Checking out some fiddle tunes and learning to play by ear, going by what you’ve heard, is a great way to develop some basic mandolin repertoire.
You get to follow the instructors as they play a rhythm, and you have the option to join in, sing along to the music, or simply watch and listen as you try to figure out how they are strumming each chord and note.
There are plenty of free youtube resources you can check out to start you off on mandolin music. It would help you in learning basic mandolin chords as well as things like progression.
Here are a few easy mandolin songs that are perfect for a beginner.
7 Easy Mandolin Songs To Help You Learn Quickly
You Are My Sunshine
“You are my sunshine” has always been a favorite beginner song among students that play guitar, and you can give it a bluegrass-style solo on your mandolin.
The best part is that it’s ideal for any picker, from the absolute newbies to the pro mandolin master.
It will help you practice playing out of a closed position. At the same time, you will learn how to play the song using its basic melody and progressively build onto that basic melody for a fuller sound.
Old Joe Clark
This classic fiddle tune helps newbies learn to play when you have learned a few easy mandolin songsYouthe ‘A’ key on the mandolin.
Also, this kind of music is designed to help you work on your pick direction and right-hand techniques.
You get to start with the basic melody. Then you can switch it up by adding double stops and changing out the licks for more advanced versions.
Playing the mandolin is all about playing multiple strings simultaneously, and this is just the melody to get you going.
The melody for Greensleeves is similar to that of the classic Christmas hymn – “What child is this?.” So, it’s like you will have learned two songs in one.
You can play the melody as a traditional waltz in ¾ time or a bit prepped up as an Irish jig in 6/8 time or in 4/4 time.
Like all other easy songs listed here, the idea is first to master the basic mandolin chords for the melody. Then you can jazz it up and improvise as you go.
Played in the key of ‘E’ minor, this song is meant to be played fast, so you will get to work on your chord progression for this melody.
If you have been to some beginner jam sessions, then you must have run into this song.
This very recognizable bluegrass song is played on the ‘A’ key. The mandolin chords for this melody will be a perfect introduction for playing out the Key of ‘A’, helping you learn your ‘A’ major scale.
As with all other easy songs, you can start on the basic chords and add some fun variations in the sound as you keep learning more techniques.
Following the basic rule of learning mandolin, pick each chord slowly at first, and that will put you in a better position to play fast and with precision.
Boil ‘em Cabbage Down
Boil ‘em cabbages down is one of the first tunes lots of beginners learn on the mandolin.
It is a pretty simple tune with straightforward fingering, notes and mandolin chords because it only has the ‘A’ part.
The song is in the key of ‘A’, and you can play it as a simple melody, a modified rhythm, with hammer-ons, with slides and harmony, or you could even play it bluegrass style, among other suggestions.
It all depends on your proficiency levels and how much of a challenge you are willing to take on. You will find that these variations to the basic melody will help set the foundation for more mandolin music.
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
This is one of the lovely easy songs for strumming open chords. At the most basic level, it simply involves the ‘G’, ‘C’, and ‘D’ open chords.
If you prefer writing the chord down for better understanding, you could simply have the lyrics laid out, then mark the chords over the words. This tactic also works for players who don’t read music.
You will find open chords come in handy during solo performances whereby you just sing and play the instrument.
Alternatively, you could also play this song using closed chords, as illustrated in the link above. The advantage of playing closed chords is that it will allow you to transpose the melody to any other keys for different sounds.
Angeline The Baker
This old-time fiddle tune has become a must-know tune for instrumentalists that incline towards roots music.
The song is tuned in the keys of ‘D’ and is divided into an ‘A’ part and a ‘B’ part, played A-A-B-B.
While the basic chord is easy enough to strum, you can spice it up by adding a right-hand shuffle, double stops, melodic variations etc.
Mandolin Songs FAQs
What Songs Can I Play On Mandolin?
You can play pretty much any song or genre of music on the mandolin, as long as you understand the basic techniques, scales and chords. Knowing how to play a few easy songs is also an advantage.
The videos above should have shown how easy it is to add your spin to a basic rhythm. That’s simply how you would transfer basic skills from the given resources to more complex mandolin music.
Do You Strum Or Pick A Mandolin?
Similar to a guitar, you can either strum or pick a mandolin.
While you can easily strum a chord when playing open chords and rhythms, picking makes playing melodies easier or using specific techniques such as cross-picking and tremolo.
Additionally, the mandolin is a relatively quiet instrument. So it would be difficult to get a good volume while strumming, meaning you wouldn’t be loud enough to play in a band, for example.
We can all agree that strumming some simple songs on your mandolin is a great way to practice any basic chord, also allowing you to understand chord progression.
You can transfer this chord progression knowledge to develop more advanced sounds when you have learned a few easy mandolin songs.
One thing to always remember is that newbies are better off using a metronome as a good measure to get their timing in check.