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Mandolin Lesson: How to Hold the Mandolin


It’s often easy to forget that performing on a musical instrument is as much a physical endeavor as it is a mental one. As such, employing proper posture and holding the instrument correctly is critical to playing with excellent technique, performing in a relaxed manner with minimal tension, and reducing the risk of physical injury. So players of all levels will want to get this mandolin fundamental right.


In this online mandolin lesson, world-renowned bluegrass mandolin master and ArtistWorks instructor, Mike Marshall explains exactly how to hold the mandolin for optimized tone, technique, and playability. He also outlines the proper methods for holding the mandolin while seated and standing for the best performance consistency, a hallmark of Mike’s virtuosity.


“I use a footstool whenever I’m [playing seated],” Mike explains. “I get the left leg up so that the mandolin is resting at an angle in between my legs.”


Mike’s goal is to prevent the mandolin from shifting during play and simply allow the instrument to resonate properly.


“I’ve noticed at workshops that players often need to lengthen their straps a little bit,” Mike explains. “[this is necessary] in order to get the mandolin to sit properly between their legs.”


Just as Mike focuses on keeping the mandolin stationary when seated, his goals for standing performance are very similar—it’s all about consistency.


“The main thing I like to make sure of when I go [from a seated] to a standing position, is that things aren’t changing that much in terms of [where the mandolin is placed],” Mike explains. “You want to make sure that where the mandolin sits in relation to your chest is about the same when you’re in the seated position as when you come up to the standing position.”


Mike rounds out the lesson by showcasing his “tone-guard,” which is a device that attaches to the back of the mandolin and prevents the instrument from pressing completely against one’s body when performing in a standing position. He explains why using a “tone-guard” is critical to playing while standing. Ensemble players will want to learn this important tip.


Regardless of your playing level, analyzing the manner in which you hold your mandolin is critical. If you’re a beginner, establishing Mike’s fundamental best practices early will help you advance quickly. If you’re an intermediate or advanced level player, a plateau in your progress can often stem from incorrectly performing a foundational skill, like how you’re holding your instrument. Remember, it never hurts to revisit the basics.


So, grab your mandolin, your pick, a footstool, and a strap, and practice your standing and seated performance posture with the help of master mandolinist Mike Marshall in this online mandolin lesson:



Have you always wanted to learn how to play the 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 personalized feedback on your playing.


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


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



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