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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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April 12, 2006 | Circle of Fifths

Equal time.

One thing that permeates our treatment of music theory and playing techniques is the emphasis on fluency in all keys. Folk/Bluegrass musicians are typically more comfortable in keys based on the open notes of their strings; mandolinists no exception, many fear wandering past the keys of G, D, A, E. Maybe a venture into F or C, but who would even think of Eb minor with its treacherous six flats. (How about ?Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight")

Jazz music heeds no chromatic boundaries. Tonal Centers weave in and out of these foreign keys without batting an eye, and so should you. Our exercises are written intentionally with transposablity in mind, exploiting the beautiful symmetry of the mandolin's open fifths tuning. Remember, when you think the fretboard in scale degree relationships rather than just 12 notes, you are ready to embrace it's simplicity, 4 FFcP positions rather than 12. (Try that on a sax or piano--good luck!)

A good visual to start understanding key relationships is to internalize the Circle of Fifths. Memorizing these gives you immediate access to Dominant/Tonic relationships, and helps you get around all the keys, with a well-grounded confidence in the finite nature of keys.

Remember, there's ONLY twelve keys.

View: Circle of Fifths

Notice its similarity to a clock. If you start anywhere, your first key is the 5th of the next one clockwise. Also notice as you move clockwise, you add a flat; counter clockwise you either remove a flat or add a sharp.

Posted by Ted at April 12, 2006 5:51 AM


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