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Matt Flinner

Bluegrass Mandolin 101 and 102 Courses Begin April 1 and 2

By Theme Admin on February 14th, 2014 at 3:19 AM

Welcome to mattflinner.com.  And welcome to Bluegrass Mandolin 101 and 102!

Every few months, I teach an online mandolin course focusing on certain aspects of bluegrass mandolin playing.  I strive to make these courses the best possible experience one can have in mandolin lessons online, and I do my best to provide the best instruction possible to players of all ability levels.  This Spring, I’ll be adding a second course to further expand the options for your bluegrass mandolin lessons online.

Here’s a description of the Bluegrass Mandolin 101 (and 102) experience that I hope will give you a good idea of what this exciting new style of online mandolin lessons is all about.

 

BLUEGRASS MANDOLIN 101 (and 102!)

The Bluegrass Mandolin 101 program is a unique approach to online mandolin lessons that gives students the best of both worlds: access to live lessons as well as recorded mandolin instructional videos.  This quarterly course focuses on helping mandolin students get to the next level in their playing and broaden their understanding of the bluegrass, old-time and fiddle tune traditions.

 

A UNIQUE APPROACH: LIVE INSTRUCTION PLUS INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS

Part of what makes Bluegrass Mandolin 101 unique is the fact that students follow a step-by-step program of live lessons over an eight-week course.  The live lessons get a little more challenging each week, and students are encouraged to practice during the week in order to get comfortable with that week’s concepts in order to be more prepared for the next class session.  Students also have unlimited access to several short instructional videos each week (usually about 6 to 8) but are also following a regular schedule which encourages them to actually practice the material regularly during the eight week period.  The archive of short instructional videos plus the video recordings of each class session and practice session give the student plenty of material to work with during the course and on into their future mandolin endeavors!

 

THIS QUARTER’S COURSES

For Spring Quarter, there will be TWO courses offered; Bluegrass Mandolin 101, which will start at a beginning/intermediate level and progress to a solidly intermediate level, and Bluegrass Mandolin 102, which will start at an intermediate level and progress to an intermediate/advanced level.  Both courses will in general focus on playing bluegrass songs and tunes in a double stop/position playing style, and will include two new tunes and several new exercises each week.   You can view the full curriculum for each course here: Bluegrass Mandolin 101 and Bluegrass Mandolin 102.

 

THE SCHEDULE

The live lessons for the Bluegrass Mandolin 101 course take place every Tuesday night from 8-9 pm Central time from April 1 to May 27, and for the Bluegrass Mandolin 102 course every Wednesday from 8-9 pm Central time from April 2 to May 28.  Both courses will also have Saturday practice/review sessions; 101 will be from 10-10:45 am Central time, and 102 will be from 11:30 am-12:15 pm Central time each Saturday from April 5 through May 31 (the week of May 20 will be off, as the instructor has a prior commitment during that week.  There will still be eight class sessions and eight practice sessions in each course).

It is NOT imperative that students be able to attend the live mandolin bluegrass sessions.  As all sessions will be recorded, students can revisit the recorded sessions during the week to catch up on that week’s material at their own leisure.  Students attending the live lessons will be able to ask questions on the spot (and get immediate answers and interaction), while those watching the recorded sessions will be able to ask questions via email or on the class forum page.

 

VIDEOS, WRITTEN MATERIALS AND RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Students have access to video recordings of all of the class sessions and practice sessions as well (generally by the following morning, or, in the case of the Saturday practice sessions, later that afternoon).  In addition, shorter practice videos of the material are immediately available for viewing after each class session, along with PDFs of the all of the material in standard notation and tablature.  All of these videos (about eight or so per week) are available to view as many times as the student would like.  Students can also download all materials (including videos and PDFs) to keep as long as they wish.

Students will also be given a list of recommended recordings for each week’s tunes.  A variety of mp3 recordings will be suggested in the hope that students will broaden their musical horizons and get a better idea of how the tunes are played by the masters!

 

HOW INTERACTIVE IS THE COURSE?

All live sessions are interactive; students can ask questions and/or demonstrate tunes or exercises via live microphone or telephone, or via a chat window (most students opt for this approach).  The instructor is able to immediately respond and demonstrate the answers for the whole class.  Another form of interaction comes via mp3 recordings; students can record mp3s on their own time of themselves playing the material (or anything else they want to send in) and send it to the instructor for feedback, which is also recorded in mp3 form and sent back to the student.  Students can post their mp3s on the class site (and possibly get encouraging feedback from other students) or email them privately to the instructor.

 

HOW MUCH DO I NEED TO PRACTICE?

