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Mandolin Lessons: Salty Dog - Improvisation

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I thought that what I would do is rather
than get it deep into everything
you're doing is, is do a sort of
comprehensive thing on this tune.
Where I look at all the different ways to
sort of practice it.
And I'm gonna start, I'm gonna focus first
off on trying to
play continuous eighth notes through the
That's sort of the first goal cuz this is
kind of the intermediate to
advance approach to this tune.
So I wanna, I wanna see if we can keep the
notes rolling.
And my.
My goal is to be on the root at the start
of each chord, okay?
Those are, those, those are my landing
My, that's where I'm trying to get to.
So starting on G cuz it's a G chord.
Then I need to be on the E note right
Any E, it could be octave higher.
I could have went.
that I'll use chromaticism to get myself
up to that E note.
Those are the kind of things.
You wouldn't have to use chromatic, you
could have gone.
Millions of ways to, to approach this.
But, but let's just say that my goal is to
get to the root on each chord, okay?
So I'll, I'll just play through it with
the rhythm track here,
Mike Marshall's trusty guitar.
[INAUDIBLE] Come on, get back here.
What are you doing?
Where are going?
This silly things always starts where ever
you left it off, huh?
>> One, two, three and.
>> [MUSIC]
Okay, so there you are starting on the
So I'll bet you can guess where I'm gonna
lead us next.
We're gonna start now on the.
>> One, two, three, and.
>> Yes, the third of each chord.
So the case of the G, we're gonna be on
the B note.
In the case of E, we're gonna land on the
G sharp.
In the case of the A chord, we're heading
to the C sharp.
And in the case of the D chord, we're
heading to the F sharp.
Let's see how well we can do this.
There's the B note.
There's the G sharp.
So I bet you noticed one thing on this
then, that each time I went
across the string the, the, as the chords
changed starting say on this E.
The E,
the third of the E chord is at the fifth,
at the fourth fret.
Guess what?
The third of the A is at the fourth fret.
The third of the D is at the.
[SOUND] Next string.
What I'm saying is that it just walks
Because this is a song that goes in the
circle of fifths and
because the mandolin is tuned in fifths,
we simply move the, the chord over.
E chord, A chord, D chord, G chord, all
It just walks over.
There's the third of the E, there's the
third of the A,
there's the third of the D, there's the
third of the, of the G.
I bet you can guess what I'm
gonna do next.
I'm gonna start on the fifth of each of
these bass.
I'm gonna start at the beginning.
>> And one, two, three.
>> The D.
So I'm gonna start on the fifth.
Old trick here.
I'll do it again.
And there's the syncopation.
If I
get confused about where I need to go,
I'll actually use
syncopation as a way to give my brain a
second to find it, okay?
Cheating a little there because I really
wanted you to try to practice doing it so
that you are always continuous eighth
notes is kind of the goal.
All right, now we're gonna use chromatic
notes [COUGH] from the third to the fifth.
This is tricky.
It's a nice bluesy
thing that happens between this third and
the fifth.
Of every one of these chords.
The third is G Sharp.
We're going
chromatically up to the B, a fifth of E.
Now, we're going from this,
from the third of the A which is the C
All right?
Now we're going from the third of the D.
Oh, we walk right across the strings
Cheaters way,
but half of music is cheating.
Gives you a chance to practice that
concept and how to use the flat seven.
Off of the G,
we're gonna have this chromatic stuff and
the flat seven.
Now do it in E.
Now do it in A.
Use your flat seven.
Now, do it in D.
And I do it in G.
Jump the octave, okay?
Now we're gonna use syncopation in, in all
kinds of funny ways.
Let me just improvise for a while to get
my bearings and then we'll and
try to explain what is happening.
>> One, two, three, and.
>> [MUSIC]
So basically.
What's happening is
I'm not playing down beats.
That's my main goal, is to play one, two,
a one, two, three, and.
Just think about that downbeat, and
think about not playing it, and see what
it does to everything.
It totally jacks you around, messes you
up, but it, it inspires a,
a new kind of way of syncope, a new kind
of way of playing melody really.
And it's what leads us to jazz.
You know, you can tell that it gets real
jazzy all of a sudden,
because we're now playing.
You know?
That's, all right?
That's [LAUGH], whatever that kinda music
And so as soon as we start to not play
those down beats, it starts to shimmy.
Sometimes we have to land on it.
Can't just always be off.
Yes, you can always be off.
You can just continuously play up beats,
and it creates more and more and
more tension the longer it goes.
So it's you as the improviser gets to
decide how, for how long you want that.
Then we're gonna play around with octaves,
just, just to see what happens when we
jump the octave.
It just leaps us, first of all,
it leaps us to another part on the
instrument, but it also.
Inspires a, another, and, and at the same
time it will inspire a kind of melody.
All right.
Soon as you leap, it says, oh.
Now where do I, where do I wanna get it.
Where am I going here?
And so, that's just a tool, you know, it's
a simple little tool.
Jumping Octave.
