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Matt Flinner Trio--Music du Jour; Nebraska
We had the recent privilege of attending a concert with Grammy-nominated mandolinist Matt Flinner and his trio in a small town, Milford, Nebraska a
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Road Trip; John Reischman & John Miller
We're still spinning John Reischman's 2014 CD "Road Trip," somewhat a sequel to his jazz/Latin collaboration with Emerald City guitarist John Miller over a decade
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New in the JazzMando Logo Store
We've recently added some exciting new swag in our JazzMando Logo Store. Several items including the "What it means to be a mandolinist" mugs, sports
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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."

April 24, 2014 | Learn To Play In Every Key (Part Two). Baron Collins-Hill

JazzMando friend and FFcP disciple Baron Collins-Hill has posted a follow-up to last week's lesson on scale movability through his YouTube video channel, MandoLessons.

Last week's lesson: Learn To Play In Every Key (Part Two). Baron Collins-Hill

The series' second entry takes you farther up the fretboard. Baron demonstrates how simple it is to move into playing in the fretboard stratosphere by starting the same scale on a different finger. Also he gives helpful tips on how the FFcP allows you to stack patterns based on multiple FFcP fingerings with minimal shifting.

Video Link: Learn To Play In Every Key (Part Two)


Moving on up. And around.
FFcP Index
"The notes seem to come from out of nowhere."
Stuff you can get for free at JazzMando

Posted by Ted at 11:20 AM

April 17, 2014 | Learn To Play In Every Key (Part One). Baron Collins-Hill

FFcP.gifJazzMando friend and FFcP disciple Baron Collins-Hill is posting some marvelous introductory videos to help you grasp basic playing concepts. His latest is a series that outlines visually and in real time, the approach and the benefits of closed position studies, beginning with the 1st FFcP pattern based on the scale starting on the 1st finger. If you haven't started down this path or want help explaining the concept to another beginner, this is a great resource.

The series' first entry is an introduction into the basics and how to eventually move and apply it up the fretboard. Baron demonstrates how simple it is to move into playing in the more folk foreign flat keys. Also he gives helpful tips on how the FFcP forces optimal hand placement and finger spread.

Video Link: Learn To Play In Every Key (Part One)

Review: Principles of FFcP

  • In this system, there are only four ways to play a major scale: starting with the first finger, the second, the third and the fourth. That's it!

  • All 12 keys can be covered in only four different positions, simply by transposing up or down the fretboard and across strings.

  • 4th Finger (Pinky) strength and coordination become part of daily development exercises.

  • Key Chord Tone relationships in improvising become tactile, visible, and intuitively real.

  • Position shifts to a second octave are easily bridged merely by starting the next octave with a different FFcP pattern.

  • Changes in tonal "micro-centers" by half steps easily transist either by moving the pattern by one fret, or using the next FFcP.

"The notes seem to come from out of nowhere."
Stuff you can get for free at JazzMando
Moving on up. And around.
FFcP Index

Posted by Ted at 9:11 AM

April 10, 2014 | Keying into FFcP

So you've been practicing your FFcP Scales, mastering the 3rd, 4th, and arpeggios, major and minor, and you feel pretty good about them. Now you're in a funk because despite the pride you have in this accomplishment, you wonder what's next? What do I do with these skills?

From a purely physical, finesse and flexibility point of view, the FFcP drills could almost stand on their own. Your 3rd and 4th fingers are more independent, you've lost the initial fear of the upper fretboard, but now you wonder, how do I use these to make music?

We advocate leaving some of these in your daily practice routine, but we want to suggest incorporating them directly into the literature you're playing, be it jazz standards, fiddle tunes, or improvising church or pop/rock music. You might already be doing this, diving practicing into FFcP and songs, but keeping them as separate entities. We'd like to encourage you to think key regions (tonal centers) and scale fodder.

Let's say you're working on the great Rogers & Hammerstein song "It Might As Well Be Spring." It's a fairly simple tune harmonically, stripped of a few stray 'ii V7 I' harmonic detours it's just two keys. In G Major, it's G and C Major.


We've colored the section blue for G and red for C. So what you want to do is start your practice drilling the FFcP keys of G and C Major, and get them into your fingers before playing the song.

