BEGINNING MANDOLIN
with Sharon Gilchrist

Sponsored By

About This Course

Get started off right on the mandolin, with basic techniques, scales and chords, and simple and popular bluegrass and old-time tunes to play. Includes 14 complete tunes, downloadable Play-Along audio practice tracks for rhythm and melody on all tunes, advice on embellishing melodies and playing tremolo, and more than 9 hours of video instruction in 80+ videos.

SHARON GILCHRIST

Sharon Gilchrist has long made her home in the American acoustic music scene. Whether she’s playing mandolin, thumpin’ the upright bass, singing a traditional ballad, or performing one of her original pieces, her music is steeped in traditional Appalachian sounds, delivered with a distinct spacious, graceful, and fiery style all her own.

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Sharon has performed with Darol Anger, Peter Rowan and Tony Rice Quartet, Uncle Earl, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, the Kathy Kallick Band, Bill Evans, and many others. Her playing can be heard on two film shorts that feature her original music: Milagros and La Sevillana as well as Quartet, the Rounder Records release by the Peter Rowan and Tony Rice Quartet.

Sharon is also a respected mandolin teacher, with numerous private and Skype students. She served as mandolin instructor at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design from 2004 to 2012 and has taught at music camps throughout the US. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mandolin performance from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

sharongilchristmusic.com

 

 

Beginning Mandolin Course Overview

Featured Beginning Mandolin Lesson

Monroe Chords

The closed “chop” chords known as “Monroe chords” are what give your rhythm mandolin the classic bluegrass chop sound or bark. Sharon shows you the Monroe chord shapes for G and C, but since they’re closed chords (with no open strings) you can move these shapes around the neck to play any major chord. With Chord Diagrams and Play-Along Rhythm Tracks

Feedback and Discussion

Let Sharon know what you think of the course and interact with fellow Peghead Nation mandolinists.

Peghead Play-Along Tracks

Peghead Nation is creating a library of accompaniment videos (and downloadable MP3s) for songs and tunes that are taught on the site, classics that you'll find at many jams and picking parties. As a subscriber, you have access to this library and can use the tracks to practice playing tunes and songs at a slow or medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. New songs will be added regularly. 

Beginning Mandolin Lessons

Subscribe to Beginning Mandolin today for access to all of these beginning mandolin lessons!

