This article is the first in a series of articles focusing on a song I heard via Pandora radio, called Pacoca, by Celso Machado.

The original piece was written for flute and guitar and it has some elements that excite me. It has a melody with character and personality. Just hear it once, and you end up whistling it, humming it, etc. Even my kids starting humming this tune just after they heard it on the radio. It also has a very characteristic Brazilian rythm, which is no nice and lively and is based on very interesting chord progressions, full of inversions and 7ths. You can hear the guitar bass playing a melody line by using chords voicing in an exciting way!

So, I decided to play it with my mandolin and guitar and record it here in theMandolinTuner blog for you to follow up.

What is Pacoca?

When I first listened this beautiful piece of music on Pandora radio,  I immediately asked myself the usual question:

I wonder how would this sound if played with a mandolin?

Ok, I admit it, I knew the answer before I even asked the question. It would sound fantastic, as almost all pieces that are written for the flute.

I immediately began trying to play it by ear, and I soon realised that it would be a very nice piece of music to play and record with guitar and mandolin and maybe with just two mandolins. It took me almost two weeks to do it and in the recordings you will hear me play either both the guitar and mandolin or two mandolins. How I did that? I recorded each instrument separately and I then merged them into a single audio file.

Here is my recording of Pacoca, arranged for mandolin and guitar and performed by Chris!

If you find this interesting, and I believe it is very possible that you will, keep reading to understand how I did it, so you can play and record it yourself too! The actual recordings will be included in the articles as well, keep reading to hear them.

Benefits of learning how to play Pacaco

In this article and some additional articles that will follow, I will include everything I did in order to successfully learn, play and record Pacoca with a mandolin and guitar and also two mandolins hoping that I can help other mandolinists do the same and enjoy this beautiful piece of music! You do not have to do it the way I did. I just hope that by describing my way, I will give you enough info and motivation to try and succeed as well, either following my steps or on your own unique way.

This is my second attempt to create an article like this. I tried to do it before with Libertango by Astor Piazzola but I failed. Although I promised I will describe the whole procedure (how to play Libertango with your mandolin),I did not keep my promise. Why? Well, I think because I tried to write the how-to article after I recorded and published my performances. So, I got busy writing other articles, and all that is published so far, is my recording with no instructions and its just a shame. I am to blame, but this time I will succeed!

Before I start, I will try to list the benefits for trying to do what I did.

Benefit #1: Although challenging, playing new songs is very fulfilling

Learn, play and record a piece of music that I hear for the first time in just two weeks?

I know that at first this may seem impossible, but believe me, it isn’t! It is challenging, but if you follow my steps, I believe you will be able to do it as well and it is very fulfilling! Also important is the fact that you will be able to repeat this procedure on your own for other songs that YOU like. Sounds good? I think so.

Benefit #2: You will learn chord progressions via playing songs.

Chords are nice, but by playing the variants or different voicings of the same chord over and over will not help you progress.

Single chords are like the letters of the alphabet. They are only useful when you learn how to combine them into words and phrases. The words and phrases for music chords are the chord progressions.

Chords progressions can be defined as a series of music chords, aiming to define or contradict a tonality founded on a key. Common progressions are
I – IV – V – V.
I – I – IV – V.
I – IV – I – V.
I – IV – V – IV.

For example, if I is A=C, then IV is F and V is G. In this case the chord progression I-IV-V-V is actually C-F-G-G. Hope this is clear enough to proceed.

Benefit #3: Analysing the chords will reveal the song structure

I have wondered many times, ” what makes this song so special, why do I like it?”

Some times it is easy to tell, e.g. the rythm is so exciting that I want to dance, or the melody is so nice I want to sing it too. But, I have noticed that the music that excites me most, that captures my soul, has something that is very difficult to explain and describe. That “something” is what makes me like it, love it!

I believe that once you analyze some music, you will be able to identify and demystify some of your preferences. These preferences are most probably going to be chord progressions that inspire you. Which ones? You have to see for yourself.

Benefit #4: It will help you memorise chords

The best way to learn chords, is by accompanying songs and this is best done if the song is something special to you, something you like or something you are passionate about.

If you do it, then it is possible that if at some later time you wonder how to play a chord such as the E7/B (second inversion of the E seventh chord), your memory will probably say “hey, this is the chord you used at Pacoca, remember?“.

Overview of my methodology

Here is what I do, listed as steps in phases:

Phase 1: Preparation

  • Find the music sheet of the piece and if possible a tab.
  • Search the internet for info about the composer
  • Try to play the mandolin part while listening to a recording, to get a feel of the rhythm.

Phase 2: Learning

  • Focus on a part of the piece. This can be one to two pentagrams, i.e. usually less than 20 seconds of music.
  • Learn how to play the flute part with the mandolin.
  • Learn how to play the guitar part with the mandolin.
  • Analyze the music in terms of chords and chords progression, to see what the composer is doing.
  • Repeat the three steps above for the next part till you finish it all.

Phase 3: Practice

  • Practice each part separately till you can play it effortlessly
  • Practice the whole piece together till you feel ready to go to the next step.

Phase 4: Record

  • Record each instrument separately, playing first its own part and the part of the other instrument. For example, I record first the guitar playing the guitar part and then the guitar playing the mandolin part.
  • Import the sound files into my music/sound processing software, merge and synchronize.

Next steps

In the next article, I will step you through the first phase, which I call it preparation. In this phase I will search for the music score and tab, will do a research for the composer and will try to play along the song, to get a feel of the difficulty both technically and rhythmically. To make it easier for you to follow me, I will add links to all resources I use.



All articles in the Pacoca series

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