This bluegrass standard comes from the great banjo player Ralph Stanley, but it has a simple modal melody that suits all instruments. It has an extra beat in the second part and you’ll learn to “ghost” a note with your picking hand to make sure you get the timing right. With Notation/Tab
A must-know tune in the bluegrass and old-time world, “Soldier’s Joy” is in the key of D, and in addition to learning the melody, you’ll learn the D major scale in two octaves. With Notation/Tab
The beautiful waltz “Midnight on the Water” comes from legendary Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson. You’ll learn how to use tremolo to play it and how to add drone notes to the melody.
The fiddle tune “Whiskey Before Breakfast” is a popular tune among all sorts of roots musicians. The chords to “Whiskey Before Breakfast” change fairly often, especially in the B part. Sharon shows you a handy way to memorize them so that they don’t seem so random. You’ll also learn a few simple variations on the A and B parts. With Notation/Tab
The old hymn “Wayfaring Stranger” is a perfect tune to play on the mandolin with tremolo. It’s in the key of A minor, which sounds great on the mandolin, so you’ll learn an A minor scale and arpeggio before learing to add tremolo to the melody. With Notation/Tab
Learn the bluegrass standard “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” using a common technique in bluegrass mandolin: playing melodies on two pairs of strings. You’ll learn the basic right-hand technique for playing two pairs of strings at a time, including how to keep the pick on the edge of the strings and not let the pick dig in past the strings, as well as how to slightly rotate your wrist so you can play all four strings (both pairs) at once. Then you’ll learn the melody to Bill Monroe’s “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” played on two strings in the key of A. With Notation/Tab
Bill Monroe wrote the song “Uncle Pen” about his uncle Pendleton Vandiver, a fiddler whose influence inspired Monroe to create bluegrass music. The solos are a little different than most bluegrass solos. Usually the fiddle will play the first part, which corresponds to the verse, while another instrument will play the chorus form. In this lesson, you’ll learn the fiddle melody to the verse and a solo to the chorus based on some of Bill Monroe’s solos. With Notation/Tab
Learn three variations to “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” that including some of the arpeggios you’ve learned in previous lessons as well as folding scales, sequences, and some typical bluegrass mandolin licks. With Notation/Tab
Bluegrass singers often sing in keys other than the usual keys of C, G, D, and A you’re probably used to playing in if you’ve mostly been playing fiddle tunes. So it’s important to be able to play in different keys. In these lessons you’ll learn how major scales and arpeggios are constructed so you can play them in any key, including two major scale finger patterns you can use anywhere on the neck. You’ll also learn about the importance of knowing about seventh chords, and how Bill Monroe used dominant seventh arpeggios to create a bluesy sound. With Notation/Tab and/or Chord Diagrams
In this lesson, you’ll learn arpeggios for the major chords in the key of D, including a new arpeggio fingering. You already know arpeggios for the D and A chords (the I and V in the key of D), so you just need to learn a G arpeggio to have arpeggios for the I, IV, and V chords in the key of D. Sharon provides audio rhythm tracks for practicing your arpeggios in the key of D as well as changing between chords: D–G, D–A, G–A.
Sharon shows you seventh chord arpeggios for the I, IV, and V chords in the key of G: G7, C7, and D7. In addition to showing you the arpeggio patterns, she gives you ideas for practicing the arpeggios two strings at a time so they become part of your playing.
Sharon talks about targeting chord tones in your improvising in this lesson. She shows you four different approaches to targeting different notes in a chord as you change from one chord to another: targeting the root, targeting common tones, using guide tones, and using half-step motion.
