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25 New Mandolin Lessons from Mike Marshall

We’ve just added 25 new mandolin lessons! Mike Marshall took a bunch of classic Bluegrass tunes for mandolin and recorded lessons on them in two common keys to accommodate both male and female singing ranges. Mike teaches the rhythm and basic chords for the tune, and also some different ways to think about approaching it from a supportive role. From there you’ll learn the melody and how to embellish it using chopping, tremolo and various other techniques. 

Here's a list of the new tunes:

  • “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane”
  • “Wabash Cannonball”
  • “I Saw The Light”
  • “Wayfaring Stranger”
  • “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
  • “Wabash Cannonball”
  • “Whiskey Before Breakfast”

new mandolin lessons

These are great mandolin songs to learn for any level of player, and Mike recorded Beginner and Intermediate versions to make it easy on you. In the Intermediate level, Mike demonstrates and discusses many of the classic turnaround licks and fills that make these songs so recognizable, and he also gets into how to solo over them. We also reached out to Mike learn more:

Why did you choose these songs for your new lessons?

These are just classic Bluegrass tunes that I grew up playing and that everyone will run into in their jam sessions and at festivals and playing with their friends.
I wanted to beef up the Beginner area of the curriculum and so these tunes lay very comfortably on the mandolin in open keys and first position.

Of course as I started to play them I realized that it would be good to be able to play them in a couple of keys (for men and women’s voices) and then of course for more intermediate and advanced players have some different ways of improvising on them too. So we kind of filled out that part of the lesson curriculum as well.

How’s it been going keeping up with all your students?

"I just love teaching through the ArtistWorks system. I get to have real interaction with my students 'one on one’ and after a couple of Video Exchanges a real relationship begins to form and we become actual buddies. The nerves fade away and the real learning begins.

"It’s not been a problem at all keeping up with the exchanges. I carve out a few hours ever couple of days and have a great set up at home that the company provided me with which makes the work go pretty quickly actually. Plus I actually enjoy teaching and this intimate way of interacting with my students always keeps it fresh and interesting. There are plenty of surprises with folks sending me tunes that are not necessarily part of the lesson curriculum. That keeps it fun for me. Sometimes I have to spend a little extra time researching a tune in order to give what I think is a good quality response.

Which came first for you, the bluegrass or the mandolin?

"My first teacher in Central Florida was Jim Hilligoss. He was great! I came to him as a guitar student and knew nothing about Bluegrass. After about a year of taking lessons, learning to read and doing the basics, he started a Bluegrass group with some of his students where we could learn to play by ear and just ‘jam’. At first he had me playing bass and he was playing mandolin. Then pretty quickly he handed the mandolin off to me. We became the Sunshine Bluegrass Boys, traveled all over the southeast playing festivals and odd gigs here and there. We made two Lps together. (8 tracks too! Remember those?)

"My first festival was in Lavonia, Georgia probably in 1971 and it was 10 days long! It was a mind blower for me. I just dove into Bluegrass music with both feet. I learned from all the different players at these festivals that we would go to. I just loved the music and devoured everything I could get my hands on. Of course in those days it was not so easy to find Lps and get access to the music. But we found our way. I would order a record from our local record store and wait 2 months for it to arrive then I would treasure it and learn every note on it. A far cry from the access we all have now I would have to say. To have had lessons the way I am doing them now would have a been a DREAM!

What’s new in the mandolin world lately?

"I would say that it’s a big big mandolin world out there now that we all have access to. Today is the most amazing time for anyone getting interested in our instrument. No matter where you live you can watch great players and see them play. You might live in East Tennessee or Madrid Spain or Lakeland Florida and you could become obsessed with Bluegrass and Bingo! there is all this information out there for you to find out about it. Of course it is also kind of a giant ocean of information. That’s actually the big challenge for us all right now. How to sift through all that stuff and get to the real chore of what you need to know and how to progress especially if you are a student and new to the music.

What would you say to someone who’s never tried ArtistWorks?

"I would say ‘You can’t imagine how cool this way of learning is'” Nothing even close to this exists out there in the sea of lessons that you might find on the internet...

"The Video Exchange way of learning was a truly a stroke of genius by ArtistWorks. There are many things about it that I’m not sure people understand until they try it themselves for the first time. When a student films themselves and watches it they will often say, ‘oh jeez, I can’t send that to Mike. I need to fix that one part’. Well the learning has already begun before he and I have even interacted. They might play the tune 5 or 6 times (or 20!) before they get a take which they feel is good enough to present.

"Then I zero in on a few things which I think might improve things for them. They can then watch this thing 30 times if they want and really zero in and make those improvements step by step at their own pace. They do this in the quiet of their own home without the distraction of being in a live lesson with me. I would say that you could argue that this might be better than a live lesson for this reason. Often when students take a live lesson from me I can tell that they are so nervous that they are maybe missing half of what I am saying. Then this lesson gets archived and anyone can watch this lesson who is interested in  learning this tune. And it will be in the library forever. That’s incredible. OH! If I could have had this available to me when I was learning all of Sam Bush and David Grisman’s licks as a teenager!!

What are some common issues you see in your students' videos?

"I love to focus on posture especially with new students. I feel that mandolin playing and teaching has not developed an agreed upon way of simply holding the instrument and using the hands that is taught across the board like violin and piano. So I am striving to help students hone in on a balanced way of playing that enables them to really do their best and not fight the mechanics of using the hands, arms and legs.

"The next stage is usually about helping the student really ‘hear’ what they are playing and hone in on the details so that they get a good clean sound, that every note speaks and that they have the ability to control dynamics.

"For more advanced players it’s usually just helping them open up their imaginations to inspire them to play in more creative ways. To help them get out of their ruts as far as playing the same licks all the time.

Do you have any tips on mandolin tuning?

"I use an electronic tuner of course like most of us but there is a lot more to it than one might think.

"It’s important to be able to play only one of the pairs of the strings at a time and to not have too many strings ringing over. So I use a rest stroke technique for this where the pick rests on the adjacent string after plucking so as to mute the other unison string. Otherwise it interferes with the string that is ringing.

"I always suggest that the student always tune UP to the note rather than down so as to pull the string tight. This holds the tension and pitch better on the string. Even if you have tuned all the strings correctly to the tuner you usually need to go back a couple of times because the act of changing the strings effects the tension on the instrument and by the time you get to the last string the first one has perhaps moved a little bit.

"I like to check my octave notes against the open strings too, then strum a couple of chords and see how things sound even if the tuner said that everything was ok. Often there needs to be a bit of compensating in order to make things really sound ‘right’. I also try to remember that one of the most ‘in tune’ musicians I know, Tony Rice only used a pitch fork, never an electronic tuner… hum?"

***Click here to watch Mike’s Beginner lesson on "Wabash Cannonball" ( with backing track!)***

Each lesson comes complete with an instrumental backing track to play along to, as well as tablature with notation and chord charts. There’s also performance versions included, recorded in both overhead and side angle views, plus slow-motion isolations so you can really see how Mike’s playing these songs.

Mike Marshall teaches mandolin online at ArtistWorks. Not a member? Click the link below for more info and free sample lessons!

Learn more about online mandolin lessons at ArtistWorks

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