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Thread: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

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    Default Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    With your help I've assembled a bunch of mando instruction books to work through, that seem to work together:

    Mandolin for Dummies
    Mandolin Greg Horne (complete)
    The Complete Mandolinist Marilynn Mair
    Exploring Classical Mandolin August Watters

    Thanks for that. I saw some nice country blues fingerpicking on mandolin this morning, and I'd like to find some stuff on how to do that. Does anyone know of an instructor book or online resources that'll help with that?

    Thanks, Max

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Here's a copy of a post that I did previously in another thread. However, these materials are about learning blues rather than fingerpicking per se. That writers are trying to communicate the styles of the older blues mandolin players, rather than Nashville or bluegrass interpretations of blues, so I'm not sure whether this will help you.

    "These books all are good, and include tabs tabs. All come with either a CD or a link for MP3's.

    Carr, Joe. School of Mandolin: Blues. Mel Bay.

    James, Steve. Roots and Blues Mandolin. Acoustic Guitar Private Lessons, String Letter.

    Delgrosso, Rich. Mandolin Blues: from Memphis to Maxwell Street. Hal-Leonard.

    "Carr's is good for someone fairly new to either mandolin or the blues, providing rhythms, blues scales, and such. James's is more intermediate, with plenty of good, sometimes well-known, tunes. Delgrosso's is for a more experienced player, who already has a blues background. His book has plenty of information in it, and is a must for anyone interested in the history of blues mandolin. Steve James also has two good teaching DVD's On Homespun Video."
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Thanks Ranald - do you know if any of these books have dots? I find tab alone slower to pick up, just cos I'm more used to fiddle.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    Thanks Ranald - do you know if any of these books have dots? I find tab alone slower to pick up, just cos I'm more used to fiddle.
    They all do. The advantage to learning tabs -- i was reluctant at first -- is that, unlike in most fiddling, you use different finger positions on mandolin to make the same note. Tabs are especially useful when chording, as the teacher is advising you how to position your fingers. Unless you're getting into classical playing at an advanced level, this usually isn't an issue with the violin, other than with the choice between using fourth finger and open string. (You may be able to see pages of these books online.)
    Last edited by Ranald; Feb-08-2021 at 9:04pm.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Firstly, all excellent resources.

    As a guitarist, I kept dropping picks, so use my fingers all the time. I can get those lovely rolls, piano fills, basslines, chordal melodies. When I took up the mandolin, I needed to learn a pick. I tried using fingers, but couldn't get it loud enough. I learned the pick. I now use picks on guitar a bit. But I've always found fingerpicking on a mandolin futile. I'll be very interested to see how you go. (PS, I consider mandolin my main instrument).
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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Here's the sort of thing I have in mind, David:


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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    Here's the sort of thing I have in mind, David:

    Thumb pick, eh? That makes things interesting...
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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    I'm just waiting for one of these to arrive to see if it works on mandolin for me: the Black Mountain Pick looks a bit like a 1.5mm flatpick mounted on a spring thumb clip so there's less of a chance of it doing all that good stuff like flying off into the bushes and sawing your thumb in half:


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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    Here's the sort of thing I have in mind, David:

    That sounds cool. Should be fun to learn.

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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    As far back as the mid 70's I was messing with some guitar-derived fingerpicking on the mandolin. There were some Happy Traum books on Oak that I had (Guitar Finger-Picking Styles and Finger-Picking Styles For Guitar, both in standard notation and guitar tab) plus Happy's columns in Guitar Playerr mag. I went through and adapted about half of that first book mentioned.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I learned a fair amount of of Mississippi John Hurt (Casey Jones, Candy Man, Spike Driver Blues, My Creole Belle) , and stuff like "Fishing Blues", Doc Watson "Deep River Blues", "Angie"... to get the basic concepts involved.

    There some piedmont style (ie MS John Hurt) fingerpicking arrangements in Hot Licks For Hot Picks, published in 198i. (Contents page image attached)

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Still available through Elderly. There's other non-mando derived stuff in it too: pedal steel licks, Clarence White guitar, Scott Stoneman fiddle doublestops, crosspicking. I was also taking lessons from a classical/jazz violinist who was putting me through classical violin technique etudes, which is where those shifting exercises came from; that technique boost really helped prepare me for the electric guitar stuff I learned from Richard Thompson. (The guy was also an old pal/crony of Joe Venuti; my younger brother had been taking fiddle lessons from him as well).

    Don't overlook mando playing by folks like Ry Cooder and Martin Carthy which used fingerstyle. or pick + fingers. Cittern player Gerald Trimble did an album on Green Linnet years ago....all fingerstyle. And, "that kid " in the video did a really good job too!

    If you are a decent singer, the fingerpicking is sufficient for accompaniment. (Look at how effective a uke can be behind a good singer). But I think the fingerpicking is more effective (imo) on a lower instrument (mandola, etc) where you've got some more sustain, volume and you can get below the voice. But learn it, by all means, on mandolin so you'll have the technique in your fingers when you go deeper. And if you can get control of the RH fingers, it can ease you into Telecaster-style "pick+fingers" as well. (Highly recommended!)

    Niles H

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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Good videos. Justin Johnson is impressive on mandolin. I use Black Mountain thumb picks, but not for "finger picking." I have arthritis in my right hand, and find playing with a regular pick to be painful, so I use a thumb pick, more or less as I'd use a regular pick. I discovered Black Mountains when trying out a mandolin in Vancouver, a couple of years ago. They're made in the region. I was thoroughly impressed, and find them to be the only thumb picks that don't try to escape as I play. Cole at Black Mountain is a finger picker, by the way, and is happy to discuss picking with customers.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Prbly not so relevant to your interest - but just in case ... if you ever get hold of a charango or double-course uke - fngrpking is great (the wider string spacing, lower tension nylon is the cats meow)

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin fingerpicking instruction?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    Here's the sort of thing I have in mind, David:

    FWIW Justin lowered the tension ever so slightly by tuning down a half step to play the above, not a bad idea if you want to do this.
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