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Important Intermediate Mandolin Concepts To Consider

mandolin video exchange mike marshall

When you feel like you're ready to call yourself a intermediate mandolin player, there's a few things to keep in mind as move up to the next level. One of the many benefits of having a teacher like Mike Marshall is that he can help you gain unique insights about your own playing very early in the learning process. The advice he gives you through Video Exchanges here will open new doors and accelerate your development as a musician.

Here are three important intermediate mandolin concepts to consider as you go about your practice. The first two relate to Music Theory and the last one focuses on some specific techniques that will definitely spice up your mandolin playing.

1. Understanding Music Theory: Intervals

Acquiring a basic understanding of Music Theory and how it applies to the mandolin will be incredibly important as you enter into the intermediate phase of learning. Lucky for anyone studying online at ArtistWorks, there's a free Music Theory lesson series taught by Jonathan Coopersmith - who's Head of the Music Theory Department at Berklee School of Music. It's a great way to brush up on your knowledge (and impress you friends). 

music theory lessons at artistworks

Music Theory is the language we use to discuss and analyze various musical elements, including melody, harmony and rhythm.

As it turns out, the mandolin is a pretty straightforward instrument when looked at through the lens of a music theorist. This is because of how the mandolin is tuned.

The mandolin is tuned in 5ths (G D A E), which means the relationship of notes between two adjacent strings remains the same as you pluck through the strings. For example, once you learn the interval of an octave between the G – D strings (open G and 5th fret on the D), you can apply that relationship between the D – A strings and the A – E strings.

This makes it much easier once you get into the practice of memorizing note names and intervals all over the fretboard.

2. Moveable Mandolin Chords

moveable mandolin chords

Click here for free sample mandolin lessons from Mike Marshall!

Speaking of moving all over the fretboard, it is essential for an intermediate mandolin student to learn multiple moveable chord shapes and practice shifting them up and down the fretboard.

As you traverse the fretboard with these shapes, take the time to be aware of where your root note is so you know exactly what chord you are playing. As demonstrated by Mike Marshall, the first moveable shape you’ll want to work with is the G barre shape.

Focus on moving up to each natural note (G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G) along the G string, paying attention to where the half steps are (B-C and E-F). Once you become more familiar with this shape, move onto more complex shapes, such as inversions, minor chords and extensions (7ths, 9ths, etc.).

3. Intermediate Techniques: Hammer-ons, Pull-offs, Slides & Tremolo

Practicing these four intermediate mandolin techniques on a regular basis is essential to expanding your mandolin skills as player. Hammer-ons and pull-offs can be especially tricky on the mandolin when starting out (because of the tight double strings), so working on these regularly is key. Make sure that you are practicing these with all four fingers up and down the fretboard.

Slides are another key technique to work on. The beginning lick of the classic bluegrass tune "Salt Creek", for example, is all about playing that opening slide with precision and confidence. When practicing slides, work on aiming for the target fret and moving quickly and precisely to achieve a solid, audible sound.

intermediate mandolin tips from mike marshall

Tremolos are another intermediate skill that takes a lot of regular practice to really master. As Mike Marshall explains, the tremolo effect is achieved by holding the pick at a slight angle while maintaining a solid balance between a relaxed grip and a fast, slightly rigid motion of the wrist and arm. Practice tremolo at different speeds, and be sure to work through each string equally.

Now that you are entering the intermediate phase of learning, make sure you continue to practice and develop all of your basic skills (scales, chords, chop patterns, etc.), as you progress forward in applying music theory and advanced techniques to your mandolin training.

Happy picking out there!

sample mandolin lessons from Mike Marshall

Mike Marshall can teach you everything you need to know about playing mandolin, no matter what style you play or how long you've been playing. Click here for free sample lessons!

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