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Lesson notes

Satin Doll is undoubtedly one of Duke Ellington’s signature tunes. It was co-written with long time collaborator Billy Strayhorn and published in 1953, with lyrics added by Johnny Mercer after it had become an instrumental hit.

This lesson covers a few ways of fingering the chords, some suggestions on the rhythmic accompaniment, a short look at picking out the melody, and some sections on improvising over the changes (from Max Rich). Part 6 is a basic backing track that can be your accompanist while you take the lead.

The solo arrangement of Satin Doll is mostly straightforward fingerpicking but using what I call anticipated bass notes. This means the first bass note of a chord is played on the ‘and’ of the beat before the change, rather than on the beat. We do this more commonly with melody notes and that shows up as well. Most of the chord shapes are the same as the ones in the standard accompaniment but there are some nice short cuts demonstrated too.