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Learn great traditional and original tunes in a variety of styles—old-time, bluegrass, Latin, jazz, and more—from a modern mandolin master.
John Reischman is one of the premier mandolinists of his generation, a master instrumentalist capable of swinging between re-inventions of traditional old-time tunes, deconstructions of the bluegrass repertoire, and compelling original tunes, many of which have become standards.
John is also a powerful bandleader, touring all over Canada and the United States with his band the Jaybirds. But most of all, he’s an understated visionary, the kind of master craftsman whose music is virtuosic without ever being flashy and who is renowned for his impeccable taste and tone. John Reischman embodies the true spirit of acoustic music in the 21st century.
A Juno–nominated and Grammy–award winning artist, John is known today for his work with the Jaybirds as well as his acclaimed solo albums, but he got his start as an original member of the Tony Rice Unit in the late 1970s. With this band led by the legendary bluegrass guitarist, John helped define the “new acoustic music” movement in bluegrass with a series of high-profile albums for Rounder Records. Building this sound, John was influenced early on by Bill Monroe’s mandolin playing, but also by the playing of progressive bluegrass mandolinists like Sam Bush and David Grisman, as well as jazz mandolinist Jethro Burns. Living in the Bay Area in the ’80s, John toured and performed with the seminal California bluegrass band the Good Ol’ Persons, cementing his reputation as a powerful mandolinist with an original vision for the instrument.
John moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in the 1990s and formed the Jaybirds, but he never stopped his musical explorations. In 1996, he won a Grammy as part of Todd Phillips’ all-star tribute album to Bill Monroe. Over the years, he’s collaborated with a remarkably wide range of artists, from bluegrass singer Kathy Kallick to guitarist Scott Nygaard, banjo wiz Tony Furtado, Chinese Music ensemble Red Chamber, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Celso Machado, singer songwriter Susan Crowe, and more. This kind of cross-cultural trailblazing has always been at the center of John’s music, an extension of his curiosity about the stringed instruments and musical rhythms of other traditions.
John’s relocation to Vancouver in the 1990s led to his next big step as an artist: becoming a bandleader. Drawing from the very best bluegrass and acoustic musicians in the Pacific Northwest to form the band, Reischman led the Jaybirds on cross-country tours, five albums, and two Juno nominations. The secret to the band’s success lies in its innovative arrangements, powerful original songwriting and tune composition, as well as the mix of talents that make up the group. It’s a tight band that can turn on a dime and play with the kind of power and precision that is the hallmark of the original bluegrass greats.
In 2013, John released his third solo album, Walk Along John. Made up of traditional and original tunes, the album is a celebration of Reischman’s long career, featuring guest spots from old friends like old-time fiddler Bruce Molsky, banjo genius Tony Trischka, the Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile, bluegrass guitarist Kenny Smith, and members of the Jaybirds, plus friends from a new generation of bluegrass instrumentalists: guitarist Eli West, members of the Deadly Gentlemen, among others. Walk Along John follows in the footsteps of Reischman’s other acclaimed solo albums, like his debut, North of the Border, which was described by Bluegrass Unlimited as “monumental . . . it establishes a remarkably high standard for mature, tasteful mandolin music.”
In 2016, John teamed with guitarist Scott Nygaard and mandolinist/bassist Sharon Gilchrist to produce a recording of traditional tunes, The Harmonic Tone Revealers, about which Bluegrass Unlimited said: “The Harmonic Tone Revealers highlights three of today’s most accomplished and respected acoustic musicians. Filled with luxuriously gorgeous music and intriguing renditions of popular and obscure tunes, this CD can’t fail to please anyone who loves bluegrass and acoustic music.”
Learn the first part of John's tune “Itzbin Reel,” one of the first tunes he wrote. It’s a fiddle tune in the key of A, and John starts by showing you the A major scale and a couple of scale patterns to get used to the key of A major. With Notation/Tab
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.
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JOHN’S MANDOLIN AND TECHNIQUE
John’s Gibson F-5 Lloyd Loar Mandolin John Reischman’s Gibson F-5 Lloyd Loar mandolin is considered by many to be one of the greatest mandolins ever made. It was built in 1924 and was signed by Gibson’s acoustic engineer Lloyd Loar early on February 18, a day that produced a number of great mandolins, including those owned by Chris Thile and John Paul Jones. John talks about how he acquired the mandolin in 1981 and how he changed the fingerboard to a radiused fingerboard early on. He demonstrates it by playing his waltz “The North Shore,” which showcases the deep bass sound of this instrument.
Picking-Hand Technique In this video, John talks about his pick technique, starting with the shape and thickness of pick he uses: a 1.2–1.5 mm. triangular pick with three rounded shoulders. Then he shows you how he holds the pick and the angle at which he strikes the strings. He also shows you how he rests his palm lightly on the bridge, how he sometimes locks his wrist and uses more of his forearm and sometimes he plays with a loose wrist. In addition he demonstrates how he plays tremolo and talks about how he practices tremolo with a metronome, starting with a very slow setting and playing triplets for each beat and then gradually speeding it up.
Fretting-Hand Technique John demonstrates his fretting-hand technique in this video. He talks about using the proper fingers in open position, with the index finger playing the first and second frets, middle finger playing the third and fourth frets, ring finger playing the fifth and sixth, and pinky playing the seventh. He also gives you an exercise that will help you learn that fingering (and also work your pinky), and talks about playing cleanly by fretting close to the fret as well as creating a smooth legato line by letting the notes sustain into each other. You’ll also learn the two closed-position scale positions he uses. With Notation/Tab
MELODIC MANDOLIN TUNES
The Road to Malvern