Motif Development for Instrumental Writing

This short lesson demonstrates how to approach instrumental construction through keeping a static melodic line, but creating a descending harmonic structure.  This is not uncommon to jazz, blues, or rock.

D minor is a great mandolin key and is used for this lesson.  I do want to be clear that I don’t necessarily think of the minor key in this case as formally melodic or harmonic minor.  I consider it blues minor.  It’s basically a blues scale with the ii, bV, and vi thrown in (D-E-F-G-Ab, A, B, C, D).  Technically, I guess, it’s probably D Dorian mode with a bV thrown in.  I’m all up for hillbilly jazz.  In short, I think of everything as some variant of a blues scale.  Dorian mode to me is really a blues scale with a couple extra colors.

The motif developed in the lesson does require a pretty solid right hand to handle the syncopation, as well as the slinkyness of the the blues line.

To me, the best instrumentals are the simple ones with small twists that get your attention (e.g., the E-minor roll in Foggy Mountain Breakdown, the B-part in Theme Time, the loping strum in Apache).

Tablature and Notion file provided for Patreon members at

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