Mandolin Lesson Plans

by David Ferris

The mandolin is a relatively uncommon instrument, but it possesses a rich, beautiful sound. Originally from Italy, the mandolin has eight strings that are plucked or strummed. It's most often used in classical music but has been adapted to other musical forms as diverse as indie rock or jazz.

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Mandolin History

Students should know the history, background and social significance of the instrument they're trying to master. Begin the lesson by introducing the mandolin's history from its invention to development to current use. Explain the instrument's ascent in Italy and modification as it was exported to other countries in Europe and beyond. Explain how the instrument has cultural significance among certain sub-populations in the U.S., namely, Appalachian people who adapted it to bluegrass music.

The Fundmentals

Beginners should learn the fundamentals of mandolin playing before advancing in their studies. This lesson will be largely visual in nature as students will learn by demonstrated example. First, illustrate proper playing posture, back straight with the instrument resting on your thigh. Then show the students fingering techniques and how to position both the left and right hands.

Music Theory

Music theory encompasses a wide range of topics both practical and abstrusely theoretical. For the sake of mandolin lessons, stick to the basics of music theory that will be imperative for students learning the instrument. Pass out blank staff paper or make a staff on the board. Explain the bass and treble clef and musical notation for each (C, D, E, etc.). You can also introduce basic music theory about harmony and melody, explaining how each is created on the mandolin.

Mandolin Music

Once students grasp the fundamentals, it'll be time to begin learning actual songs for the mandolin. Use available resources to find sheet music or tabs and select a piece. "Aura Lea," for example, is a widely recognized melody and relatively simple to play on the mandolin. Or select more advanced songs for experienced students.

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