That is completely up to the student.  While, say, 30 minutes per day might be a good recommendation for practice time, students can make whatever they choose of this course based on their own schedule and aspirations.  Practicing week to week (say, 30 minutes per day) will help students keep up with the week’s lessons and concepts, but the instructor knows that people have busy lives!  This is why all instructional material is archived and available for download so that students can learn on their own time after the course has finished as well as during the eight weeks of classes.

Students can decide whether to practice along with the class session or with the shorter individual videos (or both), depending on what they want to focus on for that week.  Material is given each week that is targeted toward various ability levels; a song is given which is playable for beginning to intermediate players (or intermediate to advanced in the 102 class), and various concepts relating to that song are also given to educate and challenge players at beginning, intermediate and even advanced levels.  The student essentially decides how much they want to take on for the week (and the course) based on their ability level and how much practice time they have.  Any material they were unable to get to during the week and want to revisit later will be available in the archived videos and PDFs.

 

THE CLASS WEBPAGE

This is the virtual gathering place for Bluegrass Mandolin 101 and 102, where students can view the instructional videos, view and/or download all written materials, listen to mp3s of Matt playing the tunes, get listening recommendations, ask questions, submit their own mp3s for feedback and generate forum discussions.  It’s a great place to drop by and explore, learn and discuss.

 

REGISTRATION FEE

The fee for each eight-week course is $200.  This gives you access to all live online lessons and practice sessions as well as access to all recorded videos, written materials and mp3s (which are yours to keep).

 

Here are a few quotes from some past students about their experiences in Bluegrass Mandolin 101:

“I’ve practiced more in two weeks than I have in months!   Really enjoying how it’s going.”—Donna O.

“The level was perfect. Mentally I understand many things that have opened up the fingerboard a lot; now I need some quality time to get it under my hands. I found things challenging without feeling out of reach.”—Stan M.

“It was nice there were various assignments which pushed my ability. Never felt I had “mastered” ALL the homework so never got bored. Always something to work on or do next.”—Joe S.

 

To visit the registration pages, click one of these links:

Bluegrass Mandolin 101 Registration

Bluegrass Mandolin 102 Registration

You can always ask questions about the courses via email (info@mattflinner.com), and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.  I hope to see you April 1 or 2!

 

All the best,
Matt


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Bluegrass Mandolin 102 Curriculum

By Theme Admin on February 14th, 2014 at 3:12 AM

Here is the Curriculum for Bluegrass Mandolin 102, which will run from April 2 to May 31, 2014.  Class sessions take place online every Wednesday evening from 8-9 pm CST, and practice/review sessions take place online every Saturday morning from 11:30 am-12:15 pm CST.  For more info about the course, visit the Bluegrass Mandolin 101 and 102 page.   To go to the registration page, click here.

 

Week 1:

Re-introduction to double stops

Picking Exercises I

Playing some fills

Keys of G, A, and D

Little Cabin Home on the Hill

Bonus tune: I Am a Pilgrim

 

Week 2: Shifting positions

Double Stop Exercises in C and F

East Virginia Blues

Bonus tune: Rain and Snow

 

Week 3:

Minor Keys

Minor Double Stop Exercises

Wayfaring Stranger

Bonus tune: Pastures of Plenty

 

Week 4:

The Blues in Bluegrass

Finding blue notes

Blues licks you can throw into a tune or backup

Lonesome Road Blues

Bonus tune: Rocky Road Blues

 

Week 5:

Waltz Time

tremolo exercises

Double stops in E and B

Down in the Willow Garden

Bonus tune: Sittin’ Alone in the Moonlight

 

Week 6:

Crosspicking with double stops

Picking Exercises II

a few licks to throw in at the end of solos

Tom Dooley

Bonus tune: Poor Ellen Smith

 

Week 7:

Using Diatonic Double Stops in Creating Melody

Diatonic Double Stop Exercise

A Few Scales

Eight More Miles to Louisville

Bonus tune: John Hardy

 

Week 8:

Tying it all together

Adding some licks and improvising

Combining double stops and licks 

Dark Hollow

Bonus tune: John Henry

 

To register, click here.

 


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Bluegrass Mandolin 101 Curriculum

By Theme Admin on February 14th, 2014 at 3:07 AM

Here is the Curriculum for Bluegrass Mandolin 101, which will run from April 1 to May 31, 2014.  Class sessions take place online every Tuesday evening from 8-9 pm CST, and practice/review sessions take place online every Saturday morning from 10-10:45 am CST.  For more info about the course, visit the Bluegrass Mandolin 101 and 102 page.   To go to the registration page, click here.