The popular fiddle tune “Billy in the Lowground” is in the key of C. You’ll learn how to kick it off and get tips on making the transition between the end of the A part and the beginning of the B part, as well as how to shift positions between phrases. With Notation/Tab
Bill Monroe’s epic fiddle tune “Jerusalem Ridge” has four parts and is in the key of A minor, the relative minor of C. You’ll learn the version played by Monroe’s long-time fiddler Kenny Baker in this lesson, rather than the way Monroe played it on the mandolin. Baker’s version has become standard for all bluegrass instruments. With Notation/Tab
The fiddle tune “St. Anne’s Reel” may come from the Celtic tradition, but it’s become a jam session standard in bluegrass and old-time circles. It’s in the key of D, so Sharon reminds you of the two-octave version of the D major scale. She also points out the small arpeggios that are part of the melody and some places where you should use finger planting. The chords to the second part of “St. Anne’s Reel” can be played in a few different ways, so you’ll learn the chords for each variation, and get play-along tracks for each version. With Notation/Tab
The bluegrass fiddle tune standard “Gold Rush” comes from Bill Monroe and fiddler Byron Berline. Sharon gives you advice on learning by ear, suggesting that you try to learn these tunes by ear and only use the tab/notation as a reminder when you don’t have access to the video. She also shows you the distinctive rhythmic accent in the B part that is usually played by the rhythm section, and how to fill in the rhythm by adding some strums to the basic chop pattern. With Notation/Tab
The classic fiddle tune “Red-Haired Boy” is a popular bluegrass jam tune and one that every bluegrass picker should know. In addition to learning the melody, and a variation that includes a triplet, Sharon shows you how the chords to “Red-Haired Boy” match the melody, which alternates between an A Mixolydian sound (with a G natural) and A major (with a G sharp). With Notation/Tab
The fiddle tune “Temperance Reel” is originally from Ireland, but has become popular at bluegrass and old-time jams. It’s in the key of G and includes an E minor chord. The tune starts with a triplet and includes some tricky pick moves. You’ll learn how to pick the triplet and get advice on maintaining strict alternating picking as you work through the melody. With Notation/Tab
One of Bill Monroe’s prettiest waltzes, “Lonesome Moonlight Waltz” has an unusual form and chord progression. The form is AABA and it moves between the keys of Dm and F. You’ll learn to play it out of an F major scale position with your index finger on the third fret. Sharon gives you advice on playing tremolo on the long notes, showing you how you can use a slower or quicker tremolo, and stresses the importance of ending the tremolo on a downbeat. With Notation/Tab
Bill Monroe’s recording of “Lonesome Moonlight Waltz” includes three fiddles playing the melody in harmony. In this lesson you’ll learn to play both of the harmony parts on the mandolin, beginning with the high harmony. Sharon also explains how to find harmonies by finding the next note in the chord above or below the melody. Includes play-along tracks for both harmony parts with Scott Nygaard playing the melody on the mandolin so you can hear how the two parts go together and play along. With Notation/Tab
There are many versions of the old-time fiddle tune “Sail Away Ladies.” This one comes from bluegrass fiddler Kenny Baker, who recorded it on his Baker’s Dozen album. You’ll learn how Kenny played it, along with a couple of variations. Sharon also gives you advice on how to pick some of the syncopated phrasing in both parts. With Notation/Tab
The fiddle tune “Stony Point” is popular with old-time and bluegrass musicians. It’s been recorded by numerous people, most famously for bluegrass pickers by Tony Rice on his 1978 album Manzanita. Tony’s version has two parts, the first of which is in Em and the second of which is in G. The old-time version, which you’ll learn here, goes by many names in addition to “Stony Point,” including “Wild Horse,” “Wild Horse at Stony Point,” etc. and reverses the order of parts while adding a short third part in G. With Notation/Tab
Bill Monroe’s fiddle tune “Ashland Breakdown” is in the key of C major and has three parts. The first two parts use the second position, with your index finger on the third fret. Sharon’s version combines the fiddle version that fiddler Kenny Baker played on his classic album Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe with some of Monroe’s phrasing from his mandolin solo on that same album. With Notation/Tab
Béla Fleck’s tune “Up and Around the Bend” comes from his classic 1988 bluegrass instrumental album Drive, which featured Sam Bush on mandolin, Tony Rice on guitar, Mark Schatz on bass, and Mark O’Connor and Stuart Duncan on fiddles. In this lesson you’ll learn the melody as well as a harmony part that was played by one of the fiddlers. With Notation/Tab
The fiddle tune “Denver Belle” comes from famed bluegrass fiddler Kenny Baker. It’s in the key of C, but modulates to the key of G for the B part. Sharon walks you through the melody and includes some minor variations on the A part that Kenny Baker played. She also gives you advice on playing the tricky triplet lick that the B part starts with. With Notation/Tab
The beautiful waltz “Ashokan Farewell” was written by fiddler Jay Ungar and famously featured in Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War. In this lesson, you’ll learn the melody as well an upper harmony part you can use when playing “Ashokan Farewell” with another mandolinist or fiddler. Sharon shows you how she embellishes the melody with hammer-ons and tremolo and uses downstrokes to play a lot of the eighth-note melody lines. With Notation/Tab
There are many versions of the old-time fiddle tune “Dusty Miller.” This one comes from Bill Monroe, who recorded it in 1966. There are a lot of repeated notes in Monroe’s version so it makes a great exercise for keeping your pick strokes small and keeping the tip of the pick out on the surface of the string. Sharon walks you through the melody of “Dusty Miller,” pointing out the accents in Monroe’s playing and giving you advice on picking as she goes. With Notation/Tab
The old-time fiddle tune “Big Sciota” was introduced to the bluegrass world with the 1993 recording Skip, Hop and Wobble by Jerry Douglas, Russ Barenberg, and Edgar Meyer, with mandolinist Sam Bush guesting on the recording of “Big Sciota.” Since then it has become a bluegrass jam session favorite.