MANDOLIN BASICS

  • Holding the Mandolin Sample Lesson  Sharon demonstrates how to get into a comfortable position holding the mandolin, talks about creating good posture for both hands, and gives tips on holding the pick.
  • Tuning the Mandolin The mandolin can be a tricky instrument to tune and even more difficult to get to stay in tune. Sharon shows you how to get in tune with an electronic tuner. 
  • Picking-Hand Technique Sharon demonstrates her approach to picking-hand technique, which involves using the forearm to move the pick from string to string, and the wrist doing the finer picking at the string.
  • Fretting-Hand Technique, Part 1 Sharon gets in depth about fretting-hand technique, showing you the posture most mandolin players use, where the hand is angled sideways diagonally across the frets.
  • Fretting-Hand Technique, Part 2: Exercises Learn a series of exercises that will help you develop great fretting-hand technique.
SHARON'S MANDOLIN
  • Sharon's Mandolin, Picks, and Strings In this video, Sharon talks about her Gilchrist mandolin as well as the picks and strings she uses. Built by Australia’s Stephen Gilchrist (no relation), Sharon's 1991 F-style mandolin has been her primary instrument since 1994. 
FIRST FIVE TUNES
    Cluck Old Hen
  • Cluck Old Hen, Part 1 The old-time fiddle tune “Cluck Old Hen” has become a standard at bluegrass and old-time jams everywhere. It makes a great first tune to learn on the mandolin.
  • Cluck Old Hen, Part 2 Once you’ve got the first part of “Cluck Old Hen” under your fingers, it’s time to learn the second (or B) part. And then put the two parts together to play the entire tune.
    Old Joe Clark
  • Old Joe Clark, Part 1 Sharon teaches the old-time tune “Old Joe Clark” by ear, phrase by phrase, with lots of opportunities for you to find the melody yourself and then play along with Sharon.
  • Old Joe Clark, Part 2 If you have the first part of “Old Joe Clark” down you can go on to the second (B) part. And then put the two parts together to play the entire tune.
    Chinquapin Hunting
  • Chinquapin Hunting, Part 1: Getting Comfortable in D Learn the old-time fiddle tune “Chinquapin Hunting,” which is in the key of D. Start by learning the D major scale, a D major arpeggio, and a D major chord to orient your fingers to the key of D.
  • Chinquapin Hunting, Part 2: Learning the B Part Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the key of D and have learned the A part of “Chinquapin Hunting,” it’s time to learn the B part.
  • Chinquapin Hunting, Part 3: Play-Along Track (Slow) Use this video to practice playing “Chinquapin Hunting” at a slow tempo.
  • Chinquapin Hunting: Part 4: Play-Along Track (Medium) Ready to pick up the pace a bit? Play “Chinquapin Hunting” along with Sharon on this video at a medium tempo.
  • Chinquapin Hunting, Part 5: Basic Rhythm and Chords If you have a few tunes under your belt, it’s time to start thinking about playing them with other people. Sharon shows you basic D, G, and A chords and a simple bass/strum pattern.
    Angeline the Baker
  • Angeline the Baker, Part 1 The fiddle tune “Angeline the Baker” is a must-know tune for all roots music instrumentalists. Sharon teaches it here phrase-by-phrase, starting with the A part.
  • Angeline the Baker, Part 2: The B Part and Chords Learn the B part, as well as the chords, to “Angeline the Baker.” Sharon plays each phrase one at a time, slowly, giving lots of time to practice the tune with her. 
  • Angeline the Baker, Part 3: Play-Along Track (Slow) Use this video to practice playing “Angeline the Baker” at a slow tempo with Sharon.
  • Angeline the Baker, Part 4: Play-Along Track (Medium) Play “Angeline the Baker” along with Sharon at a medium tempo and/or practice playing the chords while Sharon plays the melody.
    Squirrel Hunters
  • Squirrel Hunters, Part 1 Learn the old-time fiddle tune “Squirrel Hunters.” Sharon takes you through the A part phrase by phrase and shows you a few new techniques, including how to slide into melody notes and how to damp notes for a rhythmic accent.
  • Squirrel Hunters, Part 2: The B Part Melody Sharon takes you through the B part phrase by phrase, then plays the melody a few times slowly, so you can practice playing the B part of “Squirrel Hunters” along with her.
  • Squirrel Hunters, Part 3: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Squirrel Hunters” at a slow tempo with Sharon.
CHORDS AND RHYTHM
    Open Chords
  • Open Chords Get a complete overview of basic open chord shapes, some of which can be played with just two fingers. Sharon shows you the open chord family and then a 4/4 rhythm pattern in which you play the lowest note of each chord and follow it with a strum of the higher strings. With Chord Diagrams
    Monroe Chords
  • Monroe Chords, Part 1 The closed “chop” chords known as “Monroe chords” are what give your rhythm mandolin the classic bluegrass chop sound or bark. Sharon shows you the Monroe chord shapes for G and C, but since they’re closed chords (with no open strings) you can move these shapes around the neck to play any major chord. Sharon also talks about getting a clear, quick chop sound by thinking about all four strings as if they’re one string. With Chord Diagrams
  • Monroe Chords, Part 2 Sharon talks about a fretting-hand posture that will make it easier to play the full G-shape chop chord, and gives you an exercise to increase finger strength and get you used to stretching out your pinky.
  • Monroe Chord Rhythm Tracks Practice your Monroe chords with Sharon and Scott Nygaard on guitar, while they play the chords to “June Apple” and “Eighth of January." With Chord Charts
    Rhythm Play-Along Tracks
