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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October 19, 2006 | How do you think?

In our contact section we received the following question, and it's a good one:

"I have been playing the mandolin for a little over a year and I know just enough theory to understand the technical (scales, modes) but not the practical. I would like to know how a musician thinks in regard to modes. For example if you want to play a phrase in D Dorian, do you see the fretboard as a C major scale but concentrate on the D to D or it or do you think of a D min with a raised 6th, or do you see a Dorian pattern as you do a major pattern with the FFcP?"

Understand, there is no single consensus on this. We'll discuss what works around the JazzMando laboratory, but we'll also tell you there are musicians far superior that might conceive it differently. This is just one answer to the question, among many...

We don't teach a Dorian in D is just a C major scale that starts on D. It makes sense to think of its "D-ness" by thinking it a D major scale with a lowered 3rd and lowered 7th; in the same vein, try to conceive of a Dorian as it's own entity, which is more like thinking in "words," rather than "letters." It's a more advanced use that eventually comes with heavy use and experience.

In regards to using the FFcP for music theory, FFcP pedagogy is more of a tactile approach than cerebral. Like driving home from work or school, you don't think of each street name or intersection as you pass by, though maybe you did the first couple days on the job. Your directions are subconscious, allowing you to enjoy the scenery along the way. The benefits of FFcP diligence should provide a similar benefit.

Again, everybody is different. If you have a pretty heavy theory background, long before picking up the mandolin, you may very well approach our little 8-string wonder in an entirely different manor than someone who started music just playing Folk/Bluegrass guitar or mandolin. If you are classically trained and dependent on notation, your brain will also be wired differently than someone who plays strictly by ear.

Read more Tips and Tricks.

Posted by Ted at October 19, 2006 8:51 PM

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