“Inverness” comes from fiddler/mandolinist John Mailander, who recorded it on his album Walking Distance. It’s a beautiful, contemplative melody that alternates measures of 6/4 and 4/4. Joe walks you through the second part of “Inverness” in this video.
Check out these songs featured in the Octave Mandolin course.
Joe gives you some background on the octave mandolin, including some of the well-known octave mandolin players, and talks about what and how you will learn in this course.
Joe talks about his Northfield archtop octave mandolin.
“Sam Brown Hill” comes from the great guitarist Duke Levine, who recorded it on the octave mandolin on his album The Fade Out. It’s a simple melody with three parts, in the key of E, played out of D position with a capo at the second fret, but it’s a good example of how octave mandolinists flesh out melodies with chords and double stops.
“Inverness” comes from fiddler/mandolinist John Mailander, who recorded it on his album Walking Distance. It’s a beautiful, contemplative melody that alternates measures of 6/4 and 4/4. It’s in the key of F, so Joe plays it as if it’s in D, but with the capo at the third fret. You’ll learn the melody and also some of Joe’s favorite octave mandolin chord voicings in the key of D.
The Bill Monroe instrumental “Old Dangerfield” is popular in bluegrass circles everywhere. In this lesson you’ll learn Sierra Hull’s octave mandolin version. Sierra is a virtuoso mandolinist but she has relatively small hands, so she changes the melody of “Old Dangerfield” somewhat when she plays it on the octave mandolin to make it fit the larger instrument. This is very common for mandolinists when they transfer tunes they know on the mandolin to the octave mandolin, and Sierra’s version of “Old Dangerfield” is a great lesson in doing this effectively.
“Verona” comes from the great jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, who recorded it on his album Gone, Just Like a Train, but it is well-suited to the octave mandolin. It’s in the key of D, has a typical jazz AABA 32-bar structure, and uses diatonic chords in the key of D. Joe uses it to introduce some movable chord shapes and talk about different rhythmic approaches to comping with the octave mandolin.
“The High Road” comes from Tim O’Brien, who first recorded it on his 1983 solo album Hard Year Blues playing fiddle and mandolin and has also recorded it on octave mandolin with mandolinist Casey Campbell. Tim is probably the person who is most responsible for introducing the octave mandolin or bouzouki to the contemporary American string band. He’s been using it on recordings and in performance since the early 1990s. “The High Road” is in the key of E minor and features an unusual chord progression with an F# chord in the B part.
The old-time fiddle tune “Red Prairie Dawn” comes from Indiana fiddler Gary Harrison, and has become popular in bluegrass jam circles lately. It’s in the key of A and works well on the octave mandolin.
“The Smoothie Song” is the first track on Nickel Creek’s hit 2002 album This Side, and is probably the first time many people heard an octave mandolin. Chris Thile tunes the high E strings on his octave mandolin/bouzouki down to D for “The Smoothie Song,” so it’s tuned GDAD, which is essential to playing the tune like Chris, who fleshes out the basic melody with crosspicking and open strings.
The traditional tune “Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine” has an understated, pastoral quality that sounds great on the octave mandolin. It has a spare, march-like melody based around quarter-note phrases that can be phrased rhythmically in different ways and filled in with open strings and chord tones.
“Ring Them Bells” is a Bob Dylan song that Sarah Jarosz recorded on her album Follow Me Down. Sarah has a distinctive way of combining melody and chordal fragments on the octave mandolin and her intro solo on this song is a particularly great example of that. Sarah sings “Ring Them Bells” in the key of B and capos her octave mandolin at the fourth fret, playing with key-of-G fingerings.
In this lesson, Joe shows you how to accompany a singer with double stops in the key of C, using the Hank Williams song “Cold, Cold Heart.” He shows you a few different ways to phrase the basic melody, and then shows you double stops in sixths and fifths for the I, IV, and V chords in the key of C (C, F, and G) as well as the C major scale harmonized in sixths.
“Sliding Down” was written by bassist/pianist Edgar Meyer and appears on his Uncommon Ritual recording, which features Mike Marshall on mandolin and Béla Fleck on banjo. It’s a simple melody in the key of A and in 3/4 time, but the challenge is how to flesh out the melody with chord tones. It works well on the octave mandolin with a capo on the second fret, using key of G fingerings. Joe shows you how to play the melody and fill it out with one or two notes of the underlying chord.
The traditional folk song “John Hardy” has become a jam session standard in the bluegrass world, and there are innumerable versions, some sung with lyrics and some as instrumentals. When played as an instrumental, it’s often played at breakneck speed. But Joe shows you a more introspective, laidback version that comes from Danny Barnes and works well on the octave mandolin.
“Gimme a Holler” comes from guitarist Bill Frisell. It’s a beautiful, simple tune with an interesting chord progression that is fun to improvise on.
Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” is one of the great melodies from the American songbook, and there have been numerous recordings over the years. In this lesson, Joe shows you how to harmonize it in a few different ways with double stops and contrapuntal lines.
The tune “Pony Boy” comes from fiddler/songwriter Mark Simos. It’s a beautiful tune with some unusual phrasing. Joe teaches you the tune and also how to embellish it with some tasteful ornaments and chord tones.
