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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."



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August 26, 2013 | Chord vamp lessons

We were privileged to have our five-part chords series on Vamps including in the Mandolin Cafe resources pages last fall. We'd featured two FFcP introductory lessons a number of years ago, so this was a long time coming. If you haven't already, be sure to review them, not necessarily in sequence because we tried to write each lesson as a stand alone page. It's also important to internalize all the inversions, which isn't really that much with just three positions.

It's most effective to learn chords within a context of groups of chords. Fingers remember better when there's a sense of context, how each block differs from the next, which finger needs to move and/or resolve to the next. It's also important to learn good principles of smooth voice leading, and these popular groups of chords have been intentionally design with minimal movement.

Remember, a chord progression doesn't have to be sophisticated to sound sophisticated.

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Once you're comfortable with the lessons--triads, passing chords, V7 leading and minor mode variations, take them to the next level by spreading the to other keys. You can run the Circle of Fifths or other transposition tricks, or even better, take songs you are working on and use these around the tonal centers expressed in these songs. In other words, "Autumn Leaves" which floats around E minor and G major would give you the opportunity to work out the vamps in those two keys before you start jamming to them. "There Will Be Another You" would use a lot of Eb and Ab major, so why not precede working on the song working on Vamps based around those keys?

We've given you the tools.

Now go build something fun.

View links: Vamps Lessons on Mandolin Cafe

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Posted by Ted at August 26, 2013 5:30 AM


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