INTERMEDIATE BLUEGRASS MANDOLIN
with Sharon Gilchrist

Sponsored By

About This Course

Learn to play solos on classic bluegrass songs and instrumentals using bluegrass mandolin techniques like tremolo, double stops, two-string melodies, and more.

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. Her latest project is a trio with Peghead Nation instructor and co-founder Scott Nygaard and mandolin master John Reischman. Their first album, The Harmonic Tone Revealers, will be released in September 2016.

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

 
 
 
 

Intermediate Bluegrass Mandolin Course Overview

Latest Intermediate Bluegrass Mandolin Lesson

Gold Rush

Learn the bluegrass fiddle tune standard “Gold Rush,” which comes from Bill Monroe and fiddler Byron Berline. With Notation/Tab and Practice Track

Feedback and Discussion

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

Intermediate Bluegrass Mandolin Lessons

Subscribe to Intermediate Bluegrass Mandolin today for access to all of these bluegrass mandolin lessons! New lessons will be added monthly. 

MANDOLIN BASICS

  • Holding the Mandolin  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. 
CHORDS AND RHYTHM
 
    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.

RIGHT- AND LEFT-HAND TECHNIQUE

    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.
BLUEGRASS FIDDLE TUNES AND INSTRUMENTALS
 
    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. 
    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.

    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. 

BLUEGRASS SONGS

    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. 

    I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky

  • I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky, Part 1: Two-String Pick Technique - SAMPLE LESSON In this lesson you’ll 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. Sharon starts this lesson by talking about the basic right-hand technique for playing two pairs of strings at a time. She shows you how to keep the pick out 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. Sharon also gives you advice on practicing this technique with a metronome, with some ideas for exercises you can do.
  • I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky, Part 2: Melody You’ll learn the melody to “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” played on two strings in the key of A in this video. Sharon walks you through it phrase by phrase, starting with a classic bluegrass kick-off. She also shows you how to slide into double stops and accent the ands of the second and fourth beats. You’ll also learn a classic Bill Monroe ending in the key of A. With Notation/Tab
  • “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” Play-Along Tracks Use this video to practice playing “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” at a slow tempo with Sharon and at a medium tempo with Sharon and guitarist Scott Nygaard.

    Uncle Pen

  • Uncle Pen, Part 1 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. Sharon starts by showing you the fiddle part slowly, taking it apart phrase by phrase, and then playing it through slowly so you can play along with her. With Notation/Tab
  • Uncle Pen, Part 2 You’ll learn Bill Monroe’s solo on the chorus of “Uncle Pen” in this video. Sharon takes it apart phrase by phrase, and finishes by playing it through slowly so you can play along with her. With Notation/Tab
  • “Uncle Pen” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Uncle Pen” at a medium tempo with Sharon and guitarist Scott Nygaard.

    “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” Variations 

  • “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” Variations: Part 1 In this lesson, you’ll learn three variations to “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky,” the melody of which Sharon taught in a previous lesson. Sharon starts by reminding you of the two-string technique she used to play the melody of “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” and the wrist rotation she used for that technique. These variations will use some of the arpeggios you’ve learned in previous lessons as well as folding scales, sequences, and some typical bluegrass mandolin licks. In this video, Sharon walks you through her first variation phrase by phrase, showing you how she uses arpeggios when a melody note is held for a long time. With Notation/Tab
  • “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” Variation 1: Practice Track Use this video to practice playing the first variation of “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” at a medium tempo along with Sharon.
  • “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” Variations: Part 2 The second variation of “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” is based on a “folding scale,” which Sharon shows you before getting into the complete variation. The variation uses this scale a lot and sounds a bit like an exercise, but it will show you how to take phrases you might learn in an exercise and incorporate them into a solo. With Notation/Tab
  • “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” Variation 2: Practice Track Use this video to practice playing the second variation of “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” at a medium tempo along with Sharon.
  • “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” Variations: Part 3 The third variation to “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” uses sequencing along with some typical bluegrass licks. Sharon plays the variation through and then breaks it down, phrase by phrase. With Notation/Tab
  • “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” Variation 3: Practice Track Use this video to practice playing the third variation of “I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky” at a medium tempo along with Sharon.

