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"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 21, 2008 | Another look at Flying Fingers

We mentioned the benefits of "stealth" fretting fingers in a previous Tips article, Fear of Flying. Of course, economy of motion is the strongest force in the logic of keeping fingers at or near frets 1,3, 5, 7, or 2, 4, 6, 8 (or 3, 5, 7, 9 if you're into 3rd position playing). Barbara Shultz, mandolinist for Central Iowa's Flatland Ramblers points out that leaving fingers "at the ready" is much like defensive driving. The goal for a good driver is the mindset of looking ahead, not to just the driving conditions and drivers immediately in front of you, but keeping a perpetual eye out way down the street for what's coming up.

What's fascinating is another twist on this, a look at violin pedagogy. Young violinists are taught from day one that after the 1st finger goes down, when the 2nd goes down next to it, the 1st stays down. When the 3rd goes down, the 2nd stays down (& on to 3rd & 4th). This necessity escapes the fretted player, because we know where F# and G is on a D string; we have the 4th and 5th fret to see and feel. Violinists don't have this luxury, and outside of zeroing in with the ear, that spatial reference has to be effectively felt in relation to each finger.

There is a constant eye and ear finger validation going on with violin (viola, cello, & bass, too!), and they derive the benefit of stealth playing as a by-product, not as a goal. The defensive driving metaphor remains a good lesson nonetheless in why it's important to keep the tactile sense, the note "reference" ever at the ready.

Review exercise, Lydian DUDU for practice!

Posted by Ted at February 21, 2008 12:53 PM

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