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Thread: Is It Possible to Fake It?

  1. #51
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Dear original poster Sherry,
    You mentioned having an accountant's brain. I'm going to assume you're comfortable with math and numbers, and would like to observe that those skills are a terrific foundation from which to build musical vocabulary and fluency, improvisational and otherwise.Here are some observations about the numbers which I hope you find interesting helpful and maybe even fun.

    There are only 12 notes in the system of music most of us operate in. Play all of them in a row and you are sounding the chromatic scale.
    There are 8 notes in most scales(major, minor, etc.)..the do-re-mi thing. Notes one and eight are the same pitch, seperated by an octave, so some wise guys say there are 7 notes in a scale, perhaps better to say 7 distinct pitches. Anyways these types of scales are referred to as diatonic. Everyone's favorite is C major as it has no deviations(flats or sharps) to contend with: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. also clearly illustrates a formula for the major scale in terms of whole tones and half-steps: W-W-H-W-W-W-H

    Arpeggios are groups of notes that illustrate chords. While most people think a 3 note arppeggio (1-3-5)is "it", there are also 4 note arppeggios (and probably more) illustrating more interesting chord tonalities. Like a 7th chord for example! It's 1-3-5-7.

    There are only 4 types or families of chords: major, minor, augmented, diminished. Some say 7th chords are a fifth group, others say they have either a major or minor third and therefore belong to either of those groups.

    We find that the most important tones in a chord are the 3rd and 7th, because they tell us the quality of the chord, what family it's in, what's function is. A major chord has a major third, a minor chord the flatted 3rd. The 7th tells us if a chord is dominant(the five chord, like G7) or not. A 1-3-5-b7 chord resolves back home to the root or tonic chord, most common and important change in music. G7-C. A chord with a natural 7th is(usually) a root chord. By the way, a flatted 7th on top of a minor triad does not make a dominant chord.

    Beginning improvisers are advised to isolate the 3rds and sevenths from all the chords of a tune or progression. Playing them over a track or accompanist almost sounds like a melody! because they define chord qualities they sound good and accurate, they lead us through the progression. By contrast , notes 1 and 5 don't offer that. Both C major and Cminor have a C and a G for example.

    Now we shift direction a tiny bit discussionwise. There are two basic approaches to improvising, both valid. One let's call melodic, wherein one restates the melody but varies it on a personal basis, makes it his own by shifting a rhythm, changing a note, including ornaments or fills in the spaces. This approach is favored in bluegrass, choro, and fiddle tune playing.
    The other way let's call harmonic. Here the reference point is the harmony of the tune, chord changes and their contents, as in the the arppegios, scales, modes etc. as touched on above. The player can state or refer to the melody, but his initial goal is to create ANOTHER melody, drawing note choices from the harmonic elements mentioned. Note we say another melody, just running "a bunch of notes" or scales or formulae doesn't communicate with the audience as well or make a well crafted solo with beginning middle and end. Nor does it express the players feeling or interpretation or the mood or feeling on the ground in the surrounding area. this approach is favored by the jazz, swing, Western Swing, Gypsy jazz players and actually used by bluegrass, choro, and fiddle tune players as well.
    BOTH APPROACHES ARE VALID AND GOOD.
    Sometimes in an effort to understand the harmonic structure of a tune, a player will transcribe and or learn a solo as played by a hero so as to analyze that players vocabulary and by so doing expand his own. A very worthwhile exercise. Ultimately one does not play transcribed solos at the jam or gig or record session. Why? One hero of mine told me "no one wants to hear somebody running somebody else's s--t" and another explained that "we're not put here to sound like someone else"

    SO! As the butcher in my home town used to say.."And what else?" I would say yes it will make either approach to creating solos or spontaneous breaks easier if you work with the numbers a bit, (scales, chords, progressions) and I dare say in your case you may not get bogged down since the numbers are simplistic compared to what you may be accustomed to in other endeavors. Remember to keep it fun and that to work the stuff out on the greatest instrument(mandolin) is best because you can see everything on the beautifully symmetrical fretboard.

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  3. #52
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    But Don that does not fit well on a bumper sticker...
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

  4. #53
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Great as always Donnie. That'll be $19.95 folks for that class.
    Kidding of course, but if you're into the jazz thing, definitely check out Don's recordings and his Soundslice classes which go really deep for a great value.
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  5. #54
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Don, I'm blown away that you've taken a LOT of time to address my issue (as have others). I have heard most, if not all, of what you've written in this thread. I don't think I'm stupid, and it does make sense to me, but somehow I have a mental block when it comes to applying theory to practice. I read this stuff and think "so what?" or "how can I think about that and all the other stuff, too?"

