What else should mandolin players know about preparing for class/camp?

Class/Camp Prep for Novice Mandolin Players
By Mark Roberts, former jam camper, Argyle, TX

In bluegrass mandolins provide the back beat or off beat. This is done with the mandolin “chop.” It’s not hard. You make a chord – say G – and then strum it but just as it starts to ring you let you fingers up just a little on the strings, dampening them and the sound. You get a nice snare drum chop sound.

That’s your job: to keep the band in rhythm with your chop. The bass player will play ON the beat, and you will play the OFF beat. Boom-chick, boom-chick, boom-chick. You’re the chick.nGuitars do both the Boom and the chick. Fiddles, banjos, resonator guitars sometimes hit the chick, but the mandolin virtually always does.

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How should mandolin players prepare for class/camp?

“My video for the mandolin is all in G, however the fiddle one has all the tunes in A. This becomes confusing at times. Should I try to learn all the songs for both instruments in mainly the key of G to be better prepared for the camp?”

Learning how to chord along on three chord songs in BOTH keys is a very meaningful and appropriate skill for you to work on. Both keys are frequently used in bluegrass jamming.

Also, in bluegrass there are so many different songs that might come up at a jam, the idea is not to “learn songs”, but to learn the skills to help you follow along on songs you’ve never played before. This is NOT the same as rote learning or reading music. It is a different set of skills.

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