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Mandolin Fretboard Positions

Mike Stangeland

Is there anyone on the list that can play a tune or multiple tunes in all keys? To me this would be a very difficult task!

Yes, this is a very, very difficult task, but one worthy of making your primary goal. If you are a beginner learn 25 fiddle tunes in the open position (all notes confined to the first 5 frets). At the same time you are working up these tunes, practice your Aonzo scales every day. These scales will prepare you to play in closed positions (no open strings, "up the neck").

Each time you learn a tune and really get it into "muscle memory" then learn to play it in open position with only the middle, ring, and pinky fingers. Keep your index up in the air, idle. When you can play it like this you are ready to try it in closed position.

Now go to the fifth fret and imagine that it has become the nut on your mandolin, the index finger will cover all the notes on this fret. You've already learned to play the tune with the other fingers, you've been working on the Aonzo scales, now you should be able to now play the tune very slowly in closed position.

Spend 30 minutes a day playing tunes slowly, with a metronome, always making good clean, clear, loud notes in closed positions for a couple of years and you'll be way ahead of the game. If you stay in open position and never make a strong effort to develop your little finger your playing will be confined to a very limited scope.

Suggested tunes for closed position work:

Soldiers Joy, Liberty, Fishers Hornpipe, Over the waterfall, Red haired Boy, Whiskey before Breakfast.