And, I mean, that time I just did with it
the roots and, and, and
just tried to see where it might lead me,
you know, and what it does,
is it leads you to a new part of the
And then that leads you to probably play a
lick that you know that
comes off of that note.
It gets you out of the little zone that
you were working too hard on,
that you were running out of ideas.
So, it's again, these are just little
tools that, little, little sort of.
Play areas that we can jump to when we're
running out of stuff to do.
[LAUGH] Okay, now we get into
scale pattern ideas.
And, and there's two ways to approach
Well, the first way is, is a kind of the
easier ways, is to start a,
start a pattern.
And then go to the new chords and start
the, start the same pattern at the root,
or say we are starting on the root of the
The G and the D are shorter chord changes.
G, G, G, E, E, E, A, A, A, A, A, A, A,
it's longer, right?
D is long.
And this G is long.
But this G is short.
This E is short.
This A is long.
Okay, so we just have to think about that,
short, short,
long, long, long.
Because our patterns will have to change
sooner on the short ones.
A is long.
You would wanna, keep walking up there.
I mean, you might.
can do it with three fingers really
If you had started on your fir, first
But, but see the, see what's happening
E, A, [COUGH] excuse me,
now we might wanna jump down to D.
what other skill patterns can we come up
with to get us.
I'm jumping from the root to the third.
Just as a, up and back.
[COUGH] Now we'll go all the way to the
So really now, I'm kind of arpeggiating.
It's not really a scale pattern,
it's really an arpeggio.
Root to five,
that's the, that's the third.
Root five, three, root five, I mean, root
three, root.
Root five, three.
Root five, three.
Root five, three.
Root five, three.
Root five, three.
Root five, three.
Root five, three.
Root five, three.
Here we go.
It just walks across again,
it's a little bit of an, oh my God, how
does it do that, it's Woody's rag.
That's all it is.
Okay, so play around with, with arpeggios
Now we got, oh, gosh we got arpeggios for
We don't have to always start on the root.
We can start on the third or fifth.
I love that idea of keeping the numeric
relationship on each chord,
because then it really teaches you oh,
this sounds the same as the last chord
change but
it feels so different under my hands.
Because here I'm playing the root.
With my third finger, and
here I'm playing the root.
With my index.
So even though it's sonically and
numerically and
totally intention-wise exactly the same,
what we're trying to do is teach our hand
to, to feel that as a,
a, that new relationship, how it feels
And it, it starts to,
I think it starts to make those
connections to what we wanna hear.
We begin to learn what a fifth sounds
it doesn't matter what finger we happen to
be on.
You know, we might be on the second
And we'll go for
that note, cuz we know that we want that
It's kind of the, the goal.
Then we do, then we do licks.
You know.
Okay, and you're welcome to steal any and
all of those licks.
They're, you, you can, beginning to see
they're so
related to everything I was talking about
There's not a ton of new information
The next, we're gonna just keep going
The next place we're gonna go is,
how little can we change and still go into
the next chord.
So I'm gonna try and stay in, in the
closest proximity note wise,
in my decision making process, so I wanna
Moving that
G to G-sharp put me in E, now I'm gonna
move it to A, of course,
I have to adjust to the C-sharp note
there, but then I'm gonna stay on the A.
For the B7, and I wanna go back to the G.
So, my concept now of these chords is very
It's the G note, the G-sharp note makes an
The A note makes it A, little adjustment,
you keep the A and then just A natural for
the B7 and introduce maybe a little
F-sharp and it's the G.
So rather than moving all over the finger
board in search of all this harmony and
all these notes and all these numbers.
I'm trying to do as little of that as
And it's still.
I'm making the changes.
All right.
I'm still playing through the chord
So do that in, in several spots on your
Starting from the third of the B note,
we've got.
The G chord will be the B note.
Right, on, I, I keep the B note
But I adjust the G-sharp to allow for
the E7s.
Then I go up to the.
Gotta go up to that C-sharp for that A,
because that's what's gonna make it sound.
And that's gonna lead me to D.
So my tonality for that whole solo was B,
Maybe C, and back to B.
So I was using the fifth, I was, my
starting point was the third of G.
Now I have my starting part be, be the,
the, the five of G.
D is in G, it's also in E7, now I'm on A,
I mean I could have gone down to C-sharp,
but I chose to go up to E.
And then back down.
To D.
that leads me turning it around to the G.
So it's a, it's a limiting your options
And it can still be incredibly hip because
that fixing that tonality and letting the
chords change around it
creates it's own kind of beauty and a, a
kind of tension.
All right, so let's leave it there.
Groups of five across Salty Dog Blues.
What would Lester day, goodness.
But hopefully this is a.
This is something that folks can come back
to time and time again,
cuz it's a, it's a big workout.
I've gone through all these different ways
of just thinking about how you improvise.
A lot of people want to know, well what do
I play, what do I play?
So hopefully, this gives you a starting
point on those questions.
So thank you for this.
And we'll we'll see you at the next round.