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Old 05-28-2009, 09:14 AM
mtnByker mtnByker is offline
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Default Western Swing Harmonies and Scales ?

I love Western Swing, Texas Swing, whatever you want to call it (along with Gypsy Jazz, NewGrass, Dawg music, etc.) Milton Brown, Bob Wills, Asleep at the Wheel, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, Harmonious Wail, etc...

I think I have a decent idea of the rhythmic feel for this music, but I am wondering just what makes up the harmonic structure as well as what type of scales are typically played. I know it's 'jazzy' chords, but obviously it's a more restricted palette than most 'pure' jazz.

Anyone want to educate me about just what typically makes up this genre?

Any good online (preferably free) lessons on the style?

Eastman AC315CE, Homemade Mandolin
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:22 AM
imwjl imwjl is offline
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Default Truefire TV has some good lessons in this area with video, jam track and print collateral. The Telecaster site Tab, Tips and Theory area has much content on the topic because of the popularity of Telecaster in country and jazz and a few particularly talented individuals who play the style of music. It's also just a great community with attention to much more than Telecasters and amps.
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Old 06-03-2009, 09:37 AM
robkreole robkreole is offline
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From a guitar standpoint, the magic of western swing is the variety of chords that are played. I hear bass notes being emphasized a lot. There is an excellent DVD from Homespun Tapes that features Ray Benson from Asleep at the Wheel --

See if you can find a used copy and snag that. A local player has told me to keep the chords moving, meaning that instead of playing one measure (4 beats) of a chord like C, to instead play 4 chords, one per beat...something like C, C6, C7, C6. There are a lot of diminished chords being played within the context of this music.

Also, doing a quick search with Google turned up the following which look very helpful.

All the best, and don't forget to say "aaaahhh!" when the music moves you.

Rob K.
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Old 06-03-2009, 11:13 PM
Howard Klepper Howard Klepper is offline
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Major scales.
"Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest."
--Paul Simon
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Old 06-06-2009, 01:02 PM
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vac4873 vac4873 is offline
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Default 6/7 13th chords and 9th chords.

Use a lot of these chords, and slide them from a fret below up to pitch, or from a fret above and down to pitch. I'll give an example in the key of A

example - A13 (actually 6/7, but that's another matter) = 5-7-5-6-7-5......try 4-6-4-5-6-4 and slide up to 5-7-5-6-7-5. Divide the measure into 8 beats, (and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4), play the chord at fret 4 on the ands and the one on fret 5 for the numbers, and that's one basic commonly used pattern.

for D (the IV chord), you can either just do a similar thing up on the 10th fret or use a 9th chord in the same position as the A 5-4-5-5-5, slid up from 4-3-4-4-4

Same thing applies for the V chord -- just 2 frets up from the IV chord, same formations.

There are many, many other variations employed by the likes of Ray Benson and other masters, but this is just a rudimentary place to start in order to capture a little of the feel of the music. A lot of the chords stem from standard pedal steel tunings (C6th and E9th)

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance or stupidity (Harlon's razor)

Last edited by vac4873; 06-06-2009 at 01:04 PM. Reason: added point
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Old 06-07-2009, 01:50 PM
Allen Shadd Allen Shadd is offline
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Depending on what part of Colorado you are in, there is a fella named Gary Cook that lives near Durango and plays in a cowboy band full time at the Bar D Chuckwagon. Gary gives lessons, he is a two time National Flatpicking champion. He is a super nice guy, if you are anywhere near him I'd suggest looking him up. His website is and below is a link to a clip on youtube from his band playing at the Chuckwagon.

Bar D Wranglers
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Old 06-07-2009, 02:16 PM
Stackabones Stackabones is offline
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Good ideas all around. Get your shell chords together. They are more important than barres. Check out Freddie Green for the vitals.

Just a note ... Western Swing and Texas Swing are part of Swing, which is "pure" jazz. When you read about those guys (check out The Jazz of the Southwest), they considered themselves jazz players -- even though for some reason someone decided that anything before bebop isn't jazz anymore (which probably has something to do with an east coast bias or some kind of racial thing).

Basically what I'm getting at is that if you study any of the jazz guitarists of that era (including the hot jazz players), you'll also learn what those Western Swing guitarists were about.

There's a story I've heard, probably anecdotal, about Bird jammin' with the Western Swing players when he played in the south and commenting that the cats could really swing.
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Old 06-08-2009, 06:47 AM
Pvee Pvee is offline
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Listen to the Time Jumpers.

I saw them last year in Nashville. Great music and stage presence.

A lot of years of experience in that band.

And for the advanced class:
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