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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."



« Punctuation and percussion; what you can learn from a good drummer. | Main | Freshening up »

February 11, 2010 | Calisthenics and mandolins

"If you are new to the whole FFcP approach to learning the fretboard, be content that the early stages of understanding will start at this primitive level. You are developing a tactile memory, which over time will become something to build your intuition on. The cerebral part, the music theory might be overwhelming now, but over time it becomes subliminal recognition. The cognitive world of 'hunch,' 'premonition,' or even 'feeling.'"

We wrote about this phenomenon last summer in our article "Math, eggs, and mandolins; higher level understanding." The topic comes up routinely from many newly initiated into JazzMando world. The eight pages out of the "Getting Into Jazz Mandolin" of "Ionian Mandology" as well as the subsequent spin-off exercises in our free FFcP downloads can be a huge physical challenge, especially for the 3rd and 4th fingers.

One of our readers recently asked the question, "Do I need to memorize these exercises before moving on to the rest of the book?" In other words, should one try to master these exercises prior to digging deeper into the materials? The answer is pretty much "yes."

We suggested taking a few months to get familiar with them, at least close to committing them to memory. These become an essential pathway to gripping (pun intended) the physical nature of the rest of the book. It's an important part of the ultimate time table of learning the cerebral side of the materials, so you should expect to spend proportionally longer on these than anywhere else in the book. They are so important that even after they are "mastered," you'll want to incorporate them into your regular warm-up activity--for years!

Tips Summary:

  • Use a metronome.

  • Repeat signs are not arbitrary. Repeat the selections within these bars as often as you need to make them comfortable. You can't overplay them!

  • Tempo is determined by how fast you can play the hardest sections (4ths!) comfortably and with good tone.

  • "Swing" the notes, and connect them as smoothly as possible. Make the top of the mandolin resonate conceptually the whole time you are playing.

  • Use a metronome.

  • You might not be use to voicing patterns in intervals of 4ths, but this is good for your ear and foreign to the mandolin. It will give you an "edgier," contemporary sound to your improvisation.

  • In the chord tone (I vi7 ii7 V7) and "approach tone" section, think music theory. Engage your brain in analyzing the scale degrees, so when you apply the patterns to improvisation, you're able to consciously define the scale degrees.

  • Did we mention, use a metronome?

  • Use the "home" pattern (straight major scale) as a kind of mental "rest area" so that you can leave fingers on "auto-pilot" and think about what you're doing in advance of the harder sections.

  • Hold the fingers close to the strings and over the fret positions in a "stand-by" stance when they aren't playing a note. Readiness is key to keeping the tone constant, the line sustained, and individual notes within the phrase well connected to each other.

Once these are comfortable feel free to move around the book. You may even want to start learning some of the chording variations, especially the 'ii V7 I" stock progressions and move them around the fretboard. Still, learn the FFcP as well as you can; you'll find many great benefits that impact other aspects of your playing.

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Further:
Bringing it home.
The Joy of Mandolinning.
Randy weighs in.
Fiddling with Flying Fingers.
Math, eggs, and mandolins; higher level understanding.

Posted by Ted at February 11, 2010 2:01 PM


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