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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December 26, 2006 | Tab vs Notation

We assume that most who tackle jazz take the ability to read notation for granted. This could be a huge mistake on our part; if you're a folk/bluegrass musician, or former spandex-strutting rock guitarist who's stumbled on to this site for a little higher knowledge, you might still be seeking this ability.

Not sure if sight-reading is worth the trouble? We plead the case, but first you want to visit the website of JazzMando mentor and Berklee School of Music Professor John McGann for his thoughts on Tab vs. Notation:

Read Article: Why Bother Reading Notes, Anyway?

John brings up critical benefits in notation-reading prowess, like understanding note-to-note relationships, a clearer path to communicating rhythms, the ability to take musical knowledge and express it on other instruments. We also appreciate the importance of understanding music history, preserving songs that have been written decades, if not centuries prior.

Think of all the indigent music lost for all time by past cultures without the ability to document what could have been timeless art. We find primitive instruments in anthropological digs; what a shame we don't have access to the music created on them, the sounds, the aural drama. Do we want to doom our own posterity to this ignorance of art we produce today, as well?

Sure we can preserve our music aurally in recordings, but media changes radically fast. Hard enough to find a way to listen to treasured LPs (those big black disk things we baffle our kids with). With what are we going to listen to our treasured 8-track Elvis recordings in the next 50 years...

Music notation has been around, largely unaltered for literally centuries.

If you've not tried to read music, it's not too late. You can even pick up the free 32 page primer on understanding basic notation on John McGann's website.


Posted by Ted at 05:43 PM

December 17, 2006 | Available in ebook: The Bickford Mandolin Method

As convenient as a click of the mouse, you have access to purchasing one of the all-time great mandolin method books at This is truly slick; visit the site and you can download a PDF of this amazing 89 page war-horse comprehensive method for conquering the basics of mandolinning, The Bickford Mandolin Method. Though there are exercises for the advanced beginner, even an experienced player can brush up on crucial picking techniques, and seasoned veterans like Evan Marshall are quick to point out a Bickford influence...

Djangobooks site administrator and Django curator Michael Horowitz writes: "I stumbled across this book while doing research on the right hand picking styles of pre-war guitarists, banjo players, and mandolinists. I had always suspected that the Gypsy Picking technique was employed by most plectrum players before WWII. Bickfords instruction clearly describes the same picking technique that Django and most other Gypsies use on the guitar. The use of predominately down strokes, all played as rest strokes, was the preferred technique of early 20th century mandolin virtuosos. And judging by the incredible playing of Dave Apollon, who I assumed used this same technique, it's just as effective on mandolin as it is on guitar."

This ought to be standard issue in any serious mandolinist's library; download it for yourself (only $8.00!) and print off pages as you need. It will be one of the best pedagogical investments you'll ever make!

Highly recommended: The Bickford Mandolin Method

View Table of Contents PDF


Posted by Ted at 06:50 PM

December 09, 2006 | YouTube Update

Some of our favorite videos recently uncovered at

Choro For Shadow, John Reischman and John Miller.
John is the king of mandolin tone & right hand/left hand coordination. His duets with John Miller are a personal favorite incarnation of ours of his playing. Nothing like a good guitar/mando duet! (Forgive the annoying Cuica player in the background...)

Tiny Moore (plus!) in the Texas Playboys Tribute to Bob Wills
These guys had such mojo and the hats to match. Western Swing is such a contagious genre.

Hamilton de Holanda and Nilze Carvalho
NEVER get to much Hamilton. Here he teams up with mandolinist Nilze Carvalho (slinging an Ovation mando!) in a lovely, but of course pyrotechnic rendition of Chorando e Sambando.

Plenty more Hamilton, in case you have been caught up. This is what a search will yield:
Hamilton de Holanda

Posted by Ted at 11:30 AM

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