This time of year you hear a lot of musicians put the same slowed-down "jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way" lick at the end of all kinds of Christmas songs (or even their regular songs) - often nice jazzy versions.

What IS this melody and what is it based on for improvising more interesting variants? I don't have the ear/transcription skills to figure it out but would like to be able to use it.

  • Whilst I sometimes quote other songs in the middle of what I'm playing - Jingle Bells being the most annoying for fellow players - I can't think what the snippet you ask about is. All I can think of is that first line played again. – Tim Dec 17 '19 at 12:16
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    The melody is the first part of "Jingle Bells", which you've already spotted. Jingle Bells starts on the 3rd degree of the major scale, then goes to degree 5, then 1 2 3. Jingle Bells uses most of the notes of the major pentatonic scale (major scale degrees 1,2,3,5 and 6) – Brian THOMAS Dec 17 '19 at 12:56
  • @Tim as Brian says it is just the jingle bells melody but often jazzed up a bit – Mr. Boy Dec 17 '19 at 15:01
  • Also sorry but how can transcription be off topic when we have a tag for it?! – Mr. Boy Dec 17 '19 at 15:07
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    @Mr.Boy, asking about how to transcribe is on topic, asking for a specific transcriptions is off topic. In your question, it's a bit unclear. It seems like someone needs to transcribe some part of Jingle Bells to first identify what melody you are talking about... at which point they would have done the transcription work for you. – Michael Curtis Dec 17 '19 at 16:16

I initially thought you wanted to know the origin in pop music as a seasonal ending, as transcription questions are off topic; so, to cover both…
It's based on Pachabel's Canon originally… but it's kinda been jazzed up over the years. See Wikipedia - Jingle Bells, Melody
If you want to know the term for this 'borrowing' of one piece within another, it's generally called a quote. A quote doesn't have to follow the chord structure of the original, so long as the melody is recognisable.

To its popularity, if not the actual origin [see later]
Two words - Bruce Springsteen.

He has been playing Santa Claus is Coming to Town live at xmas since the mid 70's, eventually releasing one live recording as a single in 1982.

It is played a million times a year, everybody knows it… & it closes with the line from Jingle Bells, slowed down.

It is therefore now a part of common culture.

I'm not saying he started it, but he sure as heck popularised it.

Here's a version from 1978, earliest I could find…

..and from comments, we have an earlier usage, by maybe only a year or so in 1974, but here's Mud's Lonely This Christmas, using exactly the same ending…

But after a bit more research… this appears to be the first - Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song (1946), otherwise known as 'Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire'

  • Mud's Lonely This Christmas got there in 1974. – Brian THOMAS Dec 17 '19 at 12:57
  • Ohh, good call. I'd forgotten about that one. I'll add it in… but the chase is now on the find the first to do it. I still think that to a modern international audience, Springsteen will be leading the popularity stakes [even though I've always secretly liked the Mud song ;) – Tetsujin Dec 17 '19 at 13:14
  • I understand the question what’s the name/term of this effect: mixing another song in the final chord (like a collage) but only after listening to your songs. Now I don’t know what you mean by quoting the Pachelbel Canon? Any way: +1 for the examples! – Albrecht Hügli Dec 17 '19 at 14:17
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    The original chord structure was the same as Pachabel - you can play one over the other quite easily; though if you listen to the 3 quotes in the songs above, no two do it the same way,. though they give the same overall impression as each other. – Tetsujin Dec 17 '19 at 14:19
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    "Jingle Bells" is not based on Pachelbel's Canon, which was an unknown piece at the time "Jingle Bells" was written. It's vaguely similar in chord progression to the descending thirds sequence used by Pachelbel's Canon, but if you look at the original sheet music to "Jingle Bells," it's only a loose resemblance: I-V6-vi-V/vi-Cad.6/4-V7-I. Literally hundreds (probably thousands) of pieces over the centuries use similar chord progressions (and Pachelbel's canon was far from the first). – Athanasius Dec 17 '19 at 21:55

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