  • Rhythm Play-Along Track: “Cluck Old Hen” Use this video, along with the chord chart, to practice playing rhythm to the old-time tune “Cluck Old Hen.” With Chord Chart
  • Rhythm Play-Along Track: “Old Joe Clark” Use this video, along with the chord chart, to practice playing rhythm to the old-time tune “Old Joe Clark.” With Chord Chart
MORE TUNES
    The Eighth of January
  • The Eighth of January, Part 1 “The Eighth of January” was used by Arkansas school teacher Jimmy Driftwood for the melody of hi song “The Battle of New Orleans.” Sharon walks you through the first part phrase by phrase, giving you lots of opportunities to play along.
  • The Eighth of January, Part 2 Sharon takes the B part for “The Eighth of January” apart phrase by phrase and finishes by playing the whole tune through, so you can practice playing the melody along with her.
  • The Eighth of January, Part 3: Finger Planting Finger planting is a good way to keep the notes of a tune ringing into each other smoothly. Sharon shows you how using the melody of “The Eighth of January.”
  • The Eighth of January, Part 4: Chords and Rhythm Learn the chord progression to “The Eighth of January” and how to transition from playing rhythm to playing melody and vice versa. With Chord Chart
  • “The Eighth of January” Play-Along Track: Melody and Rhythm Practice playing melody or rhythm to “The Eighth of January” along with Sharon.
    Clinch Mountain Backstep
  • Clinch Mountain Backstep, Part 1 “Clinch Mountain Backstep” is a bluegrass standard that comes from Ralph Stanley. Sharon teaches you the A part phrase by phrase and plays it through slowly a number of times so you can practice it along with her.
  • Clinch Mountain Backstep, Part 2 The “backstep” in the title comes from the measure of 2/4 in the second part, making the timing a little tricky. Sharon shows you the B part in this video, giving you lots of chances to play along.
  • Clinch Mountain Backstep, Part 3: Chords and Rhythm Learn the chord progression for “Clinch Mountain Backstep” and practice it slowly with Sharon.
  • Clinch Mountain Backstep, Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing both parts of “Clinch Mountain Backstep” at a slow tempo along with Sharon. 
    June Apple
  • June Apple, Part 1 The old-time fiddle tune “June Apple” is a great tune to work on finger planting. Sharon takes the A part of “June Apple” apart phrase by phrase, giving you time to learn each phrase and then play it with her.
  • June Apple, Part 2 Learn the B part of “June Apple” and how to slide into melody notes that double the open E and A strings.
  • June Apple Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing both parts of “June Apple” at a slow tempo along with Sharon, who also talks about going back through the tunes you’ve learned to see how you can use the finger planting idea on them.
    Soldier’s Joy
  • Soldier’s Joy, Part 1: The A Part The fiddle tune “Soldier’s Joy” is a must-know tune in the bluegrass and old-time world. It’s in the key of D, so Sharon gets you situated in D with a reminder of the D major scale (in two octaves) and then lays the A part of the tune out for you phrase by phrase.
  • Soldier’s Joy, Part 2: The B Part Sharon shows you the B part, again playing each phrase slowly so you can play along, and then putting them all together at the end for a run through of the whole B part.
  • “Soldier’s Joy” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing both parts of “Soldier’s Joy” at a slow and medium tempo along with Sharon. 
    Midnight on the Water
  • Midnight on the Water, Part 1 The waltz “Midnight on the Water” comes from Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson. It’s a beautiful and popular tune in the key of D, and Sharon uses it to show you how to play tremolo. You'll also learn some drone notes you can add to the melody.
  • Midnight on the Water, Part 2 Learn the B part to “Midnight on the Water” in this video. Sharon starts by showing you the melody without tremolo and then shows you how to add tremolo to some of the melody notes. 
  • “Midnight on the Water” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Midnight on the Water” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
    Over the Waterfall
  • Over the Waterfall, Part 1 The popular old-time fiddle tune “Over the Waterfall” is in the key of D. Sharon plays it through and then breaks the A part down phrase by phrase, playing each phrase slowly and repeatedly so you can play along. She also talks about trying to emphasize upstrokes so they don’t get lost. .
  • Over the Waterfall, Part 2 Sharon’s arrangement of the B part of “Over the Waterfall,” which you’ll learn in this video, features some open strings ringing out below the basic melody. She plays each phrase slowly, giving you a chance to play along with her.  
  • “Over the Waterfall” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing both parts of “Over the Waterfall” at a medium tempo along with Sharon. 
    Seneca Square Dance
  • Seneca Square Dance, Part 1: G Major Scale and A Part Melody You’ve learned fiddle tunes in the keys of D and A, and now you’re ready to learn one in the key of G. “Seneca Square Dance” is an old-time dance tune with a simple, pretty melody that sounds great played at a medium tempo. Sharon reviews the G major scale and then plays the A part of “Seneca Square Dance” through, taking it apart phrase by phrase.
  • Seneca Square Dance, Part 2: B Part Melody and Chords You’ll learn the B part of “Seneca Square Dance” phrase by phrase in this video. You’ll also learn the chord progression, including a couple ways to play an Em chord. With Chord Chart
  • Seneca Square Dance, Part 3: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing both parts of “Seneca Square Dance” at a medium tempo along with Sharon. 

