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 16, 2005 | Fear of Flying

You may have already unraveled the often contentious issue of "Flying Fingers." The purists will dogmatize the significance of keeping the fingers close to the fretboard in readiness for subsequent notes. The hapless player will counter, "Yeah, but watch [insert name of favorite player], his/her fingers are all over the place. Why should I struggle to keep my Left Hand fingers down all the time."

Unless you're steeped in hammer-ons & pull-offs (which REQUIRE fingers that fly), you're much better off playing in stealth mode. Fingers "at the ready" and under the radar definitely will keep the connection between notes seamless and sustained, and this is an ability you deeply want in playing melodically, especially with closed fingering approach (less open strings).

The counter to this is you still need to avoid tension. If you are unnaturally forcing your fingers down, it defeats the whole purpose, restricting speed and flexibility. Balance this mindset by keeping your fingers at a 4-5 fret spread as often as possible, and as near to the fingerboard as comfortable. Think parallel (across) cover (not all bunched together in a ball), and not just down. If you do this in your scale drills, it will become natural in the rest of your playing.

Recommended exercise: Lydian DUDU

Posted by Ted at September 16, 2005 9:28 AM

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