 

Week 1 (4/1/14):

Three Warmup Exercises

Intro to Double Stops

Intro to Position Playing

Double Stop Exercise in G

Hard Times

Bonus tune:  Down to the River to Pray

 

Week 2 (4/8):

Moving to the Key of A

Some tag licks to add to your solos

Double Stop Exercise in A

Backup playing and fills

I Saw the Light

Bonus tune: Long Black Veil

 

Week 3 (4/15):

Some small position shifts

Adding some licks to your solos

“Blue” notes

Keep on the Sunny Side of Life

Bonus tune: Ain’t Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone

 

Week 4 (4/22):

Position II

Three different kickoffs

Evening Prayer Blues

Bonus tune: Great High Mountain

 

Week 5 (4/29):

Shifting from one position to another

Transposing to other keys

Bury Me Beneath the Willow

Bonus tune: Oh Susanna

 

Week 6 (5/6):

More position shifts

Turnarounds I-V-I

Double Stop Exercise in C

More Pretty Girls Than One

Bonus tune: Way Downtown

 

Week 7 (5/13):

Using “Open” Style Double Stops

Some open style licks

Home Sweet Home

Bonus tune: New River Train

 

Week 8 (5/27):

Other keys: B, E, F and Bb

Mixing double stops, licks and tags

My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains

Bonus tune: Foggy Mountain Top

 


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Bluegrass Mandolin 101 Online Lessons: An Introduction

By Theme Admin on December 24th, 2013 at 3:08 AM

Hi folks,

The first Bluegrass Mandolin 101 course took place this past October and November, and was a lot of fun and very productive—we learned a lot!  The next course begins January 7th and runs through March 1st.  In this course we’ll be focusing on general technique and working toward improvisation.  More details on the curriculum page.

Here’s a video that gives you an idea of what the course provides and what you’ll need to participate:

Bluegrass Mandolin 101 is set to become a quarterly course focusing on helping mandolin students get to the next level in their playing and broaden their understanding of the bluegrass, old-time and fiddle tune traditions.  This unique approach to online mandolin lessons gives students the best of both worlds: access to live lessons as well as recorded instructional videos.

Part of what makes Bluegrass Mandolin 101 unique is the fact that students follow a step-by-step program over an eight-week course, and tend to be more motivated to practice in order to be more prepared for the next live class session.  They have unlimited access to the instructional videos, as in many other online programs, but are following a regular schedule which encourages them to actually practice the material regularly during the eight week period.

The live lessons take place every Tuesday night from 8-9 pm Central time.  Students also have access to video recordings of all of these sessions as well (generally by the following morning).  In addition, shorter practice videos of the material are immediately available for viewing along with PDFs of the materials in standard notation and tablature.  There are also live practice sessions every Saturday morning from 10-10:45 am Central time in which students get a chance to review the previous session’s material and learn more about how to create a practice routine.  These sessions are also recorded and available for view by later that afternoon.

All live sessions are interactive; students can ask questions and/or demonstrate tunes or exercises via live microphone or telephone (more info about this in the video), or via a chat window (most students opt for this approach).  The instructor is able to immediately respond and demonstrate the answers for the whole class.  Students can also record mp3s of themselves playing the material (or anything else they want to send in) and send it to the instructor for feedback, which is also recorded in mp3 form and sent back to the student.  During the week, students can decide whether to practice along with the class session or with the shorter individual videos, depending on what they want to focus on for that week.  Material is given each week that is targeted toward various ability levels; a song is given which is playable for beginning to intermediate players, and various concepts relating to that song are also given to educate and challenge players at beginning, intermediate and even advanced levels.  The student essentially decides how much they want to take on for the week (and the course); any material they want to revisit later will be available in the archived videos.

Here are a few quotes from past students about their experience in Bluegrass Mandolin 101:

“I’ve practiced more in two weeks than I have in months!   Really enjoying how it’s going.”—Donna O.

“The level was perfect. Mentally I understand many things that have opened up the fingerboard a lot; now I need some quality time to get it under my hands. I found things challenging without feeling out of reach.”—Stan M.

“It was nice there were various assignments which pushed my ability. Never felt I had “mastered” ALL the homework so never got bored. Always something to work on or do next.”—Joe S.

To view the curriculum for the upcoming course, click here.  To register, click here.

Happy holidays, and I hope to see you January 7th!

 

All the best,
Matt

 

 

 

 


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

By Theme Admin on November 8th, 2013 at 1:37 AM

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.

 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED TO PARTICIPATE:

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).

