Category: learn to play the mandolin

learn to play the mandolin

Blues in A – Improvisation with Playback Track

Backin tracks are great to learn how to imnprovise. Especiall the Blues scheme is easy to learn and great to start improvising.

You can practice the chords and you learn the orientation on the fretboard. You can practice the fingering with the left hand and train playing in different positions and changing the positions without fear.

In this post I have compiled some ideas about how to use Blues in A backing tracks to learn to improvise. I have decided to use a Blues in A. You need the following three major chords:


Play the major chords together with the backing track, later you can play A7, D7 or E7 as shown in the chord tables for the backing track. Play the chords as shown on three strings only, A on the upper three strings, D and E on the lower three strings.

Alway use the fingers 1, 3 and 4 to fret the major chord. This makes it easy to fret the minor or 7th chord later. The 4th finger is always the root note of the chord – A, E or D.

Use strumming patterns form my link collection below or try anything that works for you with the backing track. Listen to the backing track to get new ideas! Start simple, get more complecated slowly.

Base notes – First Position

Now we learn the 3 base notes for the improvisation. To start play the notes in the first position, use the open strings D, A and E and the fretted notes from the following diagram. Play any rhythm that fits to the backing track, start simple, then tray more interesting rhythms.

Base Notes – High Position

Now play the three notes A, D and E with your first finger on the 7th fret of the D-String and on the 5th and 7th fret of the A-String. Always play the root note of the chord (that’s the name of the chord) together with the backing track.

Tone Sequences

Starting with the base note of every chord you play the following notes:

You can see that you play the same pattern in three different positions.

Start to explore the different notes step by step. When you can play the root note to every chord try playing the root note and the second note:

1 – 2 – 1

Then try the first and third note, you can try different rhythms:

1 – 3 – 1 or 1 – 1- 3 – 1 or 1 – 3 – 3 – 1 and so on.

Now play more and more notes, here are some examples:

1 – 2 – 3 – 1

1 – 2 – 3 – 5  /  1 – 2 – 1 – 5  /  1 – 3 – 5 – 3  / 1 – 5 – 1

1 – 3 – 5 – 7 / 1 – 3 – 5 – 6 – 7 / 1 – 3 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 3 / 1 – 3 – 5 – 6 – 8 – 6 – 5 – 3

1 – 3 – 5 – 7 – 8 / 1 – 5 – 8 – 7 / 8 – 7 – 5

I have compiled many backing tracks for a Blues in A in the following playlist:

Additional information

Link collection about strumming patterns:

Strum patterns

learn to play the mandolin

Tunefox – Learn to Play Bluegrass Tunes

Tunefox is a new web and app based learning tool for bluegrass instruments. I was asked by Bennett Sullivan to present tunefox in my blog.

Tunefox is primaily a web and app based learning tool for banjo, mandolin, guitar and bass. To use all the features of tunefox you need to subscribe.

As a subscriber you get access to the app or website with tutorials for many Bluegrass tunes. For each tune you can select between different levels of difficulty and between different playling styles. You can try the free tunes Cripple Creek and Worried Man Blues on the website.

To learn the tune you can play along the TABs, change the playback speed and shuffle the licks of the tune which can create many different solo versions for each tune.

You can also use the free beginner lessons, blog posts, youtube videos and other resources of tunefox without paying.

Tunefox is presented in the following introduction video:

Salt Creek Advanced Mandolin Solo

Tunefox will have it’s first Tunefox Camp with Mike Compton as mandolin instructor and other experienced Bluegrass instructors in May 2019. You can find detailed information about the tunefox camp on the tunefox website.

Additional information

Tunefox Youtube Channel

Tunefox youtube playlists

Tunefox Website

Tunefox Blog

Tunefox Camp