Mandolin Articles

Contemporary Music for Mandolin

This article was originally published in Mandolin Magazine, Spring 2006.
Download a pdf file of the sheetmusic that accompanies this article: Pantomimes

For the last 4 issues I have been introducing the style periods of Western classical music, beginning with the Renaissance and moving through the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras. In these periods much of “classical music” sprang from popular music, and was a gloriously more sophisticated version that was universally loved and supported by the public. We now … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Romantic Style: Virtuosity, Poetry, and Passion

This article was originally published in Mandolin Magazine, Winter 2005.
Download a pdf of the music that accompanies this article: ToAWildRose_solo

The Romantic Era, that ran from 1825 to 1900, was a period of great musical innovation and originality. Composers began to move away from the universal formal style of the Classical Era, to create more personal works. Some music of the Romantic Era was dramatic, ambitious, and showy, like the symphonies of Berlioz and Liszt, or the operas … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Classical Symmetry

This article was originally published in Mandolin Magazine, Fall 2005.
Download a pdf of the music that accompanies this article: BeethovenSonatina

We continue our survey of musical style in this issue with a look at the Classical Era. The period from 1750 to 1825 featured the flowering of symphonic music, centered in Vienna and highlighted by the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Music in the Classical Era sought to escape the complexity of the late Baroque by focusing on … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Baroque Invention

This article was originally published in Mandolin Magazine, Summer 2005.
Download a pdf of the sheetmusic that accompanies this article: Bach2 mandos

Last issue we began our survey of musical style in the Renaissance, an era of rebirth and optimism. This column moves ahead to the Baroque, and the first flowering of complex instrumental music. The names of Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi are most familiar, but there were scores of Baroque composers writing music for the newly formulated orchestra, the … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

A Dance for Renaissance Consort

This article was originally published in Mandolin Magazine, Spring 2005.
Download a pdf for the music that accompanies this article: Praetorius_4

I’ve decided to take a break from strict technique for the next few issues, and turn instead to musicianship. For while it’s important to improve your technical skills, it’s equally important to learn to play musically, with a feel for the sensibility of the pieces you choose to perform. As a classical mandolinist you have access to over 500 … Read More »

Choro Articles

Zequinha de Abreu (1880-1935) – Choro to the World

This article was originally published in “Mandolin Quarterly,” 2004, Vol. 9 Nr. 3
Download a pdf of my quartet arrangement of Tico Tico: Tico_Tico_No_Fuba

In 1917, Zequinha de Abreu, a well-known bandleader and composer of over 100 dance tunes, premiered a new piece with his orchestra at a local gig. Fast and jumpy, it made the dancers go wild, and Abreu commented to his group that they looked like “tico-ticos,” a type of little bird, pecking at cornmeal. And thus, … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Arpeggios and Hand Coordination

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Magazine,” Spring 2004
Download the sheetmusic that accompanies this article: Etude # 3 Siegel

If you’ve read my recent articles on developing tremolo, you should have some idea on how to gain consistency in your extended down-up work. But a good tremolo develops slowly. It will take months of steady practice to see a change of any magnitude in your ability to tremolo smoothly and expressively. You need to commit … Read More »

Choro Articles

Pixinguinha (1897-1973) – Genius & Soul

“If you have 15 volumes to talk about all of Brazilian popular music, you can be sure that it is not enough. But, if you have space for just one word, write it down quickly: Pixinguinha.”
– Ary Vasconcellos, Brazilian music critic and historian.

This article was first published in Mandolin Quarterly, 2004, Vol. 9 Nr. 2.

Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Jr. (1897-1973) is best known by his nickname “Pixinguinha,” as the composer who brought chôro to its peak in … Read More »

Choro Articles

Joaquim Calado (1848-1880) & Anacleto Medeiros (1866-1907): Early Afro-Brazilian Composers

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly,” 2004, Vol. 9 Nr.1
Download pdfs of the sheetmusic associated with this article: Flor_Amorosa, Carnaval of 1905

In the last two articles I’ve looked at the music and careers of two important pioneers of Brazilian choro, Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) and Chiquinha Gonzaga (1847-1935). Both were pianists who wrote for piano and small ensembles, with Chiquinha writing for musical theater as well. Both began composing in a European-inspired style, writing … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