    Wayfaring Stranger

  • “Wayfaring Stranger” with Tremolo, Part 1 The old hymn “Wayfaring Stranger” is a great tune to play with tremolo. It’s in the key of A minor, so Sharon starts by showing you the A minor scale, as well as the Am arpeggio. Then she walks you through the melody of the A part (or verse) without tremolo, phrase by phrase. Once you’ve learned the melody of the A part, Sharon shows you some places to add tremolo. 
  • “Wayfaring Stranger” with Tremolo, Part 2 Learn the B part (or chorus) of “Wayfaring Stranger” in this video. Sharon walks you through the melody, with tremolo, phrase by phrase, and also shows you an ending for the chorus. You’ll also learn the chords for “Wayfaring Stranger” in this video. With Chord Chart
  • “Wayfaring Stranger” with Tremolo, Part 3: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Wayfaring Stranger” at a medium tempo along with Sharon. 

    Whiskey Before Breakfast

  • Whiskey Before Breakfast, Part 1: A Part Melody The fiddle tune “Whiskey Before Breakfast” is a popular tune among all sorts of roots musicians. It’s in the key of D and Sharon starts this lesson by reminding you of the D major scale. Then she breaks down the melody of the A part of “Whiskey Before Breakfast” phrase by phrase, pointing out the pick direction you should be using for each phase as well, and finishing by playing the A part slowly so you can play along with her.
  • Whiskey Before Breakfast, Part 2: B Part Melody Sharon shows you the B Part of “Whiskey Before Breakfast” in this video, playing each phrase slowly and looping it a few times so you can play each phrase with her before moving on. She finishes this video by playing the B part a few times slowly.
  • Whiskey Before Breakfast, Part 3: Variations In this video, Sharon shows you a few simple variations on the A and B parts of “Whiskey Before Breakfast.”
  • Whiskey Before Breakfast, Part 4: Chords 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. She also shows you a one-finger Em chord, and runs through the whole tune with open chords as well as Monroe chords. With Chord Chart
  • “Whiskey Before Breakfast” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Whiskey Before Breakfast” at a slow tempo along with Sharon. 

RIGHT- AND LEFT-HAND TECHNIQUE

    Finger Planting

  • Finger Planting Learn about “finger planting,” an efficient way to place your fingers on the fingerboard when playing melodies. Sharon begins with a review of the G major scale and then talks about keeping your fingers “planted” as they move up the scale.

    Rest Strokes

  • Rest Strokes, Part 1 Sharon shows you the rest stroke, which comes from classical mandolin and guitar technique but is used by many bluegrass mandolinists and guitarists. To play a rest stroke you pick through both strings and then rest your pick on the next string over. This allows you to get the deepest tone on your instrument. 
  • Rest Strokes, Part 2: Exercises Learn some simple exercises using a G major scale to help you work on your rest strokes.

