Master the Mandolin – Bluegrass Mandolin for the Complete Ignoramus!


I began my quest to master the mandolin with the book Bluegrass Mandolin for the Complete Ignoramus!

In today’s practice session I played the G scale:

Then I used the G scale to play the first line of Joy to the World:

Then I tackled my first full tune, Amazing Grace:

And finally, Amazing Grace again with some added tremolo:


Master the Mandolin – Curriculum


I started playing the mandolin somewhere around 2002 or 2003. I never had any formal instruction, just a few books and DVDs and a lot of jam sessions. I made some progress, but never really got to the point where I was confident in being able to improvise a solo (or a break to the bluegrassers out there) in a jam session on a song that I hadn’t already been practicing. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t try, I just never really had a lot of success.

For a few years, I was attending jam sessions 3 or 4 nights a week and I even played in 3 or 4 amateur bands and played a few paying gigs, though my role was more as a singer than a mandolin player. Changes in schedule, physical limitations and eventually a cross-country move resulted in my playing time tapering off and then pretty much ceasing completely in 2010 and other than to pick up the instrument and fiddle with it for a few minutes here or there, I haven’t really played in the past 6 years or so.

I’ve decided to make another go of increasing my skill to the point where I feel like I could hold my own in a jam session, rather than just chopping rhythm in the background and occasionally playing a break on the songs I know.

Formal lessons aren’t really in the budget, so I’m going to start this effort off by working my way through the various instructional materials I have acquired, but not spent much time with over the years. I have tried to organize the materials into categories, based on how advanced they are.

There is some overlap, as some courses cover both beginning and intermediate topics or intermediate and advanced, etc. Also, in some cases I’m kind of guessing what level they are aimed at, so don’t take this as a 100% accurately categorized list. I have placed the books that aren’t specifically for mandolin in the advanced category, not necessarily because of the difficulty of the material, but because they will require taking techniques written for a different instrument and translating them to the mandolin.


  1. Bluegrass Mandolin for the Complete Ignoramus!
  2. Teach Yourself Bluegrass Mandolin
  3. Bluegrass Mandolin
  4. Mike Marshall’s Mandolin Fundamentals For All Players, Vol. 1
  5. Mike Marshall: Mandolin Fundamentals, Vol. 2
  6. All About Lead Mandolin by Sam Bush
  7. All About Rhythm Mandolin by Sam Bush
  8. Mel Bay’s Mandolin Chords
  9. The Mandolin Chord Book
  10. Mandolin Ear Training Course by Brad Davis


  1. The Mandolin Of Bill Monroe, Vol. 1: One On One With The Master
  2. The Mandolin Of Bill Monroe, Vol. 2
  3. Intermediate Mandolin: The Complete Mandolin Method
  4. The Sam Bush Mandolin Method
  5. Mandolin Technique Studies by Matt Raum
  6. Bluegrass Up the Neck by Niles Hokkanen
  7. Hal Leonard Fretboard Roadmaps Mandolin
  8. Fiddle Tune Method for Modern Mandolin by Thomas Ohmsen
  9. John McGann’s Developing Melodic Variations on Fiddle Tunes
  10. Pete Wernick: Intermediate Bluegrass Jam Session
  11. Complete Idiot’s Guide to Solos and Improvisation


  1. Mandolin Master Class by Brad Laird
  2. Mastering Mandolin: The Complete Mandolin Method
  3. Music Theory for Modern Mandolin by Thomas Ohmsen
  4. Hot Licks for Bluegrass Fiddle
  5. The Fiddler’s Fakebook