eight hours of scales and arpeggios.

As I played in The Lord of the Rings orchestra, I was part of a musical team that included brass, horns, strings, keyboards, accordion and percussion. I was also surrounded by actors, dancers and singers. It was very interesting to me to observe the variety of warm-up techniques used by all. I came to realize that there are many ways of warming up before a show that don't include the instrument.

Before I get to what I learned through that experience, here are some examples of exercises to get your hands agile and ready on the guitar (or piano) in C major.

Exercise 1 
C major scale:

C D E F /  G A B C /  D E F G / A B C (walking quarter notes)

Exercise 2 
An intervallic warm-up in major thirds:

C, E, D, F, E, G, F, A / G, B, A, C, B, D, C, E / D, F, E, G, F, A, G, B / A, C (running eighth notes)

Exercise 3
C major arpeggio:

C E G C / E G C

How to apply these exercises:

* Warm up by using other intervals (4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves...)
* Play all the exercises in all twelve keys.
* Play all the exercises at a slow tempo and increase it as you move along.
* All exercises should be practiced in ascending and descending patterns.
* Start by using only down strokes and switch to alternate picking as you move along.
* Try a tremolo.


When I was working with The Lord Of The Rings orchestra, I was fascinated by everyone's warm-up rituals - the horn players warming up their lungs, percussionists warming up their arms and feet, string players bowing, keyboardists running drills, singers/actors/dancers stretching...


I learned that warming up before a performance goes beyond techniques and practice. There are other things that you can do in body and in spirit, and I thought about how they could be applied into a guitarist's warm-up routine.


A warm-up could be:


1. Visual: visualization of the music, fingerings.
2. Physical: get your body relaxed and flexible through Yoga or stretching.
3. Aural: sing your parts, so that you can commit them to memory.
4. Combine all of the above.


When you are warming up for your next performance, consider how you can add these into your routine.


Hear and Play is having a sale on their piano software where you can use free midis to learn the piano. Visit, Songrobot.

 Best Wishes,








"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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Monday Music Quote: Kevin Kjos




Quotes by Dr. Kevin Kjos

 "I believe much more in effort than talent. Talent is for the movies; effort is real life."
"The rule at my university is: Don't miss rehearsal. Period."
"In my experience, the more challenging the music, the more the students like it, and often the more rewarding is the experience."
Dr. Kevin Kjos is director of Jazz Studies and assistant professor of Trumpet at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.


Recently I looked at a guest editorial of his, How to Build a Jazz Program. Here are the main points.


1. Have a Goal

Coltrane became a legendary player as a result of the hours he put into his art - no one gave him his talent, he earned it.


2. Practice Fundamentals and Have a Routine

Practice the elements on your instrument that will produce a beautiful, legato sound... the goal is to make a sound like your favorite player in the style your working on.


3. Never Miss or Come Late to Rehearsal

Remember, we're all in this together. Every other member of the ensemble is counting on you.


4. Be Prepared

It ends up being a much more fun rehearsal if the ensemble can actually perform the music we're working on without too many stops and starts.


5. Know the Style

I almost always play recordings in rehearsal for the ensembles, to try and get "into our ears" the sounds of the great bands. It's amazing how much better the ensemble plays just after hearing a recording. 


6. Program Interesting Music - Aim High

In my experience, the more challenging the music, the more the students like it, and often the more rewarding is the experience.


7. Motivation - Bring in the Masters

When I get comments from my students every year about what they would like to see more of in our program, a large majority say "bring in more clinicians." I think the reason is that they want as many points of view as possible, enjoy playing for a new "set of ears," the opportunity to meet their heroes and get to know them personally and have a goal for rehearsals.


8. The Buddy System


Through observation and imitation the newbie develops the skills of the master. Practicing with another (not duets, but rather "switching off") can provide motivation to get into the practice room and practice with intensity.


9. Anything is Possible

Although once a controversial topic, it is becoming more and more apparent from scientific research that great musicians are made, not born. (I know, however,  there's exceptions to the rule.) This is great news for the jazz program from junior high to college. Research is showing us that anyone can reach an elite level of performance. If one engages in "goal oriented" practice in a diligent way, there is nothing that can hold a student back.

