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Matt Flinner

Bluegrass Mandolin 102: Tunes, Technique and Improvisation II Curriculum

This course has concluded.  To view the current list of courses offered, visit the Winter Online Course page.



The next Bluegrass Mandolin 102 course, “Tunes, Technique and Improvisation II,” begins October 8th and run through December 13, 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.

The course is fiddle tune-based, and will use various fiddle tunes as vehicles for improving technique, learning the fretboard and working toward creating variations and improvising.

The 102 level course is designed for mandolinists at an intermediate to advanced level to help them expand on improvisational concepts, learn more about the fretboard and push their playing to the next level.  Register for 102 here.

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.

102 level classes will meet every Wednesday from 8-9 pm central time, and practice sessions will be held every Saturday from 11:15-noon central time.

All sessions (class and practice) will be video 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.  (NOTE: Matt will be taking off the weeks of Oct 27 and Nov 24 due to his touring schedule and the Thanksgiving holiday.  Lessons will resume each of the following weeks; in total, there will be eight class sessions and eight practice sessions over a period of ten weeks.)
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, PDFs of all material in both standard notation and mandolin tablature, and mp3s of all of the tunes at slow and medium speeds that they can practice along with.  Students can access all of this material at any time through the class website.
Students are also 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, iPad or Internet-connected mobile device in order to view the sessions, plus 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 andsave the recording in MP3 format.

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

The fee for the course is $200.   Questions about the 101 and 102 level courses (as well as the Bluegrass Mandolin for Beginners course) can also be emailed to [email protected].




Register here.


WEEK 1 (Oct 8): Creating octave variations & transitions between octaves

Warmup exercises

Adding some ornaments (hammer-ons, pull-offs, etc.)

Ear training exercise I

Cattle in the Cane

Bonus material: East Tennessee Blues


WEEK 2 (Oct 15): Adding some runs to your solos

Some V to I Licks

Ear Training Exercise II

Cherokee Shuffle

Bonus material: Stoney Creek


WEEK 3 (Oct 22): Using Some Bluesy licks

Blues scales in D and A

Blues licks in two positions

I to IV Licks

Elzic’s Farewell

Bonus Material: Old Daingerfield


WEEK 4 (Nov 5): Key of E

E Major Scale & Pattern

E Mixolydian Scale & Pattern

Ear training exercise III

Glory at the Meeting House

Bonus material: Crosseyed Fiddler


WEEK 5 (Nov 12): Adding Some Double Stops to Your Playing

D Double Stops (I, IV and V chords)

D minor Double Stops (I, IV and V chords)

Lonesome Fiddle Blues

Bonus material: Down Yonder


WEEK 6 (Nov 19):

Playing Up the Neck

Diatonic patterns up the neck

Pentatonic patterns up the neck

Sally Gooden

Bonus tune: Road to Columbus


WEEK 7 (Dec 3): Playing rags

Circle of fifths exercises

7th Chord Inversions & Diminished Chords

Complex Chord Patterns—how to smooth them out

Some More V-I Licks

Beaumont Rag

Bonus material: I Don’t Love Nobody


WEEK 8 (Dec 10): Tying it all together: using octaves, licks, patterns, target notes and double stops to create variations

Exercises for speed

Exercises for the fingering hand

The Gold Rush

Bonus material: Paddy on the Turnpike


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