A Night at the Opera

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Magazine,” Winter 2003.
Download a pdf that accompanies this article: Celeste Aida

Some of the most dramatic and beautiful melodies in the world were written in Italy during the 19th century. Italian operas of the Romantic era were hugely popular theatrical events featuring singers who were the super-stars of their day. From early “bel canto” to the emotional overload of “opera verismo,” Romantic-era opera arias were written to create an attention-grabbing … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong – An Appreciation

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly,” Fall 2003

Howard Armstrong, legendary string-band fiddler and mandolinist, died July 30th, at the age of 94. An amazing musician who performed through 9 decades, he was the last of the black string-band musicians of the 20’s and 30’s, a player who traveled from Tennessee to Chicago and Detroit, fusing styles of southern folk blues with northern urban blues and swing to help create a unique chapter in American music history. Accolades … Read More »

Choro Articles

Chiquinha Gonzaga (1847-1935) – First Lady of Choro

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly,” 2003, Vol. 8 Nr. 4.
Download a pdf the sheetmusic that accompanies this article: NaoSeImpressione

Chiquinha Gonzaga is a great hero of mine, as much for her independent spirit and devotion to her musical career, as for her compositions. She earned her living as a professional pianist, a popular composer, and a respected conductor at a time when middle-class women were generally confined to domestic endeavors and subject to … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Pick Technique for the Classical Mandolinist

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Magazine,” Fall 2003.
Download the pdf for the sheetmusic associated with this article: Duet in G

In July, 2003, I spent a week as “Celebrity Guest of the Week” on the Comando listserv, answering question on all sorts of topics. The one that generated the greatest dialogue was right hand technique. Initially replying to a question from a Comandoleer on the mechanics of a good right hand technique, I gave a … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Some Like it Hot

This article was originally published in “Mandolin Magazine,” Summer 2003.
Download the pdf for the sheetmusic than accompanies this article: habanera

“You touch me, I hear the sound of mandolins.
You kiss me, and with your kiss my world begins.
For my love is like the wind, and wild is the wind.”

The lyrics floated out of my car radio in the sultry tones of Nina Simone, shortly after her death this spring. They stayed in my mind for days. … Read More »

Choro Articles

Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) – Choro Pioneer

This article was originally published in “Mandolin Quarterly,” 2003, Vol. 8 Nr. 3.
Download the pdf of the sheetmusic associated with this article: Brejeiro

Of all the early choro composers, Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934) was certainly the most influential. Hector Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) called him, “the true incarnation of the Brazilian musical soul.” Nazareth was born in Rio de Janeiro on March 20th, 1863. His mother was a pianist, and as a child he learned to play the popular polkas, waltzes and … Read More »

Choro Articles

Choro “Top 40” 1902-1932

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly,” 2003, Vol. 8. Nr.3

While browsing the internet for Brazilian music, I happened on the Hot100Br@sil page and its “time machine.” They have figured out a century of the most popular music in Brazil, beginning in 1902 when the first of Brazilian record label was launched in Rio de Janeiro by Casa Edison. Their “Top 40” ratings are based on record sales, sheet music sales, and, later, radio airplay. … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Revisiting Tremolo

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Magazine” Spring 2003.
Download a pdf of the sheet music associated with this article: Valse_Ranieri

Developing a tremolo you can truly enjoy is a slow process, and one too often rejected as impossible. So many mandolinists wince as their attempts strangle the melodic line in a double whammy of tense fingers and flabby pick. But a beautiful tremolo is a joy forever, and the pleasure is definitely within your reach. It just requires patience, … Read More »

Choro Articles

Choro Resources: Addendum – Books

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly” in March 2003.

Here’s a 2nd update to my articles on choro resources. Thanks for all your nice comments about the last column. This issue I’m reviewing 4 books, and will get back to CDs in the next issue. Let’s start out with a great one!

“Vocabulário do Choro (Choro Vocabulary)”
Mário Sève, Luminar Editora, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1999, 221 pp.

Mário Sève plays flute and sax for the modern choro … Read More »

Choro Articles

Choro Resources: Addendum – CDs

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly” in 2003, Vol. 8 Nr.1.

