Mandolin Basics Overview

  • 18 lessons teaching how to play 11 very popular Irish session tunes.
  • Progress at your own pace, pause & repeat videos.
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  • PDF sheet music & mp3’s to download & keep for each tune.
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BONUS:
  • Access our Entire Course Catalogue for Every Instrument.
  • Library of over 150 popular Irish tunes to practice along with.
  • Virtual Reality Sessions for the unique Irish Pub Session experience – a real treat for the Irish music lover.
  • Community Forum of students and teachers, all friends with a love of Irish music.

There are three prominent types of mandolin: the neapolitan bowl-back, the arch-top and the flat-back. It is the flat-back mandolin that is mostly used in the Irish folk tradition. Mandolin Basics is aimed at the absolute beginner mandolin player

By the end of the course, you will have a repertoire of eleven popular Irish tunes, the ability to play basic chords and triplets and a deeper understanding of the Irish music tradition. The course has 18 lessons, broken into 3 to 4 tutorials each, where tunes are taught phrase by phrase.

Course Structure

This course is aimed at the absolute beginner mandolin player and begins with the basics like how to hold the instrument, proper hand/finger posture and good basic technique. There is a progressive study of scales, plectrum motions, and ornamentation throughout the lessons. The course teaches a solid foundation from which to build your expertise as a mandolin player in the Irish music genre.

The popular Irish session tunes taught in this course are:

Molly Malone
The Kerry Polka
The Foggy Dew
Britches Full Of Stitches
The Ballydesmond Polka
The Lilting Banshee
The Connacht Man’s Rambles
The Kerry Jig
Sporting Paddy
O’Carolans Draught
48 Dogs In The Meathouse

Recommended Mandolin for Beginners by Paddy Cummins

If you already play Bluegrass music, I’m guessing you own an F-style, arch-top mandolin. If it is of good quality then you can start learning Irish music on this straight away. If you haven’t purchased a mandolin yet and want to focus mostly on Irish music, I would suggest purchasing an A-style, oval hole mandolin. Eastman and Kentucky are two companies that make high quality, affordable instruments and are well worth the extra few quid over the untunable McBride’s range! If you want to splash out on a higher grade instrument there are plenty of vintage Gibsons on the market (A1, A2, A3 and A4 models are superb) or, otherwise, there are countless makers across the world. In Ireland, Joe Foley has built a strong reputation over the decades for making great mandolins and in the US there are countless companies, albeit usually specialising in Bluegrass instruments e.g. Weber, Northfield & Collings.

Advice Starting Out with the Mandolin

Enjoy the journey. It is highly recommended to be familiar with any tune you are learning before learning how to play it, so download the mp3 file and listen to it frequently first before picking up your instrument to play it. Lessons are structured in progressive sequence, each building on the last. You are advised to follow the sequence and not skip a lesson for better progress.

Your Tutor
Paddy Cummins Banjo and Mandolin tutorPaddy Cummins was born and reared in Drimnagh, Dublin and began experimenting with music at nine. His first instrument of choice was the mandolin, as played by his father, then the guitar, before eventually being saddled with a banjo aged fourteen. Paddy attended some brief tuition at Comhaltas branches in Monkstown but is largely self-taught and spent his teenage years completely dedicated to his music practice. He holds a first class honours degree in Irish Music and Dance from the University of Limerick and was mentored there by John Carty. He also received masterclass tuition from established players such as Enda Scahill, Kieran Hanrahan, Cathal Hayden, Angelina Carberry and Brian McGrath. Read more.

