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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 23, 2010 | 2010 JazzMando Tips and Tricks Highlights

JM_Pick.jpgWe recently had a reader inquire about finding the JazzMando "blog." He had seen some of our articles on the internet but could not find where everything had been centralized or archived. We weren't quite sure where he was getting the feeds, but we do have links at Facebook, tweet on Twitter regularly, picked up at the Mandolin Cafe Discussion Forum, and of course, offer an RSS feed.

We try to run news articles every two days, but once a week, we put up the laptop in the local Panera Bread and dive a little deeper with a more detailed pedagogical concept. We also share duties with some of the other staff writers like Don Julin, Mark Wilson, Charlie Jones, and occasionally, James Condino. Let's review some of the best of 2010 "Tips and Tricks."


In the first quarter, we looked at the concept of chord "mobility," the importance of approaching the fretboard as chords and scales that could be moved all up, down, and across the strings. Really, this is a common theme here, and we take this seriously. We'd argue this is even more important than learning the names of the notes. W also looked at tone, and the importance of string fundamental over brilliance in the jazz genre.

We checked in with staff writer Charlie Jones on the latest in music apps for iPad/iPhone. This is becoming a much larger tool not only in practice but performance. We pondered the nature of stagnancy and inspiration. A primer on enharmonic spellings and proper use of chord suffixes from our theory Guru Craig Schmoller put to bed a lot of misconceptions about conventional chord spellings.


Second quarter we reviewed melodic "direction," scale degree pulls and resting points. We later took a close look at the virtues of sustain and returned to a previous lesson on building "deliberate" tone through effective picking. For pondering the move from guitar to mandolin, we explored how despite the similarity, the mandolin can be given new roles in an ensemble. Parallel to the notion of gravity notes, we looked at the sister concept of "hover tones," the chromatic counterparts. . Columnist Schmoller reined it in with his submission on the "Theory of Available Tensions." We finished the month of June with a fascinating study of the senses beyond the traditional "Five Senses" and how this might impact our playing.


We began the second half of the year with exercises in what we consider the 2nd most important scale, the Augmented 11th scale. We also reintroduced our take on "shifting," moving familiar patterns seamlessly into the upper frets. Spent several weeks on our "Compose Yourself" looked at insights on improvisation, Antecedent/Consequence, Story Arcs,

Professor Schmoller presented a concise summary of Chord Naming Rules to help us clear up conventional chord label standards. We explored the evil twin to the Augmented 11th Scale, the Altered Scale, which is in essence the same sequence of notes, just with two different starting points.


More tricks third quarter from the author of Mando ModeExplorer as he introduced the concept of Perceptual Economy, again the theme of recurring spatial and aural relationships in the fretboard and ear. Each individual player has a different approach to understanding their production of music in the blend of intellect, touch, space, and sound, and we checked out the notion of spatial recurrence in the fourth quarter with Fretboard Geometry.


One of our crown jewell accomplishments was the market introduction of the new D'Addario flatwound FW74 strings. We described in detail the story behind these and our hopes for future expansion into SKUs for mandola and octave mandolin.

We were privileged to take on the wisdom of mandolin master Don Julin with his video presentation on the 'ii V7 I' progression. We look forward to more contributions from him in 2011.

The links to over five years of articles (almost 300 of them!) can be found at the bottom of our Tips Archive page. We encourage you to plug the column into your RSS reader too with the RSS feed.

We're also set up with a Twitter account. Follow us at

Posted by Ted at December 23, 2010 7:18 AM

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