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A mandolin is a small fretted, stringed instrument with 8 strings. the tuning (from low to high) is GG DD AA EE (the same as a violin). It is used in many different styles of music including Bluegrass, New Acoustic, jazz, blues, country, classical, folk, and celtic.

Technique[edit | edit source]

Technique is an incredibly important aspect of playing the mandolin well. Right hand technique is especially important.

(Note:there are many different ideas on proper right hand technique and almost all of them are valid.)

Proper right hand technique involves very lightly holding the pick between the thumb and index finger and resting your hand very lightly behind the bridge.The pick should be at a slight downward angle. You want to keep your wrist as loose as posible. When you strike the string with the pick you should use all or almost all wrist. You want there to be as little movement as possible while still producing a good sound.

Proper left hand technique involves holding the neck between you thumb and your index finger. Your hand should be at a slight angle to the neck. There should be a space between the neck and the palm of your hand.

Pick Stroke Theory[edit | edit source]

Another important part of right hand technique involves the pick strokes. when playing any song (except when you are in 6/8 or 3/4 time) all of your pick strokes should be down, up, down, up...etc. Each down and each up represents an 8th note.

for example...


Right Hand Exercises[edit | edit source]

Here are some good exercises to develope a good right hand. it is good to do a few repititions of each one during your practice. Do them slowly at first, concentrating mostly on playing as clean as you possibly can. In time you can build up speed but remember the important thing here is playing clean.

(Note: remember the "down up, down up" pickstroke theory.)





History[edit | edit source]

The mandolin is a musical instrument derived from the mandora The mandora was a type of lute with six to eight strings and was used in Germany and Austria in the 1700’s. Many people call the mandora a baroque mandolin, and they call the modern mandolin a Neapolitan mandolin. The mandolin gradually made its way into America by European settlers in the 17 and 1800’s. At the time it was mostly used to play traditional tunes in whatever style the player happened to know.

Notable Players[edit | edit source]

Towards the beginning 20th century a man named Bill Monroe first started using the mandolin as a lead instrument. Bill Monroe was the father of bluegrass; he was the first person in a long time to write songs specifically for the mandolin. After he became famous lots of people started copying him, and that really brought the mandolin into the spotlight.

The mandolin died down for a while, and it didn’t get another boost until about 1963 when the first recording of David Grisman came out. People had started thinking of the mandolin as strictly a bluegrass instrument, but that all changed with David Grisman. Grisman’s fusion of gypsy, jazz and bluegrass music (which he called dawg music) was a tremendous success.

In 2000, the band Nickel Creek released their self-titled album. The band consists of guitarist Sean Watkins, fiddler Sara Watkins, and mandolinist Chris Thile. Chris Thile combines classical, jazz, bluegrass, rock, and just about everything else to make a very unique sound.

Christopher Scott Thile was born on February 20, 1981 in Oceanside, California. He started playing mandolin at the age of 5, he was encouraged by his father who was a musician. He started taking lessons with John Moore, the mandolin and guitar player for the group Bluegrass ETC.. He learned very quickly and he soon started going to bluegrass festivals and competing (and usually winning) in contests all over California. When he was 8 years old he helped form the band Nickel Creek with his friends Sean and Sara Watkins playing guitar and fiddle. By the time he was 12 he recorded and released his first solo album entitled Leading Off. That same year he won the prestigious national mandolin championship which is held in Winfield, Kansas. Today Thile is considered one of the top mandolins in the world. He is 26 years old.