How to Tremolo Pick a Mandolin

If you are into the mandolin and have done some reading, you will have come across the word tremolo. You’ve no doubt heard the tremolo picking in a song. With this article we’ll explain the tremolo picking, its place in music and how you can master this key mandolin technique.

What is tremolo?

Tremolo is rather simple to explain: it refers to the rapid picking of one note in an alternating picking motion (down, up, down, up). The trick to playing a good tremolo is to play as quickly as possible. It can be difficult to learn at first, as you have to maintain a steady rhythm while picking with great speed. There are two kinds of tremolo:

Free tremolo

This type of tremolo is a very expressive one that allows for varying speed in order to effectively emote through the mandolin. For example, you may speed up and then slow down to express elevated emotion, to intensify the feeling given through the music. This is a style used in music without defined or strong beat, like ballads and classical music.

Measured tremolo

As you might guess from its name, this tremolo involves a measured or steady and intentional rapid picking. For example, you will find this style used in bluegrass, where the strong beat, inspired by rock n roll, will use four strokes per beat in a fast tempo, six strokes per beat for medium tempos, and up to twelve strokes for slow tempos.

Why use tremolo

As mentioned before, tremolo is used to accentuate moments in the song to express an intense feeling. It is also a great way to showcase your talent on the mandolin. Tremolo is very useful when there is one sustained note (with long duration): it breaks up the note and accentuates it within the song. Tremolo sounds especially beautiful on the mandolin since the strings are in pairs. When you stroke down and up you create a unique ringing that has come to be known as one of the main characteristics of mandolin.

Tremolo is the only way to keep a note going on the mandolin, due to its acoustics. It is also a very effective way to express a feeling through the strings.

How to play tremolo

Tremolo is a rather difficult technique when you are new to the instrument, but with significant practice you will be able to master it soon enough.

Listen to examples of a bow on a violin: this is the effect you are going for. Rapid sound produced by picking down and up repeatedly, in order to sustain a note or intensify it.

In addition to physical practice, it is very useful to listen to audio examples of tremolo so you know what sound to produce. The trick is all in the right hand and more specifically, the wrist. The trick to good mandolin playing is keeping a very loose wrist and loose hold on the pick. Open, loose movement will allow you to play tremolo easily and without straining your muscles inappropriately. Beginner players will often anchor their right hands by setting their pinky and/or ring finger down. Remember, as you hold the pick, to curl your fingers in toward your palm. Believe it or not, this will greatly increase your wrist flexibility and help you practice the proper picking technique.

To begin, we have provided exercises that are easy on the left hand in order to focus on the right hand technique.

Select a note with your left hand anywhere on the fretboard. When you have selected your note, tap your foot to a steady beat counting 1, 2, 3, 4, or use a metronome. Pick the string down and up, down and up, going slowly at first. Try to fit 4 strokes into a single beat.

This technique will be achieved with great patience and practice. Make the note last long enough to practice by counting to four as you pick up and down. This will keep you on a steady tempo. When you reach four, move to a second note and repeat: count to four while you pick down up, down up. It helps to keep one’s pick on the strings at all times, in order to reach your next note and keep a consistent musical flow to your playing/the sound you’re producing.

Tremolo underlies many if not most mandolin compositions. Listen to any classical Italian mandolin composition and you will recognize the technique right away. It’s undeniable!

The more you practice, the more natural it will become. You will be able to move more by feeling than a concentrated application of pick to string. Tremolo is a picking method that comes from deep feeling, and is thus communicated through an organic flow: you will feel the music and flow with it.

The more you practice, the faster you will be able to go. Remember to exercise patience and work tremolo into your every practice, for it is perhaps the most crucial mandolin trick to learn.

Here is a video that should help show you how it’s done.

What Clean Boost Pedal Does John Mayer Use? – Keeley Katana Clean Boost Pedal Review

If you look at the state of music industry today, you will see that old school rock is slowly crawling its way back into the mainstream. John Mayer is undoubtedly one of the major contributors to this phenomenon.

Even though his music can hardly be categorized strictly as rock, the point still stands. One of the reasons why this is the case is Mayer’s ability to use modern equipment in order to bring back that retro tone.

His gear selection includes a number of awesome pedals, one which is Keeley Katana Clean Boost. Today we are going to check out this bad boy and see just why it is considered to be one of the best, if not the the best clean boost pedal out there.

Keeley Katana Clean Boost Review

Keeley Katana Pre Amp Guitar Effect Pedal

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Clean boost pedals are definitely not the most popular piece of kit these days. For the most part, people are far more interested in using overdrives or even distortions over clean boost.

However, there is a substantial number of guitar players who are sticking with boost pedals in general. After all there is nothing better than pushing the amp so hard it starts biting.

That is something clean boosts do best. Keeley’s Katana offers slightly more than that, though. Even so, whenever it is mentioned the first question that gets asked is why would someone pay that kind of money for a boost pedal?

The answer is simple, because the pedal is insanely good. While there are certainly some tricks to using a clean boost stompbox, it can really make a difference in how your entire rig sounds.

Design

Katana is about as humble as the weapon it was named after. There is nothing flashy about this pedal. You are looking at a standard die cast chassis that features a very clean look.

The finish is snow white and the only thing that breaks up its monotony is the Katana title as well as the Keeley logo at the bottom. In all honesty, that simplicity of design makes pretty attractive.

On a more practical note, you won’t have issues packing this pedal into any pedalboard. all of the ports are exactly where you want them to be. When it comes to durability and build quality, we couldn’t find a single flaw.