It’s been three years since I published my series of choro articles in MQ. Resources for choro have increased tremendously since then, and CDs and books have become more widely available. I’ve continued to add to my collection of both, and have decided to add a couple of addenda to update my original resources list. I’m adding 10 CDs to the list this issue, including a couple … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Creating The American Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra

Based on an article originally published in “Mandolin Magazine.” Fall 2002.

As I write this article I’ve just closed the books on the 17th annual American Mandolin & Guitar Summer School, AMGuSS, an endeavor dear to my heart, and one that has spanned most of my career as an American classical mandolinist. I direct AMGuSS, and it’s a week dedicated to teaching other mandolinists and guitarists the musical lessons I’ve learned throughout my career. In many ways it’s a karma … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Beethoven’s Mandolin

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Magazine,” Fall 2001.

When Ludwig von Beethoven was a young man in Vienna, the mandolin was enjoying a period of popularity among the cultured nobility as a delightful instrument both to play and listen to. Italian mandolin virtuosi had migrated north to Paris, Vienna, and other European capitols, employing themselves with teaching, composing, and presenting salon concerts for the aristocratic public. Beethoven, as many young composers of his day, was looking … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

The Shape of the Music

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Magazine,” Simmer 2001.

A piece of written music, until it’s played, is like a beautiful piece of fabric folded on a shelf. It needs an artist to unfold it and arrange its beauty for others to appreciate. As a performer you are responsible for shaping each piece of music you play. You can create a masterpiece in sound, with the help of a gifted composer, or cut the composition’s potential … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Improving Hand Coordination – Part 1

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Magazine.” Spring 2000.
Download a pdf of the sheetmusic that accompanies this article: Corelli exercise

There isn’t a musician alive who doesn’t want to be able to play his/her instrument faster and cleaner. We admire performers who can run through a passage of fast 1/16th notes seamlessly, focusing us on the music they perform without the slightest fumble to distract our attention. One of the difficult aspects of achieving a clean, … Read More »

Choro Articles

What is Choro?

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly” in 2000, Vol. 5 Nr. 1. It is the intro article to a series of 4 articles that appeared in that issue, and several subsequent articles.

Choro is a style of Brazilian popular music that originated in the late 19th century and is still performed today. Choro pre-dates samba and bossa nova as a national music style, and developed from Brazilian performers interpreting European dance music with African-influenced rhythms. At first choro was … Read More »

Choro Articles

A History of Choro in Context

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly” in 2000, Vol. 5 Nr. 1

Choro has been called Brazil’s first independent national music. Beginning as an unwritten performance style in Rio de Janeiro in the mid-1800’s, choro compositions first appeared in print in the 1870’s. Choro’s full development came with the music of Pixinguinha in the 1920’s, before its popularity gave way to the new simpler style of samba. The virtuoso instrumentals of choro were eclipsed by the popularity of … Read More »

Choro Articles

The Mandolin in Choro

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly” in 2000, Vol. 5 Nr. 1.

The bandolim, or Brazilian mandolin, is one of choro’s most frequent melody instruments today, and was probably involved in choro from its earliest days. The bandolim was imported from Portugal to Brazil in the 19th century and was found in early popular music ensembles in Brazil before the turn of the century. The bandolim took a more central role in choro in the 1920’s, and further increased … Read More »

Choro Articles

Choro Resources – An Annotated Guide

This article first appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly” in 2000, Vol. 5 Nr. 1.

When I first became interested in choro it was through its solo guitar literature. Later I got a copy of “84 Chorinhos Famosos,” bought Acoustic Disc’s CD rerelease of Jacob do Bandolim and set out to discover how he made the pieces sound so good. I can’t say I’ve figured it out exactly yet, and “84 Chorinhos Famosos” is long since out of print, but by … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Mozart and the Mandolin

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Magazine,” Winter 1999.
Download a pdf of the sheetmusic associated with this article: Liebe_Zither

The designation “classical mandolin” is used to describe a performing style and also a body of music written for mandolin that spans four centuries. I plan to introduce both technique and repertoire in my articles, and here we’ll consider repertoire, starting, appropriately, with a work from the Classical Era. Running from around 1750 to 1825, the Classical … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Developing Expressive Tremolo

based on an article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Magazine,” Fall 1999.
Download the pdf of the sheetmusic associated with this article: Branzoli_duet

I’m a “classical” mandolinist, and at times I’ve been asked exactly what that designation means. History traces the roots of “classical” back to Ancient Greece, where it was used to describe an artistic style marked by clarity, harmony, order, balance, structure, and symmetry; universal in appeal and humanistic in focus. Throughout history, neo-classical and classical revival … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Goichberg Mandolin Methods, a review

This review was originally published in “Mandolin Quarterly,” 1999 Vol. 4 Nr. 3.

