Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites


Bernhart Mandolin Websites

Original articles, lessons and the "best of the web" on topics of interest to mandolin enthusiasts by mandolin player/teacher Bruce Bernhart

New!  Tabs for Popular Fiddle Tunes:

"Shuckin' the Corn"

Bruce Bernhart Websites
Updated May 26, 2013

Mandolin Family Tree, Chords, and Tabs

In Minnesota, Bruce Bernhart has been a mandolin enthusiast since the mid-1980's
Bernhart Mandolin Websites
The Bernhart Mandolin Webpages explore the history of the mandolin, buying and building mandolins, basic chord structures, the different styles of playing and the various makes and models of mandolins  available on the market

Look for additional Bruce Bernhart mandolin articles 
A brief history of the mandolin (Excellent Article from

The mandolin is a descendant from the lute, which has six pairs of strings (12 in total).  Similarly to the lute, the body of the mandolin is oval or teardrop-shaped.

The mandolin in its current incarnation evolved from the lute in Italy during the 19th Century, but earlier versions of the instrument were played during the 14th Century around Europe. (The history of the lute stretches much further back.)  Dating to around 15,000 BC to 8,000 BC, single-stringed instruments have been seen in cave paintings and murals. They were struck, plucked, and eventually bowed. From these, the families of stringed instruments developed. Bruce Bernhart. The first evidence of modern steel-strung mandolins is from literature regarding popular Italian players who traveled through Europe teaching and giving concerts.  These early mandolins are termed Neapolitan mandolins, because of their origin from Naples. They are distinguished by an almond-shaped body with a bowled back which is constructed from curved strips of wood along its length (also referred to a "potatobugs"). Also related to the mandolin are the mandola, bazouki, mando-bass, mandocello, and octave mandolin.

The mandolin came to the States via European immigrants. Soon, it became fashionable to play mandolin in a large group of other mandolins and mandolin orchestras emerged. It wasn't until the 1930s that the mandolin became a popular addition to smaller bands in country and blugass music. More specifically, Bill Monroe's popularity first with the Monroe Brothers and then with his Blue Grass Boys, helped to popularize the instrument.  In addition to Bill Monroe, other popular mandolin players through the years have included Sam Bush, David Grissman, Ricky Skaggs, Bobby Osborne, Tiny Moore, Ronnie McCoury, Chris Thile and many others. The mandolin has been used occasionally in rock music, first appearing in the psychedelic era of the late 1960s. Some rock musicians today use mandolins, typically single-stringed electric models rather than double-stringed acoustic mandolins.

The Mandolin Family

A short  overview of  members of the mandolin family:

  • The  Mandola is tuned to a fifth below the mandolin. It has the same relationship as that of the viola to the violin. Some also call this instrument the "alto mandola."  It is normally tuned like a viola: C-G-D-A.
  • The octave mandolin is tuned an octave below the mandolin.
  • The mandocello has the same relationship as that of the cello to the violin, and is tuned C-G-D-A. Today, it is not infrequently restrung for octave mandolin tuning or the bouzouki's GDAD. .
  • The Greek laouto is very similar to a mandocello and is ordinarily tuned D-G-D-A.   Half of each pair of the lower two courses is tuned an octave higher on a lighter gauge string.
  • The mando-bass has 4 single string  and is tuned like a double bass.
  • The Irish Bouzouki is also considered a member of the mandolin family.  It uses fifth-based tunings, most often GDAE (an octave below the mandolin), although sometimes GDAD, ADAD or ADAE are used.
  • The modern cittern is also an extension of the mandolin family, being typically a ten string instrument.
Some tips on writing melody by Whitaker Blackall:

  • Using notes that are also in the current chord usually sounds great. For example, an ‘A minor’ chord includes three notes: A, C, and E. If the melody includes any of those notes while the A minor chord is sounding, it will probably work well.
  • Keep the melody within the beat of the song. Rhythm can be pretty complex, and I’m not going to talk about it much here. If you stick to the gridlines of the MIDI window, GarageBand keep the beat steady.
  • Use repetition. Sometimes a stupid little ditty can sound great if you just play it twice. Repeating melodic phrases also helps the listener remember it.
  • Use variation. While repetition is important, variation is as well. The best is to combine the two by repeating melodic phrases but varying them slightly every time.
  • The great thing about MIDI is that if you don’t like the melody you write or play, it’s EXTREMELY easy to change.


Student Homework-- Understand the basics of triads and intervals (which we'll discuss in the next lesson).  Here's a quick summary:

A triad is a group of three notes having a specific construction and relationship to one another. They are constructed on 3 consecutive lines or three consecutive spaces. Each member of the triad is separated by an interval of a third. The triad is composed of a Root, Third, and Fifth.   All triads have three positions that they can be arranged in. The root, 1st inversion, and 2nd inversion
 An interval is the distance between two notes. Intervals are always counted from the lower note to the higher one, with the lower note being counted as one. Intervals come in different qualities and size. If the notes are sounded successively, it is a melodic interval. If sounded simultaneously, then it is a harmonic interval.

The smallest interval used in Western music is the half step. A visual representation of a half step would be the distance between a consecutive white and black note on the piano. There are two exceptions to this rule, as two natural half steps occur between the notes E and F, and B and C.

Thank you for visiting the Bruce Bernhart mandolin websites!

Bernhart Mandolin Websites

Be sure to visit the other Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites:

Bruce Bernhart mandolin rock tabs

Bruce Bernhart mandolin lessons- common scales

Bruce Bernhart on buying and setting up your new mandolin

Bruce Bernhart mandolin lessons- tuning

Bruce Bernhart mandolin lessons- chord patterns

Bruce Bernhart on mandolin history and basic chord structures

Bruce Bernhart on string and saddle adjustment

Bruce Bernhart more tuning tips and whole/half steps

Bruce Bernhart on more chord patterns

Bruce Bernhart on the mandolin family

Bruce Bernhart on mandolin bluegrass chords and patterns

Bruce Bernhart on temperature considerations

Bruce Bernhart lessson on mandolin flats and sharps

Bruce Bernhart lesson on scales, circle of 5ths and meter

Bruce Bernhart on triads, gears

Bruce Bernhart mandolin chord diagrams

Bruce Bernhart on modern emergence of the mandolin

Bruce Bernhart on simple chords

Bruce Bernhart on basic whole and half-note steps on the mandolin

Bruce Bernhart mandolin practice excercises

Bruce Bernhart on playing waltzes

Bruce Bernhart on majors, minors and sevenths

Bernhart Mandolin Websites

Also, check out the Bruce Bernhart RV Websites and Blogs:

Solar power for your RV

The care and feeding of your RV battery

The sport of "geocaching" and RV refrigeration basics

The basics of RV power inversion

RV travel tips and tire care

Advanced discussion on power inversion

Tips on buying a house battery and cold weather maintenance

RV Insurance basics

Buying the right generator for your RV and portable power

RV television reception options

Care and maintenance of the RV air conditioner

Top RV destinations

RV long-term supplies and weight considerations

RV Insurance- Road protection and bodily injury coverage

RV battery types and winter charging considerations

Deep cycle battery basics

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