G_FFcP3.jpg C_FFcP3.jpg

Next step is to take what you've internalized as G and C pathways and start on your improvisation. Don't worry about the color tones of the secondary dominants for now, just concentrate on the two keys.

When this is comfortable, try some different inversions of the FFcP, in this case, we move from the FFcP 3 to the FFcP 2, up two frets. Again practice them before returning to the song.

G_FFcP2.jpg C_FFcP2.jpg

This seems simplistic, but it's an approach that can make your practice sessions more interesting, focus on specify keys, and get comfortable moving your "base" up the fretboard and back.

Try the same thing with a song like "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things." Take some time to isolate the keys, yourself first. You'll need three keys, E Minor, G Major, and E Major. Drilling through the FFcP scales in these keys will go miles in not only getting comfortable with your own pathways, but the 'ii vi7 ii7 I' part of your FFcP drill will help you to communicate important chord tones.

Four Finger Closed Position FFcP
FFcP vs Closed Fingerings Scales
Raking it in. Autumn Leaves Pt. 2
Sneaking Theory
Approaching Improvisation

Posted by Ted at 3:01 PM

April 3, 2014 | Mike Marshall on switching instruments


In this D'Addario video, world renown multi-instrumentalist/educator Mike Marshall gives a visual primer on the difference in playing and how to approach mandolin, mandocello, guitar, violin, banjo, and dobro.

Video Link: Mike Marshall on switching instruments

Guitar to mandolin
Mike Marshall ArtistWorks School of Mandolin
Plays Well With Others...
A common mistake. Clacky, clacky...
Mandolin Tuning with Mike Marshall

Posted by Ted at 2:25 PM

March 27, 2014 | Mandolin Perspective

Those who intensely devour mandolin news and participate in mandolin discussion boards, let alone invest hours into practicing the mandolin probably have a slightly distorted perception of how significant the instrument is in the world of music. The following graphic is a picture that tells a thousand words about our place.

Click for closeup

The information is from US trade industry data (MI Sales Trak) on how fretted instrument sales are broken down by instrument, electric & acoustic guitar, banjo, uke, mandolin, and "other." Note our little 8-string wonder is a paltry 1% of the entire market. We see this as good news/bad news.

First the bad. All the wallowing in self-pity about the lack of option for niche product like our desire for flatwound strings for lower mandolin family instruments (dola, octave, etc.) and cheap mandola cases. This is why. With electric guitar sales a 45 times the mandolin, why wouldn't their be 45 times the choice? Simple market economics.

And all the feelings of oppression when our "little guitar" is mistaken for any number of other instruments, when the guitar is 83 times a popular in sales, we should rejoice at recognition and expect the masses to not know what's in that little violin-shaped case.

Now the good news. Growth. Simple opportunity. If you show up at a jam with a dozen guitar players, there is an attraction to a sound that is unique.

Many of us a former frustrated guitar players, and we're drawn to the mandolin simply because the field was less crowded. There's a lot of room for growth out there, jazz (duh), pop music, praise band, but we have to think the instrument differently. We need to do what it does better than other instruments, fret mobility, tremolo, cross picking, chop, and run with it.

Guitar to mandolin
Complements of you...
Plays Well With Others...
A common mistake. Clacky, clacky...
What's a mandolin sound like?

Posted by Ted at 9:01 AM

March 20, 2014 | Best of JM: Vamps. Circle of fifths

Enjoy the popular archive material below.

From Sept 20, 2012 | Vamps. Circle of fifths


We're now on our fourth of a five-part series on 3-note vamping chords. We started simple with triads, moved to embellishing/passing chords, and dipped our toes into dominants last week, but this time we want to exploit a common music theory concept discussed many times before, the circle of 5ths. As we uncovered last week, you can do a lot to propel the harmonic progression of any song with a V7 chord, even add some that weren't there in the first place. We did this with a simple diatonic progression:


Note we took the ii chord of D (Em) and inserted its dominant, the B7. This time we want to take the V7 of the V chord, E7 and replace the Em:


Subtle point: In shorthand, many will refer to this as a major II (II7) chord, but that's technically incorrect, as the two chord of the major scale is not major. As we've demonstrated in this series, we want to think functionally, not just what the chord is, but what it's doing. In this case, it is modifying the A7 chord (V7), so the reason we call it the V7 of V (V7 / V) is to imply purpose. It may seem a long way to go around it, but ultimately, the goal is to give you a harmonic tool you can repeat and use in other keys!