These pedals are hand made in USA, making them more than capable of withstanding the horrors of daily use. Just like John Mayer, you shouldn’t run into any issues should you decide to take out your Keeley Katana onstage.

Features

The simplicity of its aesthetics expands to the features as well. There is only one knob on the entire pedal and a footswitch. The knob is used to determine the amount of boost you are adding into the signal.

However, it is a push-pull knob. Once you pull it out, it becomes more aggressive. More on that in the next segment. The real beauty of this pedal is hidden below the surface.

Keeley has designed a very clean and insanely transparent voltage doubling circuit. If you look closely, the pedal operates on the standard 9V power, however the circuit inside doubles that value meaning that you are actually working with 18V.

That translates to massive headroom that is every bit as transparent as you need it to be.

Performance

The performance of Keeley’s Katana clean boost is hard to criticize. Everything about the pedal is just great.

Once you link it into your signal chain, you won’t notice it is there until you punch that switch. Even with no boost applied, your signal remains unchanged.

Naturally, when we are dealing with higher end pedals such as this one, true bypass is a must. However, not all of them offer this level of transparency.

The amount of boost Katana delivers is impressive. When you reach for more, you will always get it. Pulling the knob really amps up the boost, which is designed to be used with your amp’s dirty channel.

If you happen to have a good tube amp, or a fairly decent one, Keeley Katana will really push it to its limits. Even so, there are numerous ways you can use this pedal.

Being a clean boost package, you can add some spark to your clean channel without having to worry about tone discoloration or anything similar.

Then again, if you are hunting for a bit of overdrive, there’s enough gain in this circuitry to give you that as well. Keeley’s pedals are always a treat to play around with, but this one is on a whole new level of awesome.

While we might be a little subjective here, we will say that Katana is probably the best clean boost pedal you can score at the moment.

Conclusion

John Mayer’s affinity towards simple effects has left a mark on what we currently consider to be the standard when it comes to tone shaping.

Keeley’s Katana was around for a very long time, but it is arguable that the newly found interest many have for these pedals, has brought it back to the spotlight.

Now, we should address the elephant in the room. This pedal isn’t really cheap. It’s not overly expensive as some guitar effects pedals are, but being a clean boost makes it seem that way to many.

We are going to simply say that it is absolutely worth the investment. Reasons for this are numerous.

We can even put aside the fact that it is a hand made piece of gear and that it is produced domestically in US. Even with that out of the way, it is still worth the price.

For us, it’s all about that transparent boost, tonnes of gain that is easy to handle and most importantly, its clean nature. Where most pedals add a lot but also take something away, Keeley’s Katana only adds.

It doesn’t take away anything from the tone. That a pretty good deal in our book.

What Overdrive Pedal Does John Mayer Use? – Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOFSET Boost Pedal Review

There is no doubt that John Mayer is one of the best guitar players in the world right now. He has reached the level many absolute legends of rock reside. While trying to figure out his key to success, we’ve come up with a layered answer. On one hand, his raw skill is undoubtedly what put him into focus, however his ability to fine tune his tone has a lot to do with his success as well. On that note, his pedal board is definitely full of surprises. One such surprise is the Fulltone Fulldrive 2 overdrive pedal. Today we are going to take a closer look at this thing and see what kind of performance it has to offer.

Fulltone Fulldrive 2 Review

Fulltone Fulldrive2 Mosfet Overdrive/Boost Pedal

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Fulltone’s Fulldrive 2 overdrive is anything but a regular overdrive pedal. That much is obvious from the moment you see the pedal. Instead of taking the same old route, Fulltone opted out for something different. Instead of just designing an overdrive pedal, they went with a two stage package. In other words, you have two gain stages to play with, making the Fulldrive 2 a very interesting pedal to say the least. While such a performance profile may not be interesting to all, John Mayer has definitely found it compatible with his needs. Without further ado, lets get into the review itself.

Design

One thing that Fulltone knows how to do is vintage styling. Fulldrive 2 looks like something that was made in the  ’80s or even before. We are talking steel plate chassis that has that old school slant towards the user. The finish and graphic design also add to our conclusion. Fulltone went with an all blue design where the only things breaking the monotony are the white labels and model designation. It is as simple as it gets. One of the more logical questions is how durable this pedal is? For all intents and purposes, it is a tank. Fulltone is fully aware of the quality requirements most active users are looking for, and are designing their pedals accordingly. You can put the Fulldrive 2 through the regular hell that is stage use and it will come out the other end without a scratch. The only downside to this overall design would be mounting the pedal on the pedalboard. With wide units such as this one, you really need to be aware of the space and positioning. Same goes for cable management. All of I/O ports are in the back of the pedal instead of the sides, making daisy chains a bit difficult, but not impossible.

Features

When it comes to features, there’s plenty to talk about. Lets start by listing the controls. Going from left to right we have Volume, Tone, Overdrive and finally Boost. There are also two switches, one that is labeled CompCut/FM/Vintage and one that’s  labeled Mosfet/Standard. First switch is pretty interesting. CompCut mode adds a bit of compression to the tone while FM flattens out the mids. Standard mode is where you get boosted mids and is probably the closest to a default overdrive setting. Second switch allows you to choose between the standard Fulltone sound and a new Mosfet signature.

You will also notice that there are two footswitches at the bottom. One is your standard bypass switch while the one labeled Boost does engages the second gain stage. That is more or less it in term of features. Fulltone didn’t go all freaky with controls, making the Fulldrive 2 a very easy pedal to use. We definitely appreciate that. Naturally, you will need to get all of the tone shaping done by using other pedals in your signal chain.

