Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
Tips & Tricks Mel Bay Mandolin Sessions








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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July 22, 2010 | Seamless shifting

Last week's session was a journey up the fretboard splicing the one octave FFcP patterns. If you've already played through the exercise, you understand that a couple things make this difficult. One is just getting used to a different spacing between the frets as you move the patterns up (the spaces are narrower, in case you haven't notice), and acclimating to the difference takes practice. Still, those scale degree references are invaluable, and with enough drilling, become intuitive.

The second challenge is moving your hands up more than 5 or 6 frets without losing intensity of tone (let alone finger accuracy!). Really, the only way to master this is to isolate the shifts themselves.

We've extracted four measures out of the first key and we encourage you to spend some time on these in the frets and strings they are originally written, and later, move them around, up a string and across to the next string.


Here are some ingredients to think about when you are doing these or any other "home base" shifting:

Lay low. The closer you can keep your finger to the strings during the shift, the more efficient the movement. (Shortest distance between two points is a straight line!) Fight the temptation to lift off the strings. Be stealth.

Move fast. You really have to be consciously rapid when you change positions, even at slow tempos.

Exaggerate the sustain on the note before the shift. This does not usually come naturally, so you have to focus on the last and first note of each position change, keeping the pressure as long as you possible can.

Think where your hands are, not just your fingers. You are fixated on the frets; think big picture and notice your hands and palms, how they line up on the back of the neck.

Don't ignore the pick. All the attention on the fretting fingers can distract from a good clean articulation. Make sure you're getting a strong pick stroke and attack.

This is a lot to think about! If you master shifting at slow tempos, faster speeds will get easier. Take some time in your regular songs and literature to isolate the problematic shifts. It will be time well invested!

Print last week's PDF: Moving on Up

FFcP vs Traditional Violin Positions Fingering
Getting the Shift
Moving Horizontally
Moving on up. And around.
Leading Off Third Base: The benefits of third position fingering.

Posted by Ted at July 22, 2010 8:28 AM

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