The Backing Tracks

Audio examples of “What You’ll Play” on the left, and previews of a couple of pages so that you can “Give It A Go” on the right.
The all-keys cycles repeat on average five times, with increasing tempos.

WHAT YOU’LL PLAY

DESCRIPTION

GIVE IT A GO

G D A E

Dancla All Strings

An excellent warm-up exercise (not that you’ll need the full 62 minutes to be warmed up!). Play this like a violinist would: put down all fingers at once (or as many as you’ll need, eg when the phrase is D-B-A-G, put down fingers 4, 2 and 1).
In the spirit of Volvo’s non-licensing of their three-point seatbelt patent, anything “Dancla” here is free.

62 minutes   1 GB

Major scales covering all the notes in first position (eg the C major scale will go up to B on the E string, down to open G, and back to C). Tempos go gradually from 74 to 130 (instead of jumping up a few clicks when the whole thing starts over), so it makes for a good warm-up exercise.

41 minutes   685 MB

Same as above, except faster by 30 beats per minute (cruisin’!).

32 minutes  531 MB

Basic triads in all positions, with lots of shifting – great for reinforcing your awareness of what’s where. The broken triads keep the same fingering when shifting: the beginning finger of the arpeggio shifts are, for Major: 1, 2, and 1 (eg, for A: 2 on C#, 1 on E), and the reverse for the Minor: 2, 1 and 2 – it feels very natural after a bit.
Five tempos – in the third and fifth tempos the accompanying bass parts have been moved down a third, so you’re actually playing the top three notes of a seventh chord (spicier, and also takes a bit more concentration than one would think!).
This exercise is at “beginner” tempos, for learning your way around the fretboard if this is new territory for you. If you’d like a faster version, please let me know.

60 minutes   993 MB

Dominant 7, Diminished 7, Minor 7, Minor 7b5, and Major 7. So, G7, G#dim7, Am7, Bm7b5, Cmaj7, C7, C#dim7, Dm7 etc – it’s a pleasant-sounding progression through these thick woods.
The chords are all constructed on the same set of intervals, but there are two exceptions: (1) I skip the third inversion of the minor 7 b5 because it’s too awkward to be worth it, and, (2) just my taste, but I don’t enjoy the sound of a major 7 inversion that has the 7th below the root (an octave higher), so I swap those two notes – you’ll see. 

51 minutes  852 MB

A serious, classical-sounding one, but actually great for minor (real, proudly un-dorian minor) jazz and rock solos.
The accompaniment on this one is fun – it starts gettin’ fugue-y after the first three key changes, and spaces out at the end of the twelve-keys cycle.

19 minutes  318 MB

Harmonic Minor Pattern II Warm-up

The harmonic minor riffs don’t fit as easily under the fingers as normal major scale riffs do, so here’s a warm-up exercise to get you a little more comfortable with the above pattern.
The above exercise and this warm-up (which could stand on its own – it’s just more repetitive, not as much fun) were made as two separate videos in case you’re okay with skipping the warm-up.

25 minutes  394 MB

A quick warm-up (with gradually-increasing-tempos) this is a fun alternative to the (major) Scales 1st Position. This pattern is based on what could be referred to as a “rock minor” scale – there’s no sixth step of the scale, so it doesn’t take a song into territory (minor vs dorian) that it might not wish to carve out for itself.
The pattern is in all three inversions, and does not (thankfully!) repeat.

28 minutes  472 MB

All keys, in two positions: first position, and whatever position the shift up is to the next “inversion”. This backing track starts out at 108 bpm – definitely not a warm-up exercise. A deceptively simple-sounding pattern, easy on the right hand but a good workout for the left (especially the pinky) that in some positions can be a little awkward, so the tempo increases are closer together than most exercises here.

50 minutes  833 MB

Jimmy Page’s iconic riff, perfect for shredding minor pentatonic scales.
This one starts on the 15th fret (that’s the highest this exercise gets), so a word about that: Most acoustic mandolinists don’t go above the 12th fret ‘cuz it just plain doesn’t sound so great. I agree with that, but on the other hand, practising up to the 15th fret sure builds up your strength, and trying to get a good tone up there is a worthwhile challenge.

38 minutes  628 MB

Solid chords and a broken chord pattern based on a I minor / VII progression.
Not the easiest exercise here (it’s all over the neck), but the Major & Minor Triads and the two warm-ups below can get you where you need to be.

44 minutes  734 MB

A warm-up for the above exercise – the four-note triads are separated into two sets of three-note triads, the broken chords concentrate on the up-the-neck positions only, and there are extra beats here and there to give you time to think. 

50 minutes  834 MB

This warm-up exercise is a little different than the above two exercises, and could very well stand on its own. It’s a bit of a 3-in-1, but the first part is dropped for the second tempo, and the first two parts are dropped for the remaining two tempos. The third part is very cool riff at top speeds, and great for reinforcing your up-the-neck confidence. The position-shifting is consistent throughout all three Im–VII exercises, and becomes second nature quite quickly.