Performance

The performance of Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is interesting to say the least. With two gain stages you can cater the heat to suit a vast variety of tone profiles. In its very core, Fulldrive 2 has many signatures of a boosted Tube Screamer. It is aggressive near the top, but not so much in the bottom end. Actually, you won’t find much of a bottom end to begin with. Mids are easily manipulated and adjusted thanks to the available mode selection. What defines the Fulldrive 2 is its ability to offer a vast intensity range. It can be a blunt tool but also a scalpel if you really want to get down and dirty with your guitar tone. We have found that Mosfet mode offers the best color of tone, especially if you are into more intense overdrive. When not in use, Fulldrive 2 is pretty silent. You won’t find many issues regarding noise. After all, Fulltone’s circuitry is on the better side of the industry.

Conclusion

Fulltone Fulldrive 2 man not be the most orthodox overdrive on the market, but that is exactly what makes it so attractive. Sure, it’s a Tube Screamer in its very core, but a different one. With all the modes included, an additional boost stage and a relatively hot output, Fulldrive 2 is definitely a capable tool to have. Now lets mention the best part. The way Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is priced makes it one of the best deals on the market at the moment. It is an absolute bargain compared to the performance it offers.

Speaking of tangible performance, John Mayer has pushed his Fulldrive 2 to the extreme and you can hear the results for yourself. By doing so, he has proven just how much juice you can squeeze out from one of these. Additionally, the pedal has been field tested by one of the best guitar players in the world. That alone means a lot. Whether you are trying to replicate Mayer’s tone or you are just looking for a good overdrive, Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is a model we can easily stand behind. It is simply that good.

5 Famous Female Mandolin Players

Sierra Hull

 Sierra Hull is an American bluegrass musician. She sings and plays guitar and mandolin. She was signed to Rounder Records at the very young age of 13 and released a debut album three years later at 16, which hit #2 on the Billboard Top Bluegrass Albums chart.

She is from Tennessee, where she attended high school before accepting a scholarship to study at Berklee College of Music.

She began playing mandolin at the age of eight, and was surrounded by a family of music lovers who play with her and took her to bluegrass festivals. She performed with Alison Krauss at the White House in 2011.

Her talents are recognized internationally: she has received five International Bluegrass Music Association nominations and received the Bluegrass Star Award in 2013.

This award is given to musicians who serve to advance traditional bluegrass music by bringing it to new audiences while preserving its heritage.

Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent is an American multi-instrumentalist, singing and playing mandolin, guitar and fiddle. Her career has spanned more than four decades, achieving success in the bluegrass genre in the 1970s, exhibiting progressive chord structures and multi-range vocals. In this time her peers were mostly male, and they respected her for her outstanding vocal and instrumental talents. Over the years, she has appeared on records with Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson and Tanya Tucker.

Her entire family is musical; the family sang on the Sally Mountain Show. She began playing mandolin at the age of eight, guitar at 10 and later the fiddle. She lived in a small town, but her family was full of musicians, so whenever she was home, they would all play together.

She sings bluegrass, folk and gospel, performing solo as well as with her band Rhonda Vincent & The Rage. She has won several awards from International Bluegrass Music Association and Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America. She is known as the Queen of Bluegrass. 

Sarah Jarosz

Sarah Jarosz is another young musical prodigy on our list. Born in Texas in 1991, she began playing mandolin at the age of 10 and released her debut album Song Up in Her Head, which she co-produced.

This album was released in 2009, and in the same year she enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music, graduating with a degree in Contemporary Improvisation.

To this day, she has released four studio albums, her most recent winning a Grammy award for Best Folk Album. She has seen a lot of success and has been widely received with awe and admiration at her talent.

She has been referred to as a contemporary-bluegrass prodigy and is revered as one of acoustic music’s most promising young talents.

In addition to mastering the mandolin, Sarah also plays the clawhammer banjo and octave mandolin. The octave mandolin has four pairs of strings in G, D, A and E, but is an octave below the mandolin.

She has covered many well-known songs in addition to her own written pieces, and has collaborated with many artists such as Jerry Douglas and Darrell Scott. Critics greatly anticipate what is yet to come of this young woman.

Caterina Lichtenberg

Caterina Lichtenberg was raised in Germany and graduated from the Music Conservatory in Cologne with the highest honours, where she now teaches as Professor of Classical Mandolin. Interestingly, this is the only position of its kind in the world today.

For over two decades, she has been recording, teaching and touring throughout the world including Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and South and North Americas. She is regarded as one of the most important mandolinists on the planet. She has covered pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and collaborated with Mike Marshall, American mandolinist, combining their bluegrass, classical and jazz styles.

Caterina has released 10 albums to date, all in chamber music settings. She is a specialist on early period instruments, and has recorded on a 1775 mandolin as per invitation from the Ferdinandeum Museum in Innsbruck. She has performed with many orchestras internationally, and festivals. Her talents have also landed her positions of juror and lecturer at mandolin conventions and academies.

Sharon Gilchrist

Sharon Gilchrist is an American mandolin player and instructor. She also sings and composes in the bluegrass style. She was raised in Texas and began playing mandolin when she was eight years old. At just nine years old, she and brother Troy Gilchrist played in a band together, which went on for another seven years. she had even played in this band with forming members of what would become the Dixie Chicks.

She moved to Nashville Tennessee to study mandolin after graduating high school. Since then she has performed and arranged music for several musicians. After her band Mary and Mars disbanded, she joined Uncle Earl, a team of female musicians who incorporated dance into their performances.

