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What songs should I learn on the mandolin?
January 31, 2012 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Looking for suggestions for songs to learn to play on the mandolin...

I got a mandolin for Christmas and have been using Traditionalmusic.co.uk to find songs to learn to play on the mandolin.

The trouble I'm having is... They have so many songs that I'm not sure which songs to try.

I like everything from old kindergarten songs (Yankee Doodle Dandy was fun to learn) to folk songs to religious songs (I've done Silent Night, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and Amazing Grace). Ideally, though, I'm looking for songs with a memorable melody. Bonus points if it's one of the songs that includes a midi track or there's a good youtube video of someone playing the song on Mandolin.

This question had some cool answers but I'm not limiting myself to bluegrass.
posted by drezdn to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
One additional tangential question: One Mandolin book I have has a possible C chord as open on the G and E strings and second fret on D and third on the A. The closest I've found to this in my mando chord books is open g, second fret on d and third fret on A and E.

What's the deal?
posted by drezdn at 4:49 PM on January 31, 2012


This is a fun one.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 4:52 PM on January 31, 2012


Losing My Religion! Peter Buck wrote the riff while learning how to play the mandolin. Tab is here.
posted by jabes at 4:54 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blackberry Blossom is simple but good. Two distinct sounds, and lots of weedly-wee'ing that can sounds really great played fast.
posted by scruss at 4:56 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Steve Earle & tDMB - Dixieland
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:21 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Learn the Mandolin solo from Stonehenge.
posted by plinth at 5:50 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


drezdn, re: those chords - by third-fretting the e string, you're playing the note G. The Cmajor chord is made up of C (the root), E (the major third), and G (the fifth). So you're just playing another variation on a C chord, but substituting that high e for a high g.

It's all gravy.
posted by entropone at 5:54 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eight Miles High?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98Q5RwLGBUA
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:58 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Barlow knife. It's a total standard, it's catchy as hell, and it splits into three nice convenient parts that are each dirt-simple on their own.

One additional tangential question: One Mandolin book I have has a possible C chord as open on the G and E strings and second fret on D and third on the A. The closest I've found to this in my mando chord books is open g, second fret on d and third fret on A and E.

As entropone says, they're just variations on the same chord.

Open strings ring longer and sound more melodic. Closed strings make it easier to get a sort of dry, almost percussive sound. So you use different versions of the chord depending on what you're doing. If you're playing traditional folk music, or a solo on a bluegrass song, you want to use open strings as much as possible, so the two-fingered C chord fits in nicely. But if you're playing backup on a bluegrass song, that dry percussive sound is actually desirable — you're playing the same role that a snare drum would play in a Nashville-style country band — so you want to use the three- or four-finger chords that let you close off more of the strings.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:02 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Old Joe Clark is a fun but pretty simple melody on mando, and you'll find plenty of midis/YouTube clips of it.
posted by usonian at 7:03 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you heard Chris Thile?
posted by pilibeen at 8:05 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some folksy songs I like to play on the mando: Shady Grove, Louis Collins, Rosa Lee McFall, and House of the Rising Sun. There are chords all over the net. (or MeMail me and I'll send em to ya.)

I also have this Bluegrass Mandolin book which I would recommend. It's got tablature, chords and a music reference cd for a lot of traditional tunes.

Another trick about that two-fingered C chord - move it up a string and it's a two-fingered G chord. Move it down a string and it's a two-fingered F. Makes for some easy/quick chord changes
posted by gnutron at 9:11 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sing - Travis
The background of this song is mandolin and it's beautiful (and catchy).
posted by ichomp at 9:14 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Battle of Evermore by Led Zeppelin
posted by jadepearl at 9:25 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chris Thile is awesome... but he's a world-class mandolinist who's been playing since age 5, and most of his recordings are an exercise in frustration to learn/play at speed (at least, they are for a hack like me. If I'm in the wrong mood his overwhelming talent makes me want to bust my mandolin up and use it for firewood.) Although What a Blast with Mike Marshall is a pretty simple but awesome little mostly strummed tune, and the linked video (which wasn't around the last time I searched for that tune on YouTube) has nice clear shots of the chords being played.
posted by usonian at 7:32 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


You'll be wanting to visit mandohangout. In addition to the forum and the tab-archives, you can listen to the 'jukebox' of other forum members playing and wait till you hear a song that grabs you and demands to be learned.
posted by K.P. at 11:13 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I'll slowly be making my way through them.
posted by drezdn at 6:37 AM on February 2, 2012


Besides Chris Thile, here are some great mandoliners: John reischmann, mike Marshall, mike Compton, sam bush, Ricky skaggs, Tim obrien. A few I really like that aren't the most popular are jethro burns, Herschel Sizemore, and Peter Ostroushko. Bill Monroe is the original bluegrass mandolinist. There's some great Brazilian mandolin music (Jacob do bandolim, Hamilton de holonda).

As long as I'm not answering you question right I'd might as well keep going wrong. Do learn everything about chords and theory you can. If you learn in terms of tunes, be sure to figure out the chords to those tunes. (it's easy to be lazy and ignore chords. But the chords are the music more than the notes in the melody, so you're just selling yourself short). If you break it down you'll start to realize that patterns in the melodies relate to certain chords and it will get easier.

Practicing scales and arpeggios might not be the most fun. But they'll do you fingers right. Here are a couple I like

http://www.mandozine.com/techniques/arpeggios/tim_obriens_arpeggios.html
http://www.mandozine.com/techniques/scales/aonzo_family_scales.html

And finally Norman Blake's "new chance blues" is a great tune. Good luck
posted by kjell at 6:58 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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