Ricky Skaggs’ solo on the 1975 JD Crowe and the New South recording of “Old Home Place” is a classic and illustrates many elements of his funky style, including some cool syncopations and bluesy, swingy licks. The solo is in the key of Bb, so you’ll learn three ways to play a Bb major scale as well as how to find a blues scale, which includes the flatted third, flatted seventh, and flatted fifth, in Bb. Then you’ll learn Ricky’s solo, including how to pick the syncopated phrases and get the timing right. With Notation/Tab
Ricky Skaggs’ solo on the Bill Monroe/Peter Rowan song “Walls of Time” (from Ricky’s album Ancient Tones) is a contemporary bluegrass mandolin classic, an update of Monroe’s classic style with lots of eighth-note downstrokes, triplets, position shifts, and bluesy licks. Sharon walks you through the solo, which is in the key of B, phrase by phrase, showing you how to play with all downstrokes on eighth notes, make the position shifts, pick the triplets, and play the cool lick that begins the second half of the solo, which combines a descending major scale with pedal tones using open strings. With Notation/Tab
Bill Monroe’s solo on his recording of “Walls of Time” includes a steady 16th-note tremolo, eighth notes played with downstrokes, and a number of his characteristic arpeggio licks, as well as some subtle syncopations and variations on phrases. Sharon gives you advice on playing the 16th-note tremolo by using your arm and wrist together and then walks you through the solo, which is in the key of C and starts with a quick 16th-note run up to the C on the second string. With Notation/Tab
The Sam Bush solo on the fiddle tune “Big Sandy River” you’ll learn in this lesson comes from a performance on the TV show Nashville Now featuring Doc Watson with an all-star band: Sam on mandolin, Doc and Pat Flynn on guitars, Ricky Skaggs on fiddle, Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka on banjos, and Edgar Meyer on bass. The way he plays the B part is a good example of how to use sevenths leading to thirds, which Sharon has talked about in her lessons on arpeggios. With Notation/Tab
You learned the melody to Kenny Baker’s version of the traditional fiddle tune “Sail Away Ladies” in a previous lesson. In this lesson, Sharon gives you two solos on “Sail Away Ladies” that demonstrate how she would improvise and/or compose a solo for “Sail Away Ladies.” The solos alternate phrases based on the melody with other phrases based on arpeggios of the underlying chord or scalar sequences. The second solo moves up the neck, finishing with a repeat of the basic B part melody. With Notation/Tab
Sharon revisits the Bill Monroe/Peter Rowan song “Walls of Time” in this lesson to show you the solo she played on the Peter Rowan/Tony Rice Quartet recording of the song. Sharon’s improvised solo has lots of bluesy accidentals and slides and is very syncopated with some across-the-bar phrasing. She walks you through it phrase by phrase, showing you her fingering and picking, which includes a lot of consecutive downstrokes. With Notation/Tab
The solo that mandolinist/guitarist Bill Napier played on the Stanley Brothers’ 1958 recording of “Gonna Paint the Town” is a great example of creating a solo by using arpeggios in the key of G, which you learned in the Arpeggios in the Key of G lesson. The Monroe-style solo starts in open position, but shifts up to second position over the C and D chords, with some D and A notes fretted and some played as open strings.
In this solo to the fiddle tune “Soldier’s Joy,” Bill Monroe strips down the melody to the bare essentials, which allows him to really drive the melody with constant eighth notes. He starts his solo with the B parts of “Soldier’s Joy,” playing two identical parts, and then moves on to the A parts, which include a couple of melodic variations.
“Cold on the Shoulder” is a Gordon Lightfoot song that was recorded by Tony Rice on his album of the same name. In this lesson you’ll learn the solo that was split by Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas on that album, with Jerry’s dobro solo adapted for mandolin.
In this lesson, you’ll learn David Grisman’s kickoff and solo to the song “Letter from My Darling” from his 1991 Bluegrass Reunion recording. It’s a great bluesy, Monroe-inspired solo in the key of G, with tremolo, downstroke eighth-note lines, and quarter-note triplets played out of the G chop-chord position.
