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"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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April 19, 2012 | FFcP vs Closed Fingerings Scales


We get some great questions and very much enjoy sharing them with you. Here's a critical one, and got us thinking it might be time for a little review on the FFcP concept:

"Pardon my naivety, but I've kept hearing about this ffcp thing so I just looked it up... given that I'm at work with no mandolin to try this on I'm probably missing something here, but what separates ffcp from just learning closed scale patterns and arpeggios? I've certainly still got plenty to learn, but I already do closed scales up and down the fretboard using my pinky (playing cello really helps this too...) what is the concept that separates ffcp from that?"

Learning the scales in closed position is a great way to attack the fretboard, but in doing so, you're addressing 12 (15 if you count enharmonic) different fingerings. A, Bb, B/Cb, C, Db/C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, Ab. There's legitimacy in learning these with the context of songs (we encourage this!), but we've taken a step back from the intellectual and pushed the motor, the "feel" of the scale, and reduced it to the four simple tactile relationships.

For review, read the Introduction to FFcP on the Mandolin Cafe Lessons Page.

From the introductory materials: "The perfect 5th tuning of the mandolin offers a truly unique opportunity; moving a scale or pattern up a string or two, up several frets, yet easily maintaining the relation with only four possibilities, a scale based on fingers 1, 2, 3, or 4. This is the whole basis of the FFcP approach." Note that if you're playing sax, piano, or even guitar, you don't have this advantage.

"We first need to limit the fingering to just these four possibilities. As you study these, understand we are building roadmaps, or better, "wagon trail ruts" of where to intuitively place your fingers during improvisation. Along the way, you'll enjoy the healthy by-product of a useful, limber 4th finger (pinky). And eventually abandon the fear of moving everything up the frets into the fertile potential of the mandolin's higher positions."

In addition to the simple eight note scale pattern, we introduce some interval relationships. We also sneak in skill identifying which notes are critical in defining tonality and creating tension and resolution. You might not recognize it now, but after months of drilling, you'll find some of the tactile motions will occur intuitively in your improvisation.

Be patient, though!

FFcP Part 2

Review: Principles of FFcP

  • In this system, there are only four ways to play a major scale: starting with the first finger, the second, the third and the fourth. That's it!
  • All 12 keys can be covered in only four different positions, simply by transposing up or down the fretboard and across strings.
  • 4th Finger (Pinky) strength and coordination become part of daily development exercises.
  • Key Chord Tone relationships in improvising become tactile, visible, and intuitively real.
  • Position shifts to a second octave are easily bridged merely by starting the next octave with a different FFcP pattern.
  • Changes in tonal "micro-centers" by half steps easily transist either by moving the pattern by one fret, or using the next FFcP.
  • Open string "opportunities" will be explained and added later, but only after mastering the FFcP system.

The Jazz Brain; Improv
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Math, eggs, and mandolins; higher level understanding/a>
Fingers, Ears, Brain

Posted by Ted at April 19, 2012 1:52 PM

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