SCALE AND CHORD THEORY

    Scale Theory

  • Scale Theory In this lesson, Sharon explains how the major scale is constructed so you can find a major scale in any key. This is important because 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. She also explains key signatures, which tell you how many flats or sharps a key has, and shows you how many sharps are in the the C, G, D, and A scales, and how a sharp is added to each key as you move around the circle of fifths. She also shows you two major scale finger patterns you can use anywhere on the neck. With Notation/Tab
  • C Scales You’ll learn a few different places to play the C major scale in this lesson, all without using open strings. Sharon shows you the scales as well as how to shift between positions. You’ll also learn how to find and play the relative minor scale of C: A minor. With Notation/Tab

   Arpeggios

  • Arpeggios, Part 1 When you play the notes of a chord one at a time, that is called an “arpeggio.” In this lesson, Sharon explains how chords are built, using the key of A. She shows you the I, IV, and V (A, D, E) chords in A and the seventh chords that correspond to the I, IV, and V chords. She also shows you the difference between how major and minor chords are constructed. With Notation/Tab
  • Arpeggios, Part 2 In this lesson Sharon talks to you about the importance of knowing about seventh chords, and how Bill Monroe used dominant seventh arpeggios to create a bluesy sound. You’ll learn some dominant seventh arpeggios for the I, IV, and V (A, D, and E) chords in the key of A. Sharon gives you ideas about practicing the arpeggios, two strings at a time, for example, and noticing the relationships between the notes of the arpeggios, as well as the fingering of the arpeggios. With Notation/Tab

MORE BLUEGRASS TUNES

    Billy in the Lowground

  • Billy in the Lowground, Part 1 The popular fiddle tune “Billy in the Lowground” is in the key of C. Sharon shows you how to kick it off and then walks you through the melody phrase by phrase. You’ll learn the A part to “Billy in the Lowground” in this video, and Sharon finishes by playing the A part a few times so you can play along with her. With Notation/Tab
  • Billy in the Lowground, Part 2 You’ll learn the B part of  “Billy in the Lowground” in this video. Sharon gives you some tips on making the transition between the end of the A part and the beginning of the B part and then walks you through the B part phrase by phrase. She also shows you where to shift positions between phrases, and ends by playing the B part a few times so you can play along with her. With Notation/Tab
  • “Billy in the Lowground” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Billy in the Lowground” at a medium tempo with Sharon and guitarist Scott Nygaard.

    Jerusalem Ridge

  • Jerusalem Ridge, Part 1 Bill Monroe’s “Jerusalem Ridge” is a four-part tune 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 the bluegrass instruments. Sharon starts by playing the whole thing through and then starts breaking down each part, phrase by phrase, giving you the chance to play along with each phrase and each part. You’ll learn the first three parts of “Jerusalem Ridge” in this video. With Notation/Tab
  • Jerusalem Ridge, Part 2 The fourth part of “Jerusalem Ridge” is rather long and complicated. Sharon plays it through and then reminds of you the C scale position that moves you up to the C note on the E string, which you’ll use for the first half of this part. Then she breaks the fourth part down, phrase by phrase. With Notation/Tab
  • “Jerusalem Ridge” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Jerusalem Ridge” at a medium tempo with Sharon and guitarist Scott Nygaard.

    St. Anne’s Reel 

  • St. Anne’s Reel, Part 1 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 before walking you through the melody, Sharon reminds you of the D major scale, showing you the two-octave version. Then she shows you the melody to the A part, phrase by phrase, repeating each one slowly, so you can learn the tune by ear and play along as you go. She finishes this video by playing the entire A part slowly a couple of times. With Notation/Tab
  • St. Anne’s Reel, Part 2 You’ll learn the B part to “St. Anne’s Reel” in this video. Sharon walks you through it phrase by phrase, pointing out the small arpeggios that are part of the melody and some places where should use finger planting. As in the A part, she repeats each phrase slowly a few times so you can play along, and finishes by playing the whole B part slowly a couple times. With Notation/Tab
  • St. Anne’s Reel, Part 3: Chords and Practice Tracks The chords to the second part of “St. Anne’s Reel” can be played in a few different ways. Sharon shows you the chords for each variation, and then she and guitarist Scott Nygaard play each variation a few times at a medium tempo so you can practice playing the melody and/or the chords.

    Gold Rush

  • Gold Rush, Part 1 The bluegrass fiddle tune standard “Gold Rush” comes from Bill Monroe and fiddler Byron Berline. Sharon plays it through and then takes it apart, phrase by phrase, giving you time to play along with her as she goes through the tune. She also 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. You’ll learn the A part of “Gold Rush” in this video. With Notation/Tab
  • Gold Rush, Part 2 You’ll learn the second part of “Gold Rush” in this video. Sharon plays the B part through and then takes it apart, phrase by phrase, including a variation on the first and third phrases. With Notation/Tab
  • Gold Rush, Part 3: Practice Track Sharon plays “Gold Rush” through a few times with guitarist Scott Nygaard so you can play along. She also shows you the rhythmic accent in the B part that is usually played by the rhythm section, and how she fills in the rhythm by adding some strums to the basic chop pattern.


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