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10 Mandolin Exercises

mandolin exercises

Regardless of how long you've been playing mandolin, developing and maintaining a regular practice routine is a critical component to your progression as a musician. As tempting as it can be to just grab the instrument and start playing, the key to continued progress with the mandolin is a disciplined practice routine of good habits. Here's a list of 10 important exercises to make sure to include whenever you practice. If you're already doing these, you'll be well-equipped while climbing Mt. Mandolin

1. Scales

Be sure to learn a variety of different scales in multiple keys. Work on paying them both linearly and using various patterns and sequences. 

2. Arpeggios

Practice your arpeggio shapes regularly to maintain your speed while moving quickly between strings.

3. Chord Changes

A great way to practice changing chords is to move between two shapes in slow motion, ensuring that all of your fingers are moving at the same time. You want to avoid the habit of putting your fingers down individually, so practicing slow chord changes regularly will help you to speed up your left hand movements.

4. Tremolo

This is a sample lesson from Online Mandolin with Mike Marshall at ArtistWorks. Click here for free sample lessons!

Tremolo is such an important component of mandolin playing, especially when playing songs with a slower tempo. Make sure you are practicing your tremolo at differing speeds and across all four strings individually.

5. Chop Chords

Rapidly switching between chop chords is an inherent part of playing bluegrass on the mandolin, so you will want to work on these regularly. Be sure to check out our bluegrass instructor Mike Marshall demonstrating how to properly build and practice chop chords here.

6. Hammer-ons

A hammer-on is all about the speed and intensity with which you strike your left hand finger down on the string. Make sure you practice these with each finger across all four strings.

7. Pull-offs

Conversely to a hammer-on, a pull-off is all about “plucking” the string with your left hand finger as opposed to merely lifting it off. This requires focused accuracy, so practicing this technique on a daily basis is key to developing speed on the mandolin.

mandolin exercises

8. Slides

Practice slides with precision. Work on visualizing which fret you are sliding to before you slide, and move with confidence and speed. Practice sliding up one fret at a time, then two, then three, and so on. The classic bluegrass song “Salt Creek” is greatly enhanced by sliding into the first note, you can see Mike Marshall doing it here in this video where he's jamming with fellow ArtistWorks teacher Andy Hall:

9. Strumming Patterns

Working on various strumming patterns on a regular basis will ensure that you are maintaining the rhythmic abilities of your right hand. Make the sure the strumming is precise and focused.

10. Ear Training

While the rest of the exercises illustrated above are tactile, it is also important to practice ear training regularly, which Mike Marshall demonstrates here.

Working on these exercises on a regular basis will help you to progress with your mandolin playing in a comprehensive and disciplined way.

mandolin lessons with mike marshall

Mike Marshall can teach you everything you need to know about playing mandolin. Click here for free sample lessons!

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