Author: Michael Reichenbach

africa

Gasper Nali and his Babatoni

Some days ago I have discovered a video with Gasper Nali and his huge one string guitar Babatoni.

Gasper Nali is a musician from Malawi, he has built a huge one stringed kind of guitar and uses this instrument to accompany his songs. He also uses a selfmade foot drum as a percussion instrument.

Gasper Nali shows his Babatoni in the following video.

The instrument is made from a kind of big drum, a long board, a long wire used as a string and a tuner. The instrument is played with a stick in the right hand and a bottle in the left hand. The bottle is used to shorten the string. Gasper Nali has painted big colored numbers to the neck of his instrument to mark the positions for the different tones. Before he plays the Babatoni he uses a fire to heat the drumhead of his instrument, so it sounds better. The bridge is positioned on the drumhead.

How the Babatoni is played – a stick in the right hand and a bottle in the left hand.
Big numbers show the positions for the bottle to shorten the strings.
The bridge is placed between drumhead and string.

It is fascinating which sounds this simple homemade instrument can produce. Together with the footdrum Gasper Nali can play a great accompaniment for his songs.

Playlist Gasper Nali

Gasper Nali has produced to albums which are available at bandcamp:

Album 2005 at bandcamp: https://gaspernali.bandcamp.com/album/abale-ndikuwuzeni

Album 2018 at bandcamp: https://gaspernali.bandcamp.com/album/zoona-malawi

mandolin history

William Jonas Fletcher jun. – Mandolinist – Fletcher’s Standard…

Long time ago I could buy a mandolin method – Fletcher’s Standard Mandoline Tutor. I found some information about other compositions of the same author with publishing dates in the late 19th century. The method was most probably published in 1896.

Recently I found some articles about the Fletcher family in some B.M.G. magazines from 1962. I have compiled the relevant pages in the following gallery:

Biography of William Jonas Fletcher jun.

MOST FAMOUS William Jonas Fletcher, Jr.

The eldest child and easily the most famous of this gifted family was born on October 18th, 1874. His early years were devoted to the violin; indeed, in 1895 he gained an Honours Degree from the College of Violinists.

Then quite suddenly he switched to the mandolin. No doubt, as was stated officially, this was partly for business reasons but it was roumored (though it might have merely been idle gossip) that the inequitable reward elsewhere of the gold medal in a contest had a good deal to do with this abandonment of the violin.

In after years, however, he always asserted that a working knowledge of the violin gave a mandolinist a technical advantage over players lacking such experience.

He was tall, good-looking and of slight build. Though apt to fuss a little when things went wrong prior to a concert, every one in the orchestra – and indeed throughout the fretted instrument world – loved “Will,” as he was known to all.

He was married on Christmas Day , 1901, when he was twenty-seven – his wife being Hannah Hilda Grandi, a mandola player in the orchestra. He was always the star soloist at the orchestra’s many concerts and was renowned for his expressive style, admirably clear picking in fast passages and his arched wrist. Indeed the records of his solos issued in November 1901 by the Edison Phonograph Co. were considered the most satisfactory mandolin recordings until then. I wonder if any can have survived ?

He was supposed to be the first English-born player of the mandolin to make use of the extended fingerboard.

Apart from his numerous compositions (and to a sound musical training he joined the gift of melody) his repertoire was extensive, consisting mainly of Bach and Beethoven – always from the original scores. He often appeared at the St. James’s Hall and similar concerts, (starring with Cammeyer, Farland and Obregon) and his career, brilliant as it was, presaged still greater triumphs when the world of fretted instruments was stunned to learn of his death from pulmonary tuberculosis on Sunday, 16th October 1904.


Fletcher’s Standard Mandoline Tutor is available for download from the Petrucci Library: https://imslp.org/wiki/Fletcher’s_Standard_Mandoline_Tutor_(Fletcher%2C_William_Jonas)

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:

A
D
E

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

mandolin sheet music

Mandolin Syllabuses and Examination Regulations

Mandolin syllabuses and examination regulations are helpful to give hints about what you can play on the mandolin.

I have compiled the mandolin syllabuses that I know in this post. I have compiled syllabuses in different languages. As those lists are mainly lists of composers and sheet music titles you shouild be able to use it even if you do not understand the language.

You can find a link list in my link collection: Link collection mandolin syllabus


Thekla Mattischek – Aspekte des Unterrichts auf der Mandoline / Mandola

Thekla Mattischek has compiled some important aspects about teaching the mandolin in a document. At the end of the document you can also find a small list of recommended music for the mandolin. You can find the article on the following page: Fachartikel und Noten (www.mandoline.de)


Literaturliste für die Oberstufe des Gymnasiums (Bayern)

Regulations for mandolin players at secondary schools in Bavaria can be found on this page: Literaturlisten


Victoria College Exams has been offering examinations, held at local centres continually since 1890. The rules and levels for the examinantions have been compiled in syllabuses for the dirfferent instruments. The examinations for mandolin have been added on a recommendation by Alison Stephens.

The syllabus for mandolin can be downloaded from the folling page: Victoria College – Request a Syllabus


Read more “Mandolin Syllabuses and Examination Regulations”