Adam Steffey’s inventive solo on the fiddle tune “Temperance Reel” (from Jim Mills’s recording Hide Head Blues) is chock full of interesting phrasing ideas and melodic and rhythmic variations.
Double stops are two-note partial chords that sound great on the mandolin and are helpful for getting a bigger chordal sound out of a simple melody line.
In this lesson, you’ll learn to create two solos for the bluegrass standard “If I Should Wander Back Tonight” in D using the melody and arpeggios in the key of D. Sharon starts by showing you the melody in two octaves, and then gives you some exercises on guide tones in the key of D, before showing you the solos she’s created. With Notation/Tab
Sharon shows you how to use ideas and licks you’ve learned in other solos to build your own solo on the bluegrass standard “Your Love Is Like a Flower.” Sharon uses a phrase from Ricky Skaggs’s solo on “Old Home Place,” which Sharon taught in a previous lesson, as a springboard to creating a solo to “Your Love Is Like a Flower.” She starts by reminding you of the first half of Skaggs’s solo, and then shows you how she combines one of her favorite phrases in that solo with the melody, some typical bluegrass licks, and other ideas to create a unique solo for “Your Love Is Like a Flower.” With Notation/Tab
In this lesson, you’ll learn to create a backup part for “If I Should Wander Back Tonight” with double stops that harmonize the melody line and fills between the melodic lines. Sharon starts by reviewing the double stops on each string in the key of D and the double stop “neighborhoods.” Then she talks about the importance of staying away from the singer’s melody notes, and shows you a backup part for “If I Should Wander Back Tonight” with harmony double stops and fills. With Notation/Tab
In this lesson, Sharon shows you some Bill Monroe licks that he used for backing up singers, either himself or another singer. The licks are based on major chord arpeggios and come out of the Monroe chop-chord shape.
Bill Monroe’s instrumental “Bluegrass Stomp” is a 12-bar blues in the key of D and the melody uses a lot of I, IV, and V arpeggios in the key of D, so it’s a great tune to practice some of the arpeggios you’ve been working on. It also has a lot of syncopation and some triplet phrases. Sharon walks you through the melody, phrase by phrase, showing you how to pick the syncopated and triplet lines. With Notation/Tab
Sharon shows you how to vary your backup chords on “Bluegrass Stomp” (or any 12-bar blues in D) using the chord inversions you learned in the lesson on Chord Inversions, which used the three inversions and “neighborhoods” in the key of A. Sharon shows you the three inversions of the major chords and the three inversion neighborhoods in the key of D, as well as the inversions of seventh chords. With Notation/Tab
The instrumental “Hartford’s Real” was written by David Grisman and Sam Bush in honor of their good friend John Hartford. They recorded it on the album Hold On, We’re Strumming, which features lots of twin mandolin playing. With Notation/Tab
“Hartford’s Real” was written and recorded by David Grisman and Sam Bush on their great twin-mandolin album Hold On, We’re Strumming, so it makes sense to learn the harmony line as well as the melody. The harmony part faithfully follows the melody, so if you’ve learned the melody it will make learning the harmony part much easier. With Notation/Tab
In this lesson, you’ll learn the solos that Sam Bush and David Grisman played on the first solo section of their recording of “Hartford’s Real.” For this section, which is one pass through the entire AABA form, Sam plays the first, second, and third A parts and Grisman takes the bridge. With Notation/Tab
Bill Monroe’s instrumental “My Father’s Footsteps” was never recorded under Monroe’s name. Sharon’s version comes from banjoist Butch Robins, whose recording of the tune features Monroe on mandolin. Sharon also recorded the tune on her recording with fellow Peghead Nation instructors John Reischman and Scott Nygaard, Harmonic Tone Revealers. In this lesson you’ll learn the melody as well as the harmony part that Sharon played with John on the record. With Notation/Tab
The fiddle tune “Cattle in the Cane” is unusual in that the first part is in A major while the second part is in A minor. There are a few different versions, but Sharon learned hers from Tony Rice. She walks you through the melody, stressing the importance of fingerplanting in creating a smooth melodic line as you move across the strings and giving you advice on keeping your picking hand relaxed. With Notation/Tab
Bill Monroe’s tune “Road to Columbus” is a bluegrass standard in the key of A and a great jam session tune that hasn’t been overplayed. The version Sharon teaches you is based on fiddler Kenny Baker’s playing on the original Bill Monroe recording. With Notation/Tab
The old-time fiddle tune “Forked Deer” is a popular tune at old-time and bluegrass jams around the world. It’s in the key of D, with a B part that starts on an A chord and an anticipated beat—beat four of the last measure of the previous A part. With Notation/Tab
In this lesson, you’ll learn a solo for “Forked Deer” that Sharon created using many of the ideas she’s covered in the course, including arpeggios, double stops, licks from other solos, etc.