 

CURRICULUM:

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.

 


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Bluegrass Mandolin 101 Exercises

By Theme Admin on September 25th, 2013 at 3:55 PM

In just under two weeks, on Oct 8th, I’ll be starting up my Bluegrass Mandolin 101 online course.  This is an exciting new approach to mandolin lessons online!  Each week we’ll have a live one-hour interactive group lesson followed up by a 45-minute group practice session a few days later.  All sessions will be recorded so that students don’t have to be there for the live session, and can revisit the lessons any time they want to.  Students can ask questions during the sessions either via their built-in microphone or via phone (more info about how that works is here).  There is also a chat window in which students can send their questions via text.  Students will also have unlimited access to individual videos of the material and PDFs of the music written in both standard music notation and tablature.

Over this eight-week online course, we’ll be covering several bluegrass tunes and looking at various ways of playing them to help you get a more thorough understanding of bluegrass mandolin playing.

The core of the course will include position playing, double stops and standard licks on several standard bluegrass songs, and will start at a fairly basic level and get more advanced as the course progresses.  As we learn new songs we’ll also touch on the styles of many great mandolin players including Bill Monroe, Doyle Lawson and David Grisman, among others.

You can view the course schedule here.

Before we start the course, I’m posting a few videos to help students with some fundamentals that will help them with their general technique and enable them to learn the material we’ll be covering more quickly.  Basic picking technique is essential to help a student advance and avoid any bad habits.  This particular video gives students a picking exercise which will help them keep their picking motion consistent when crossing strings.

http://youtu.be/qRMbCbm7JNw

Here’s the standard notation and tablature for the exercise:

Picking Exercise on Two Strings

We’ve got a couple of other preparatory videos up for students enrolled in the course to cover some more of the basics before we launch into some bluegrass songs.  To find out more about the course, visit the Bluegrass Mandolin 101 page.

Come join us for this new approach to online mandolin lessons.  I look forward to seeing you October 8th!


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Bluegrass Mandolin 101 with Matt Flinner

By Theme Admin on September 7th, 2013 at 4:33 PM

We are excited to announce a new online course in mandolin by Matt Flinner.  Students can access weekly group lessons every Tuesday evening at 8 pm CST, and join in practice sessions every Saturday morning at 10 am CST.  The course will begin on October 8th and conclude November 30th.

 

Over the course of this 8-week class we’ll get very familiar with the basics of bluegrass mandolin.  We’ll focus on five general themes:

Position playing

Double stops

Playing fills

Playing in common bluegrass keys

Bluegrass repertoire

 

We’ll look at several standard bluegrass songs and start with straightforward ways of playing them.  Over the course of the lessons we’ll gradually embellish these songs, expanding your knowledge of the fretboard and helping you find your own ways of playing bluegrass songs.

During each 60-minute session, we’ll break down the material for that week and play through slowly in a group lesson format.  Questions will be taken over the course of the session.  In addition, every Saturday Matt will conduct a 45-minute practice session to play through some picking exercises, warmup exercises and some of the materials covered in the previous class session.  All materials will be written in standard notation and tablature, and will be downloadable in PDF format.  In addition, videos of Matt playing the materials through at a slow tempo will be available for download to help you practice along on your own time.

Bonus materials will be available each week for the more ambitious student!  Plus a few additional surprises along the way…

This course will meet every Tuesday evening from 8 to 9 pm CST.  Additional “practice sessions” with Matt will meet Saturday mornings from 10 to 10:45 am CST.

All webinars will be recorded, so students can revisit any past webinar if they were unable to be there during the live presentation.  Students can also revisit recorded webinars as often as they like over the 8 week course and afterward.

Students are encouraged to send Matt mp3s (or whatever their preferred format is) of themselves playing the material for critique at any points during the course.  Matt will respond with mp3s of constructive criticism personalized to that student.

The course is open to players of all ability levels.  Materials will range from beginner level to advanced, and students are encouraged to focus on the material best suited to their level; the rest of the material can be saved for future use!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO PARTICIPATE:

1. A desktop or laptop Mac or PC computer to view the sessions.

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 (maybe that should have been #1).

 

The fee for the course is $200.

 

To register, visit the Bluegrass Mandolin 101 registration page.