    Surely I'm not the only person in the Forum who struggles with this stuff. I'm trying a new approach later this week, which I'm hoping will turn on the light bulb for me.

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    So, I'm working in Tommy Norris' Theory and Improvisation for the Mandolinist, Volume I. I'm only on page 7, and am impatient, as usual. I "get" improvising using the chord tones, but what if you're playing with others and you don't always know the chord changes? Is it possible to "fake" a solo?
    When I'm working out a new tune I almost always use a You Tube backing track. You can also use these to noodle or improvise to at your leasure, and they don't get tired or complain " Not that song again!". Pick a tune you know by heart and instead of playing note for note practice adding your own interpretation.

  7. #56
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    I'm sorry.

    As I read the thread I found it became progressively opinionated and convoluted, less about process and addressing your question. My attempt was to throw light back on your question. That's why I returned to square one.

    You are certainly not the only person in the forum who struggles with this stuff. There's at least one more and that's me. It's a lifelong pursuit. I think of it as loading data. As we program musical vocabulary we don't know when that data will be accessible and put to use, we just need to trust and believe that things are getting in. In my own case I find that phrases, ideas, tunes, etc. have a life of their own. I may wrestle with something until I can't stand to anymore. Then six months later some of that material will come out of the mandolin on a gig or whatever. I'll think hey, that was a cool lick, what was that? Oh yeah, that's that melodic minor scale I was driving myself crazy with...

    when my teacher would notice the kind of frustration we're talking about(putting new stuff to work, or old stuff even..) he would say "You're no different from the rest of us.."

    Then there's the oft-repeated Charlie Parker quote (paraphrased): "You have to learn everything, then forget it and just play"

    One thing I failed to mention in that first post was the idea of internalizing vocabulary, having things there that you go to without thinking. The way I do that here lately is to create 'territories" on the fretboard. Let's say we need to improvise on an A7 chord(on our way to a D chord, V-I so to speak) I'll find an A7 scale 2-4-6-7, 2-4-5-7, then add another octave (on the A and E strings)..2-4-5-7, 2-3-5, then add some more notes above that..7-9 on the E. I try to remember what that looks like, feels like, sounds like. All of those notes are "good" along with an A7 chord, and sure enough I'll refer to them in the moment at the jam without thought--no "let's see, A has three sharps, the 3rd is C#"...nope. I'll just park myself in that area and allow myself to noodle about and see what sounds good, try to put together phrases, knowing that the shape i've put together will return notes that work for that sound. Here's the fun part: when that becomes comfortable you notice that you're playing all fretted notes, so sliding up a fret has you jamming on Bb7! The shape or territory amounts to a couple handfuls of workable notes for any dominant chord...

    Oooops there I go again, going on too long. Apologies again for any oversimplifications or misdirected goofy ideas. Thank you for your patience, and most importantly, all best wishes for success and enjoyment finding "the good notes". be encouraged. Yes, you can "fake it"!

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  9. #57

    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    I haven't read the whole thread, but this is great info, Don!

  10. #58
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Iíve played rhythm guitar all my life, never lead solos, and when I picked up mandolin I began playing melodies as a beginner and have experimented with ďfaking itĒ for solo work in gigs with my buddies. Still not good at it, but itís fun and not really hard. Sometimes it sounds okay, sometimes I flounder, but itís always fun.

    at various times Iíve ďfaked itĒ while recording. This amounts to improvising intros, solos or outros while the recorder is running, and accepting the results, warts & all.

    Here is an example. Itís nothing wonderful, and I donít offer it as anything more than an example of what Iím talking about. What I did was to play the guitar rhythm arrangement I use when singing Wayfaring Stranger. On top of that track, I played an improvised (faked) introduction by just noodling around in the scale on mandolin - followed by playing the melody on mandolin - followed by improvising (faking) a solo & outdo on mandolin. Everything played on the mandolin other than the melody was ďfakedĒ. I couldnít play any of that again without consciously learning it (and itís not that good that I would want to memorize it anyway). The whole point was to fake it and accept it, warts & all. Might be a good exercise, anyway Iíve done this with others on recordings as well, and I enjoy it.

    https://youtu.be/-mvKF2rwWR0

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  11. #59
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post

    There are two basic approaches to improvising, both valid. One let's call melodic, wherein one restates the melody but varies it on a personal basis, makes it his own by shifting a rhythm, changing a note, including ornaments or fills in the spaces. This approach is favored in bluegrass, choro, and fiddle tune playing.
    The other way let's call harmonic. Here the reference point is the harmony of the tune, chord changes and their contents, as in the the arppegios, scales, modes etc. as touched on above. The player can state or refer to the melody, but his initial goal is to create ANOTHER melody, drawing note choices from the harmonic elements mentioned. Note we say another melody, just running "a bunch of notes" or scales or formulae doesn't communicate with the audience as well or make a well crafted solo with beginning middle and end. Nor does it express the players feeling or interpretation or the mood or feeling on the ground in the surrounding area. this approach is favored by the jazz, swing, Western Swing, Gypsy jazz players and actually used by bluegrass, choro, and fiddle tune players as well.
    BOTH APPROACHES ARE VALID AND GOOD.
    It's not an EITHER/OR choice. It is best, imo, that both melodic and harmonic elements are seamlessly melded within the solo.