Continue with the other inversions up the neck:



Now, even though we are in the key of D, let's take this one step further and demonstrate what is commonly called a Turnaround. We're going to take the V7 of the V of V (F#7). A lot of jazz is thinking backwards. Take your destination home key (D) V7 (A7). A step before that is the V7 of V (E7) we've already blocked. Now rather than use the tonic key D, let's inject the V7 of the V of V (V7 / V / V), F#7.

VII7 or V7/V/V ?

Again, some might call the F#7 the VI7, in the key of D, but we still want to imply function. We're on a "secondary" Dominant Journey, and as we mentioned earlier, we're traveling the Circle of 5ths:


Note, even though there is no D chord in this block you are still implying "D-ness" by ending it on the A7, the V7 chord. A D major will follow it all nicely!

Blocking out the other inversions for you:



Notice how smooth the voicing is on these, minimal movement fret to fret. Even if you didn't intellectually grasp the "science" in all this, you have to admit it's a pretty cool sound.


Vamps. Creating energy with Diatonic triads
Vamps. Expanding the Diatonic triads
Vamps. Scurry Dominants
Secondary Dominants
Functional thinking...

Posted by Ted at 9:08 AM

March 13, 2014 | Again. Fingers/Ears/Brain

If you've been a reader here for a while, you're probably already familiar with our approach to learning the concepts we tackle. We believe that higher level intellectual process are most effectively learned through the physical. When you learned your fist chord, maybe a G major, your placed your fingers where the diagram showed you and you stamped it in your brain as "G chord." You learned another, maybe a D7, and you learned how to move from one to the next.

You probably learned to associate the names of the notes on the fretboard as you placed your fingers on the strings, and organized them intellectually by scale. After they became intuitive, you didn't think so much individual note, but groups. You learned chord "progression." When you developed a chord and scale vocabulary, this became your way of thinking, but it all started with something physical. Later it was reinforced by your ear--"I'm on the right note/chord because it sounds right."

The essence of FFcP was to develop your fingers and embed deeper music theory notions that would reveal themselves later as you improve in flexibility and control. Some have been confused by the extra notations we put in the exercises, harmonic analysis and terms like "guide tones" or "contrary motion." We encourage you to ignore them and treat the exercises like calisthenics for now.

If you stuck it out, you became ready to understand what you were playing after several weeks. We call this "Finger. Ears. Brain."

The philosophy of Fingers to Ears to Brain was the cornerstone of the Getting Into Jazz Mandolin book, and we tried to be consistent with that separating archived articles into titles under these distinctions, although there is obvious crossover.

1.) develop your fingers to find the correct notes, 2.) develop your ear to hear the notes your fingers play, 3.) develop your brain to comprehend the musical style and theory.

Our site archives have been indexed this way:


Enjoy the journey!

Posted by Ted at 11:07 AM

March 6, 2014 | Reviewing Scurry Dominants

Straight out of "Play now--understand later," we go back to the 3rd of a 5-part series on Vamps we posted in 2012. We had the series repeated in the Mandolin Cafe Lessons page, as well, but for now, just play through the chords. Get familiar with them and try transposing them.


All we are doing is adding a 'ii V7' to the I. Repeat these over and over, you get the "Vamp" effect we've been studying. It's far more interesting than the I, I, I, I voice (yawn...) you might do if all the music called for was a D chord.

Take a look at other fretboard incarnations of the V7 chord:


We can inject these into other voicings of the 'I ii V7' in D:



Again, you can transpose these blocks all over the fretboard in other keys. Try moving everything up a fret. Makes playing in the key of Eb a snap!

Remember, we're sneaking the V7 where it wasn't before. Playing it fast, a sort of "scurry" dominant, you can inject the V7 chord just about anywhere in a song. Get in--get out. We going to take the trick one step farther and add the V7 of the ii chord, the B7, injecting the B7 blocks.


We'll add this to the progression, and note if you scurry this, it still balances spice with the integrity of the home key.


Add this to the other inversions:



We mentioned moving it up a fret to apply in the key of Eb. Now you can go all over the place with these. Does the progression sound familiar? (Check out the chords for "I've Got Rhythm.") You'll find this all over the place, and don't limit yourself to places where it's written out.