 

CURRICULUM:

WEEK 1: Three warmup exercises

Intro to position playing

Intro to Double stops

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Bonus material: Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie

 

WEEK 2: Moving to the Key of A

I’ll Fly Away

Some tag licks to add to your solos

Backup playing and fills

Bonus material: You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

 

WEEK 3: Small Position Shifts: Banks of the Ohio

Adding some licks to your solos

Double Stop Exercises: D

Bonus material: Blue Ridge Cabin Home

 

WEEK 4: Position Playing II

Redwing

Three different kickoffs

Bonus material: Man of Constant Sorrow

 

WEEK 5: Shifting from Position I to Position Ii

You Are My Sunshine

Transposing to Other Keys

Bonus material: Where the Soul of Man Never Dies

 

WEEK 6: More Position Shifts: Sittin’ On Top of the World

Turnarounds: I-V-I Progressions

Double Stop exercises: C

Bonus material: Gold Watch and Chain

 

WEEK 7: Moving Double Stops Around to Create Melody

Soldier’s Joy

An Approach to Improvising

Bonus material: Panhandle Country

 

WEEK 8: Other keys: B, E, F, Bb.

My Long Journey Home

A few licks using “open” style double stops

Bonus material: Goin’ Up Home to Live in Green Pastures

 

Register here.  If you have questions, feel free to email Matt at matt@mattflinner.com


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A Grammy Nomination for the Modern Mandolin Quartet

By Theme Admin on December 11th, 2012 at 12:06 AM

This week I got some exciting news: the Modern Mandolin Quartet received a Grammy nomination!  Our newest release on Sono Luminus Records, “Americana,” has been Grammy nominated for the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.  The CD also received Grammy nominations for Best Engineered Classical Album (for engineer Daniel Shores) and Classical Producer of the Year (for our producers, Marina and Victor Ledin, who also produced five other classical CDs in the past year).

 

 

Matt Flinner, Paul Binkley and Dana Rath in the cavernous Skywalker Sound Studio

About a year ago, Paul Binkley (mandola), Dana Rath (mandolin), Adam Roszkiewicz (mandocello) and I went into Skywalker Sound studio about an hour north of San Francisco to record an album of American “classical” music built around a string quartet written by Antonin Dvorak that we had been playing for a while.  The album was recorded in three days in August of 2011.  All along we were surrounded by inspiration: the beautiful golden rolling hills of Skywalker Ranch around us, various Star Wars paraphernalia in display cases, George Lucas’ collection of vintage movie posters dotting the walls, and Charlie Chaplin’s hat, which was exhibited behind glass in one of the hallways.  Not to mention the gigantic screening room we recorded in, which is often used to record orchestral film scores.  It was also the site for the original recording of Philip Glass’ “Mishima” String Quartet (which we were about to record parts of) by the Kronos Quartet—talk about big shoes to fill!

 

 
Antonin Dvorak’s “American” Quartet was written during Dvorak’s stay in America in 1893 in the town of Spillville, Iowa.  To that point, the United States had yet to really establish a strong and uniquely “American” sound in classical music.  Dvorak, who had incorporated Bohemian and Czech folk melodies into his own music, was brought over from Bohemia by the National Conservatory in New York to help America essentially find its own musical voice.  In this quartet you can hear bits of American folk music, Native American melody and rhythm and cowboy-sounding melodies as well.  It’s a great piece, and works well in the world of mandolin family instruments.  We decided to record all four movements, and then tried to select other pieces that would round out the album with what has come to be a kaleidoscope of American sounds.  We ended up adding music by Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass and Bill Monroe, along with an arrangement of “Shenandoah” and a medley of traditional Irish tunes.

 

 

A friend of mine, Mike Iverson, reminded me the other day that he had first introduced me to the music of the Modern Mandolin Quartet about 25 years ago when he played me a cassette of their first album.  I ended up buying a CD copy (one of my first CD purchases) soon after, and I must have listened to it dozens of times.  I loved their version of the Canzonetta from Mendelssohn’s String Quartet #1, and their arrangement of part of Manuel de Falla’s “La Vida Breve.”  It seemed to me to open up new possibilities for the mandolin, and soon I started messing with arrangements of a Stravinsky piece and tried to write some of my own music for the Quartet (I never sent any of it, as I rightly felt I had a fair bit of work to do to get it in proper shape).  And now here I am, playing as a member the group and finding out that we’ve been nominated for a Grammy in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category.  Thanks, Mike, for introducing me to this group and thus nudging my musical direction into the gorgeous, varied and challenging world of classical mandolin.

Dana Rath, Adam Roskiewicz, Matt Flinner and Paul Binkley perform at the Mozart Festival in San Luis Obispo, CA

 

I’m honored to be part of the Modern Mandolin Quartet and to call Paul, Dana and Adam my friends.  We hope to be touring a little more regularly over the coming few years (I’m guessing the Grammy nomination will probably help with that!), and hope to do some more recording in the near future as well.  Look for another album in the next year or so.  And I want to also say that I (and the rest of the Quartet) am very grateful to the folks who really brought this CD up a notch or two: Dan Shores, who recorded the CD so beautifully in surround sound, and producers Victor and Marina Ledin, who helped get the most out of us.