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    Sometimes in an effort to understand the harmonic structure of a tune, a player will transcribe and or learn a solo as played by a hero so as to analyze that players vocabulary and by so doing expand his own. A very worthwhile exercise. Ultimately one does not play transcribed solos at the jam or gig or record session. Why? One hero of mine told me "no one wants to hear somebody running somebody else's s--t" and another explained that "we're not put here to sound like someone else"
    Personally, I think I would rather hear a well-played replication over than some original spontaneous free-form "glop". There's nothing wrong/bad with requotes someone else's solo; in fact, at times it is almost a requirement. Some solos have become so iconic that they have become an essential part of the tune/song being played. "Johnny B Good", "Sultans of Swing", "Hotel California" some Django, Hendrix or Parker breaks. They become the instrumental prelude to your take on the tune. If it's a long one, maybe you only play the first chorus or two. And audiences like it and almost demand it.

    Or you could adopt the DIZZY RATSTEIN attitude! (From Micky Rat Comix by Robert Armstrong)
    https://64.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m...1mmao1_500.jpg
    https://www.yunchtime.net/misc/dizzy_2.jpg
    https://64.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m...1mmao3_540.jpg
    https://64.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m...mmao4_1280.jpg
    https://66.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m...1mmao5_500.jpg

    The numerological approach is fine for introductory inputting of patterns/scales/arpeggios into your hands, but naming chord degrees are just directions/instructions. You might train your fingers for that pattern, but if you don't HEAR it, then you are faking it. (Hey, I guess that answers that!) You need to link the logic/analytic/names with the purely sonic, so you don't need to think analytically unless you get stuck. You just hear it in your mind and your hands follow the ear. Hum what you play, use sol-feg, etc. Involve the singing circuitry of the brain.

    Niles H

    (BTW, Don....I was listening to Kind Of Blue a week or so ago. Who do you think took the best solos on that album? For my money, I thought Cannonball Adderley outperformed both Miles and Coltrane.)

  12. #60
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    I'm sorry.

    As I read the thread I found it became progressively opinionated and convoluted, less about process and addressing your question. My attempt was to throw light back on your question. That's why I returned to square one.

    Oooops there I go again, going on too long. Apologies again for any oversimplifications or misdirected goofy ideas. Thank you for your patience, and most importantly, all best wishes for success and enjoyment finding "the good notes". be encouraged. Yes, you can "fake it"!
    Don, I hope you're not apologizing to me! I love that you went back to square one! When I start a thread that gets a lot of responses, I'll copy the relevant ones to Word, then print a copy to highlight and study. I've done this once with this thread, now needing to add to it. I have a notebook with a "Mandolin Cafe Responses" tab. It's amazing how a response means nothing to me today, but next week may be just the solution I'm looking for.

  13. #61
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Not too long ago an instructor worked with me on using Pentatonic scales to improvise. I thought it wasn't too terribly difficult and, for the most part, sounded pretty cool. However, mandocrucian made a good point above, "Personally, I think I would rather hear a well-played replication over than some original spontaneous free-form "glop." Using the Pentatonic scale resulted in a certain amount of "glop." Whether or not that was because I'm a beginner, I can't say at this point.

    The point I want to make is the same instructor later took a different approach with me. He made it simple, telling me to plant first finger on the root, then play notes on any string in that same fret, as well as 2 frets up and 4 frets up, as well as relevant open strings. I found I could do that and it not sound like "glop." Shortly after that lesson, I had an opportunity to take a solo at a jam. My friend had given me the song/key a couple of days in advance, so I was able to work on it some.

    I'll try to post the recording here. My friend had told me to practice while she played the verse. You can hear me doing that. The actual solo isn't as clean as when I was playing at home, but considering it was my first live solo without sheet music and there were no "re-dos," I'm pretty happy with it.

    This World is Not My Home 1st Solo.mp3

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Funny, but when Mandocrucian mentions “Sultans of Swing”, it mades me think of an interview I saw with Mark Knopfler. He tells how he came home from a gig and his wife sensed he was a little down. When asked about it he said that he was a bit surprised that that iconic tune hadn’t been received as well as he expected. His wife said, “Did you put in all the twiddly bits?”. He went on to explain that he thought so, but (paraphrasing) there is a degree of spontaneity to the process for him. He wants to give his fans the experience they are looking for, but he doesn’t generally play it exactly the same each and every time. I think his wife’s answer was something to the effect that maybe he should work on that.