49 minutes   814 MB

A “2-in-1”: A three-note triad pattern perfect for boogie blues, and an old-school (à la Sam Moore) soulful romp through four-note major triads.

29 minutes   485 MB

Alternating major and minor ninths, cycling through the keys by going down a third, eg D major – B minor – G major – E minor etc. You’re actually playing a seventh chord over a root, eg an F#min7 over a D for the Dmaj9.
This involves some tricky shifting, so there are a warm-up exercises before attempting all keys, in which you’ll play each chord eight times at increasing tempos. When you get to the next chord, there’s a bar with repeat signs, for you to pause the video, to figure out and memorize the pattern.
It’s an impressive riff, well worth the time and effort.

44 minutes  736 MB

A bluesy one. Wanna throw some chords in your solo (and who doesn’t)? Here are three easy-enough patterns in one exercise.
The first two tempos only have two patterns – the third one is maybe a little tricky to finger, but it’s too easy-on-the-brain at those speeds. (You’ll hear this pattern in the middle of the audio example on your left.)

32 minutes  528 MB

Superimpose some Debussy into your blues solo and see how spicy it sounds! A very handy tonal effect for when you feel the desire to take a getting-repetitive blues jam just “a little to the left”. It’s a “3-in-1”, but the three are simply rhythmic variations of the first-position minor seventh flat five chord, which in this bluesy exercise is really a ninth chord (eg E9, or E-G#-B-D-F#) minus the root.

33 minutes  551 MB

This little one’s easy if you know your major broken triads in first position (have a glance at the pdf for the pattern, top speed here is half note = 76, see where you stand). If it’s not so easy, well, here you go. For more of a challenge, you could try improvising something interesting using only chord tones – the slow speeds are good for giving you time to think.

19 minutes  320 MB

C G D A E

Dancla All Strings 5

An excellent warm-up exercise (not that you’ll need 80 minutes to get warmed up!). Play this like a violinist would: put down all fingers at once (or as many as you’ll need, eg when the phrase is D-B-A-G, put down fingers 4, 2 and 1).

80 minutes  1 GB

A scale-based pattern, in first position, and up the neck in the two easy positions (starting on first and fourth fingers, and steering clear of the positions that involve changing strings to go up or down a half-step).
Tempos go gradually from 80 to 144 (instead of jumping up a few clicks when the whole thing starts over), so it makes for a good warm-up exercise.

41 minutes  688 MB

Basic triads in all positions, with lots of shifting – great for reinforcing your awareness of what’s where. The broken triads keep the same fingering when shifting (not readily apparent in the preview, because C and Am don’t shift – click on the pdf to view the next key): the beginning finger of the arpeggio shifts are, for Major: 1, 2, and 1 (eg, for D: 1 on D, 2 on F#, 1 on A), and the reverse for the Minor: 2, 1 and 2 (it feels very natural after a bit).
Five tempos – in the third and fifth tempos the accompanying bass parts have been moved down a third, so you’re actually playing the top three notes of a seventh chord.
This CGDAE version moves differently than the GDAE one – I’d recommend doing both (although the GDAE is slower/easier – contact me if you’d like a faster version).

53 minutes   891 MB

Dominant 7, Diminished 7, Minor 7, Minor 7b5, and Major 7. So, C7, C#dim7, Dm7, Em7b5, Fmaj7, F7, Edim7, Gm7 etc – it’s a pleasant-sounding progression through this dense jungle.
The chords are all constructed on the same set of intervals, but there are two exceptions: (1) I skip the third inversion of the minor 7 b5 because it’s too awkward to be worth it, and, (2) just my taste, but I don’t enjoy the sound of a major 7 inversion that has the 7th below the root (an octave higher), so I invert those two notes – you’ll see what I mean.
The chords go up the neck in the GDAE version of this exercise (of course – four-note chords, four strings – where else ya gonna go?) – this CGDAE version focuses on the CGDA~GDAE switch. For the CGDAE player, doing both exercises wouldn’t hurt.

51 minutes  852 MB

This one focuses on legato, on sustaining as many notes as you can, creating little 2-note chords of thirds and fourths. The grey-out fingerings (the 4’s and 0’s) are for players of the Bahian guitar, which has a shorter scale length than most 5-string American-made electric mandolins.
This one also gives you lots of practice on something that, for whatever reason, seems to come up in a lot of Irish Trad playing: alternating picking between two strings, where the downstroke is on the upper string and the upstroke is on the lower – tricky for some (Sexatonic Pattern III, above, is the reverse).
This backing track starts out slowly enough to get comfortable with all the sustained notes, but eventually gets up to 112 bpm (a quite respectable Irish Session tempo).