Frequently Asked Questions answered by tutor Paddy Cummins

Is the mandolin tuned the same as the Irish tenor banjo and fiddle?
Yes, the tuning system is GDAE (low to high) with each string doubled-up. It is in the same octave as the fiddle and one higher than the banjo.
Can I play Irish music on a neopolitan or F-hole instrument?
Whilst, in my opinion, the flat-back, oval hole variety have the nicest sound for Irish music, you can play on any kind of mandolin. With the neopolitan versions, they can be quite suited to slower pieces of music and the repertoire of composers like O’Carolan such is the classical influence on the compositions. They are a smaller instrument so can be quite claustrophic and may not be entirely suited to the highly decorated, faster paced dance tunes. Arch-top, F-hole instruments have a strong tone but it isn’t as “Celtic” a sound as the oval hole, flat tops. If you really want to have that Celtic sound, the oval-hole, flat top is the best but by no means necessary.
What kind of pick should I use for Irish mandolin?
It needs to be pretty thick. If you come from a tenor banjo background you may be used to playing in the 0.5mm – 0.73mm range. If you play an arch-top, you need to start working in the 0.9mm – 1.5mm range for mandolin and this is because the tone is so important. This is comparable to bluegrass picks. You could probably work in the 0.73mm – 0.88mm range for oval hole instruments. Neopolitan are a different kettle of fish and some would recommend tortoise shell variety for these instruments.
Is the technique on mandolin the same as tenor banjo?
There is a lot of crossover in technique but the greater sustain on the mandolin affords other kinds of technique over the banjo. The opposite is also true. Tremolo, for example, is much more suited to mandolin.
Can I use the mandolin to provide chordal accompaniment at an Irish session?
No. The mandolin is not used in this context in Irish traditional music. The accompaniment section is exclusive for guitarists, pianists, bouzouki players and rhythm (bodhran). Using old-time style chords or bluegrass chops will not be appreciated in an Irish session. Mandolin must play the melody.

More detailed questions and discussion on the course can be found in the Community Forum, available to paying members only.

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Mandolin Basics Lessons

Level

Introduction

Mandolin Basic Lesson 1

  • Level 1
  • Melody
Learn Irish Mandolin Online

Introduction to the Instrument / How to tune the strings

Focus on Technique

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Hand and Finger Positioning / Frere Jaques

Mandolin Basic Lesson 2

  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Hand and Finger Positioning / Frere Jaques


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The Scale of G Major

Mandolin Basic Lesson 3

  • G Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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The Scale of G Major


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Molly Malone

Mandolin Basic Lesson 4

  • G Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Exercises on the Scale of G Major

Waltz

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The Scale of D Major

Mandolin Basic Lesson 5

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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The Scale of D Major


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The Kerry Polka

Mandolin Basic Lesson 6

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Exercises on the Scale of D Major

Polka

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The Foggy Dew

Mandolin Basic Lesson 7

  • E Minor
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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The Scale Of E Minor

March

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Britches Full of Stitches

Mandolin Basic Lesson 8

  • A Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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The Scale of A Major

Polka

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The Ballydesmond Polka

Mandolin Basic Lesson 9

  • A Minor
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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The Scale of A Minor

Polka

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Plectrum Motion

Mandolin Basic Lesson 10

  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Plectrum Motion

Jig

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The Lilting Banshee

Mandolin Basic Lesson 11

  • A Minor
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Plectrum Motion For Jigs

Jig

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The Connacht Mans Rambles

Mandolin Basic Lesson 12

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Plectrum Motion For Jigs / Use of the High B Note

Jig

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The Kerry Jig

Mandolin Basic Lesson 13

  • D Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Exercise in the key of D Major / Use of the Bass String

Jig

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How To Play Chords On The Mandolin

Mandolin Basic Lesson 14

  • Accompaniment
  • G Major
  • Level 1
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How to Play Chords on the Mandolin / Strumming Patterns

Focus on Technique

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Sporting Paddy (1)

Mandolin Basic Lesson 15

  • A Minor
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Use of the High B

Reel

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Sporting Paddy (2)

Mandolin Basic Lesson 16

  • A Minor
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Transposition of the tune down to the lower strings. Ornamentation: triplets and rolls

Reel

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O’Carolan’s Draught

Mandolin Basic Lesson 17

  • G Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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Playing Slow Tunes on the Mandolin

Planxty

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48 Dogs in the Meathouse

Mandolin Basic Lesson 18

  • C Major
  • Level 1
  • Melody
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The Scale of C Major / Syncopation

Reel

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