For more information about “Americana” or to order a copy, visit our online store.


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Six Essential New Acoustic Recordings

By Theme Admin on July 3rd, 2012 at 4:49 AM

 

New Acoustic music has now been around for a good 40 years or so, starting with the early experimentations of people like Tony Trischka and David Grisman.  It’s come a long way since its beginnings in the early 70s, and has helped bring modern string band and/or bluegrass music into what feels like a modern renaissance, with the emergence of great young bands such as the Punch Brothers, Crooked Still, The Infamous Stringdusters and so many others.  In the modern age of the internet, music gets mixed in every imaginable way; this music is not just a mix of bluegrass and jazz anymore (as New Acoustic music started, for want of a better description).  We now have classical music, funk, modern pop and traditional musics of the world (Celtic, Scandinavian, Eastern European and African styles) finding their way into the mix (among other things I’m sure I’ve left out).  Today, when you’re a young musician playing the banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass or Dobro, you’re not stylistically limited in the way we might have imagined in the past.  A vast world of music is waiting for you, and it’s an exciting, unlimited adventure that can take you to places you didn’t know existed—from Dawg music to Vasen to the Goat Rodeo Sessions and beyond.  Welcome to the world of modern American string band music!
If I had to pick the five greatest New Acoustic albums (okay, CDs, errr, umm….downloads) of ALL TIME (meaning since the 1970s), I’d pick these….but after going through this list I found I’d have to add one more and make it six.  There are just too many good ones out there.  My hope is that by checking these out you might explore these artists and other related artists further to find out what all they have to offer.  New Acoustic music has grown to become a high expression of American roots musics, and I think it ought to be recognized as a unique art form.  These are six albums that helped create the foundation of this art form, and they showcase some of the most exciting music by the virtuosos of the past few decades.

 

THE DAVID GRISMAN QUINTET
This is the album that really started it all.  Bill Monroe’s landmark band in 1946 included Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Cedric Rainwater, and is often referred to as the “Original Bluegrass Band.”  This would be the New Acoustic equivalent: David Grisman (mandolin), Tony Rice (guitar), Darol Anger (fiddle), Todd Phillips (2nd mandolin) and Bill Amatneek (bass).  They created a new sound, and paved the way for so many others.  The music is sort of like bluegrass, sort of jazzy, and throughout contains particularly brilliant arranging.  David Grisman calls this “Dawg” music, and it definitely bears his unmistakable stamp.  Listen to the sometimes sparse textures on “Pneumonia” and “Fish Scale,” or the intense drive of “E.M.D.” and “Opus 57,” or the laid-back swing of “Swing 51″ and “Blue Midnite.”  And it also introduces one of Grisman’s early signature sounds: twin (and sometimes triple) mandolins.  “Ricochet” is an elegantly simple tune with three mandolins playing the lead and harmonies (much like Bill Monroe’s triple fiddle tunes in the 60s, but sort of turned on its head) with a sparse underlying tapestry provided by the guitar, fiddle and bass.  The fiery virtuosity of Tony Rice combined with Grisman’s ability to create space and drama in his music created something that was contagiously exciting and new, and would help turn on a whole new generation of young people to New Acoustic music (and, by extension, bluegrass).

 

 

 

 

A ROBOT PLANE FLIES OVER ARKANSAS
While Grisman was busy creating “Dawg” music in the San Francisco Bay Area, a group of young players in the New York City area were creating a scene of their own.  Tony Trischka (banjo), Andy Statman (mandolin), Russ Barenberg (guitar), and Matt Glaser and Kenny Kosek (fiddles) were at the forefront of new sounds in the Northeast starting in the early 70s. This album, to me, best represents the brilliance of that scene with stellar playing by Trischka, Statman and Barenberg, along with Evan Stover on fiddle (and adding some sublime arranging).  The wonderful set of tunes are all written by Trischka, who is one of the most prolific and adventurous writers in this style.  Stylistically this album is pretty wide-ranging: from hard driving bluegrass stuff like “Purchase Grover” and “Pour Brel” to full-on New Acoustic sounds in “Blown Down Wall” and “The Navigator” to classical experimentation in “Avondale” and the title track.  Plus we get to hear some of the West Coast players: Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, Tony Rice and Todd Phillips (on bass, the instrument for which he is primarily known) join Trischka on a few of the tracks.  It’s a good snapshot of what was going on on both coasts in the early 80s, and showcases Trischka’s energy and creativity as well as any of his many recordings.

