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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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October 13, 2005 | Is it pretty?

As music "technicians," we often get wrapped up in the mechanics of playing. Faster, louder, more complex, we strive to get more out of the "motor skills" dimension in practice and performing--so much so that we forget music is about beauty. Things like line, expression, tone, get lost like the proverbial forest through the trees developing facility.

Fellow jazzer and electric mandolin pioneer Michael Lampert put it best in a casual conversation, "...I mean if it isn't pretty, why bother?" The context was the subject of players who can reel off a tremendous amount of notes, but either lack melodic direction, or just plain have lousy tone.

Michael's music is VERY pretty, by the way...

Listen through the ears of the musically naive. When listening to music they enjoy, they won't be able to tell you what it is they like about it, just that it's "pretty." Is your playing something a non-mandolinist will want to listen too? You can get exponentially greater appreciation and admiration from your audience by playing more "beautifully" than executing more notes.

Even in rattling off technical exercises, try injecting your own creative phrasing, expression, or random dynamics. Don't just play a bunch of notes.

Make it pretty!

Posted by Ted at October 13, 2005 9:29 PM

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