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Mandolin Lesson: Speed Exercises

Mandolin Master Mike Marshall (aka MMMM) calls them finger busters in his online mandolin lessons (learn more at They're valuable mandolin exercises that build up speed and strength so that when you are playing, you’ve done the work to keep your playing in the pocket and your head in the song, rather than struggling to keep up.

“I love to do these things that are non-musical where you’re trying to work the hands and get things lined up,” says Marshall.  It’s all about getting the pick hand lined up with the fretted hand.
In this particular mandolin lesson, Mike uses the A note on the E string as a pivot note and playing all the other notes on that string chromatically (single fret movements) going backwards.
He then repeats this pattern on the next string.
Make sure your up stroke is sounding nice and clear.  As Mike points out, the down strokes are stronger naturally strong and clear.  The up strokes can often suffer from some muting, so this is a great speed exercise for building clarity as well.  As alway, use a metronome and build up gradually.
Try four up and down strokes per note, or two or one.  The beauty of this type of exercise is that you can try different variations to build your flexibility and avoid getting stuck in muscle memory patterns 

Watch Mike's Free Mandolin Lessons

Mike teaches this and hundreds of other mandolin lessons online, including:
  • Moveable Chords
  • Three Moveable Chords
  • Cookoo's Nest
  • Red Haired Boy
  • Target Notes - Golden Slippers
  • Target Notes - Liberty
  • Tremelos
  • Harmonizing the Melody
  • Doable Double Stops
  • The Mandolin's Place in the Band
  • Playing Fills Behind a Vocalist
  • Kickoffs 
  • Blues Scale
  • Sitting on Top of the World - Blues
  • 1-6-2-5 Progression
  • Red Wing

The cool thing about these mandolin lessons is that you can submit videos of your playing and Mike Marshall himself will go over your video and respond with his own videos giving you feedback on YOUR playing. Not just one time either, you can submit as many videos as you want for as long as you're a member of the school. 

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