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 29, 2006 | Drilling for tone

Good players practice until they get every note right...
Great players practice until they can't get it wrong.

Think about what it is that makes great players sound good. It's not just about precision and tone. It's an unconscious consistency of precision and good tone. Most anybody who's played for a while can sound as good as Mike Marshall for about four notes, but only Mike Marshall can sound like Mike Marshall for more than 90 minutes straight. Flawless, musical, creative, one can go an entire concert without experiencing a wrong or unintentionally half-baked note out of this marvelous musician.

Mandolin tone-masters like Marshall, David Grisman, Don Stiernberg, Chris Thile, John Reischman, all offer unsurpassed smoothness between well-articulated notes. You don't hear that annoying fret buzz, the "frack" of a quasi-depressed note or errant pick that has struck the string weakly or prematurely to position. For one to sound like them, one must be committed to making EVERY note sound righteous and pure. This can only come from disciplined practice and attention to sound. Never relenting, always concentrating on maximum tone with each note, a measure played wrong must be repeated, not just for accuracy but utmost sonic potential.

How do they do it?

Discipline and ear are the keys here. (Don't for a moment think these boys haven't paid their dues woodshedding in the practice room!) Always play slowly enough to be clean, never allow yourself to pick up the tempo until your playing is right and perfect. It starts with scales and arpeggios--the fundamentals worked on during your warm-ups. Set the bar high for yourself here. If even these aren't done properly, you can't expect your soloing or literature to be correct later, either.

We suggest (at least) ten minutes of warm-ups every day where ALL you do is listen for good tone. Set (seemingly) impossible high standards for each and every note these ten minutes. Expect nothing less and continue to take this high standard into the rest of your practice session.

Drill this approach, this mindset into your playing; make perfection an unconscious choice.

Read more Tips and Tricks.

Posted by Ted at October 29, 2006 7:42 AM

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