This is a collection of less-challenging versions of a few of the exercises (for GDAE instruments only). Some don’t move into the upper positions as much, some skip the less-travelled half of the circle of fifths, they have more fingering and other info, and the tempos of the mp4 backing tracks (listed below the pdf’s) are slower than those on the Video page. Easier, but not “beginner” stuff – contact me if you need help.
Clicking on the image of a pdf will give you a full-size view of the first page.
Clicking on a pdf title will scroll down to the corresponding backing track (with an audio example, a description, and a short excerpt of the beginning of the backing track video); clicking on a backing track title will scroll up to the corresponding pdf.
WHAT YOU’LL PLAY
GIVE IT A GO
Scales 1st Position Ss
No gradually increasing tempos, so not a warm-up like this one (clicking on “this one” will open a new tab, showing you the advanced version), and because of that plus the minimalist backing track, I’ll concede that ya, it’s not really all that much different than playing with a metronome. The benefits of using the video are still there, though – you’ll likely find yourself phrasing with a little more drama, and it’s good practice for being able to stumble without stopping, without losing your place.
This Ss version doesn’t get going all that fast – the slower of the two advanced versions (link) might suit you better if you’ve got the chops.
(The pdf for this one is here.)
55 minutes 925 MB
Similar to this one, with less upper-position chords, and only the first position arpeggios. Still has the spicy seventh-sounding chords (C major triad over an A bass sounds like an Am7) on the third and fifth go-round.
I don’t recommend getting locked into the standard mandolin “chords” that you can learn anywhere – chords (especially triads) are simply three notes at a time, and you want the freedom to choose what note goes on top, so that you have a choice as to what you, well, what you want to say.
25 minutes 419 MB
All the major and minor pentatonic scales in first position (four are in second position). Basic stuff, as easy as it gets, the video backing track tops out at 120 bpm – it’s a fun ride.
(I’ll agree, the accompaniment is a little weird (harmonically) by itself at the slow tempo – it needs the missing melody, meaning you, and it’s hallelujah! when it really gets jumping.)
26 minutes 427 MB
A pattern based on what I call the sexatonic scale (a minor pentatonic scale with one more note). It’s a super-rhythmic scale – you play a note of the root chord, the I minor, on every downstroke, and a note of the VII major chord on the upstrokes (eg Am for downstrokes, G for upstrokes).
There are three sections: starting on the root, the third, and the fifth, and because of all the variations it’s quite a long exercise, so there are only two tempos here, but it brings up an important point: the “10,000 hours” thing. It’s real, you can easily hear it in a pro’s confidently relaxed tone, and cruising through exercises like this one is how you get there – you’re not just practising scales, you’re practising tone, phrasing, and relaxing too, and you need to do it a lot to get that pro-sounding “sheen”. Even noodling while watching a movie counts – riff away along with the soundtrack, and with time you too will start to get that smooth polished tone.
36 minutes 602 MB
So, the one immediately above wearing out your left hand? Feeling a little “ya, playing this riff fast in any key is a laudable goal, but let’s get E and A down really well first”? This exercise focuses only on the six most common keys, and only in first position.
It’s a short one (it repeats the cycle 10 times!) – no pressure to get to the end.
28 minutes 464 MB
Arpeggios and alternating patterns in first position (although you’ll jump up to second position now and then to avoid having to use your pinky for the barred fifths). The brackets (not a standard notation, something I came up with) on the descending halves of the alternating patterns indicate that you should “barre” (playing two, three or four strings (same fret) at a time with one finger) two strings: the note that you’re going to play first plus the fifth below it for the following note. (You’ll do the same thing during the ascending halves of the patterns, but since it occurs naturally there’s no need for the brackets, no need for your fingers to plan ahead.)
The bass in this backing track moves down by thirds, so that sometimes you’re actually playing ninths and elevenths. Fancy!
47 minutes 790 MB
A much easier version of this one, and you also have a choice of difficulty – the exercise is written throughout the video at the mid-level, but you could simply play one chord per bar (play the first chord as a whole note), or four chords per bar (play the pair back-and-forth twice, as quarter notes).
28 minutes 475 MB
Major broken triads in first position, in the common keys E A D G C and F. It’s also a study in staccato (no open strings, and lifting your fingers enough that the strings stop touching the frets) and legato playing, with different fingering (lots of open strings, and holding down the strings as long as makes sense).
21 minutes 344 MB