She plays bluegrass/Americana roots style, and is currently writing and recording music for films. She also teaches private lessons and mandolin workshops at music camps.

10 Famous Mandolin Rock Songs

Today we’re going to talk about the all time classic rock songs featuring mandolin.

But first, here is a song called Come With Me My Giselle that dates back to around 1300 A.D., so you can hear how mandolin originally sounded back then when played by the bards of the day.

In terms of playing, the mandolin is an instrument that requires organic movement with loose wrists.  It is a very moody sounding instrument, whether it plays a happy tune or a sad one.

In the days of yore, there were a number of instruments which people played to pass the time, and sometimes deliver dire news.  It’s amazing that the mandolin has stood the test of time, although not entirely surprising really as it has a very distinct and emotional sound.  Hence, it is still played in many type of music today – particularly it adds something special to rock songs.

john paul jones mandolin

Mandolins In Rock Music?  Yes, Please!

Because of its past, many people don’t expect mandolins to show up in classic and / or modern rock music.  These days, you more often hear mandolin in bluegrass bands.

And yet, once in a while, it does make an appearance in a rock song with either a cool riff or sometimes it is the featured instrument of the entire song. Doubters might question the combination of rock and mandolin.  But not to worry, it usually sounds not just good, but often great!

Popular bands you know and love like Led Zeppelin, R.E.M., and the White Stripes have employed the unique sound of this instrument in some of their best loved songs!

So, here are 10 of the most popular, famous and indeed best mandolin rock songs ever written.  They might even make you want to pick up the instrument and learn to play.  Have fun listening to these great tunes and hearing some of their backstory to boot!

Friend of the Devil – Grateful Dead

This song was released in 1970, a popular era for the use of mandolin.  Acoustic strings were widely used in rock songs of the time.

It is highly popular and to this day is covered by many musicians, for it features G scale notes and acoustic instrumentation. Definitely one of the best rock songs with mandolin out there.

The lyrics describe a man who is on the run, though his crime is never fully explained.

It says, “A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine,” though it is clear through the lyrics that the character is on the run from all the questionable choices he’s made, and the circle will never break.

And here’s a live version of Friend of the Devil, featuring famed mandolin player David Grisman playing along with Jerry Garcia.

For interest’ sake, here are the handwritten lyrics that the ‘Dead wrote themselves.


Battle of Evermore – Led Zeppelin

Released in 1971, this folk duet is about Lord of the Rings, and mandolin would be a natural choice of instrument for this one.  The Battle of Evermore is sometimes lovingly referred to as “the Led Zeppelin song with mandolin”.

Page played the mandolin for this track, although it belonged to Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.  Page once explained the writing of the song, saying “The Battle of Evermore was made up on the spot by Robert and myself. I just picked up John Paul Jones’s mandolin, never having played a mandolin before, and just wrote up the chords and the whole thing in one sitting.”

The mandolin, as you may have noticed, is a rather small instrument and it’s favoured for its portability, as musicians would travel and tell stories using the instrument.  These people were called bards.  This song carries on that legend, using imagery from the popular fantasy series to create a bard-worthy tale.

There isn’t a huge amount of live Led Zeppelin footage, but here’s the band playing The Battle of Evermore back in 1977.  Interesting to see how they pull it off live, with JPJ and his crazy multi-necked guitar and unique vocal additions.

Did you know, Zep’s Going to California also features mandolin?


Maggie May – Rod Stewart

Another song from the early 1970s, this is one of Rod Stewart’s best known tracks. It describes a relationship between a boy and older woman, and is based on his personal experience.

Rod himself said that the song is about his first sexual encounter with a lady at the 1961 Beaulieu Jazz Festival.  So that’s what the song is about, but the name Maggie May was apparently “… an old Liverpudlian song about a prostitute.”  Interesting.

It was a widely regarded song, topping the UK charts not to mention the USA, Canada, and Australia back in 1971.

On the recording, the actual player of the mandolin was Ray Jackson of Lindisfarne.  Rather insultingly, Stewart’s sleevenotes for Every Picture Tells A Story read: “The mandolin was played by the mandolin player in Lindisfarne. The name slips my mind.”

Another great Rod Stewart track featuring mandolin is Mandolin Wind.


Losing My Religion – R.E.M.

This song might be tied with Battle of Evermore for having the most recognizable riff, both played on the mandolin. This is without a doubt R.E.M.’s most popular song to date.

It was released in 1991 as their first single from album Out of Time, which went on to lift the band to new heights of fame and fortune.

The guitarist, Peter Buck, had just purchased a mandolin, was learning how to play it, and recording any riffs he practiced.  He was a little sick of being associated with the guitar at the time.

Essentially this riff for Losing My Religion is what helped him learn mandolin, and ironically is one of the most popular songs the band have written to date – probably THE most popular, actually. Often the most organically formed songs become the best known.

Here’s what Buck told Guitar School in 1991: “I started it on mandolin and came up with the riff and chorus. The verses are the kinds of things R.E.M. uses a lot, going from one minor to another, kind of like those “Driver 8” chords. You can’t really say anything bad about E minor, A minor, D, and G – I mean, they’re just good chords.

“We then worked it up in the studio – it was written with electric bass, drums, and mandolin. So it had a hollow feel to it. There’s absolutely no midrange on it, just low end and high end, because Mike usually stayed pretty low on the bass. This was when we decided we’d get Peter (Holsapple) to record with us, and he played live acoustic guitar on this one. It was really cool: Peter and I would be in our little booth, sweating away, and Bill and Mike would be out there in the other room going at it. It just had a really magical feel.”