Season to taste.

Vamps Pt 1. Creating energy with Diatonic triads
Vamps Pt 2. Expanding the Diatonic triads
Vamps Pt 3. Scurry Dominants
Vamps Pt 4. Circle of fifths
Vamps Pt 5. Minor Modal

Posted by Ted at 11:11 AM

February 27, 2014 | Mike Marshall on Tremolo

Tremolo is inarguably the foremost recognizable character of mandolin technique. Even the non-musician can recognize the sound of the mandolin in a movie score or commercial when it's used. It's that unique to the instrument.

While we don't think it can ever replace the line propelling sustain of good grip and right hand/left hand coordination, it is important to be able to play a healthy smooth tremolo, and Mike Marshall demonstrates a few important tips to help make this happen for you.

Enjoy the following video.

Video Link: Mike Marshall Mandolin Lesson: Tremolos

Position the angle of the neck up so you aren't stroking perpendicular to the strings.
Don't grip the pick too firmly, don't dig deeply into the string with the stroke.
Sweep less distance on the thinner strings.
Learn to exploit a range of tremolo tones by focusing on each string.
It's all about smoothness.

Want to learn more about Mike Marshall's online school?
Sign up for more instruction: ArtistWorks


Posted by Ted at 11:21 AM

February 20, 2014 | New: The Real Jazz Solos Book

Hal Leonard has just released an intriguing collection of major artists' solo transcriptions from some of the world's most popular jazz recordings, "The Real Jazz Solos Book." Almost 450 pages, the book is written in the traditional "Real Book" format, with the jazz font notation and minimalist accepted chords, with style and tempo suggestions.


From the publisher's website: "This amazing collection transcribes nearly 150 of the best-known jazz solos (regardless of the instrument) exactly as recorded by icons of the trade, including: Autumn Leaves (Chet Baker) * Blue in Green (Toots Thielemans) * Blue Train (John Coltrane) * Bright Size Life (Jaco Pastorius) * Dolphin Dance (Herbie Hancock) * Footprints (Wayne Shorter) * I Do It for Your Love (Bill Evans) * I Mean You (Thelonius Monk) * Isreal (Bill Evans) * K.C. Blues (Charlie Parker) * Milestones (Miles Davis) * New Orleans (Wynton Marsalis) * Nuages (Django Reinhardt) * Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Oscar Peterson) * Spring Ain't Here (Pat Metheny) * Stella by Starlight (Ray Brown) * Waltz for Debby (Cannonball Adderley) * West End Blues (Louis Armstrong) * and many more. Some songs are presented multiple times featuring the unique solos by different artists who performed them."

It takes a little alteration of mindset, one usually expects the "Real Book" format in a live or stage setting, which is far from the intent of the book. It's not a performance tool, it's more pedagogical in nature. The idea is to listen to the greats (recordings can be purchased or sought on YouTube) and then glean some of their tricks to turning the vertical skeleton of a standard harmonic progression, and create a horizontal line. You get chord but also some of the stylistic personality of these legendary artists.

How great to get a visual sketch of some jazz audio repertoire, Chet Baker, Django Rheinhardt, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and even some more contemporary favorites like Tom Harrell, Pat Metheny, and Michael Brecker! The Larry Dunlap transcriptions are indexed by artist, and individual recordings are referenced by instrument.

Though it would take an advanced reading skill to breeze through the complexity of most of the solos, nothing says you can't slow them down mentally and map out the chord with the harmonic and melodic strategy of the soloist. For example, the Zoot Sims solo from "I'm Getting Sentimental Over you" starts out mirroring some of the contour of the original melody and later frolics in arpeggios, D7b9 G7 C7, connecting with passing tones and chromatic embellishments. You won't repeat his solo note for note, but you'll glean insight into the way he and other jazz geniuses create their individual art through understanding their process.


At $30 list price, it may seem a hefty investment, but you have to consider it an encyclopedia of lessons, 2-4 pages at a time from some of the best jazzers out there. It's also great to get into the mind of other instrumentalists--guitar, piano, bass, sax, and even vibes. This should create a wealth of new ideas for your own instrument. The author also encourages you to learn to transcribe on your own for even more gold.

Publisher's Link: The Real Jazz Solos Book
Purchase on Amazon

Posted by Ted at 2:41 PM

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