Mickylee - jazz guitar expert

How to Rearrange Jingle Bells

An introduction to jazz rearranging on the guitar

In his first video, extracted from a full lesson on 4 different carols, Mickylee teaches you how to approach a simple Christmas carol like "Jingle Bells" and spice it up with some beautiful jazzy chords.

Released on December 2, 2020

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi. My name is Mickylee, welcome to this video for Virtual Sheet Music. I'm a guitar player, arranger, composer, and a guitar teacher residing in Vienna, Austria. And I've been working with Virtual Sheet Music for many years now. Mostly, I did guitar arrangements, but I've also done some work for other instruments and ensembles.

So the first topic that I want to discuss today would be arrangements. What kinds of arrangements? Well, on Virtual Sheet Music you have a lot of arrangements and many of them are maybe too hard, too simple. Maybe you don't like one of the details and so. But I want to give you some ideas how you can maybe improve on that or maybe change some things or maybe make it more simple, maybe make it more complicated, how to fit it to your own style. I'm coming from jazz and rock music, and I don't know, where are you coming, where you are coming from, but I guess many of you will have classical background.

So there is some difference in approach to playing classical guitar or jazz guitar, and I hope this video is going to give you some insights, some new ideas as to how to approach or these arrangements that you learn. Okay, I've chosen Christmas carols for this lesson. There are three Christmas carols, Christmas Carol collections, on Virtual Sheet Music, a site. The first two were done by Fabrizio Ferrari and Robert Phillips. And third one was done by me. I've chosen some songs from all three, and I want to play them for you and to discuss some various things we can do with these arrangements. I'm going to assume that a lot of you or all of you know basic music theory like chords, like scales, like arpeggios, notes, also extensions, ninths, 11ths 13ths. But if you don't, don't worry, you're going to be able to follow this lesson.

Nevertheless, if you want to, you can comment on the lesson and ask questions. I'm going to do my best to answer you these questions. And maybe I'm going to, in one of follow-up videos, I'm going to discuss your questions. I'm going to try to answer them as best as I can. So without further ado, let's dive right into it. So the first song that I chose was Jingle Bells, of course. This is the probably most famous Christmas song. And you can find it in Christmas Carols volume one. Okay.

What I thought for this lesson was I didn't prepare these arrangements really well. So I didn't learn them really well. I wanted to show you more the approach. How would I approach a song or arrangement? So I wanted you to follow right from the beginning. Not like when I already know the arrangement. I know the fingerings. I know everything very well. This is totally different picture, but now I'm at the beginning. So I guess where you are also. So we'll start. I'm going to play arrangement once, and then we are going to talk about it. I'm going to give you some ideas, how I would maybe change some things and so on. Okay. So it goes like this.

By the way, I'm not that good of a side reader, so please have patience with me. (silence).

Okay. (silence).

So first of all, we know learning songs, I would encourage you to first learn the melody very, very well because the melody is the main thing in the song. And if we play melody well, all of the other things that we do are going to fit in somehow. If we play the most fancy chords, but the melody doesn't stick out, then it's not going to work. Okay, this melody is really famous and it's really simple. We just try to do it like this. (silence).

When you learn the melody really well, and by heart, then you can start doing the rest. So let's see. What we had here, the first chord that we have is this one G major. G D B B. This one.

This is really hard for me to play. Why? Because my whole life I used to play with pick all the time. So if I need to skip strings between these two fingers, between I and M, this is hard for me and in this chord, this is really the case. So we have two strings here. E and A string, and then I skipped D string and I go straight to G string and to B string.

This is not something I'm comfortable with. So basically this will probably be the first thing I would change. We have notes, G D B and D. If you notice that I said D twice, so D here and D here. D's the melody and D's, the fifth of this G major chord. So I don't really need to repeat. I don't really need to repeat it.

Why, why repeat it? I don't need it, so I can skip this note altogether. I play G, B, and D. This would be my chord, okay.

Basically, my philosophy about chords in general playing on guitar is I don't want to concentrate on grips. I want to concentrate on chord notes. Let me elaborate what I want to say. When we start learning guitar, then we learn this shape, or maybe we start gripping like this, and then we switched to the this, and then we learn B, C, A minor, E major, And so on, you know? And then eventually you learn bar chords. And after couple of months or years Of playing guitar, you know this G, this G, Probably this G, which is really hard to play. Maybe this G.

And that's about it, but there are so many more ways to play G major on guitar. My take on this is following. I want to know which notes certain chord consists of. So G major would be G, B and D. Wherever on guitar I play notes, G, B and D. This is going to be my G major card. Of course, you need to know all the notes very well across the neck in order to do that. But I don't have to play this. I don't have to play this, or that. I can play just G, D, B. I can play G, D, B. I can play D, G, B. B, D, G. Wherever I do it. Wherever I played G, B, D. I'm going to play my G major chord. So listen to this D, G, B. This is also G major. So I'm doing open D string, harmonic on 12th fret of the G string, and then B here. This is G major. Everything is G major. So basically I don't need to do this. I can do this.