The fiddle tune “Chinquapin Hunting” that you’ll learn in this lesson is in the key of A and is a completely different tune than the other, more popular fiddle tune with the same name, which is played in the key of D. It’s a three-part tune and has an extra half measure in the A parts.
The fiddle tune “St. Anne’s Reel” is one of the all-time greats and is a favorite among multiple genres of fiddle music. It’s in the key of D and the chords include Em and Bm, as well as the usual G and A. The melody also requires a stretch up to the B note on the high E string.
The D major waltz “Medicine Bow” was written by mandolin legend Peter Ostroushko, who was Joe’s first teacher. It’s a beautiful, spare melody that Peter played on the fiddle, but it’s perfect for the octave mandolin. You’ll learn the basic melody and some ways to fill it out with chord tones.
The beautiful Swedish polska “Forslund” comes from guitarist Roger Tallroth, of the band Väsen, who recorded it on the tenor guitar on Väsen’s 1993 album Essence and also with mandolinist Mike Marshall. It can be thought of as being in 9/8 (the way it’s notated here) or in 3/4 with each quarter note divided into triplets.
Joe shows you diatonic double stops in the key of D that you can use to accompany a blues. He is joined by singer Isa Burke, who sings the folk blues standard “Corrina, Corrina.” You’ll learn Mixolydian scales harmonized in sixths for the I7, IV7, and V7 chords in the key of D.
“Over the Rainbow” is probably one of the most well-known melodies of the 20th century. To arrange the song for the octave mandolin, Joe listened to versions by Judy Garland, Willie Nelson, Paul Motian, and others. It’s a diatonic melody, but there are a few ways to harmonize it. Joe plays it in the key of G, and shows you some common harmonizations.
Sarah Jarosz is best known for her songs, but the octave mandolinist also writes great instrumentals. “Old Smitty” was written for her former band member cellist Matt Smith. It’s a driving, quirky tune from her album Follow Me Down.
Joe recorded his tune “Palmer” on his new album If Not Now, Who? It’s a beautiful, introspective melody in the key of D and the chord progression is fun to solo over.
“Niblo’s Tired Lion” is a fun, groovy tune that comes from mandolinist Andrew Marlin. It’s a three-part tune in the key of G, and the third part is a bit tricky. It’s 11 bars long and has accents in unusual places.
The fiddle tune “Red-Haired Boy” is one of the most popular bluegrass fiddle tunes and is also played in old-time and Celtic circles. You’ll learn a version of the melody that lays out well on the octave mandolin and some ways to voice the chords when accompanying the tune.
“Pearl Polska” comes from Swedish guitarist Roger Tallroth, who recorded this original tune on the album Rosco with Peghead Nation co-founder and guitar instructor Scott Nygaard. Joe’s version comes from Roger’s solo octave-mandolin performance of “Pearl Polska” (Pärlepolskan in Swedish). It has a lot of ornaments (grace notes as well as double pull-offs and hammer-on/pull-offs), which can make it tricky, although you can play the melody without ornaments.
“Steel Guitar Rag” is a western swing instrumental classic that works well on the octave mandolin. It’s a three-part tune in the key of E, but Joe plays it with a capo at the second fret, using key-of-D fingering and shapes.
“Big-Footed Man in the Sandy Lot” is an old-time fiddle tune in the key of G that comes from the Stripling Brothers, a pair of brothers from Alabama who recorded in the 1920s and ‘30s. Joe learned it from fiddler Bobby Britt, who recorded it on his album Alaya.
The beautiful “Josefin’s Waltz” (sometimes written as “Johsefin’s Dopvals”) comes from the Swedish band Väsen, and was written by their former guitarist Roger Tallroth. It’s usually played in the key of F or G. Joe shows it to you in the key of F, but plays it out of D with a capo at the third fret. To play it in G, you can just move the capo up to the fifth fret but Joe provides music for “Josefin’s Waltz” in the key of G without a capo as well.
The solo that Tim O’Brien plays on his performance of the song “My Girl’s Waiting for Me (River Driving)” at the 2011 John Hartford Memorial Festival (and which he recorded on his album Chicken and Egg) is a great example of Tim’s approach to adapting melodies to the octave mandolin, and includes some of his trademark crosspicking.
“Hector the Hero” is a Scottish song composed more than a hundred years ago by Scottish fiddler James Scott Skinner. Joe learned it from fiddler Jenna Reed’s playing with the Transatlantic Sessions. It’s a beautiful waltz in the key of A and in this lesson Joe shows you how to flesh out the melody with double stops and/or open strings.
“The Crooked Road to Buffalo” is a fiddle tune written by fiddler Darol Anger. It’s in the key of A, but it lays out well on the octave mandolin with key-of-G fingerings and a capo at the second fret. It’s a crooked tune and was based on (or inspired by) the traditional fiddle tune “Buffalo Gals.”
“Estrellita” (“little star”) was written in 1912 by Mexican composer Manuel Maria Ponce. Joe’s version of “Estrellita” comes from fiddler Bobby Hicks, who is a master of harmony and double stops on the fiddle. Joe shows you the melody and how to fill it out with double stops inspired by Bobby’s version.
“Christmas Eve” was written for the octave mandolin by mandolinist Ethan Setiawan, and was recorded on his album Gambit, where he plays it (mostly) as a solo mandolin piece.