Learn the mandolin; high lonesome tenor optional

Do you harbor a secret desire to be Bill Monroe? Dig that mandolin solo in “Maggie May?” Well damn, just pick up a mandolin and start learning! It’s like any other other instrument. If you start slow and have a good attitude, you’ll learn. It’s a fun little instrument too, one that’s always welcome at jams where there’s always a sea of guitar players. If you already play guitar, this is a great second instrument. Read on for tips about teaching yourself. If you want lessons, I teach via Skype. Contact me here.

First, you’ve got to buy an instrument. Don’t worry about brand. Go to a reputable music store and buy the cheapest one. As long as it’s tunable and you can press the strings down without a vise, you’re good to go. Later on, after you’ve learned a few things, you can buy a nicer one. BTW, never buy an instrument from a pawn shop – they’re usually overpriced and not in very good shape. If you buy from Craig’s List or a garage sale, have an experienced player with you.

Make sure you get one bigger than this:

Second, you’ll need a flat pick. They’re small and easy to lose so buy several:

Third, you might need a strap. A guitar strap will do in a pinch but it’s best to get a mandolin strap because they’re smaller and easier to use.

Fourth, know how to tune. You can use a tuner (guitar tuners will work):

This website can also help you tune.

The strings are tuned (from lowest sounding string to highest) G D A E. I always think of it as Australian –G-day.

Fifth, learn some chords. Here are some two finger chords:

Sixth, strum. Just do a simple down stroke for your first strum. Keep the rhythm even.

Seventh, learn a song. “You Are My Sunshine” only requires three chords and they’re all diagrammed above. Look for the song here. It’s a guitar site but the names of the chords are the same (the fingering is different though).

“Blowin’ in the Wind” is another good one and it has the same chords. Find it here.

If you want to learn some bluegrass, I highly recommend Jay Buckey’s site.  He’s got all kinds of free tab for mandolin and other instruments.

This page has some good tips for beginners, including a video.

Want to know more? I teach via Skype. Find out more  here.

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About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
This entry was posted in Country Music, Music instruction and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Learn the mandolin; high lonesome tenor optional

  1. Amy says:

    I play the mandolin too but I’m having a hard time figuring out B flat. Do you know how to do that one?

  2. Pingback: Easy to play stringed instruments | Jamiebobamie

  3. Lisa Harris says:

    Thanks for the intro baby steps!

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