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Matt Flinner

Bluegrass Mandolin 101 Curriculum for Winter (1/7-3/1)

Bluegrass Mandolin 101 is back!  Registration is now open at this link.

Join Matt Flinner for online mandolin lessons each week from the convenience of your own home.  The next Bluegrass Mandolin 101 course, “Tunes, Technique and Improvisation” begins January 7th and runs through March 1, 2014.  Each week, Matt will demonstrate new concepts and exercises along with a new tune (plus a bonus tune for the more ambitious student) to help you improve your mandolin technique, make better use of practice time, get more familiar with bluegrass and old-time music and have more fun playing music on your own and with others.

This course is designed to help the mandolinist at any level improve the fundamentals of his or her playing and his or her ability to improvise, while expanding repertoire along the way. The course will focus on a few main areas:

1. Improving picking technique to improve tone, rhythm, volume and speed.
2. Improving knowledge of the fingerboard through scales, arpeggios, licks, double stops, modes and exercises.
3. Creating variations on common tunes through various methods: using different octaves & registers, using chord tones and “target” notes, using various ornaments, incorporating double stops, and listening to recorded examples.
4. Working toward improvisation using all of the above tools.
5. Expanding your repertoire of bluegrass and fiddle tunes.

Classes will meet every Tuesday from 8-9 pm CST, and practice sessions will be held every Saturday from 10-10:45 am CST. All sessions (class and practice) will be recorded, so that students may revisit the sessions as often as they would like, and students who were unable to attend the live sessions will be able to view them at their own convenience.
During the live sessions, students can ask questions and/or play examples via their microphone (built-in or external plug-in), or they can ask questions via a built-in chat window.
All students will also have unlimited access to short recorded videos of all of the material played at a slow tempo, and to PDFs of all material in both standard notation and mandolin tablature. Students can access this material at any time through the class website.
Students are encouraged to submit mp3 recordings at any time during the course, and the instructor will respond in an mp3 recording with constructive criticism.  Students can submit these mp3s either privately via email or publicly via the class website, where all students can listen and respond if they choose to.  Mp3 submissions are encouraged but not required, and there is no limit on how many mp3 submissions a student can send in.
Students will also be given a “Recommended Listening” list each week for the material covered.  A variety of versions of each tune will be provided in the hopes that students will listen to recordings and further explore the wide world of recorded bluegrass and old-time music.



1. A desktop or laptop Mac or PC computer to view the sessions, and a good internet connection.

2. An internal microphone and speakers on your laptop or desktop computer, or a phone to listen and speak (if desired) during the sessions.  Instructions for participating by phone are included when you register for the course (long distance charges may apply).

3. During the course, you have the option of submitting recorded examples of your playing to the instructor (and to the group, if desired). In order to do this, you will need your computer’s built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built-in ports or an external audio interface), in addition to basic audio recording software, such as Audacity or Garage Band, that will allow you to record yourself playing and save the recording in MP3 format.

4. A mandolin (actually maybe that should have been #1).



WEEK 1: Picking Exercises I

Fingering Exercises I

Eighth of January

Major Scales: D Major and G Major

Open style chords

Bonus material: Fiddler’s Dram


WEEK 2: Picking Exercises II

Fingering Exercises II

Getting a bigger sound with open strings

Angeline the Baker

Major Scales: A and C

Patterns in D and G

Open style backup

Bonus material: The Wind That Shakes the Barley


WEEK 3: Modal tunes

The Squirrel Hunters

Open style chords in A and C

Modal scales: A Mixolydian, A Dorian, D Mixolydian, D Dorian

Patterns: A Major, A Mixolydian and A Dorian

Bonus Material: Cold Frosty Morning


WEEK 4: Picking Exercises III (three and four string exercises)

Fingering Exercises III

Changing octaves to create variations

Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?

Scale Patterns: thirds in A and C

Bonus material: Forked Deer


WEEK 5: Major 7th Arpeggios

Dominant 7th Arpeggios

Chord Inversions

Throwing in some new licks

Playing backup using basslines and moving chords

Beaumont Rag

Bonus material: Alabama Jubilee


WEEK 6: Improvising: Target notes

St. Anne’s Reel

Minor 7th Arpeggios

Bonus Material: Jenny on the Railroad


WEEK 7: Incorporating Double Stops into Your Solos

Pike County Breakdown

Double Stop Exercise in A

Scales and arpeggios around the circle of fifths

Bonus material: Bully of the Town


WEEK 8: Improvising II

Putting it all together: target notes, octave changes and double stops as part of your solos

Sally Ann

Bonus material: Big Sciota


The fee for the course is $200.

To register, click here.


Matt Flinner is a Grammy-nominated mandolinist, composer and teacher living in Nashville, TN.  He tours regularly with the Matt Flinner Trio, the Modern Mandolin Quartet and occasionally with Phillips, Grier and Flinner (with Todd Phillips and David Grier).  He has also performed and recorded with a wide variety of artists, including Tim O’Brien, Frank Vignola, Alison Brown, the Ying Quartet, Darrell Scott, Dave Douglas, Mollie O’Brien, Tony Trischka, the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Darol Anger, the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and Leftover Salmon.  He has taught at many music camps and workshops over the last 20 years in the U.S. and Europe, including Rockygrass Academy, NashCamp, Sore Fingers (U.K.), Kaufman Kamp, Colorado Roots Camp, Augusta Heritage, Haapavesi Folk Festival (Finland), Ghost Ranch Bluegrass Camp and the March Mandolin Festival.


8 comments on “Bluegrass Mandolin 101 Curriculum for Winter (1/7-3/1)

  1. Joe Stout says:

    Looking forward to the upcoming class.
    Best. Joe

  2. Barbara Sundberg says:

    Yes; I hope to join this; too!

  3. Alex says:

    Hi Matt,
    I missed the first session. Am I able to register for the course now, and access a recording of that first session before moving on?

    • flinner says:

      Hi Alex,
      You can register now, and I’ll send you a link to the class site where you can view Tuesday’s class session any time.
      Let me know if you need any more info. Hope to see you in the class!

  4. Neal Clark says:

    Hey Matt,

    I missed this winter session and wanted to see if you had any plans for when the next session would commence?

    Also, do you have a mailing list where you’ll send out the next sessions info prior to registration? If so, please add me to that list.



    • flinner says:

      Hi Neal,
      It’s looking like the next session will run from April 1-May 24. I’ll hopefully have the curriculum up on my website in the next week or so.

      I’ll add you to the mailing list and get the info out to you. Hope to see you in April!


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