As an added bonus, here’s Michael Stipe talking about how the mandolin came to be part of Losing My Religion.


Little Ghost – White Stripes

This song is more recent, released in 2005. The mandolin is not commonly used by this band, but adds a great rhythm to the song and makes use of Jack White’s interest in folk songs.

Prior to this album, The White Stripes typically had a very rocky, raw sound, like garage rock.  But Jack White, ever the experimenter, was not one to shy away from mandolin when the time came.

This album had a very folk and acoustic sound. The mandolin in this song is simple and rhythmic, fast and undeniably catchy.

Here’s a great live version of Little Ghost that shows how this song could essentially have been written centuries ago and been a hit in the late 1800’s.  Jack and Meg just have that old type of soul, I guess.


Love in Vain – Rolling Stones

This song takes the Rolling Stones to the roots of down-home blues, not a sound they are known for unless you’re a dedicated Stones fan, but wonderfully refreshing and heartfelt if you give it a listen.

The acoustic instrument with slide guitar pulls on your heartstrings. The mandolin comes in at the 2-minute mark during an instrumental break to give a full roots/blues feel.

This song was released in 1969, originally written by bluesman Robert Johnson, who used a departing train as a metaphor for loss and unrequited love. On the recording, famed musician Ry Cooder steps in to do mandolin duties on the song.  An awesome piece of work!

It seems to be well known in the mandolin community that Stones’ songs and mandolin go together well.  Here is an epic cover of Paint It Black that helps prove that point, played on an “Uber-rare 1931 Kay Kraft Mandola.”


Copperhead Road – Steve Earle

Released in 1988, this album combines bluegrass with heavy metal. The songs introduce country music’s storytelling to the rhythms and chords of rock music.

The title track Copperhead Road is about a Vietnam War veteran who returns to Tennessee to sell marijuana.

Copperhead Road is a real road, and the song was so popular that the road had to be renamed to Copperhead Hollow Road to stop people stealing the street signs.

It has also been used as theme music for the TV show Moonshiners, and for line dancing.

Here’s a cool video showing how Copperhead Road is played, up close and personal.  Nice!

And here’s Moonshiners!


St. Teresa – Joan Osborne

This song is inspired by a woman who would sell drugs openly on a street corner, with her child in a stroller next to her.

Joan would see this woman from her apartment window. The mandolin is very softly strummed throughout the song but adds a poignant jangle.

St. Teresa of course was the first canonized woman/nun, a figure to whom female Catholics relate and idolize.

Here’s Joan and her band playing the tune on Letterman back in 1996.  Mandolin sounded great that time as well!


Boat on the River – Styx

This is possibly the best example of mandolin use on this list.

The mandolin is accompanied by an accordion, stand-up bass and acoustic guitar, and revives a very traditional mandolin sound with minor chords, solo picking and tremolo strumming during the instrumental bits.

Boat On The River sounds just like a medieval folk song, and it comes from their album Cornerstone.  The band themselves are probably best remembered for Mr. Roboto, a very un-folksy sounding song if you know it (who doesn’t?)

If you’re interested in learning this awesome song, here’s a great tutorial.


Rag Mama Rag – The Band

Another example of honky-tonk train blues, this song sounds just like one you’d hear a band playing when you walked into a western saloon.

It sounds like a fun loose song, but all the playing is right on point and will get you grooving.

It is one of their most famous songs: fans loved it for its toe-tapping fun. It’s so lively it could be in an old cartoon.

Hey, thanks for checking out our list, but we’re not quite done.

Here are a few more mandolin-based songs that you might know featuring Chris Cornell, the Goo Goo Dolls, and the Lumineers.  We just couldn’t leave these gems off the list.

Now we want to show you some cool mandolin covers of rock songs we came across that you might enjoy listening to.

Cool Mandolin Covers of Rock Songs

Also, if you can’t get enough mandolin in rock, check this out!

Checking Out The Best Rock Mandolin Players of All Time

Kmise 4-String Banjolele Review

This revival has brought back a fun, unique instrument that can be used to play a variety of musical styles. The beauty of an instrument is finding one you love and adapting your favorite songs to the tone of the instrument itself.

That’s before you start writing your own songs and playing them on the instruments.

Kmise 4 String Banjo Ukulele Uke Concert 23 Inch Size Sapele With Bag Tuner

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Specifications

  • Remo Head
  • Closed chrome tuners
  • Drum size 8.46 inches
  • Length 23.03 inches
  • Sapele mahogany
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Tuner included
  • Zippered bag

First Impressions of the Kmise 4-String Banjolele

The Kmise 4-String Banjolele is constructed from quality tone woods that will bring a rich sound to your music. It’s a beautiful-looking instrument that sounds even better than it looks.

It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. When you first strum the strings of this instrument (after tuning, of course), you’ll be blown away by the sound it produces.

After some time learning the chords, the next people blown away by the sound will by your appreciative audience.

As a banjo ukulele, it has a unique sound. While it leans towards the banjo side of sound, it is a blend of sounds that will be something nobody else in your circle has heard before.

As a musician, you likely want to do something different than all your friends. It’ll help you in a group or a band if you can do something aside from strumming a guitar like everyone else.

Required Setup

When you receive any instrument in a box from the manufacturer, you’re going to need to make some adjustments like fixing the bridge. If the company left the bridge in place with tightened strings, you’d end up with a broken instrument when you lifted it out of the box.

While we’d normally recommend that you take this untuned banjolele to a professional to tune for you, this instrument comes with a tuner.

