Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

So where do you start ? Why use chords, which chords do you use, why so many variations, what is the best way to practice, what chords go together, why cant I get a simple answer to my questions (the Russian Doll syndrome).



USE OF CHORD TONES:-
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You may wish to embellish a melody (especially slow airs) to avoid `typewriter’ style by exchanging a few melody notes with chords.
A Triad chord is made of 3 notes, with 4 strings you can have up to 4 notes in your chord.

Start with 2 finger chords (see on MandolinCafe website), which use 3/4 strings.
The FFcP or 4FcP (four finger closed position -i.e. no open strings) allow you to go up the neck in a Chord scale, mainly used in Jazz.
Double Stops (two strings) give a short-cut effect of a chord when playing a fast tune.

You use chords to provide backup harmonies/melody to a singer. See the Nashville Numbering system for a systematic approach to playing by ear.
Listen to a recording of a good bass player/guitarist and practice against their style. Get a form (variation) that you are comfortable with.
Variations of the same chord occur due to ease of chord shapes, harmonies, ascending and descending melody notes (included in the chord).
For the absolute beginner - try ‘Fun with the Mandolin’ below.



PRACTICE:-
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Practice each day starting with 30mins/day.

Relax the fingers and think of where to move.
1st move the `Luidin’ (pinkie), then slide along any using the same strings, then place the other fingers on new strings. If a finger is crossing more than one string make sure your thumb is providing the counter pressure opposite the location of that finger (to give it added strength).

Practice the different groupings (starting with the KoC/KoG below - GCD or other related chords from the Circle of Fifths).
Do 4 strums in a steady `Tick Tock - grandfather clock’ rhythm with a steady right hand arm movement and maintaining without a pause while you change chords on the 5th strum.
When more proficient go clockwise and then anticlockwise around the Circle of Fifths.

Practice chord progressions from the Delux Encyclopedia” (Mc Cabe and Music theory pages 70 & 71).
Practice your personal chord variation list to hear the differences in each chord variation (see below).
Practice the Perpetual Motion chords (lessons on MandolinCafe site).

You will find a sound and finger configuration that will be comfortable.
You should DRAW out a TAB diagram of the stings with the notes upto at least the 12th fret.
Start collecting the chords you use and note the sequence (1,3,5,7 and other notes).
Google your favorite tune name and chords to find a starting point for the chords.


KEYS:-
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The key of the melody, is the most important note of the melody and is usually the last note and with the chord of the same name.
In the Key of G (KoG) there are seven melody notes, without the sharps/flats, the KoA seven notes are A, B, C#, D, E, F# and G.
Most melodies will finish on the key note this then becomes the Key Chord.

For American music the key notes frequency order is GACDEFB.
For Irish tunes the KoC will comprise of 80% of folk tunes and will finish on a C note and 90% of them will have a group of 3 related chords or chord set (CFG) for the key of C.



THE MAGIC NUMB3RS:-
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5 - ‘Pentatonic Scale’ - (5 Notes) the ancient 5 note scale (a, c, d, f, g) - the same scale in ancient Celtic, Greek and Chinese music - the black-keys on the piano.

7 - ‘Natural’ notes - the Harmonics frequencies found in nature from which A to G notes were developed. You have seven days a week, seven primary colors, seven letters (‘naturals’- frequency notes without flats/sharps in a scale- A to G) - the white-keys on the piano.

12 - ‘Chromatic Scale’ - includes subdivisions on the Naturals that Western ears can distinguish (Eastern music has upto 24) and includes the sharps/flat notes - all the keys of the piano.


DOUBLE STOPS:-
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When only two strings are strummed (giving a short-cut to chord effects). A proper chord has three notes in it.

For Example (see Nigel Gather’s site and mandolin Cafe for others) -
KoG (Key of G) - using 2 Strings from GDAE (with the fret number - 0 = open string) notation,as in a scale:-
G(4) D(5) - G(0), D(4) - D(5), A(2) - D(2), A(3) - D(4) , A(5) - A(3), E(0) - A(5), E(2) - A(2), E(3)

See ‘Fretboard Roadmaps’ below.
Note (see top page 14 - the black dots are fingered notes, the white dots are open strings. The two strings strummed together are shown as linked. Each of the 5 distinct double stops, as shown in the dots & tab, are shown together in the diagram to the left to display a pattern).


CHORD SHAPES:-
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Using 1, 3,5 sequence of the note. for example if 1 is ‘C’, then 3 is ‘E’ and 5 is ‘G’.