    Scales

  • Scale Review Sharon reviews the G major, A major, D major, and C major scales. She also talks about how practicing the A major scale helps you develop your stretch from ring finger to pinky, which is useful for playing chop chords as well as scales, and gives you some simple exercises for developing strength in your pinky. 

    Tremolo

  • Tremolo Technique and Exercises Learn some exercises that can help you work on your tremolo. Sharon learned these exercises from classical mandolinist Caterina Lichtenberg, and she gives you lots of great technical advice on playing tremolo. You’ll use a metronome for these exercises.

    Pick Direction

  • Pick Direction, Part 1: “Old Joe Clark” In Sharon’s three-part lesson on pick direction, she talks about the importance of playing downstrokes on the downbeats and upstrokes on the upbeats, using three different tunes you’ve already learned to illustrate some common issues you’ll run into. She starts with the first part of “Old Joe Clark” showing you exactly which direction your pick should be moving for each beat and melodic phrase. She also shows you how to pick the rhythm known to fiddlers as “shuffle bowing.” 
  • Pick Direction, Part 2: “Chinquapin Hunting” Sharon continues her lesson on pick direction by talking about “ghosting” notes. This means that you keep your picking hand moving even if you’re not playing notes. This allows you embellish the tunes or improvise without thinking about which direction your pick is moving, because your hand is always moving up and down with a regular rhythmic feel. Sharon illustrates this on the tune “Chinquapin Hunting.”
  • Pick Direction, Part 3: “Angeline the Baker” In this third video on pick direction, Sharon uses the tune “Angeline the Baker” to illustrate a syncopated rhythm Sharon calls the “double upstroke,” in which a downstroke is ghosted. Sharon walks you through the pick direction on the entire tune. She also talks about maintaining the correct pick direction when your arm is moving in one direction but your pick needs to move in the opposite direction.
EMBELLISHED TUNES
 
    Old Joe Clark
  • Embellishing Melodies: “Old Joe Clark,” Part 1: A Part Learn two embellished versions of the melody to “Old Joe Clark.” Embellishing the melody is just a matter of filling in the melody you already know with some more melodic ideas. Sharon shows you two embellished versions of the A part in this video.
  • Embellishing Melodies: “Old Joe Clark,” Part 2: B Part You’ll learn one embellished version of the B part of “Old Joe Clark” in this video. 
  • Embellishing Melodies: “Old Joe Clark,” Part 3: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing both parts of the embellished version of “Old Joe Clark” at a medium tempo along with Sharon.
    Eighth of January
  • Embellishing Melodies: “Eighth of January” Learn an embellished version of “Eighth of January” in this lesson. Sharon plays the first embellished version of both parts all the way through, and then shows you each part, phrase by phrase, giving you the chance to play each phrase along with her slowly. She also shows you a few variations you can add to the B part.
PRACTICE TRACKS
 
Use these videos to practice playing rhythm and melody at a medium tempo with Sharon and guitarist Scott Nygaard. With Chord Charts
  • “Old Joe Clark” Practice Track 
  • “Cluck Old Hen” Practice Track 
  • “Eighth of January” Practice Track 
  • “Chinquapin Hunting” Practice Track 
  • “Squirrel Hunters” Practice Track 
  • “Angeline the Baker” Practice Track
  • “Clinch Mountain” Practice Track
  • “June Apple” Practice Track
  • “Soldier’s Joy” Practice Track
  • “Midnight on the Water” Practice Track With cool melodic backup line for the first part.
  • “Over the Waterfall” Practice Track
  • “Seneca Square Dance” Practice Track
  • “Wayfaring Stranger” Practice Track
  • “Whiskey Before Breakfast” Practice Track

 

If you're finished with the Beginning Mandolin lessons, you can move on to Sharon's new Intermediate Bluegrass Mandolin course or one of Peghead Nation's other mandolin courses, The Advancing MandolinistMonroe-Style Mandolin, or Irish Mandolin.

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