You can easily learn to tune the banjolele yourself. Once you’ve learned to tune an instrument, you won’t have to rely on anyone else to tune any of your instruments.

The bridge is easily slipped under the strings. Turn it sideways then flip it upright once it’s under the strings. Each string will be cradled in one of the grooves.

You might have to loosen the strings to get the bridge under it, but then you can tighten them to hold the bridge.

Here is a selection of popular banjoleles that we recommend to anyone looking to take up the hobby!

Instrument Materials

The instrument’s fretboard is made from a material that is traditionally used for these parts of stringed instruments. That material is rosewood.

Kmise 4 String Banjo Ukulele Uke Concert 23 Inch Size Sapele With Bag Tuner

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Gold Tone Little Gem Ukes 4-String Ukulele Right, Blue Lg-S

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Tfw Banjolele Starter Kit – With Case And Accessories

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Luna 8″ Banjolele With Ulu Design, Tobacco Burst

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The rest of the banjolele is made from a wood that isn’t as common, which is Sapele mahogany. It’s a hardwood that is used to replace mahogany in some cases.

It’s originally from tropical Africa, and has an interlocked, wavy pattern that resembles the mahogany that many instrument creators use in their production.

Along with being a great tone wood, it’s a material that is very durable and resists decay. That’s important in an instrument since you want it to last for years.

You could easily pass this down to your children after you’re done with it, or when you’ve moved on to a more expensive instrument.

Remo Head for the Banjolele

When you purchase a banjolele, you can expect it to have a head stretched across a rim. This part of the instrument is what resembles a banjo.

It’s also where the resonator is attached if the banjolele comes with one. They usually do. The Remo head on this Kmise Banjolele measures 8.46 inches.

Resonator or Open Back

The Kmise Banjolele has a resonator to increase the volume of the sound produced with this instrument. The resonator is normally used to increase the volume and project the sound forward towards the listener.

There isn’t really another reason to have a resonator. Some people like having the extra volume while others would rather not have one. Most resonators can be removed quite easily to change the sound.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the banjolele tuned?
The tuning is G-C-E-A.

How much does the instrument weigh?
The banjolele is incredibly lightweight. It weighs 3.84 pounds.

Is there anything else included with the banjolele?
The instrument comes with a tuner as well as a zippered bag for carrying the instrument.

Conclusion

This banjolele from Kmise is a beautiful instrument that melds the best parts of the banjo and ukulele to create a unique instrument that you’ll thoroughly enjoy playing with friends or your band.

Once you learn to make music on this instrument, everyone will want to see you perform with it. It’s also lightweight enough to be taken everywhere you might want to go.

We Review 5 of the Best 6-String Banjos Under $1000

We’re reviewing the top 5 6-string banjos under $1000 on the market today. These are stunningly beautiful instruments that give players a sound that rivals some of the more expensive banjos out there. You don’t have to spend thousands to get an incredible instrument.

If you want to transition from a guitar to a banjo without having to learn to play a new instrument, these 6-string banjos are perfect. They are tuned like a guitar, but have that rich, twang that’s characteristic of banjos.

Martin Smith 6-String Banjo

This is a banjo that’s on the low end in the terms of price, but it’s high in quality construction. The banjo is approximately $200, which is a great price for a beginner who has never picked up an instrument before.

Specifications

  • Stunning mahogany construction
  • Two-way truss rod
  • Remo head
  • Carrying case
  • Extra strings

Along with a quality instrument, you’ll get a gig bag and extra strings with this affordable banjo. Martin Smith is a company that manufactures a line of banjos that are constructed with an eye towards lasting quality. This banjo has a resonator that can be removed for versatility in your instrument.


Gretsch G9460 Dixie 6 Guitar Banjo

This 6-string banjo is on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of price. It’s a few hundred less than the $1000 limit of this list. It’s a vintage looking banjo that looks like a banjo from the 1950s. It’s made entirely from a beautiful blonde maple with a semi-gloss finish.

Specifications

  • Remo Fiberskyn head
  • Resonator
  • Dual coordinating rods

Most banjos in this price range are great instruments that look very similar. You’re getting good construction with a white drum and some possible inlays on the fret for those instruments. On this Gretsch, you’re getting the Remo Fiberskyn on this head that looks like the calfskin musicians used on old-time banjos back in the day.


Gold Tone AC-6+ 6-String Banjo

This is a middle-of-the-road banjo only when it comes to price. It’s about $500 for this banjo with the incredibly beautiful finish. It has a resonator with 24 brackets. It comes with a magnetic pickup and a gig case, so when you’re ready to take your music on the road, this banjo can be a part of that.

Specifications

  • Two-way adjustable truss rod
  • Geared tuners
  • Magnetic pickup
  • Maple neck
  • Gig bag

This 6-string banjo is made of a variety of woods including a maple bridge and neck, a lovely rosewood fretboard, and composite for the resonator. The wood is finished with a smooth satin that brings out the grain of each piece of wood.


Jameson 6-String Banjo Guitar

This is another banjo that is a good choice for beginners. It’s easy to learn because it’s tuned like a guitar, and it’s reasonably priced around $200. If you’re looking for a true beginner instrument that is easy to play, this is a good choice. It’s from a company that makes a wide range of instruments for all level of player.

Specifications

  • Diecast enclosed tuners
  • Maple, rosewood and mahogany construction
  • 24 brackets and adjustable hinged tailpiece

This banjo is tuned like a guitar, so you can easily transition between the banjo and the guitar without a huge learning curve. The banjo itself is quite gorgeous with a finish that allows the beauty of the wood to shine through.