35 Progressive Mandolin Studies, Op. 6, Sol Goichberg (PSE 010, ed. Neil Gladd, 1983, originally published in 1937);
Studies for the Mandocello, Volume I, Sol Goichberg
(PSE 026, 1999)
Published by Plucked String Editions, PO Box 2770, Kensington, MD 20890

Sol Goichberg (1908-1978) was a gifted American mandolinist and teacher, who lived and performed in New York City mid-century. His musical background included conservatory training as … Read More »

Mandolin Articles

Dancing on the Head of a Pin – The World of Classical Mandolin

This article that originally appeared in “Mandolin Quarterly,” 1999, Vol 4 Nr. 1.

I call myself a “classical mandolinist,” and have at times been asked what exactly that designation means. Is it a term reserved for those who perform the music of dead European composers written between 1750 and 1825? Is it applicable only to those who have studied classical technique, or who play on historical reproductions of Classical-era instruments? Is it a self-designation, or are credentials required? Can one … Read More »

  • "Smudging the lines between folk and classical is an intrepid endeavor... Mair's a superb mandolin player who has brought the instrument to unexpected places..." - Jim Macnie, The Providence Phoenix (USA)
    "A brilliant concert from beginning to end…The performance was extraordinary." – La Rioja (Spain)
    "Marilynn Mair performs Brazilian mandolin music... she plays the mandolin as an instrument for all occasions." – Vaughn Watson, The Providence Journal (USA)
    "A lovely concert! We estimate your spell-bound and enthusiastic audience at close to 1800 people…" - Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors (USA)
    "Marilynn Mair acquits herself very well indeed, a most accomplished player, able to deal with the many intricacies the repertoire demands of her." - Chris Kilvington, Classical Guitar (England)
    "Marilynn Mair has always had the keen ability to balance classical mandolin traditions and repertoire, while constantly breaking new musical ground…a superb and versatile mandolinist and composer." - – Butch Baldassari, Mandolin Magazine (USA)
    "Stepping back to the 18th-century masterworks gave her the opportunity to highlight her technique with a fresh light... her playing is thoughtful, vibrant and a delight to listen to." -- Terence Pender, Mandolin Quarterly (USA)
    "A sparkling concert… absolutely brilliant!" – Guitar Magazine (England)
    Marilynn Mair on mandolin...touches the deepest and most engaging reaches of the ancient and passionate 'Latin soul'. - Carlos Agudelo, Billboard Magazine
    "The final repeat of the melody transmitted a strong feeling of peace and tenderness that escaped no one in the audience. It is this sensitivity and subtleness that characterized the overall performance." - Brian Hodel, Guitar Review (USA)
    "Marilynn Mair é uma bandolinista americana de formação erudita" -- Paulo Eduardo Neves, Agenda do Samba Choro (Brasil)
    "Mair travels by mandolin to Brazil and brilliance... her commitment to the music shines through." - Rick Massimo, The Providence Journal
    "Mair displays an exceptionally gifted approach to this music, using her formidable mandolin technique with grace and sensitivity… It’s the next best thing to a trip to Rio." – David McCarty, Mandolin Magazine (USA)
    Bring a talented ensemble of gifted musicians together playing some of the great concertos and chamber music pieces of the 1700s, present the extraordinary classical mandolinist Marilynn Mair front and center, and you have a rare combination of the right musicians performing the right music at the right time. – David McCarty, Mandolin Magazine (USA)
    "She’s a fabulous player with a wonderfully clear and lyrical sound." – The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
    "Marilynn Mair lives up to her reputation as an excellent mandolinist, with clear tone, a beautiful tremolo, and creative expressiveness." – Zupfmusik Magazin (Germany)
    "Mair is unstoppable… capable of evoking any landscape, past or present, you’d care to conjure." – Mike Caito, Providence Phoenix (USA)