36 minutes  605 MB

Here’s a funny one. In all of the exercises of this nature, the patterns are played in the most appropriate positions. Trouble is, if you’re improvising, you might not be in that position when you start the lick – you might well be in first position, and you’ll find yourself awkwardly climbing up the E-string. So, let’s practise doing just that. These shifts aren’t awkward on purpose, they’re the logical awkward ones, but awkward nonetheless, and being as fluent as possible at this awkwardness is a worthwhile goal.
The patterns with these shifts repeat four times, at increasing tempos, and the patterns that stay in first position only repeat twice. It’s almost an hour long, giving you three times through the cycle, at 96, 108 and 116 bpm.

55 minutes  919 MB

A serious warm-up exercise (and my personal favourite), based on what I call the sexatonic scale (think “rock minor” – basically a minor pentatonic scale with the added second step of the normal minor scale). Starts out at 80bpm, quickly gets up to 104 and starts levelling off as it approaches 138. Hits all keys, all positions, all inversions (starts on the root, the third, and the fifth), and doesn’t repeat.

40 minutes  674 MB

The 5/10-string version of this chord-&-arpeggio exercise. If you’re not so comfortable with the upper positions, the GDAE “Im–VII Warm-up (a)” is designed to address that (along with helping out with the chords). Like the one below this, each repetition (each tempo increase) drops one of the difficult keys, until you’re left with only E minor, at a challenging-but-manageable 112 bpm.

41 minutes  690 MB

A re-working of the GDAE version. The more difficult-to-finger keys get dropped as the tempos increase (which is practical anyways – how often do you find yourself shredding in G#minor?) – the last/top speed is only E minor (or dorian – the notes of the two chords form the no-6th-step sexatonic scale).
Crazy long, but with this super-mellow candlelight-only backing track, it’s a relaxing trip.

102 minutes  2 GB

And finally, a chord exercise based on the I minor to VII progression (which, you’ve no doubt figured out by now, are the notes of the sexatonic scale), with a groovin’ two-against-three feel.

49 minutes  820 MB

Major, minor and diminished triads. The progression (in, for example, F major) is C, C#dim, Dm, Edim, leading into F (the V of the next cycle, up a fourth, in Bb). Because the bass and the guitar move around under you, you’ll actually hear it as C, Am7, A7, Dm, Bbmaj7, C7, and then F. The pattern for the most part is two chords per string, which means that you’ll get a chance to play these common triads in higher positions than normal – handy to have down so you can zip in and out of chords in the middle of a solo without having to drop back down into the more familiar lower positions.

33 minutes  552 MB

Three Triads Warm-up 5

This warm-up accomplishes two things: (1) it helps you get the progression down, so that you won’t stumble in the above exercise when the chords change, and (2) it’s a nice workout in the common, good-for-comping lower positions.

30 minutes  500 MB

A “2-in-1”: A three-note triad pattern perfect for boogie blues, and an old-school (à la Sam Moore) soulful romp through four-note major triads.
This CGDAE exercise incorporates the GDAE version, so unless you want to practise that separately on a 4/8-string instrument, this one has everything you need for these two fun chordal-accompaniment progressions.

42 minutes  694 MB

Major and minor seventh chords moving around over a pedal point, eg Em7/G to Fmaj7/G – a jazzy, Steely Dan-ish jam, and a good not-too-crazy workout for these two chords.
All the chords are in the lowest position – in a couple of spots, that’s not the most convenient, but (a) keeping the format makes the exercise much more memorizable, and (b) the CGDA–GDAE jump is good practice anyways.
If you need a warm-up, the GDAE version at the Student Center has three levels of difficulty – you could cruise through the video three times (without reading it!), once at each level, and at least your brain will be used to the progressions.

38 minutes  625 MB

Same as the GDAE version, down a fifth – the only change is that a few of the higher chords are in first position, using the E-string.
A bluesy chord exercise, with lots of chromatic movement. The first two tempos only have two patterns – the third one is maybe a little tricky to finger, but it’s too easy-on-the-brain at those speeds. (You’ll hear this pattern in the middle of the audio example on your left.)

32 minutes  528 MB

Superimpose some Debussy into your blues solo and see how juicy it sounds! A very handy tonal effect for when you feel the desire to take a getting-repetitive blues jam just “a little to the left”. It’s a “3-in-1”, but the three are simply rhythmic variations of the first-position minor seventh flat five chord, which in this bluesy exercise is really a ninth chord (eg E9, or E-G#-B-D-F#) minus the root.

41 minutes   687 MB

Part II of the GDAE version above, with these differences: (1) it’s a lot faster, (2) it’s only the common rock keys of E A D G C F, and (3) it’s an exercise in sustain, in holding down as many notes as possible.
It’s also lots of fun! Because it’s a short cycle, there are lots of them, but each one has a slightly different backing track, which is not just more entertaining – it helps you focus on what you’re playing while dealing with an imaginative bassist.

19 minutes   316 MB

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