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Mandolin Lesson: Improvising Over the "Janice" Chord Changes


One of the most prolific songwriters, composers, and performers in the history of acoustic music is the great mandolinist, David “Dawg” Grisman. Combining elements of bluegrass, folk, and jazz, Grisman has crafted a unique boundary-pushing sound over his nearly 60-year career that he has dubbed, “Dawg Music.” As a band leader, Grisman has released over 50 albums to date and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in acoustic and electric folk, rock, bluegrass, and jazz music including Doc Watson, Stephane Grappelli, Tony Rice, Jerry Garcia, Martin Taylor, and many more.


Grisman also has a long track record of kickstarting the careers of young virtuosic musicians who have many times gone on to have amazingly prolific careers of their own. One such musician is master mandolinist and ArtistWorks instructor, Mike Marshall.


In this online mandolin lesson, world-renowned mandolinist, Grammy-nominated musician, and former member of the David Grisman Quintet, Mike Marshall, teaches the improvisational approaches and techniques that he employs when soloing over the chord changes of the classic David Grisman tune, “Janice.” In addition to outlining specific licks and phrases, Mike also details essential scales, modes, and music theory knowledge to provide you with an intimate understanding of not only what he’s playing but also why.


LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play bluegrass mandolin from a master musician like Mike Marshall? Try some free online mandolin lessons now!


“D Major is the primary scale that we’ll be using to play over a bulk of these chords,” Mike explains. “However, when we get to the E-flat and B-flat chords, we’ll want to pivot to different scales. The scales we choose, however, will still be related to the D major key center to a degree and pull the listeners' ears back to that home key.”


In addition to teaching improvisational techniques over the “Janice” chord changes, Mike has an entire expansive collection of lessons on his ArtistWorks course specifically dedicated to teaching David Grisman tunes. These lessons cover topics ranging from melody to chord changes, to improvisation, and more, and feature exclusive videos of Mike performing David’s iconic “Dawg Music.” The lesson section is entitled “Dawg Tunes,” and can be accessed by any of Mike’s ArtistWorks online mandolin students.


“When migrating between chords and scales while improvising, it’s important to highlight both the notes that the scales and chords share and those that are different,” explains Mike. “How you go about this has to be thoughtful. Essentially, you want the listener to hear how the chords relate and flow from one to the next, but you also want to make it clear in your improvised lines that the harmony is changing. It’s a delicate balance, but, with some practice, you’ll find it!”


To learn more about improvising over the chord changes to the David Grisman classic, “Janice,” as well as many of Mike’s soloing techniques, dive into this online mandolin lesson from Mike Marshall:


Improvising Over the "Janice" Chord Changes with Mike Marshall:




Have you always wanted to learn how to play the bluegrass mandolin? Through our comprehensive mandolin lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Mike Marshall, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Mike’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner mandolin to advanced performance techniques, classic bluegrass tunes, improvisation methods, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as mandolinists and musicians.


Sample some free music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



Going Live: “Gator Meets The Dawg” with Mike Marshall & David Grisman

Brittany Haas: A Reflection on Her First 100 Video Exchanges

Bluegrass Mandolin Lesson: Playing with Speed with Sierra Hull




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