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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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December 4, 2008 | Forsaking the notes for the music.

A couple years ago, we wrote an article about taking drab exercises and drills and injecting higher aesthetics into them--as a matter of routine. Of course, that notion seems contradictory at first, if not oxymoronic. Planned spontaneity? Structured creativity?

Reread article: Real Swell...


Mike Marshall has an excellent DVD set out now. (We'll be posting a review later, by the way.) At the end of Disc One, in summary he discusses playing your scales with rich tone, and ALWAYS playing them musically. Don't just play a sequence of sterile notes, play them as music. The above graphic demonstrates a nice twist to the first measures of the very beginning FFcP pattern, an approach you can use through the entire duration of the exercise.

Notice this is not as easy as you might think it is, playing with controlled sustain, smooth even volume, no dynamic jerk or breaks between the notes. One day you can focus on playing all your FFcP (or any other repetitive scales) this way. Next day, try doing it in reverse; start loud and play soft in the middle of the two measures. Another variation is to start as soft as you can, end the measures as loud as you can. Follow up with the converse.

If you haven't developed the control necessary to pull this off, you're not likely to play your songs or literature with ANY semblence of dynamic finesse. By playing something you already have in your fingers, this sort of pattern, you really free up the brain to focus on tone and even execution.

Other variations? How about accenting every other note, the upbeat, working on your upstroke. If you really want to swing, this ability is critical. For many it's not all that intuitive, either. Teach your hands and pick this ability, it will show up in your music.

The beauty of all this is you aren't adding to the practice time, you're simply making it more efficient. If you're already doing the scales as warm-ups anyway, this just injects a little variety, let alone musicality in your routine. Enjoy yourself!

Swing and swell...

Extra Credit: MandolinSessions Archive

Posted by Ted at December 4, 2008 11:11 AM

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