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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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October 21, 2013 | From the author's perspective, Mandolin for Dummies

We had the privilege of interviewing popular clinician and upper midwest premier mandolinist, (now celebrated author!) Don Julin a year ago about the release of his book, Mandolin for Dummies. The prestigious internatioanl publisher Wiley & Sons, has done well with this, and rumors of a follow-up release are out there.


In the interview, we asked Don to give us a summary of how the book is organized, and this is how he described the five parts:

1. Being Bitten By the Mandolin Bug. An introduction to the mandolin including the anatomy of a mandolin, the mandolin family of instruments including mandola, mandocello, octave mandolin, and mandobass, tuning the mandolin, and different ways of holding the mandolin (standing, sitting, with a strap, etc).

2. Starting the Play the Mandolin. These chapters cover basic skills needed to play the mandolin including proper ways of holding the pick, left-hand grip, counting exercises, left- and right-hand dexterity exercises, simple strumming styles using basic open chords, picking styles including alternate picking, down-stokes, and cross-picking. This section also includes a chapter on Jethro Burns style three-string chords and a chapter on scales and how they relate to common melodies. Beginner to intermediate level songs are used in this section to demonstrate many of the techniques presented.

3. Putting Playing Styles into Practice. All about styles of mandolin playing. The styles represented: old-time string band music including fiddle tunes, rags, and blues, bluegrass, Irish music, jazz/swing, (David Grisman) Dawg music, and a small chapter on world music including Italian folk music, European classical music and Brazilian choro. In each chapter, characteristics of the style including chord progressions, strumming or rhythm patterns, syncopation, and melodic ornaments are demonstrated with public domain and original pieces of music. Many of my tunes are included along with original music by John Goodin and David Grisman.

4. Purchasing and Caring For Your Mandolin. From your first mandolin purchase to full blown MAS, this section is full of photos of a variety of body styles both acoustic and electric with a rough idea of what you would pay for a beginner or student model and what you might expect to pay for a professional grade mandolin. This section also covers changing strings and other simple procedures like adjusting the action and setting the bridge for proper intonation, along with a chapter on all of the latest and greatest accessories for the mandolin lover.

5. The Part of Tens. All Dummies books include The Part of Tens. In this section there are three chapters: 10 tips on becoming a better mandolin player, 10 mandolin players you need to know, and 10 ways of tapping into the mandolin subculture.

If you don't already have this important resource in your library, we strongly recommend it.

Read interview: An Interview with Don Julin

Purchase book: Mandolin for Dummies


Posted by Ted at October 21, 2013 6:15 AM

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