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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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November 8, 2007 | Four Finger Salute to Major Seven!

Looking back on our discussion of Pentatonic Scales, we talked of developing a connection between fingers and music theory, integrating the tactile feel of a note on the fretboard with the cerebral function of theory and note relationships. It's really the goal of the whole FFcP approach, pressing the aural and intellectual of roots, 3rds, 5ths, etc. into the fingers.

With Pentatonics, we mentioned the five notes and how it related to the tonic triad. A "G Pentatonic" uses G, A, B, D, E, and its triad chord is 3 of those 5, G, B, D, with some benign "connecting" notes added (A & E). Hopefully, you've had a chance to work through these somewhat, if not, go back and review. We'll also go into this in December's forthcoming Mandolin Sessions, but let's tackle another way to put linear chord patterns into your fingers by playing, well... chords!

If we learn how to arpeggiate the Major 7 chords, we can get yet another grip (pun intended) on fingering these in all four FFcP patterns and access the theory more readily. Like the Pentatonic Scales, these can be terrific building blocks for improvisation.

You don't want your solos to sound "chordlike," but a familiarity with the arpeggiated chord allows you to play them and add the connective tissue of passing tones. Plus, adding the Leading Tone (AKA "7th scale degree") puts the additional primal tension and release a Pentatonic fails to deliver.

Here are the first four measures of this exercise:


Note they ascend in Minor 3rds. No particular reason to do it this way, other than to arbitrarily take you along a slightly different path to internalizing these. The next four measures in the sequence will take you down a 5th, and subsequently four measure patterns through all twelve keys. We've only printed half of them for you’re here; the rest you may wish to write out for yourself, or wait for the upcoming "Getting Into Jazz Mandolin book in the oven at Mel Bay.

Download one page PDF: Major 7th Arpeggios

After you've invested time "mastering" these, you can do your own variations with Dominant 7ths (lower the 7th), minor 7ths (lower the 3rd), and m7b5 (lower the 5th). It's a fabulous way to integrate vertical thinking and chord structure into your improvised medodies.

You might not harvest the fruits of you labors right away woodshedding these, but if you take care to add the mental part of the exercise right out of the gate, you'll find yourself intimately more familiar with the fretboard several weeks from now.

Posted by Ted at November 8, 2007 6:49 AM

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