 

 

 

 

DRIVE
It’s perhaps hard to label this a New Acoustic album.  This might be best classified as a bluegrass album—but its influence is (or should be) so wide-ranging that it’s impossible to ignore here.  Bela Fleck, the maestro of the 5-string banjo, has put out dozens of great albums over the last 30 years, but this is the one most of us (musicians, that is) end up recommending to our friends.  During the 1970s and 80s, a young bunch of musicians were emerging that would raise the bar for bluegrass instrumental technique.  Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Stuart Duncan, Mark O’Connor and Mark Schatz all became top players on their respective instruments, and they are all easy to find on various bluegrass recordings from, say, 1980 to the present.  But this is the project that brought them all together to do what they do best.  Like Grisman, Fleck has a knack for writing memorable melodies and creating dramatic effect in his arrangements.  He also often writes tunes that bring out the strengths of his fellow musicians:  “Up and Around the Bend” showcases Stuart Duncan and Mark O’Connor on fiddles.  And it’s like a classic fiddle tune, but with a twist as Fleck puts in more space than you’d expect in the intro and the ending.  “The Lights of Home” is a great vehicle for Jerry Douglas’ expressive, lyrical Dobro playing.  “Down in the Swamp” had to be written for the mandolin, and the mando/fiddle combination (plus the banjo tuned down to open E) is a great texture here that you want to hear again and again.  And it does indeed get into New Acoustic territory with the complex tune “Sanctuary,” before settling back into the bluegrassy farewell of “The Open Road” (listen to the end, where the guitar, mandolin and then banjo each play a standard tag lick as if to say goodbye).  This is a brilliantly orchestrated album from start to finish, and absolutely essential listening if you want to get a sense of modern instrumental bluegrass.

 

 

 

THE DUO
Mike Marshall and Darol Anger have been as adventurous and exploratory as any musicians in this style.  Seemingly boundless in energy and ideas, their duo performances are like a firecracker about to explode.  Mandolin and fiddle might not sound like the most convincing duet, but it works for these guys.  Plus they add other instruments to the mix to change up the textures; Marshall plays mandocello on a few cuts (Mike is perhaps the premier mandocellist, playing the premier mandocello in the world, built by John Monteleone), plus fiddle, guitar and mandola.  And Anger plays his signature low violin (tuned an octave lower than a normal violin), cello, mandolin and mandola as well.  Multiple mandolin textures are used beautifully on “Wall of Mando Madness” and Chick Corea’s “Children’s Song #6.”  From the funky “Rotagilla” to the shaking out of the old “Golden Slippers” to the wild flights of “Gator’s Dream,” this album sounds like two young players happily exploring the edges of their creativity and making a few jokes along the way (listen to the car crash on “Donna Lee”).  It’s a fun ride with two of the greats.

 

 

 

 

THE TELLURIDE SESSIONS
Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Mark O’Connor are joined by bassist Edgar Meyer to create something altogether different as the group Strength in Numbers.  Meyer’s background in classical bass and composition probably has a fair bit to do with this being a wonderfully unique piece of work.  Emphasis is more on form and melodic development than on hot solos (though this album certainly has those too), and textures are crystal clear with each instrument generally serving a specific role rather than just playing rhythm.  A few tunes, like “Macedonia” and “Texas Red,” are somewhat bluegrassy but still can’t be pinned down as a standard “AABB” form—they develop in interesting ways to take the listener further down the road.  Guitar is surprisingly left out of the mix (my guess is for more transparency of sound); but O’Connor does get to shine on the guitar on the intense tune “Slopes,” and Fleck adds guitar to the lyrical “One Winter’s Night,” which also features Sam Bush on fiddle to create a lovely arco texture between the two fiddles and Meyer’s bowed bass.  Meyer finishes the album out with a frenzy on “The Blue Men of the Sahara,”  and we feel like we’ve been taken on a journey to some distant undiscovered planet.
This album, perhaps more than the others, is one that paved the way for where we are now, especially in the realm of chamber-music influenced string band music.  The Punch Brothers, led by Chris Thile, are the current pinnacle of where the bluegrass band format is today (in my humble opinion).  My guess is that they probably could not have come into existence, at least not in their wonderfully complex yet accessible way, without this album—at the very least I think it would have taken them longer to get there.

