Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
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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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September 12, 2005 | Fear of Heights

Are you stuck in the lower frets because of an unnatural "fear of heights?"

Two things throw off novice mandolinists when attempting to leave "Home Base" of the lower 7 frets (AKA "1st Position"). First, it's the unfamiliarity of the note names and second, the frets are closer together and a bit disorienting.

The big advantage of approaching the fretboard with the FFcP strategy is note names are really secondary to scale degree function. Learning where your 5th, 3rd, root, etc are far more relevant in lightning quick improvisation, verses knowing the name of the note you are on. Weeks of FFcP practice will give you an almost intuitive sense of where you are in the key center, so let's address the real issue here, the challenge of acclimation in unfamiliar fret spacing.

Fingers that struggle to stretch in the lower frets will "overachieve" once moved into the higher. Once you get the FFcP comfortable, challenge yourself by putting mental orange cones below the 5th or 7th fret, and in addition to practicing the scale patterns there, try playing familiar tunes in the higher frets, exclusively (at least temporarily). Try an octave higher, too. If you're feeling bold and reckless, try improvising without allowing yourself the comfort and security of the lower 5 frets.

You'll be surprised at how easy this is, once you get the spacing down. It will be in your fingers, your ears, and THEN you can use the brain to figure out the names of the notes you're already playing.

Posted by Ted at September 12, 2005 7:17 PM

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