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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August 31, 2006 | The Crack of the Bat

If you've ever had the privilege of attending a baseball game, you're no doubt familiar with the acoustics of the smack of swamp ash (or aluminum) and leather and stitches as the bat makes contact with the ball before it goes sailing deep into the outfield (or better if your team, farther).

It's a very distinctive sound. Consider what it takes for the player to get it, and you might have some clues how to draw the same sort of purity, volume, and accuracy in your own picking. Bat swinging requires consistency, strength, and precision. Though a baseball player doesn't repeatedly strike the ball like you alternate strokes with a pick, you still have the same model of success when hitting your music out of the park.

One chance at contact with the ball, and then it must be met square on, with enough velocity and follow-through to give it distance. Your pick needs to hit the string consistently with this sort of accuracy, consider pick angle and what happens to it before and after you strike the string. If your left-hand fingers are doing their job squaring up the sweet spot between frets, this stroke is EVERYTHING to your good tone.

Work on downstrokes, slow half and quarter-notes at the beginning of your practice routine. This is the start of your tone; it should be the start of your regimen. Slowly add in subsequent upstrokes, fully aware of your pick, firm finger grip, without a choking tension. Get this articluation automatic and on autopilot by focusing ONLY on your stroke, clear baseball bat strikes with precise contact and a grip that allows your to follow through on the next up or down stroke.

It would help to exaggerate the volume level early on for a few minutes, driving your sound to the back of the room, at least 12 feet away from your sound hole. This gets the feel into your fingers and sets you up for grabbing maximum sound the rest of your session.

Snap... Home Run.

Posted by Ted at August 31, 2006 6:02 AM

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