Your chord can have 3 main variations (also others) -
Using 4 strings - variation1 is 1,3,5,1octave (as above), variation2 is 3,5,1octave,5octave and variation3 is 5,1octave,3octave,5octave
(Remember those Arpeggios ?).
The chord 7th is another variation with the 7th note (will be `F’ if in this case if `G is 1) and hence `G7’. Usefull to bounce back and forth as a holding pattern if a singer cannot remember the next line of a tune.
So from the melody note you can substitute a variation of the notes (1,3,5 & Extensions 7,9,11,13) or octaves.

If your melody note is `G’ for example (this becomes 1 or root), your 3rd note is `B’, 5th is `D’ and 7th is ‘F’.
So then with the four strings try various combinations of (Notes: 1,3,5,7 or ‘x’-not used) on the strings to see which compliment the melody note being replaced.
Note that some chords are the same (Bb=A#, Eb=D#, Ab=G#, Db=C#).


CIRCLE of FIFTHS:-
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The chord set relationship of chords is called the ‘I-IV-V’ chord progression (major chords built on the 1st,4th & 5th note).
So if the chord progression is in the Key of G - you most likely will have cords G,C, D or D7 (1,IV,V).

So from the Key of `G’ (KoG) to the Key of `A’ (KoA), you can think of seven main groups of chords that go together (depending on the Key).
In terms of frequency of use: KoC-CFG, KoG-GCD, KoD-DGA, KoA-ADE, KoE-EAB, KoB-BEF#, KoF#-F#BC#.


A pattern of Chord relationships with the previous and past chords emerges as follow -
This relationship of the 7 Natural groups of chords can be expressed in the circle of chords (12 major chords including flats/sharps and double this for the minors).

In an alpha order (not the circle of 1/5ths) starting with KoA to the 7th being KoG showing how the last note relates of one key relates to the first one following (this relationship is expressed in the simpler diagram form)
KoA 1-ADE, KoE 5-EAB KoB 2-BEF#, KoF# 7-F#BC#, KoC 3-CFG, KoG 4-GCD, KoD 5-DGA.



Rag Time Chord Progressions usually follow -
3-6-2-5-1.
For example if in D (1=’D’) - then 3-6-2-5-1 becomes F#,B, E7,A7,D

Folk Music chord progressions usually follow -
1 - 3/6(minor) - 2 (minor/major) - 5 - 1



Suggested Reading :-
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(Top Class Overview DVD) ‘How Music Works’ by Howard Goodall […]; Howard Goodall’s Big Bangs [2008] [Region 1]DVD ~ Howard Goodall ASIN: B0017HEY98; Big Bangs: Five Musical Revolutions by Howard Goodall 070116932X;
Reference booklet `Music Theory 101’ by Larry McCabe ISBN:0786659491;The AB Guide to Music Theory Vol 1 by Taylor, Eric ISBN1854724460; Evolution of the Art of Music by Parry;

The Nashville Number System by Chas Williams 0963090674;
Mike Marshall Mastering Chords & Theory DVD ASIN: B0013UQUV4;
Niles Hokkanen’s GUIDE TO MANDOLIN CHORDS ( AND HOW TO USE THEM) by Niles Hokkanen . … ISBN:
Mel Bay Deluxe Encyclopedia Of Mandolin Chords by John Baxter 0786647973;
The Mandolin Chord Book by James Major 0825622964(possible chord sets for each key);
‘Fun with the Mandolin’ by Mel Bay (9780871664501-without the CD, 2 finger chords);
Fretboard Roadmaps [Hal Leonard] 0634001426
Developing Melodic Variations y John McGann 0786650990

Also -
Folk Harp music Arrangements’ by Silvia Woods ISBN:093666102X; Celtic Backup for all Instrumentalists by c. Smith [MBay] 9780786640652;
Chord Tone Soloing (Guitar) by Barrett Tagliarino 0634083651; Absolute Beginners: Guitar Scales by Cliff Douse 0711987726; The Irish DADGAD Guitar by Sarah McQuaid 0946005931; Irish Traditional Guitar Accompaniment
with Gavin Ralston DVD[Waltons]B000HKCSUI ; Understanding DADGAD For Finger style Guitar by Doug Young 0786676418

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

It never ceases to amaze me why people won’t just post links instead of copy/pasting. What a waste of time. Are we supposed to think you wrote all that yourself?

Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners?
Just don’t strum the feckin thing, play the bloody tunes instead

Posted .

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

nuff said

Posted by .

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

I stopped reading when I came to the word Nashville

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

I’m not sure what the specific purpose of this post is intended to be.

