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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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September 18, 2008 | A look back: Sweeping for tone

In the pursuit of great mandolin tone, we often overlook the obvious. We start looking for the ultimate instrument, at least one that's within our budget (or slightly more), or we think of changing the strings, or accessory aftermarket products like tone-gards or armrests--all the peripheral "stuff" we can add to our equipment. If we're even more mature in our playing, we've also thought of a good shop adjustment or other physical tweaking, but what we really ought to be concentrating on is our articulating hand.

Everything starts with a pick. Without a strident, clean attack and stroke follow-through, you don't stand a chance of creating, let alone maintaining good tone. We covered this very thoroughly in an old MandolinSessions article, and if you haven't seen this for a while, it deserves digging up: Thinking Good Tone Part 2; Using the picking hand to start Good Tone. We recommend looking at the accompanying exercise again: Sweeping for Tone

Download entire exercise PDF

Again, speed is very important, or more properly, lack thereof! This must be played SLOWLY, and let's just all admit there is no way we can do this accurately or with discipline sans metronome. What you are striving for is the best articulation possible, with full concentration on the pick strike, follow-through, and preparation for the next strike. It's like a coach preparing for a game. You have the preparation, the actual game, and the post-game survey to figure out what you're going to do next time. Play this with full attention to the tone of each note!

Go back and review the instructions in the MandolinSessions article for tips on how to discipline yourself, not only in playing this through, but incorporating it in the larger picture regimen of your practice.

Just like in sports; nothing better than a clean sweep!

Read previous MandolinSessions archived articles.

Posted by Ted at September 18, 2008 5:23 AM

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