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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."



« Good Vibrations | Main | Three-Pronged Education »

July 24, 2008 | Bringing it home

Physical conditioning can be sterile and academic. Military calisthenics, push-ups, pull-ups, squats are great for the body, but do very little for the mind, other than a freshly oxygenated bloodstream to the brain. (Still not bad to have, though...)

Your practice routine can be this way, too. Running through the FFcP drills can be terrific for your fingers, but there comes a point where you want to "bring it home," make it applicable to the songs and literature you enjoy performing. When you start to get these into your fingers, the next step in greater understanding is to apply them to the Tonal Centers of the music you love to play.

Let's say you're developing your improvisational skills for a song like "Green Dolphin Street." If you've interpreted the Tonal Centers in the B section, you've got two key centers, C major and Eb major. You can stop in the middle of exercising the 4th FFcP fingering of the key of Eb, and just play through the Eb tonal center in "Green Dolphin." Play through the 'I vi ii7 V7' patterns and internalize the Eb, Cm7, Fm7, Bb7 as you internally hear this section of the music. Break the FFcP in further chunks, skipping around in 3rds and 4ths, just like the exercise. Play through the Gravity Notes and get a sense for how the Ab pulls to the G, the D pulls to the Eb.

Do the same with the key of C, which is the majority of the song. 2nd FFcP position C is a great place to start, getting your C, Am7, Dm7, G7 bearings internalized (and of course continuing on with the 3rds, 4ths, and Gravity Notes), but don't stop there. Try the key of C in a different FFcP, say 3rd FFcP starting on the 10th fret of the D string.

The idea is to make these exercises as much mental as physical. You can use the same sort of strategy with other FFcP studies, including the Pentatonic FFcP or others in our Free Downloads Page. Don't think each of these as an end to itself. You don't always have to play the whole thing through; try dividing them into portions that apply to sections of your music.

Back to "Green Dolphin Street," Db is not the most friendly key to play in but there is a Db Tonal Center in the A section (some might argue D Mixolydian or G Alt, but we'll leave that academic discussion for another day). Since it's only a brief measure, it's easy to be lazy and not really tap into the rich potential of 1/2 step (C to Db) Tonal Center macro-relationships, but don't let this go by! Work the Db studies into your practice, and when you're faced with it here (or any other tune), you'll sound like a master improviser.

Bring it home!

Posted by Ted at July 24, 2008 11:45 AM


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