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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 6, 2008 | 'Stealing' Into Third Base

We recently received feedback from J. Spaulding that prompted us to dig up an archived Feb 2007 Mandolin Sessions article, Leading Off Third Base: The benefits of third position fingering. J writes, "This weekend, I transposed "Take Five" from Ebm to Am to allow full use of my "first position" skills - then tried to play FCCP in the original Ebm--well, my "up the neck" skills are in desperate need of attention. This confrontation with reality prompted me to order your book, which will certainly lead me in colorful and helpful directions!"

He's absolutely right about two things in particular, one the book will lead him in "colorful and helpful directions," and two, the FFcP will be crucial in starting him down that path...

As far as the "up the neck" frontier, one tip that can ease you to the next step after spending quality time with the FFcP Exercises, even though one might try to play more in the 5th and 7th position (1st finger on 5th or 7th fret), first spend time reading through lots of Jazz Standards (or even Folk/Fiddle Tunes you know) in 3rd position. As the aforementioned article explores, think of your first finger on the 3rd fret as home base, and allow yourself the occasional 'trick' open string. Plus, if you run across a tonal shift down a half step in literature, you have built-in occasional wiggle room in the 1st & 2nd frets.

For many players, this can evolve into a healthy fingering "Ground Zero" for the hands. Notice a lot of jazz guitarists do this in the 5th or 7th frets, too. Not that they stay there, they often move vertically up and down the fretboard. Still, this is where they seemed to land, and that's not only centers your playing, it makes the upper frets less intimidating when it makes sense to go there, putting you 3 or 4 frets closer.

Not to get the cart too far ahead of the horse; this will also set you up for better chord melody playing in the future, too!

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Posted by Ted at November 6, 2008 12:24 PM

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