Mandolin Sheet music: Swing 42

Django tunes are tons of fun to play and a great way to stretch your chord knowledge. Today I’ll be reviewing Swing 42.

This song uses “Rhythm Changes” which is simply a nickname for a I VI | ii V progression or similar variation (like in this case, a I vi | ii V). In case you were wondering, the nickname comes from the Gershwin tune “I’ve Got Rhythm”.

Since Rhythm Changes are such a popular progression, often you’ll see slight variations in the chord progression from one chart to another. Generally, these differences can be explained as substitutions – meaning one chord being swapped out for a similar functioning but different sounding chord.

So we can all stay on the same page (pun!), here’s mandolin sheet music for this breakdown – Swing 42 detailed chart. Also, if you wanted fewer options – here’s a Swing 42 basic chart.


Learning any song starts with listening to it. This is doubly true for instrumental tunes like Swing 42 since the melody IS the song (or at least there aren’t lyrics that can take the focus). When I’m learning a new tune, I find going for a walk with headphones and listening through to bunch of versions is a great start. Once I find a recording I really like, I’ll usually just listen to that a few times in a row until I can hum the melody from memory.

Here’s some of my favorite recordings. I included two variations from David Grisman and two with Stephane Grappelli.


There’s a TON of ways to play an intro on tunes like this. I included two easy ones to start – feel free to comment below on your favorite intros!

  1. The first version starts on VI7 (A7 here) above the root and playing 7ths chromatically backwards to the bV7 (Gb7 here), then just ii7 V7 (Dmin7 G) to the first measure. You can also use this later as a substitution (Grisman does that a lot)
  2. The second version is just playing Rhythm Changes in C a few times before starting the melody. Grisman and Rice use this a lot.

Main Form

Swing 42 is an AABA form meaning a complete “turn” of the song means playing the the A part twice, followed by a B part, then the A part again. This can be tricky for some folks at first since it can sound like you’re playing three A parts in a row (AABA AABA AABA etc). Pay close attention when playing songs like this.

Both the A and B parts can be broken down into smaller phrases – A1, A2, B1, and B2 – to make it easier to remember. Using the smaller phrasings, you’ll play A1 A2 B1 B2 A1 until the last time through when you’ll play A1 A2 B1 B2 A2. The only difference really is the last A of each turn.

Mandolin Sheet Music: Melody & Chords

The A part melody has two variations – A1 and A2. Both parts use the same basic melody line for the first 6 measures of each part.

The real difference in the melody for the A parts is the last 2 measures of each part.

  • A1 uses a simple turnaround that leads back to the start of the A part to repeat.
  • A2 doesn’t have a written melody for the end. That doesn’t mean nothing played over the part, just that it’s open to interpretation. Usually you’ll add a turnaround to get to the B Part or create a pickup for a solo break here.
Mandolin sheet music for Swing 42 part 1

The B part also can be broken down into two parts.

  • B1 is the same melody played twice over the 4 measure.
  • B2 uses the same melody for the first two measures and a turn around to get back to the G note, setting up the resolve to C in the next A part.
Mandolin sheet music for Swing 42 part 2


The chords and the progression used in Swing 42 are pretty straight forward. Below is a quick recap:

– The A part of Swing 42 uses Rhythm Changes in C throughout – either as a I vi7 | ii7 V7 change or the substitution iii7b5 VI7 | ii7 V7.
– The B1 Part uses the same Rhythm changes but in E.
– The B2 Part however uses the substitution I iii7b5 | #iii7 V followed by one measure of E before one measure of a ii V7 in C to get back to the A part.

Like many gypsy tunes, if you just play the same chords over and over, it can get a little stale. Using inversions (aka different voicing of a chord) and substitutions can really help fill out the sound. On mandolin, often that means using 3 note chords to keep things vague while also staying out of the way of the soloist.

The detailed chart I provided includes a few variations for chord voicing. For the most part, these are grouped so they are in a specific position however the last A2 provides some variations. After you’ve gotten my arrangement down, start mixing it up on your own.

Chord Substitutions

Jazz tunes like this beg for substitutions in the changes. These substitutions can be fairly simple – like subbing out a 7th chord for a 9th chord – or more complicated to understand – like tritone substitutions (the bV of a chord – so the tritone for A7 would be Eb7 for example). Which chords to sub out and which to sub in is somewhat up to each player. I’ll likely put together another lesson series on basic Substitution ideas – but for now, below are a few ideas you can experiment with in C:

Mandolin sheet music and chord substitutions for Swing 42
I I#o ii7 V7 – subbing the vi for a I#o
Mandolin sheet music and chord substitutions for Swing 42
I VI7 II9 V13 – using alterations
Mandolin sheet music and chord substitutions for Swing 42
III7 bIII7 II7 bII7 – III VI II V with tritone subs on the VI and V

The above a simple ideas that generally work but very far from a complete overview. Ideally you’ll learn a few “standard” substitution ideas that you can pepper in at the right times for various songs.

If you have any questions or comments on this song breakdown, please leave a comment below. If you are liking the song breakdowns and want to learn more, check out my personal coaching page.

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