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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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February 2, 2007 | Left hand hover

Advanced beginning/intermediate mandolinists often ask, "where do I keep my left hand?" The context is the player desiring a liberation from the first 6 frets, that perpetual open-string anchor of the lower end of the fingerboard. Yes, we all start learning the instrument there, but once we seek the broader perspective of higher fret altitude, the question remains, where does one "hover?" Should the right hand stay low and make jumps as needed, completely avoid the lower frets, or anchor somewhere in between?

Answer: Yes.

Certainly, it's a combination. The discipline of avoiding open strings is purely for practice. Nothing wrong with using them, in fact the rich fundamentals and overtones of an open string are terrific for the inherent beauty of the instrument. The problem is many players never leave, so we advocate minimizing their use during practice. The 7th-15th frets can sound somewhat thinner in timbre, but you want to use them, too. Get familiar because they can be your friend in opening up new fingering horizons.

The question is "hover." Watch a good jazz guitar player and see where the left hand stays. Not uncommonly you'll see this in the 5th or 7th fret, and it makes sense. You have quicker access to the upper and lower extremes. You have a richness in tone. Mandolin is similar, although because of its more limited soprano register, you're probably better off using the 3rd fret as your base.

We discuss this in more detail in the February Mandolin Sessions submission.

Read article: Leading off third base; The benefits of third position playing.

Assignment: Watch videos of great jazz guitar players on YouTube.

Posted by Ted at February 2, 2007 6:22 AM


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