If the sound of the mandolin catches your ear and you think you’d like to learn how to play then ‘Easy 2-Chord Songs for Mandolin’ by Wayne Erbsen from Native Ground Books & Music in Asheville, NC serves as an ideal introduction to the instrument. Wayne Erbsen is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist whose banjo and fiddle instructional videos appear on YouTube. Here he brings us an engaging and accessible volume written in a relaxed tone with an emphasis on enjoyment of the mandolin that includes thirty nine familiar tunes from bluegrass, old-time, folk and gospel styles. An audio CD accompanies the book.

The text opens with a description of the various types of mandolins followed in logical sequence by a guide explaining how to hold the instrument and the pick. Tuning the mandolin is next and includes the indispensable gem: “Q. How long does it take to tune a mandolin?”- “A. Nobody knows!” An explanation of chord fingerings uses both photo illustrations and drawings. Varieties of rhythms from simple to complex including waltz tempo are covered with delightful accompanying illustrations of shoes shown drawn ‘Down’ = on the beat and ‘Up’ = the offbeat or much coveted mandolin ‘chop’. Tablature and scales are discussed in relation to the melody of a tune. Each song includes lyrics and is accompanied by historical and anecdotal descriptions and photographs. ‘Easy 2-Chord Songs for Mandolin’ will provide helpful instruction and guidance for the beginning mandolinist seeking to become comfortably acquainted with their instrument.




Our reviewer Matt Bowe taught himself to play ‘Red River Valley’ on a red Montgomery Ward guitar when he was 9 years old. Thirty years later he taught himself to play the same tune on a red Gibson mandolin.


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