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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”
CD

Carlo Aonzo Trio – Mandolitaly

Carlo Aonzo has published a new CD with Italian music – Mandolitaly. In this album the Carlo Aonzo Trio plays a set of Italian tunes in very entertaining way, with a light mood and jazzy influences. The mandolin has a beautiful tone, and the accompaniment by guitar and double bass prepares a colorful base for the mandolin.

You can hear selections by Raffaele Calace and Carlo Munier, songs like the Genoese song “Ma se ghe penso”, the Neapolitan song “Voce ‘e notte”, the song “Nebbia’a la Vall” from the Abruzzi, a Sicilian Tarantella joined with Taranta Steps by John Coltrane, and a classical Toccata in A.

Carlo Aonzo has a compiled a great and entertaining album for everybody who loves the mandolin, with lovely tremolo serenades and jolly tarantellas. Some of the recordings remind me of the great Dave Apollon.

For the recording Carlo has added some great guest musicians to add more colors to the unique sound.

Claudio Bellato (guitar) 

Tommaso Bellomare (sicilian jew’s harp)

Rudy Cervetto (drums) 

Antonio Marangolo (sax) 

Ismaila Mbaye (african percussions) 

Fabio Rinaudo (bagpipes, flute) 

Daniele Sepe (sax) 

Ike Stubblefield (hammond organ)

Riccardo Tesi (diatonic accordion) 

Riccardo Zegna (piano)

The album can be ordered directly from Carlo Aonzo, it will be available soon on all other platforms.

Mandolitaly

You can hear some of the songs of this new CD as a live performance of the Carlo Aonzo Trio in the following podcast:
00:00 Indifference (short version)
06:35 Polke
11:53 Mazurka Sentimentale
18:13 Voce e’ Notte + Taranta Steps
25:00 Arrivederci Roma + Roma nun fa la stupida stasera
32:09 Mazurka (Calace)
38:06 Receita de Samba
43:46 Splitting it up
49:38 Vivaldi in New York (L’Estate 3° mov.)
54:30 Minuano (short version)

Playlist Mandolitaly

CD presentation on the website of Carlo Aonzo:

https://carloaonzo.com/mandolitaly-the-new-album

After “A Mandolin Journey”, musical tour through the continents, the Carlo Aonzo Trio – Carlo Aonzo on the Italian mandolin, Lorenzo Piccone on the acoustic guitar and Luciano Puppo on the double bass – is back, this time travelling along the Italian tradition to rediscover its peculiar soundtrack. Once again the main character is the mandolin which, in the personal unique modern and eclectic style of Aonzo, makes such repertoire surprisingly catchy and contemporary.

Additional Information

Review of “MandolItaly” in the Mandolin Cafe – including the track “Taranta Steps” from the album.

Review of the album (ondamusicale.it – Italian)

The previous album by the Carlo Aonzo Trio:

A Mandolin Journey at Spotify

Wikipedi about the song Ma se ghe penso

bluegrass

Red Allen und Frank Wakefield – Bluegrass 1964

I have recently found an interview with David Grisman (Live on the Jake Feinberg Show) where he talked about the recording of the Bluegrass Album with Red Allen and Frank Wakefield in 1964. He later talks about his projects with Jerry Garcia.

This interview inspired me to look back to the early 1960s and how Bluegrass was like then.

The album was produced for Smithsonian Folkways Records. Grisman (born in 1945) was just 19 years old when he produced this record. Wakefield had a great influence to Grisman who says the he learned alle tha mandolin solos a played by Frank Wakefield.

Smithsonian Folkways about Red Allen & Frank Wakefield

Allen and Wakefield’s music ranges from strictly traditional songs like “Little Maggie” to pieces introduced by Bill Monroe to sacred material, all with their hallmark close harmonies and tight instrumental backing. Like Monroe and Roscoe Holcomb, Allen’s voice embodies the “high lonesome” sound.

Grisman had invited Red Allen and Frank Wakefield to play a concert at the Carnegie Hall before.

Bluegrass (1964) – Red Allen und Frank Wakefield

David Grisman especially was inspired by a song from the album “Mountain Music Bluegrass Style” – The White House Blues by Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys. They had to drive to New York to buy records like this. He says abou when he listened to this song for the very first time: “That changed my life”

White House Blues

Album – Mountain Music Bluegrass Style (Smithsonian)

David Grisman Interview Live on the Jake Feinberg Show

Wikipedia about Red Allen

Red Allen – Bluegrass Hall of Fame

WDON Recordings from Frank Wakefield and Red Allen