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"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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Monday Music Quote: Frank Macchia

English: Frank Macchia
English: Frank Macchia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Monday Music Quote: Frank Macchia

 "I recently read Here, There and Everywhere by the Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick and it got me to pull out Sgt. Pepper and I realized once again why they were the huge phenomena of their time. There was nothing like this when it came out and it still holds up today, in my opinion." -- Frank Macchia
Composer/arranger/saxophonist frank Macchia has collaborated with such legends as Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson,  and Ella Fitzgerald. Frank has written and orchestrated music for a number of television shows and films. If you remember the movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Macchia helped with some of the orchestration.

Macchia's song, "Black Is The Color of My True Love's Hair," off of his 2007 album, Emotions, is a great song. For more information, visit www.frankmacchia.net

 What Are Blue Notes?
Expert Author Diana Rogers

Blue notes are specific flattened tones used in jazz and rock melodies. They create a specific quality of sound known as "blue."

When I play a simple melody line from a nursery song, like London Bridges, it is easy to pull out the melody to a familiar tune. If I wanted to color in more sound, like adding color to a painting with crayons and paints, then I would throw in an Eb note that moves to the E note.

Blue notes like to return to their neighbor tone one half step higher. Blue notes and their half step higher tones add a special feeling that first sounds a bit dark, then it has a lighter sound to the song.

Neighboring tones lead to chord tones. Let's talk a little more about these neighboring tones when the melody goes back and forth with a non-harmonic tone that is a half or whole step placed in the melody.

An upper neighboring tone is a note that is chromatically and/or diatonically above another note. When we talk about a lower neighboring tone, we say that is a note diatonically or chromatically below another note.

Why do we use these specific tones? Well, they serve as a way for the piano player to improvise. When we flat a tone that will provide the melody line with that tension and release sound. Remember that neighboring tones are non-harmonic. Usually you will play them on a weak beat.

Here are a few written examples of music notes to play in a measure. Start with single notes in your right hand.

Example One:

B, B, Bb, B, D.

Example Two:
D, Eb (blue note), E, C, D, C.

Blue notes are flattened tones on the 3rd and 5th steps of the major scale that always return to the neighboring tone one half step higher. They make a huge difference in sound. Begin by playing these notes in a row to hear what I am saying: C, D, Eb, E, F, Gb, G.

Just within one measure, you will find places to add blue notes for improvising. The choice is yours. Here is what I mean. Play these single notes for one measure that receives four beats to the measure. So that means you will be playing some eighth notes along with quarter notes; Eb to E, Eb to E then play Gb to G.

Have fun creating new melodies with Blue Notes.

Listen to Frank Macchia, http://www.frankmacchia.net/jazz-music-landscapes.php

Black Is The Color of My True Love's Hair
http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/c/corrs/black_is_the_colour_crd.htm

Intro : 
C D Em

  C      D                   Em
Black is the colour of my true loves hair
  C         D              Em
His lipes are like some roses fair
  C       D                 Em
He has the sweetest smile and the gentlest hands
  Am        Bm           Em
And I love the ground whereon he stands
  C       D               Em
I love my love and well he knows
  C        D         Em
I love the ground whereon he goes
  C         D          Em
I wish that day would soon come
  Am        Bm          Em
When he and I can be as one

Solo : C D Em

  C         D              Em
I go to the Clyde and I mourn and weep
  C         D        Em
For satisfied I never sleep
  C              D        Em
I write him letters just a few short lines
  C      D                Em
And suffer death ten thousand times

  C           D          Em
Black is the colour of my true loves hair
  C            D          Em
His lips are like some roses fair
  C             D          Em
He has the sweetest smile and the gentlest hands
  Am          Bm           Em
And I love the ground whereon he stands
  Am           Bm             Em
I love the ground whereon he stands
  Am          Bm              Em
I love I love I love the ground whereon he stands

C D Em

Black Is The Color
http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/c/christy_moore/black_is_the_colour_crd.htm

     Am           F           G          Am
 verse1:black is the colour of my true loves hair
                     F           C      E7
        her lips are like some roses fair
                             F    C                E7
        she had the sweetest smile and the gentelest hands
                       F      G         Am
        and i love the ground whereon she stands 
 
Interested in being trained by Jason White? Visit, Jason White Teaches Gospel 
 
 




"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life." -- Art Blakey
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