Learning the mandolin advice?

Brewer

Member
Messages
419
I have been a guitar player all my life (mostly electric), but bought a Martin OM-21 last year, my first steel string acoustic in over 20 years. After spending almost a year doing a lot of catching up with acoustic style music playing the Martin, I have to say that I am really enjoying the acoustic side of things!

I've just added a mandolin to the mix. I found an inexpensive one that plays well and seems to stay in tune reasonably well. If I take to it, I will likely buy a better quality one sometime in the future.

I'd appreciate any and all advice on learning this instrument and getting the most out of the transition to playing a different stringed instrument with different tuning, etc. I do not read music, but can figure out tabs pretty well. Suggestions and advice?
 
M

Member 995

Mike Marshall has some fantastic books for mandolin. I purchased several through Elderly.com. You might enjoy playing Bach's violin sonata/partitas and Mike has a book of them tabbed out. But check out all of his books.

For me, a big part of "getting" the mandolin was embracing the tuning. Learn to play your scales with four notes per string, learn the common voicings of chords, learning common cross-picking lines. In short, learn to think on the instrument.
 

Tim Bowen

Member
Messages
3,481
Listening to Mike Marshall and Edgar Meyer on NPR as I type.

Good advice above. The baroque and classical repertoire does indeed sound wonderful on mandolin. Depends on what kind of music you're into of course - but I'd recommend learning some bluegrass standards, Irish fiddle tunes, Scottish reels, Celtic music in general. Don't forget the rock guys - John Paul Jones w/ Led Zeppelin and Davey Johnstone on the early-mid Elton John records.

The National Guitar Workshop's The Complete Mandolin Method (Alfred publishing) is an excellent three volume/CD course that's a really good overview. I like it because it's stylistically diverse, has standard notation in addition to the usual tab, and has ongoing harmony & theory lessons that apply to the songs and pieces being played, chords, scales, arps, everything. Recommended. Also consider getting a book of bluegrass standards or fiddle tunes. I'd suggest my fave but it's long out of print.

As for chords, you can start having some fun easily with the two finger chords. But you'll need barres so might as well get into them early. Also you're going to need this intimidating looking grip that is the quintessential mando "chop" G chord, low to high:
7 5 2 3.

I finger the chords differently depending on how I want to embellish. For "two finger chords" like G & C, I often grab with fingers 1 & 3, leaving the middle finger available to hammer on a sus4. I grab a lot of barres with 1, 3 & 4.

For some instant gratification to get rolling, two big mando-friendly keys are A and D; everything falls nicely with those. Some say to view the neck as a backwards guitar, although it didn't really help me to think that way. Our instrument here is tuned in fifths, low to high G D A E, exactly like a violin. So all things violin/fiddle are potentially in the wheelhouse. After you play with the tuning in fifths for a while, it starts to lay pretty easily. Guitar is tuned in pairs of fourths except for the G & B pair a third apart.

Addictive instrument, I love it. Have fun, enjoy.
 

Chadjohneto

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
427
Like was mentioned above, embrace the tuning. It is easy to think about it as a guitar upside down, but very hard to progress with that mindset. There are some great Youtube lessons too. Enjoy!
 

mockchoi

Member
Messages
581
Good advice on learning the tuning and 'thinking like a mandolin'. I find playing lead on a mandolin so easy it almost feels like cheating once you do this. The notes are always right where I want them to be, in a way that's more difficult on guitar, and MUCH more difficult on 5-string banjo. Have fun.
 

Steve Hotra

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
9,174
Lots of good advice..
Learn to play on your finger tips.. Almost cat / claw angle.
Master the two finger open position chords and visit then Mandolin cafe website.
 

Chadjohneto

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
427
Like hotraman said, Mandolin Cafe is a great resource. Also, search for Mike Marshall's tip on how to hold the mando on Youtube. Very good foundations info.
 

bobmc

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,531
If you can find a copy of David Grisman's 6CD and book tutorial I would personally recommend it. It includes some Coltrane, funk, bluegrass, fiddle and of course Dawg style.

I am lucky that I had a bunch of tunes that I wanted to learn and did that rather than actually run scales, etc. ; Can't Find My Way Home, The Weight, Dear Prudence, Dead Flowers, Dylan, John Prine, even some Led Zep

I wish I skipped most of the two finger chords and used the big chords to develop more proper technique. YMMV.
 

Petimar

Member
Messages
214
You will find a lot of instruction material at my two web sites. Look especially at the ergonomic vids called "Mandolin Basics"
 
Messages
104
I just bought a big fold-out chord chart and learned a bunch of them...by the time I had memorized the chords, I had started to internalize how the tuning worked.
 

samdjr74

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,846
A few guys already mentioned the mando cafe, very good place to check out. I've been playing the mandolin for close to 20 years now and I love it. Early on I got into Irish jigs and such and they are a blast to play. I also like running simple melodies over an acoustic track, just adds a real nice depth to what ever I'm playing.
 

talbotpat

Member
Messages
192
...plays guitar for 30 years...thinks, hey, why not try mandolin...Peter Buck did it, Jimmy Page did it. Cool.

...finds very cool f-style all solid wood mandolin 'The Loar' LM-600-VS...sounds amazing. Sold!

...hangs out on mandolin cafe, learns some cool tunes, the aforementioned Peter Buck and Jimmy Page stuff...gets accustomed to the tuning and scales, learns a little grass. Awesome!

...sees and hears Chris Thile. Sets LM-600-VS on fire in the fireplace and watches it burn.

...cries...a lot.

:cry:
 

jlagrassa

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,389
I just picked up the Mandolin my self last year, I just searched the Internet for videos and lessons and what ever can help. I picked it up when I joined my Acoustic band to add a little variety... my favorite one to learn was Hearts version of "Battle of Evermore" its not that hard to play. Start off learning the simple chords and progress from there!
 

GuitarArt1980

Member
Messages
1,208
Go online and find mandolin chord charts, write them on a strip of paper and tape that to the top of your mandolin as a "cheat sheet" when playing along to songs you know on guitar
 

Mahatma Kane

Member
Messages
27
I'm a guitar player first and foremost. I got a mandolin years ago, but never did much with it until my wife payed for a couple lessons as a gift (or a nudge) with a local guy. I took lessons for a year and then had to quit when I started playing mandolin in a local bluegrass band. I find it easier to pick out a melody on mandolin than guitar, it's just more of a natural thing for me.

I don't play as much mandolin anymore, I still prefer guitar. I spent countless hours playing along with cd's learning different styles, and just practicing.
 

bobmc

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,531
Good luck Arthur! For me, learning mandolin (and struggling with bluegrass on both instruments) was a much needed kick in the arse. As subjective as the statement is, it made me a better musician.

And, if anyone has any doubt how much some guitar players OVERPLAY, take a seat behind a mandolin.
 






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