Okay. Let me give you some more ideas, what you could do with that, because now we just talked about it, that you don't need these grips. You need the notes. So what if I choose to do this?

What is this? G, D, G, D. Now I'm basically doubling the root, and I'm battling the melody note, the fifth. I don't have any third now, but that doesn't matter because the next note of the melody is B, is the root. So, The listener is going to understand this as G major chord. The question is now, do I want to do this, Or do I want to keep the chord? This is on you to decide. Okay.

I can even do it more simple. I can do...

Okay. What did I do there? I play just two notes. This is root and then root again here and then root or D. And then G here.

Okay, so what if I want to do this? You know, this one already. You do know this one, G major seven, G, D, F sharp, B. This one in the arrangement, we have B, C, A, but what I'm doing, I'm playing all the notes here on the fifth fret. So D, G, C, E, A. This would be D seven nine sus 4. So very open sound.

Okay. What if I want to dabble the root and play B and D? So I play this, or just... Okay. What if I want to play some other note? Not just the chord notes. I can play some extensions as well. I can play nine, and this is going to sound like this. I play G, A, D. Pretty open sound. So I didn't play any third. I have third here. What if I want to play sixth or 13th E here? This will be G sixth, or G 13th, depending on how you look at this. What I have here, root E 13, or sixth, A two or nine, and D melody fifth. Did you see this chord has its own characteristic. If you want it, you can play it. If it's too much then don't play it. I can even go further and I can play B here.

Play through there. I played this chord. G, B, E, A, D. And then G major seven G, D, F sharp, B. Then this one. We already talked about this one, and then I played this one. I can play with open string as well. So B root, C seven, E nine, and G sus 4 or 11. And this one I played here. What is this? Instead of root G I played nine here. So what I have here is this very nice sound major second, between A and B. This gives us little bit... okay.

It's very important to find the balance between these voicings, because some of them are very dense, very heavy, and some are really sparkling, very light. I wouldn't play just dense heavy chords, and I wouldn't probably play just... like this. I want to try to find the perfect amount of both. So maybe I would do here heavy, but here just double stop. Like this...No. But you decides about that. Maybe here. Here, light. Here not so light. What did I do here?

G 10th fret of the A string, and then I have everything on seventh fret, A, D, F sharp, B, which would be G major seven nine, but nine is here. We have this. Heavy chord and then G single note.

What I did here: A, D, and I do these feelings. Okay, so let's go on. We had this twice... and then second time. this is C major. We go via this chord, D, B and then passing note A to G to root of G major chord. And then we go to C.

This C I really like. This is C, G open string, E open string, because this is enough.

What do I want to say about that? If you play this, this is also very nice, but you have twice the root and you have also the melody. The third doubled. This is just enough information. If you want to spice it up a bit, you do something like this. Whatever here I played C, G, D ninth, and E. Or maybe if you really want to spice it up, you could do this.

What is this? C, then F sharp on the D string, G open, D, and E. What was F sharp? Sharp 11 or sharp 4 here. And the really nice sound is this minor second, F sharp and G. So I can do basically... How Am I thinking here? I don't play like this. I don't play like this. I play like this.

What is this? This is like vocals, melody. This is bass playing together and then comes in fill in piano. So it's like little orchestra. When we play like this, then we have really feeling of many instruments playing together. If we do like this, then everything is one. Everything is guitar. This is... Okay. Good.

And then... So what do we have here? We have C. We can play single note or maybe do an octave, or maybe do a sixth. So C, C or E, C, or play E, C, even here. And then we have this one. This would be E, C and then B to A. This is some kind of C major seven, but I can also look at it as A minor seventh. So this would be A minor nine, and then they go to A minor. I can play this instead. G, C, E to B. A Minor nine and a minor seven. This is little bit more like this. This is not stretched out like this one. This is very stretched out, very open. And this is more like... Okay. And then we have this. D. And what I've noticed here is the arranger wants us to play D here. Like this, in this position. I understand why, because when we go on, then we have this. And then this.

But what you need to know is there are many possibilities to play certain melodies, certain chords on guitar. As you know, we can play for example, this E here, here, here, here, here. And if I had 24 frets, I could have played it here as well. Our ear and our hands basically decide where we want to play it. If you want this nice open sparkling sound, we will probably play it here. If you want it little bit more softer, then we will move in this direction. So he wanted this... let me see... Probably because this was easy for him, but that's not that easy for me. I wouldn't choose this one. If I could choose, I would rather choose something like this. So, first this one, instead of this. I take this. And then I would rather stretch, because to stretch like this is not a problem for me. Rather than this. Or this. This is really tricky for me, but this, not so much.

