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Bluegrass Mandolin Lesson: An Introduction to Improvising


For many of us, the concept of improvisation can feel daunting and a bit intimidating, especially if we’re approaching this musical technique for the very first time. Improvisation requires confidence, a certain level of understanding of your preferred genre’s musical vocabulary, and often taking the spotlight in the form of a solo. This puts many, especially those that are just beginning to tackle this method, outside of their comfort zones. But, remember, we improvise every single day throughout various facets of our lives.


Every conversation we have with a friend, colleague, or family member is improvised! However, because we have a certain level of mastery of the vocabulary of our preferred language, we’re able to improvise successfully. Music is no different.


In Part 1 of this intermediate online mandolin lesson, Grammy Award-winning musician, 4-time IBMA “Mandolin Player of the Year,” and ArtistWorks master bluegrass mandolin instructor, Sierra Hull, teaches the fundamental building blocks to begin improvising on your instrument in the bluegrass style. She outlines the importance of understanding your musical vocabulary, and emphasizes the critical nature of risk-taking and allowing yourself to fail in order to begin learning how to improvise. To explore Part 2 of this lesson and more, join Sierra's online mandolin course here.


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


“Improvising can feel a little bit scary at the beginning,” explains Sierra. “But, at some point, we have to start trusting the knowledge we have, be willing to apply it, and be willing to crash and burn a little bit and maybe even sound sort of bad in the process of learning.”


Learning how to improvise, and continue to grow as an improviser, is all about infinitely building and expanding your musical vocabulary. That’s one of the beautiful aspects of the improvisational element of music. It is an ever-growing skill. So, regardless if you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced-level player, there is always something new to learn and always a way to improve your improvisational skills.


“Our scales and our chords, they’re a little bit like our A, B, C’s,” Sierra explains. “Then we start learning musical phrases, and how those phrases connect back to the chords within the song. Those are like our sentences. And, the tunes we know—classic bluegrass tunes—those are sort of like our stories. When we connect those three things together, we have the tools we need to be able to improvise.”


To learn more about improvisation and how to utilize the musical vocabulary you’ve been developing in an improvisational context, dive into this online mandolin lesson from Sierra Hull:


An Introduction to Improvising with Sierra Hull:




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 Sierra Hull, and get personal feedback on your playing.


Sierra’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner mandolin to advanced performance techniques, music theory, classic bluegrass tunes, and more. 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!



Bluegrass Mandolin Lesson: Learning Your Chord Scales with Sierra Hull

My Bluegrass Heart: An Interview with Béla Fleck, Bryan Sutton, & Sierra Hull

Bluegrass Mandolin Lesson: Setting Your Tone Goals with Sierra Hull




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