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It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

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It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) was written by Duke Ellington with lyrics by Irving Mills in 1931. The piece was composed and arranged during performance intermissions at the Lincoln Tavern in Chicago. This is a classic piece that has become quite famous. It perhaps serves as a sort of theme song for the genre itself, widely recognized by even the public unfamiliar with jazz. It’s hard to say what the most common changes are for this piece because it has been played many different ways. Dukes recordings keep the harmony fairly simple while others since than have built upon it. It’s best to check out different recordings and see what musicians have done. This piece is most commonly called in G minor (Bb major) at jam sessions.

Videos to learn the melody/changes

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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