Mandolin Articles

Marilynn has been writing articles on mandolin technique and repertoire for over a decade. Here is a selection of articles she has written for the now-defunct “Mandolin Quarterly” and the ongoing “Mandolin Magazine”. Please note that there will be 2 or 3 years’ delay in posting articles written for Marilynn’s “A Classical Approach” column in “Mandolin Magazine”. You are urged to subscribe to this great magazine.

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 »

Posted April 28th, 2006

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 »

Posted December 28th, 2005

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 »

Posted September 28th, 2005

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 »

Posted August 28th, 2005

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 »

Posted April 28th, 2005

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 »

Posted April 16th, 2004

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 »

Posted December 17th, 2003

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 »

Posted November 11th, 2003

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 »

Posted September 16th, 2003

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 »

Posted August 11th, 2003

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 »

Posted April 10th, 2003

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 »

Posted November 11th, 2002

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 »

Posted September 30th, 2001

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 »

Posted June 30th, 2001

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 »

Posted April 30th, 2000

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 »

Posted December 30th, 1999

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 »

Posted September 30th, 1999

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 »

Posted July 30th, 1999

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 »

Posted January 30th, 1999
  • "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)
    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)
    "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)
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    "Mair is unstoppable… capable of evoking any landscape, past or present, you’d care to conjure." – Mike Caito, Providence Phoenix (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)
    Marilynn Mair on mandolin...touches the deepest and most engaging reaches of the ancient and passionate 'Latin soul'. - Carlos Agudelo, Billboard Magazine
    "Marilynn Mair é uma bandolinista americana de formação erudita" -- Paulo Eduardo Neves, Agenda do Samba Choro (Brasil)
    "A lovely concert! We estimate your spell-bound and enthusiastic audience at close to 1800 people…" - Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors (USA)
    "A brilliant concert from beginning to end…The performance was extraordinary." – La Rioja (Spain)
    "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)
    "Marilynn Mair lives up to her reputation as an excellent mandolinist, with clear tone, a beautiful tremolo, and creative expressiveness." – Zupfmusik Magazin (Germany)
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    "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)
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    "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)