Is the OP offering lessons, planning to publish a book on the subject, or responding to some query from another member?

Who asked for this?

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

"For Irish tunes the KoC will comprise of 80% of folk tunes and will finish on a C note and 90% of them will have a group of 3 related chords or chord set (CFG) for the key of C."

Uh, not so much.

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

simple answer to your question = don’t use chords.

and why you’re citing a book on "Irish Traditional Guitar Accompaniment" is a bit mind boggling - the mandolin and the guitar - two different instruments the last time I checked, but hey, call me old fashioned…

oh, and don’t use chords, please.

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

But I don’t see why one could not provide a suitable continuo for Trad on the mandolin. Notes & chords is notes & chords on any instrument after all…

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

I don’t see anything wrong with chords on the mandolin providing they are ‘correct’ and sensitive….not the "chop, chop" kind.

However, I don’t see much point either especially if you can play the melody…. although I’ll often include them(or part chords) within the tune along with drones etc.

Also, if there is no other accompaniment, you can add them then but you’ve got to do it sympathetically.

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

"I don’t see anything wrong with chords on the mandolin providing they are ‘correct’ and sensitive….not the "chop, chop" kind. "

I don’t like the "jingle-jangle" chords any better than the "chop, chop" kind, myself.

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

You need the "Ould triangle" for that.
🙂

I much prefer to play "the tune" myself.
All I’m really saying is "never say never".

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

Play the tunes. Mandolin chords are for bluegrass.

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

He does specific arrangements worked out in a band format, which is OK. In a session, it doesn’t work so well.

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

As Michael Eskin says above, where does this guy get the idea that Irish music is in C ?
And a load of stuff that presupposes knowledge or gives too little or too much information.
And who was asking the question anyway ?

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

Generally agree with last two posters.

Dave, that’s very true and why it ought to be done very sparingly in a session as I suggested.

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

MULTIPLE backers always have to be very careful no matter what doodah they are playing be it six string devil, ‘zouk, piano (or synthetic piano), reed organ, baritone ukulele, the Royal Albert Hall organ or, indeed a mandolin.

Additional other backing possibilities (same rules as above re multiples)…

…the basses on a box, harp, drones/ twonks & double stops on fiddle, pipes’ regulators, ‘cello, dulcimer (all sorts), banjo-ness, mandola/ OM/ cittern/ any other strummy-fing (usually of Latin America or Middle Eastern origin), Rick Wakeman-stylee keyboard set up (Hammond/ Wurlitzer piano/ Mellotron/ Grand Piano/ Mini Moogs), ad libbed Mararchi band/ string quartet/ Dixieland (tpt/ clt/ tbn)/ Male Voice Choirs/ Count Basie Band arrangements, DADGAD botherers et cetera et cetera…

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

All mandolin players should know their chords, but there normally isn’t any call for them in a session. Usually there is already at least one guitarist altering the harmonic landscape and you don’t need more harmonic confusion on what is essentially single-line melody music most of the time.

I don’t mind a chop-chord now and then on "strict tempo" type stuff though. There’s no point being absolutist about it, or you probably wouldn’t even take your mandolin to the pub.

Posted by .

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

ha ha, surely topped by the terrible mauling he gave to the venerable old air "Padraig Post"

Posted by .

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

Go raibh maith agaibh - to those of a constructive disposition.
A bowl of cream to other - meeoouw !
Maybe reading certain sections of the papers (aunt agathy) might be more appropriate.

The posting was meant to be constructive and informative.
Take it or leave it, each have their own preferences.

Yes, everything can be overdone and done unsympathetically (bodhran/ chop chop) or provide a nice counter-point.

It was intended for ‘Stringies’ who would like to get beyond simplistic typewritter style especially in slow airs.

Again thanks for those adding constructive suggestions.
~Naoise

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners - some others

Tips from other session org members- feel free to add links to any other constructive suggestions

https://thesession.org/members/7960

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

Starting Chords - the beginning
Don’t be overwhelmed, remember the difference between a phrase book of chords for each Key (the approx 4 chord progressions for each key & 7/8 minor chords) v’s a dictionary of Chords,
with every variation under the sun included.


A nice place to start is :
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Mando::
Mike Marshall’s Mandolin Fundamentals For All Players #1 & #2- Mastering Chords and Theory

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

I am trying to identify a mandolin chord from a piece played by Alison Stephens: C# G (or f double sharp) and A#. It sounds like a diminished.

Re: Mandolin Chords - Quick Start Notes for beginners

I found the answer under ‘Flute blowing’ Mea culpa!