Dean Guitars Backwood 6-String Banjo with Pickup

While others on this list are a traditional style and color, this one is sleek and almost dangerous looking. It’s a black chrome with pearl inlays and a matte-finish resonator that is unlike other banjos that your friends may have. This banjo is around the mid-way point in terms of price. It’s approximately $400.

Specifications

  • Mahogany neck
  • Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Pearl dot inlays
  • Die-cast tuners

This guitar-tuned banjo has a 25 1/2” scale length, an 11” Remo head, and die-cast tuners. This banjo is pretty lightweight, too. You’ll be able to take this banjo with you anywhere you want to practice or play for family and friends. It doesn’t come with a case, but it’s easy to purchase one if you want to take this banjo on the road.


The 6-string banjos on this list are under $1000, which is a terrific price for a beginner banjo, but it’s also a good price for a banjo that can carry you into professional amateur musician status. You don’t have to toss any of these banjos aside for a more expensive one anytime in the near future.

There are some beautiful banjos on this list that will help you transition from guitar to banjo quite easily. Especially if you want to play some songs that lend themselves to the banjo, but you don’t want to spend months learning a new instrument.

Turntable Tonearm Types – A Quick Guide

types of turntable tonearm

What does the tone arm do?

  • A stable and slightly longer tone arm (12″ vs 9″) will cut back on various types of audio distortions you might encounter (ie. tracing distortion).
  • Tone arms are ideally set up to allow you to add a cartridge and then adjust it accordingly without any issue
  • A rigid tone arm will cut back on vibrations that will result in inferior audio
  • Tone arms give you a means to control the playback of your record as you like it, and set up accurate points where you want the needle to “drop”

Here is a quick glossary of terms that you’re bound to encounter as you get familiar with vinyl records and how they work:

  • VTF – tracking force
  • Azimuth – ability of the tone arm to rotate sideways – you can extend your own arm and turn it over one way, then the other – that’s the idea!
  • VTA – the angle of the stylus when it is rotated backwards or forwards
  • Anti Skate – the amount of centripetal force exerted

Watch this video showing tonearm adjustment of azimuth on the fly…

Ok, now on to the 3 types of different tonearms you will likely encounter in your travels through the vinyl-verse.

#1 – Gimbal Tonearm

gimbal tonearm

So let’s take a look at the pros and the cons of this type of tonearm design.

Pros:

  • This is the most common type, and it’s known to work well
  • Also easiest to set up
  • Other designs are more expensive

Cons:

  • As mentioned, there is increased friction due to the design which sometimes can be unavoidable
  • As well, we mentioned bearing resonance, which happens as the bears age, and they will need to be serviced periodically
  • Design can lead to some tracing distortion

#2 – The Uni-Pivot Tonearm

Pros:

  • You’ll get as close to no friction as possible with one of these
  • Less worry about bearing work needed
  • The afformentioned bearing noise will be practically eliminated

Cons:

  • Because of the pivoted nature of this tonearm, you will run the risk of tracing distortion
  • If you are a novice, as we said, it will be harder to set up – especially the azimuth
  • Some people don’t like the floaty nature of these tone arms
  • A little less sturdy

#3 – Linear Tracking Tonearm

tangential linear tracking tonearm

All in all, the linear tracking tonearm is what we might call the “best” kind of get, but you need to be dedicated to whatever audio pursuit you are chasing to want one of these, as there are some clear affordability challenges, plus the pain in the butt setup.

Pros:

  • Basically takes care of all the previous cons we mentioned with the other arms, such as high friction, tracking distortion, and bearing noise

Cons:

  • Needs some maintenance to be kept at optimal levels
  • Expensive, more so than the other two
  • Set up is a pain!

Wrapping Up

Best Banjo for Folk Music

Every banjo from the 4-string to the 6-string has a place in music where it’s most common. For example, the 4-string can be tuned to play Jazz or Dixieland music. Traditionally, folk music is played with a 5-string. That certainly doesn’t mean that other instruments and playing styles can’t be used for the genre of folk music, but it’s what’s commonly used.

Old Folk Songs

Folk songs have been around for hundreds of years. They were vital in bringing people together in tough times like during the Vietnam War. Musicians like Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and The Kingston Trio sang about things that everyone could relate. Folk music is a genre that many people stumble over defining. Some say that folk music is anything sung by “folks” while others say that they’re oral stories of current events. In the days before radio and television, it’s not hard to believe that songs were a way to remember.

The Recent History of Folk Music

As the world has evolved, so has the genre of folk music. While it’s still an oral history, it’s also a way to bring attention to injustices in the world and rally people together. This is what folk music brought to the world around the time of the Civil Rights Movement, the Depression, and the Vietnam War. In fact, one folk song is the United States unofficial national anthem. If you ask most children throughout the years, they’d have answered that “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie is our national anthem.

Pete Seeger

While many folk songs are played with a solo artist and his or her guitar, there are many songs that are played with a 5-string banjo. The man who is considered the king of the 5-string is Pete Seeger. He was part of the group called the Weavers before they were blacklisted around the time McCarthy was in office. Seeger became an activist as well as a folk singer that had songs like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “If I had a Hammer” The wonderful thing about folk music is that other musicians would adapt and sing these same songs and turn them into huge hits like the original.

In 1948, Seeger wrote a book called How to Play the Five-String Banjo. That book is still the beginner’s bible in how to start playing the banjo. He originally self-published the book because he was working as a teacher around that time. He explained techniques like hammering on and pulling off as banjo terms and covered styles like frailing and clawhammer styles.

