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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February 6, 2006 | Swell

Real Swell...

We've preached and ranted about the importance of "line." Breath-like phrasing is not something that comes natural to most plectrum players, but we've encouraged not just in playing tunes, but in practicing the JazzMando exercises, you pay close attention to sustain, and a premeditated connection from note to note.

When you play with emotion, you want your trained technical expertise to back you up so you can adequately express that emotion. This means not only playing a line with sustain, but adding dynamics to it. A great stage actor will not just wait for gestures and body language to come to him/her in a performance, there's a lot of professional practice time invested in rehearsing and developing movement and enunciation.

A great painter doesn't just throw paint on a canvas, it's the trained, hard-earned attention to critical aspects of color and form, that combine and allow him her to create the ultimate masterpiece. A ballet dancer doesn't just go through the production, there are years of studying rudiments, steps and basic moves that allow the complete choreography to become the dance.

You can tackle your playing in as similar way. Don't just drone through scales, chords, and arpeggios like some mechanical drill. The goal is "music," so make them musical. For example, when rehearsing the FFcP patterns, don't just play them straight, swing them. Add some feel.

Treat these as elements of something larger by adding dynamics to them. Add some "swell" to the phrase by introducing crescendo and decrescendo. (Start soft, get louder; peak, and grow soft again.)

Like this: View image

You can't expect to play this way intuitively unless you practice it this way. Great improvisers don't think notes, they think lines. They've learned their scales so well, they've forgotten them. They speak in sentences, paragraphs, not words. Approaching the discipline of dynamics this way can give you a whole new dimension of playing, and a whole new level of musicality.

Swell, huh?

Posted by Ted at February 6, 2006 9:28 PM

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