Jazz Improvisation for Beginners – A Set of Great Exercises and Playalong Tracks – Take the A Train

I have recently discovered a great new resource for learning to improvise on jazz tunes. Leo Ravera has compiled a set of exercises based on the chord progression of Take the A Train. Those exercise are very well suited for the mandolin.

This is the chord progression of the song.

You can play the exercises using the sheet music on the site and play all the notes in the first position.

But there is another option. I propose to use the first finger for the root of every chord. You will need the following root notes: C, D G, F. The first finger needs to jump between the notes. You can play those notes on the 3rd and 5th frets of the D- and A-string. Or you can play the notes on the 5th and 7th fret of the G-string and the 3rd and 5tf fret of the D-String.

If you do it like this you can play the same sequence of fingers again and again.

Finger positions for major chord / scale (from C)

Finger position for minor chord / scale (from C)


leoravera.it Jazz Improvisation


If you do always start with the 1st finger you will play the same sequences of notes just beginning with another position of the 1st finger. For the triads you must learn the difference between a major third and a minor third, or major and minor chords.

Note sequences (just as a quick reminder – check the website for the proposed rhythm):

  • 1 (root)
  • 1 – 3 – 5 (triad chord)
  • 1  – 3 – 5 – 8 (triad chord, up to an octave)
  • 1 – 1 2 – 3 2 – 1  (three not phrases, ascending)
  • 3 2 3 1 (three not phrases. descending)
  • 3 – 5- 8 (triad chord, first inversion)
  • 8 – 5 – 3 (descending phrases on first inversion)
  • 8 – 5 – 3 – 5 – 8 (descending and ascending triad chord first inversion)
  • 1 – 3 – 1 – 5 (lower octave) – 1 (triad chord second inversion)
  • 8 – 3 – 5 – 1 (broken triad chord)
  • how to play off beat

YOuo can use the playback from the website or one of the available backing tracks from youtub. I have compiled a playlist with some selected backing tracks.

Take the A Train – Playalong – Backing Tracks

Additional information

leoravera.it – Jazz Improvisation

In this page you find useful resources for studying jazz improvisation. There are many methods and books on jazz improvisation: transcriptions of solos by the great masters, collections of patterns, books on theory. However, in my own experience, I realized that the really difficult part is the initial one, i.e. the first steps. Many musicians study classical and only approach improvisation later on, perhaps already having a reasonable knowledge of harmony, but without ever having applied it to improvisation.

Before you start studying jazz improvisation, you should fully master major and minor scales in all keys, as well as triads and seventh chords.













Danilo Brito (Bandolim) and André Mehmari (Piano) – Complete Concert

Danilo Brito is one of the best bandolim players in Brazil. He has performed together with Mike Marshall and other American mandolin players. Now I have found the following concert which he gave together with piano player André Mehmari. The program was composed of compositions by Ernesto Nazareth, Garoto or Zequinha de Abreu, and also some compositions by the two artists.

Danilo Brito (bandolim)

Its difficult to describe the music, it’s a mix of Brazilian Choro, classical music, with influences from Portuguese Fado musica and maybe also some influences from Jazz.

Playlist Danilo Brito (bandolim) and André Mehmari (piano)

Bandolim e piano se encontram no duo formado por Danilo Brito e André Mehmari, que pode ser definido como música pura, arte e emoção. Ambos compositores e com sólida carreira nacional e internacional formam o duo que combina suas peculiaridades e suas semelhanças, com uma sintonia única. No repertório, Amoroso de Garoto, Floraux de Nazereth e Branca de Zequinha de Abreu, além de composições dos dois artistas.

Enjoy this fantastic concert with Danilo Brito and André Mehmari!

Additional information

Watch Danilo Brito in a Tiny Desk Concert at the NPR

Website Danilo Brito (port.)

Webiste Danilo Brito (engl.)

Presentation of Danilo Brito on Musica Extraordinária website





Songbook Choro 3 – Aguenta seu Fulgêncio (Lourenço Lamartine /Jacob do Bandolim)

Aguenta seu Fulgêncio is the 3rd Choro in the Songbook Choro. It is a fast choro, and it has a complicated, syncopated rhythm in it’s first part.

I have compiled some great videos of this choro in my playlist:

Playliste Aguenta seu Fulgêncio

More posts about choros from Songbook Choro:

Victor Solomin – Domra – Sonatas and Partitas for Violin by J. S. Bach

Victor Solomin is a domra player from Kiew in the Ukraine. He likes to play Jazz and music by Sting on his domra, but he also plays the works by Johann Sebastian Bach. I have compiled a playlist with recordings of the Sonatas and Partitas for violin solo by Johann Sebastian Bach played by Victor Solomin on the domra.

The playlist starts with some recordings of the Sonata No. 1 and the Partita No. 1 from the year 2000, followed by some live recordings from a concert given in 2007 in Kiew. This includes a recording of the famous Chaconne.

Enjoy the works by Bach and Victor Solomin!

Playlist Victor Solomin – Sonata Nr. 1 / Partita No. 1 by J. S. Bach for Violin solo

Related post:

More posts tagged “domra” in my blog:

Additional Information

youtube channel Solomin Band:

youtube channel DomraSolo:

Website Solomin Band (English):

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