Mandola learning resources

  1. Explorer
    Explorer
    I first ran across a mandola in a shop specializing in folk instruments. I already had an old Harmony mandolin, bought from a pawnshop, but this music store was where I had bought replacement strings and gotten advice on setup. I was intrigued to see a slightly larger instrument in with the mandolins, and picked it up to give it a try.

    That deeper register and richer tone made me ask about layaway options, and I made my first payment.

    After paying off and taking home that mandola, a Flatiron 1SH, I ran into a lack of mandola-specific learning materials. I tried to teach myself, using mandolin books and chord books, but it didn't really come together other than a few tunes here and there.

    Over time, I did internet searches on "mandola," but other than a few videos here and there of people playing unadorned tunes, there still weren't any resources.

    Then one day, instead of doing a search on "mandola," I instead searched for "CGDA."

    And that's how I discovered the vast world of tenor banjo books.

    Tenor banjo has been around a long time, and even if one isn't into the kind of repertoire one might hear from a player wearing a striped shirt and a straw hat (I'm not, but no judgments here), there was still obviously a lot of knowledge to be had.

    After doing a lot of reading and research, I ordered a few books. They taught me to read music on mandola, and the rudiments of chord-melody style, as well as giving me a place to start on chords.

    The three books which I found most useful for mandola were

    Mel Bay's Complete Tenor Banjo Method
    Mel Bay's Tenor Banjo Melody Chord Playing System
    Mel Bay's Deluxe Encyclopedia of Tenor Banjo Chords
    (now titled Tenor Banjo Chord Encyclopedia)

    The Melody Chord Playing System is a follow-up to Complete Tenor Banjo Method, so one should work through Complete Method before going to Melody Chord Playing System.

    I worked them slowly and patiently with a metronome, starting slow and only speeding any given exercise once i could play it *perfectly* at the current speed. That way, I only learned to play perfectly, although slowly, and never fossilized any errors into my playing through repetition.

    Typically I would work on about a five-page range at any given time, dropping the oldest page and adding a new one when i could play the oldest perfectly at speed. I'd work for around 20 minutes a day on these "lessons sessions," no more, although I allowed myself to play for pleasure outside of that.

    As I got better, I could dive into all kinds of music in my free time, freed from the tyranny of needing tablature.

    On the plus side, I not only learned to play, but also got comfortable reading and writing music for mandola. This skill will open a world of music to anyone who follows it.

    Since I bought those books, I've discovered even more older tenor banjo method books, now out of copyright, available on the internet. I haven't had time or inclination to work through any of them, so I can't give any reviews or suggestions, but they are out there.

    Also, there are quite a few amazing players of the tenor guitar (also traditionally tuned CGDA) who have posted on Youtube. Often the hands are very visible, and with a decent grounding in the basics, anyone can use the videos as tutorials for further ideas.

    Should you decide to follow any of these paths, good luck, and happy playing!
Results 1 to 1 of 1