The bluegrass mandolin instrumental “New Camptown Races” comes from mandolinist Frank Wakefield. It’s in the key of Bb, an unusual key for a mandolin tune, so Sharon starts by reminding you of the Bb major scale in Bb in open position, where much of the tune is played. The form of the tune is a little unusual too, with two A parts that are 16 measures long, and an eight-bar B part that is played only once, followed by the last half of the A part. With Notation/Tab
Bill Monroe’s instrumental “Old Ebenezer Scrooge” has four parts and is in the key of A, although the melody mostly uses notes in the A minor scale. The first part just has two phrases and is repeated four times. The phrases in the second part have a distinctive rhythm that Sharon demonstrates before walking you through the whole part. The third part of “Old Ebenezer Scrooge” starts with a big sliding chord, while the fourth part is like the first in that it just has two phrases that are repeated four times.
The old-time fiddle tune “Yew Piney Mountain” is in the key of A and has some irregular phrasing. It’s what’s known in the old-time music world as a crooked tune. Sharon’s version comes from West Virginia fiddler Wilson Douglas and includes a lot of drone strings and some position shifts. With Notation/Tab
Bob Wills took the old classical melody “Maiden’s Prayer” and turned it into a Western swing fiddle tune. It has since become popular in bluegrass, old-time and swing circles. In this lesson, Sharon shows you the melody and gives you some different ways to accompany it using chord inversions and passing chord motion. With Notation/Tab
“The Road to Malvern” is an old-time fiddle tune in the key of A that comes from fiddler Jim Childress. Sharon recorded it with John Reischman and Scott Nygaard on their recording Harmonic Tone Revealers as a two-mandolin tune, Sharon playing harmony and John playing melody. You’ll learn both the melody and harmony parts in this lesson. With Notation/Tab
Sharon shows you a style of backup using two-string chords with open strings, which is used a lot in old-time music. It can also be used to backup songs or as a variation in your usual bluegrass backup style. Sharon demonstrates the style using the fiddle tune “Soldier’s Joy” and the double-stop neighborhoods you’ve already learned. She starts by showing you how to play the old-time backup chords on the chord progression to “Soldier’s Joy” in three different neighborhoods, and then shows you how to mix up the neighborhoods and move from one to another smoothly.
“Queen of the Earth, Child of the Stars” comes from old-time fiddler Edden Hammons, though it likely originated in Ireland. Sharon recorded it with John Reischman and Scott Nygaard on Harmonic Tone Revealers. It’s in the key of D and each part is 16 bars long and played only once. The melody includes some triplets and grace notes and the last phrase of each part has an extra beat. With Notation/Tab
The old-time tune “Half Past Four” comes from Kentucky fiddler Ed Haley. Sharon recorded it with John Reischman and Scott Nygaard on Harmonic Tone Revealers. It’s in the key of A, with some G♮s as well as G♯s. Unlike many old-time fiddle tunes, the A part of “Half Past Four” has little repetition, while the B part is more repetitive. With Notation/Tab
In this lesson, you’ll learn the harmony part for the old-time tune “Half Past Four” that Sharon played on Harmonic Tone Revealers with mandolinist John Reischman playing the melody. She also gives you suggestions for learning and memorizing the harmony.
“Farewell to Trion” is an old-time fiddle tune in the key of C written by Alabama fiddler Joe Blaylock, with a third part written by fiddler James Bryan. The melody covers two octaves, moving between open position and the closed position with your index finger at the first fret, and the second part starts with a long measure of 6/4.
The traditional song “Greensleeves” has the same melody as the holiday song “What Child Is This?” In this lesson, Sharon shows you how to make a mandolin chord solo arrangement of the melody that you can play for friends and family at the holidays or any time of the year. You’ll learn a chord melody arrangement of “Greensleeves” in two octaves in this lesson. With Notation/Tab
Sharon gives you advice on practicing the material you’re learning in this Intermediate Bluegrass Mandolin course, including how to increase the tempo of fiddle tunes by practicing with a metronome, how to troubleshoot your technique in tricky passages and melodies with a lot of string changes, get more comfortable with arpeggios and double stops, and more.