So there is almost always one fingering in the notes that you have, but this is not set in stone. You can really try out and see for yourself, what would be the best possibility for you. That's one of beauties when playing guitar. And then we have this chord. G, D, B, and B again.

So this stretch is okay if you can do it. And these chords, these notes, open strings are okay, but I have, again, a problem where I have to stretch between these two fingers. So I want to, if I can, I want to avoid it because I know no matter how much I practice, I'm not going to be feeling very comfortable with it. So basically we have B and then B again. I can skip this B I don't need to repeat it. So maybe I'll do G, D, G, B. So then I don't have... I mean then I have between these fingers, but I can use pinky if I wanted to.

But basically I can play just this. So now we'll repeat this melody almost entirely. We have like... (silence).

And now here. Let me give you some ideas. So he plays D, A, and D. I can play, instead of this A, I can play F sharp. Here, or I can play it here, but if I play here, then I can take this A in as well. He plays this. It's nice. It's okay. This is D with F sharp in the melody. Sorry, in base. But if I want to spice it up, I can do something like this. F sharp, E, which would be nine. And then I have this melody D. I have this nice seventh here and seventh here.

So this voicing actually consists out of two sevenths, dominant sevenths.

What did I do there? I played E and then E flat nine. So nine, and then D, F sharp, C, E. Maybe. D, A, F sharp, C. And then F sharp, C, D, A. You can arpeggiate it. And maybe this one, or just this one, or this one, or this one. G, B, E, A, D, C. D, G I mean.

Now let's take a look at the chorus. So the first thing that I see here is that he wanted to do some kind of movement in basic list of... In the verse we had always half notes movements. Now we have quarter notes. It sounds something like this. (silence).

I like this base melody. This is really nice. Okay, here we have this very wide stretch again. And it helps that G and D are also open strings. So we can play it basically with no problems.

Okay. Now, first of all, I probably wouldn't do the whole chord at the beginning of it, it's totally enough. Now this is okay, but now this. Maybe...

What's wrong with this? Or maybe this is easier than this.

So I'm playing this chord, D, A, C, G. And I'm already in position to do this. And now this one is really hard. You could play it like this.

I guess you could play it like this. This would be easier, but you can play it. You're going to have to do this. You can do this.

Okay. And this is really hard. This is really wide stretch. I have G here, and I have C here on the eighth fret. So third to eighth fret. Good luck with that.

I guess I would just play it.

So then just open string, or something like this. So this is G, D, G, C. G sus four. And then G major.

Okay, and then this. Why not? This is hard when it's not... okay. (silence).

Probably. And now this. How about... Here you can play with middle voices or middle voice. You play this melody. So in the melody we have, D, D, C, A, G. And here we have la, de, da, de, da, de, da, de, da, de. D, D sharp, E, F sharp, G. How does it work together? (silence).

Something like that. So that will be all for me for now. Thank you very much for listening. I hope you learn something and you can apply these techniques that I showed you into your own playing. Again. If you have some questions, please, don't hesitate to ask. I'm going to give my best to answer you. And you can also tell me what you would like to hear about, to learn about, and then maybe we can discuss one or more of these topics in the future. Thank you very much again, and hope to see you soon. Bye. (silence).
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User Comments and Questions

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Peter Ma on December 2, 2020 @10:36 pm PST
As someone who has been "with the guitar" for decades but has confined himself to the basic chord patterns all along, & having watched your above video on rearranging Jingle Bells just now, I have two immediate questions to ask: In order to be able to play just any notes below fret 3 the way you do, 1) how can one make oneself remember their positions so well? 2) While moving the left hand so swiftly along & around the guitar neck, how can one press each string so hard & so accurately that each note will sound the way it is supposed to do? Any good hints besides the old teaching of practice makes perfect?
Micky - host, on December 4, 2020 @12:29 am PST
Hi Peter, thank you for your questions!
There are many ways to learn notes on the guitar fretboard. One of the approaches would be to first learn all the notes on piano keyboard, since they are so easy to visualize there. Afterwards you can transpose that knowledge to guitar. You take for example the 1st E string and follow the keyboard to the right from the Note E. E is going to be the open string, F is on the 1st fret, F# or Gb is on the 2nd fret, G on the 3rd, G# or Ab on the 4th and so on. On the 12th fret everything starts from the beginning.
Normally one shouldn't press too hard in order to get a clean tone, especially on an electric guitar. Maybe your action is too high and that's why you're having difficulties? Anyways, assuming that the action is set up right, you should try to place your fingers in the middle of the fret or slightly to the right (in the direction of the next, higher fret). If you put your fingers too much to the left, you're going to get the unpleasant, buzzing tone. Never press too hard, since that may potentially damage your hand.
Hope that helps!
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