Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
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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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January 31, 2006 | Practice Regime; A Balanced Diet

Mind, Body, Spirit

If you want to grow in musical "wholeness" in your mandolinning, you'll need a practice regimen that tackles and balances all three aspects of playing.

Mind: theory, chord & note relationships
Body: stretching, facilty, tone
Spirit: literature, aesthetic, improvisation

If you are fortunate enough to be able to practice in intervals of 60 minutes, a good approach would be to sandwich your session with 20 minutes of warm-up (scales, arpeggios, chopbusters), and 20 minutes of new literature (classical, fiddle-tunes, jazz standards). Of course, the time allocation doesn't have to be these exact proportions, but if you are sure to cover a minimum amount of your mandolin "workout" with these basic elements over a longer period of time (weeks, months), this balance will make you a far better musician. Don't ignore scales, but don't make that the majority of your practicing. Don't just run down fiddle-tunes, you really need the thorough conditioning and fretboard familiarity of a good regimen of scales and arpeggios can give you.

If 20 or 30 minutes is all the time you can afford yourself, the principle of balance remains. You might want to break this up over a few days, but you still should be able to look back over the course of a week and see all there areas covered.

The "in-between" time is about finesse, mastering old material through repetition and careful polish and scrutinty. Make your music something someone else will want to listen too!

Your practice time is not unlike the physical conditioning of a professional athlete. It's all about muscles, albeit smaller, but the idea of proper warm-up and stretching applies. It's even better when you can incorporate both physical & mental at the same time, for example, running arpeggios in chord progressions (see FFcP patterns), thinking the chords while conditioning the fingers.

Make the best of your practice and be whole...

Posted by Ted at 07:29 AM

January 25, 2006 | Why Play?

It's no secret that the road to better musicianship involves dedicated time and energy. Other than the obvious benefit of "fun," recent studies have proven that there is indeed a measurable physical benefit to the human body in the area of stress relief.

Stress has also been discovered as a catalyst for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. The logical conclusion follows that active participation in music yields positive steps toward better health and inherently, the prevention of these diseases.

It's no exaggeration to say that music making is conceptually as important as diet and exercise in basic health care. Of course, a balanced approach to all three, diet, exercise and music-making is in order; nine hours of practicing isn’t any more practical than nine hours of cycling.

We advocate a systematic routine of practicing. Better to practice in frequency (regular but smaller intervals of time) rather than longevity (hours at a time, interrupted by long gaps of inactivity) for learning retention as well as physical conditioning.

More on the concept of a musically "balanced" diet later, but for now, rest assured that your music-making is quite literally, for you own good!

Read more on music and wellness.

Posted by Ted at 06:12 AM

January 06, 2006 | On Perfection

What's "perfect?"

How can you tell when you really have a passage down; REALLY down, and internalized?

Here's a good "measuring stick" for perfection. Test: Can you play it four times perfectly without a single mistake? We mean every note is clear, every intended nuance communicated, and not once but FOUR consecutive times without blemish. No fracks, no glitches, no clams.

If you play it twice but mess up the 3rd time, you have to go back and start over. No "byes" or "gimmes," it has to be perfect each time. This is an extremely good test before you even think of increasing speed, even incrementally.

Four times. It has to be perfect four times in a row before you really know it. Use this rule in your daily practicing.

Posted by Ted at 12:48 PM

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