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    This thread makes my pea brain hurt.

    I am enjoying picturing Don and Niles, with their seconds standing by, dueling with pistols at dawn. Flintlocks.

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    All of this information is wonderful and I'll have to work on it when I get back home.
    What I think is getting lost in all this is the tune, the melody, the feel.
    Turn the tune inside out, play it backwards; maybe just a phrase or two, change octaves.
    The important thing is the tune itself.
    As I said I can see I have a lot of work to do myself (re: Don Stiernberg's comments especially), but the important thing is to not lose sight of the tune.

    My 2 cents.

    Dave

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Quote Originally Posted by bradlaird View Post
    This thread makes my pea brain hurt.

    I am enjoying picturing Don and Niles, with their seconds standing by, dueling with pistols at dawn. Flintlocks.
    There are always differences in regards of what to prioritize and when, at what developmental stage, it should occur.

    But.... as the sages of old have proclaimed, "All roads (eventually) lead to (the) Zone."

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post

    I'll try to post the recording here. My friend had told me to practice while she played the verse. You can hear me doing that. The actual solo isn't as clean as when I was playing at home, but considering it was my first live solo without sheet music and there were no "re-dos," I'm pretty happy with it.

    This World is Not My Home 1st Solo.mp3
    Nice work here! For someone just jumping in to jamming this is really good. The more you do it the more the pieces will fall into place. Keep playing with that group too! They sound supportive and have some skills. That backup and the vocals are great. That will influence your own playing in great ways.

  20. #67
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Levine View Post
    Nice work here! For someone just jumping in to jamming this is really good. The more you do it the more the pieces will fall into place. Keep playing with that group too! They sound supportive and have some skills. That backup and the vocals are great. That will influence your own playing in great ways.
    Wow! Thanks, Josh! I knew there was some risk in putting myself "out there" by sharing the recording. If learning this technique encourages someone else to try a solo, it was well worth any embarrassment I may have caused myself.

  21. #68
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Don Stiernberg: Here's how to music.

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Got the melody in your head, can you hum or whistle it acapella ?
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Sherry, I wish I could hear your mp3 but all I get is a bunch of code but from comments it seems like your improv was successful. Great! Just wanted to mention what helps me get a new song (or less familiar one) in my head is to listen carefully while the verse is being sung and try to repeat each phrase, like a call and response. It works best if there is no fiddler (or any other instrument) playing fills in the space between each sung phrase. Anyway, it adds a little something to the slow jam and it can get that unfamiliar song in your head good enough to be able to try a basic melody solo when the break comes around.

  24. #71
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    Sherry, I wish I could hear your mp3 but all I get is a bunch of code but from comments it seems like your improv was successful. Great! Just wanted to mention what helps me get a new song (or less familiar one) in my head is to listen carefully while the verse is being sung and try to repeat each phrase, like a call and response. It works best if there is no fiddler (or any other instrument) playing fills in the space between each sung phrase. Anyway, it adds a little something to the slow jam and it can get that unfamiliar song in your head good enough to be able to try a basic melody solo when the break comes around.
    Bunny, I get that code stuff on my phone but sound comes through on my PC. Thanks for the suggestion. I doubt I'll try a solo for an unfamiliar tune anytime soon, but will keep what you've said in mind.

  25. #72

    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Best thread I've ever read. Original post was briiliant in its simplcity.

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Sometime last year, my (very musical) seven-year-old daughter asked me to teach her piano. I told her that I'd teach her how to read (and ordered the first two Leila Fletcher books), that if she knew how to read, she could pretty much teach herself. Worked well, I listen to what she's learning often, and she's now somewhere in Book II.

    Yesterday I noticed that she had two wrong notes in one song (the second wrong note being logical, actually, as it was in a phrase that repeated up a step, so both phrases matched), and as I was helping her, I realized that she didn't know the names of the notes ó not on the page, and not on the keyboard. She just knew that that note on the page meant this note on the piano.

    Eroll Garner would understand.

  28. #74
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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    She just knew that that note on the page meant this note on the piano.
    I love it!

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    Default Re: Is It Possible to Fake It?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    When you're sad, express yourself through sad tunes or happy tunes - reflect your mood through music, or change your mood.
    The advice they give professional actors - Don't cry. Make me cry.

    Make me sad with your playing and you have done the trick. Whether or not you have to be sad to do it is not as important. IMO

    As an aside, Mark, I do so enjoy butting heads with you, I think I am better for it, and the readership is much better for it.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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