The 5-String Banjo

The 5-string banjo with a standard 22 frets and a length of approximately 26 inches is a versatile instrument that can be used for the various styles of folk music. While it often has open G tuning, it can be used with a capo to tune the banjo to any note that the player wants. This is one of the biggest reasons it’s so versatile for folk musicians.

There’s also the parlor 5-string banjo that was often used for women and children in the first generations of the banjo. That banjo is shorter and weighs less than the traditional style. This banjo is tuned to G, but can be tuned to A quite easily.

The long-neck banjo was originally the idea of Seeger. It’s a banjo with more frets. There are 25 of them on this type of banjo with the longer neck. It is tuned differently than the traditional banjo, too.

Open Back or Resonator for Folk Music

For some music, banjos have to compete with other instruments like guitars and upright bass instruments. That kind of music like Bluegrass, for example, needs a banjo that can compete with those instruments. For this reason, they’ll choose a resonator because the tone is harder and will “ring,” which is a way for the instrument to compete. Traditional folk music and banjo players will often choose a backless banjo because they believe the sound is more authentic. It doesn’t resonate or “ring” like the other kind of banjo.

If you don’t know what kind of banjo you want, choose one with a resonator that can be removed easily. It’s like having two instruments in one. You’ll be able to hear the difference for yourself and make a more educated decision about what style you like.

The best banjo for folk music is the 5-string banjo with an open back. The style you choose – whether it’s a traditional length, parlor version or long-neck banjo – will depend on your playing style. If you don’t know your playing style yet because you haven’t played before, start with a standard banjo with 22 frets that measures approximately 26 inches. From there, you can learn the banjo and make changes based on your preferred playing style.

A Quick Guide To The Different Types of Electric Bass Guitars

Bass guitar is kind of like the Alfred to the Batman of lead guitar. Batman is obviously the lead attraction, but there is no way Batman can do what he does without the constant support and assistance of Alfred working away in the background. In music specifically, the bass follows the musical structure and underscores it with the bass notes to keep the structure together. Unless you are a bass player or the song has a particularly catchy bassline, such as “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen or “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5, you probably don’t notice the bass, however if you take it out of a song there is a clear feeling of something missing.

There are a couple of models of bass guitars that constitute the standard bass guitars used in rock and in music at large. They all have slightly different tones and uses and we’re going to go over them and describe their essential sounds with musical examples.

Fender Jazz Bass

Fender is of course a huge company in the world of bass guitar just like it is in the world of lead guitar.  The Fender Jazz Bass is probably what most bassists would consider the staple bass, sort of like the bass equivalent of the Stratocaster, a cardinal of bass playing. It is very diverse and versatile, and has an all-around tone of low rumble in addition to punctuated twang. Basically, you can do what you want with it. Its not too low to be poppy and not to poppy to be low and rumbley. Some good examples of Jazz players are Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, John Paul Jones, and later period Geddy Lee.  

Fender Precision Bass

This is the counterpart to the Fender Jazz. Slightly older and more “classic”, it has a deeper bass tone and lower rumble. It was produced before the Jazz bass, and the Jazz was designed to contrast the Precision as a bit brighter with a range of slightly higher tones. The Precision is larger and bulkier than its Jazz counterpart and sounds like it. Its been made famous by Sting, who almost always plays the same beat up 1957 Precision, as well as James Jamerson (the bass player on all the Motown hits), John McVie from Fleetwood Mac, Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, and John Entwhistle from The Who.

Rickenbacker 4000 Series

Rickenbacker 4000 Series

There are indeed other Bass manufactures besides Fender, and Rickenbacker is probably what most bassists would consider the next one on the list. Rickenbacker 4000 Series basses have a unique voluptuous look. There sound is noticeably brighter and higher-sounding than the Fenders that have been previously described. The high-end tones are extremely noticeable on songs and tend to be far more in-your-face than other bass tones, which mostly meld into the background. There two 4000 models that are extremely similar in tone with very minor differences in design, the 4001 and the 4003. They tend to be a bit more expensive than Fenders but most bass players would say the commensurate uniqueness in tone and general high quality manufacturing is the reason why. Three of the most famous Rickenbacker Bass players are all progressive rock musicians, and the Rickenbacker Bass has earned a reputation as the number one prog rock bass. They are Chris Squire from Yes, Geddy Lee on the earlier (and most progressive) Rush albums, and Mike Rutherford of Genesis. Chris Squire in particular highlights the high-end tone of the Rickenbacker 4000 series, whereas Geddy Lee makes it growl for hard rock, and Rutherford is somewhere between the two.

Hofner Basses

The last of the fundamental Basses is the Hofner Bass. It has a distinct smaller frame and very symmetrical body shape. Hofners are not as widely used as the other basses in this article, however they deserve a spot on this list because this is the bass Paul McCartney played more or less exclusively both in the Beatles and throughout his career solo and with Wings. The Hofner has a unique thumpy tone, not quite as high as Rickenbackers and not quite as low as Precisions. The Hofner is responsible for that driving, walking bass tone that is present on almost every Beatles song. Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys is also known to have preferred Hofners, making it somewhat the iconic bass of early rock and roll. It has seen a bit of a resurgence due to its use in the modern psychedelic band Tame Imapala.

Every bass is unique and these models all have their strengths and weaknesses. The perfect bass for every musical need and niche exists somewhere out there if you do the homework, but whatever axe is chosen, it cannot be understated that the fundamentals of tone is always in your fingers. No amount of research will ever replace pure practice and dedication.