 

 

 

SKIP, HOP AND WOBBLE

Jerry Douglas is always worth hearing, and seems to lift the players around him to a higher plane on any recording he’s part of.   Add Russ Barenberg, one of the most lyrical guitarists and greatest tune smiths around, plus the versatile virtuoso Edgar Meyer and you’ve got a musically stout trio.  And the writing on this album is especially strong: there are driving classics from each in Barenberg’s “Big Bug Shuffle,” Douglas’ “From Ankara to Izmir” and Meyer’s humorous “Squeezy Pig.”  And lyrical ballads from each as well: Meyer’s’ “The Years Between,” Barenberg’s “Here on Earth” and Barenberg & Douglas’ “Hymn of Ordinary Motion.”  And there’s the unforgettable “Monkey Bay.”  Plus this album may be solely responsible for reviving the classic fiddle tune “Big Sciota” (featuring guest Sam Bush on mandolin), which has since become a jam standard.  This album (in my opinion) reaches a height of beauty unlike any other New Acoustic album to date, and is still just as moving to listen to as it was 20 years ago.

 

 

 

Like all good music, New Acoustic music will surely continue to evolve in exciting and unpredictable ways.  If you want to explore further, check out recordings by any of the artists mentioned above and see where they lead you.  And don’t forget about the early Godfathers of this music, too: Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli!  For my own take on this music, here are a couple more albums you might want to check out:

 

 

THE VIEW FROM HERE

Featuring Jerry Douglas, Todd Phillips, Darol Anger, David Grier, Stuart Duncan, Tim O’Brien and Mike Marshall.  We recorded this CD back in 1997, and David Grier, Todd Phillips (who produced it) and I were the core trio, adding fiddle players on almost all the cuts and Dobro on a few as well.  This CD was definitely influenced by many of the above musicians—Grisman’s shadow is obvious on “City Chickens,” and I think Jerry Douglas’ sense of melody probably unconsciously had a lot to do with “The View From Here” and “The Village Road.”  I was honored to have these guys be part of this project, and floored by what they did.  Stuart Duncan’s double stops on “The Village Road” are sublime, and Darol Anger’s spooky solo on “Nowthen” on his low violin is classic.  Plus David Grier’s playing throughout is some of my favorite that I’ve ever heard from him.  It was an inspiring time for me for sure, and made me work a whole lot harder to try to be as good as this CD turned out to be.

 

 

 

WINTER HARVEST

I get to travel and play music with two amazing musicians and wonderful human beings—Ross Martin and Eric Thorin.  As the Matt Flinner Trio, we’ve been doing what we call “Music du Jour” for about six years now; on most of our shows, each of us writes a new tune the day of the show and then all three new tunes are performed on that night’s concert.  At the time we recorded “Winter Harvest,” we had done about 70 of these shows (we’ve now done just over 100), and had quite a stack of material to choose from.  We picked tunes that we felt showed our strengths as a trio, and that seemed to push the boundaries for what a bluegrass trio can do.  Ross’ “Arco” puts a sparse texture of guitar and mandolin in 7/8 against a bowed bass melody in 4/4.  Eric’s “Wheels” uses an unexpected form (putting a solo at the end of the reading of the melody, then doing it all again followed by another solo to close things out) and another layering technique.  And “Bucolic Futurism” messes with tempos and creates a unison line that expands into three distinct voices as it moves along.  As we continue our “Music du Jour” project, we’ll see where the music takes us into the future.  But all of this music owes a great debt to Grisman, Fleck, Rice, Trischka, Barenberg, Anger, Bush, Duncan, Douglas, Marshall, Phillips, Meyer, Statman, etc. etc.  If I may say, I love you all and am grateful for the music you’ve given us!

Now, to quote a friend, onward and upward…


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Video of the Week: "Raji's Romp" by the Matt Flinner Trio

By Theme Admin on June 14th, 2012 at 4:42 PM

This week’s video comes from a show by the Matt Flinner Trio at the O.C. Tanner Amiptheater in Springdale, UT on June 2, 2012.  The tune, “Raji’s Romp,” was inspired by an interception and touchdown run by B.J. Raji of the Green Bay Packers a couple of years ago, which helped the Packers go on to the Superbowl by defeating the Chicago Bears.  I finally got around to writing my tune of the day after the game was over, and being a Packers fan, I was in a good mood.

The tune was written for a show at Avogadro’s Number in Ft. Collins, CO on Jan 23, 2011, and is featured on our “Winter Harvest” CD.  For more info or to order a copy, click here.

 


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Selected Discography


The View From Here

The View From Here

Walking on the Moon

Walking on the Moon

Latitude

Latitude

Music du jour

Music du jour

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