Friday, January 24, 2014


“It's a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher,
  by your pupils you'll be taught.”

AUTHOR: Oscar Hammerstein II
“An intelligent person knows that you can always learn something from 
  every situation and people you meet.”


Baroque Mandolin similar to ones used during the time of Vivaldi

Concerto in do magg per mandolino, archi e cembalo RV 425 Il Giardino Armonico

Vivaldi's Mandolin Concerto 
Movement Activity

Submitted by Daniel J. Fee, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Idea posted November 9, 2004

Here are some simple movements we've done this week to the allegro from Vivaldi's Mandolin Concerto:
8 step/touch to the right.

8 step/touch to the left. (Now you're back where you started.)

You stand tall, hands at your side, and your right arm is like the hand of a clock, ticking 8 beats up until it is straight above your head.

Holding your right hand there, do the same 8 "ticks" with your left hand. CLAP hands above head on beat 8.

Right hand makes 4 "swirls" as it comes down and slaps thigh on beat four.

Repeat with left hand.

This is enough for the first section of music.
 I told the students to listen for that section to return, which it does at the end.
 (At least it does in my version. I'm not sure my recording has the whole allegro movement.) 

While waiting, we quietly kept the steady beat in several ways.

This movement can be used to teach phrase length and form (in addition to steady beat). 
The clock part REALLY matches the music pretty well.

A baroque mandolin is a lute-like instrument that has a quiet but warm, sweet sound. Its name is probably derived from "mandorla" (which is the word for almond in Italian) likening the name to the shape of the instrument. The soprano (high) mandolin is also called a "Mandolino," a term first encountered in 1634, the diminutive of mandola, meaning little mandola. Like the lutes, Baroque mandolins were strung with gut [but usually had six courses, or pairs of gut strings (12 strings)] and generally plucked with the fingers (though they were also plucked using quills) but unlike lutes, mandolinos played mostly single-line melodies being that they were the highest instruments in pitch, prominent above the other instruments.

During Baroque times (around 1600 to 1750)  the mandolino was a relatively common instrument and many composers wrote music for it including Vivaldi. What Vivaldi did however, which was somewhat unique for the times, was that he wrote concerti for the the rather soft sounding mandolin and lute which required them to play against string orchestras. In these concerti he masterfully exploited the instruments' particular qualities giving the soloists ample opportunity to show off while retaining a proper balance with the orchestra. This C Major Mandolin Concerto [dating from Vivaldi's tenure at the Ospedale della Pietà (a Venetian convent-cum-reform school for girls), where he produced several works for mandolin] shows this mastery; an example being how he cleverly has the bowed strings play pizzicato (plucking) in the first movement, actually imitating mandolin technique.

Some of the oldest surviving mandolins were made in the late 1600's. Around this time, from about 1650, the older styled mandolins, which originally had 5 or 6 courses of double strings, began to die out with only the soprano version, which became known as the mandolino, being the only instrument of that group to continued to develop. They were tuned similarly to the violin (gg) (bb) e'e' a'a' d"d" g"g". This is the instrument of Vivaldi's mandolin concerto. There are still some original mandolinos surviving today from that time period which were made by by the famous violin maker Stradivarius.  
Stradivari Mandolin circa 1680 

What is a Mandolin?

The mandolin is a chordophone (stringed) instrument and a direct descendant of the Lute family. The normal mandolin contains four sets (also known as courses) of double strings tuned in fifths, and at the same pitch as its cousin, the violin: g d' a' e". Like its violin family cousins, the mandolin family has a similar structure in instrumentation: mandolin (violin), mandora or mandola (viola), mandocello (violoncello), and the (extremely rare) mandobass (contrabass). Each 'cousin' is tuned alike, and represents the soprano, alto, tenor and bass ranges within their respective group. The tones are rendered through use of a plectrum (also known as a pick), either by single note, strummed, or through a sustained tremolo, which is produced by a quick vibrating movement of the plectrum. Some Brazilian styles of mandolin playing use the fingers in place of a plectrum, as is common with finger-style guitar playing.

Being a Lute descendant, variations of mandolin construction have occurred over time which more closely resemble its predecessors, with some instruments having five double courses (Fiorentine and Padovano mandolins), six courses (Genovese mandolin), and four single-courses (Mandolino Senese and Sicilian Mandolin) being the more historically-common examples. The Mandolone, or Arcimandola, now obsolete, carried the largest number of courses, either seven or eight depending on construction, but otherwise was similar in all respects to the Neapolitan mandolin.

The mandolin of the late 1800s to the present stem from the Neapolitan mandolin (mandolino napolitano) of the early Eighteenth Century. The Neapolitan mandolin was constructed with a deeply vaulted piriform body formed with narrow ribs of wood (colloquially known as bowl-back or gourd-back, since the shape favored that of a hollowed gourd) to which was connected a fretted fingerboard neck. A pegboard set at an obtuse angle to the neck contained the tuning machinery upon which the strings of the instrument were wound (formerly of catgut; now of steel wire). The strings pass over a nut made of ivory, bone, hardwood or (in more modern times, solid plastic), up the fretboard, across a bridge placed on the top of the instrument, and end by being looped over posts at the tailpiece.
Most mandolins constructed before circa 1900 were of the Neapolitan design. In 1898, Orville Gibson was granted a patent for a new form of mandolin whose construction more closely favored that of the violin: the sides and neck were carved from a single piece of wood, with a symmetrically-carved design (eliminating the bowl-back in favor of a shallow arch build) which revolutionized the look, and sound, of the mandolin. Gibson's "A-series" mandolin had a symmetrical teardrop body:
while the "F-series" mandolin augmented the teardrop design with a scroll on the bass side of the body and two points on the treble side.
From 1919 to 1924, Lloyd Loar and Guy Hart took Gibson's mandolin design one step forward: f-style holes replaced the oval soundholes, an additional tone bar was added (versus one in the violin), and the fingerboard was raised off the top of the instrument (akin to the violin), which allows the top to resonate more freely, providing more resonance and a larger volume of sound. The A-style and F-style mandolins are the instruments most often played today by soloists and orchestras, with the Neapolitan-style mandolins preferred by early music and/or period instrument ensembles.The mandolin has been used in many styles of composition throughout time, both as a solo instrument and in ensemble.

In Classical writings, it is found in compositions by Vivaldi and Hummel (numerous concerti for mandolin and orchestra), Handel (Alexander Balus oratorio), Paesiello (Il Barbiero de Sevilla), Mozart (Don Giovanni), Verdi (Otello), Beethoven (various Sonatas for Mandolin and Piano), Mahler (Symphony No. Seven), Stravinski (Agon), among other composers and compositions in musical literature.

Folk music has drawn the mandolin into its fold very easily. From music of the British Isles to North American Appalachia to South America and beyond, with particular favorites found in reels, jigs, and other assorted tunes, the combination of the mandolin with violin, guitar, acoustic/upright bass and occasional vocals has provided musical comfort unique unto itself from the middle of the Twentieth Century forward; with bluegrass -- and the foundations laid by mandolinist Bill Monroe (1911-1996) -- being the pinnacle of the genre. Jazz, Rock, New Age, and other musical styles have incorporated the mandolin in varying ways with success.

With the advent of the Twentieth Century, and the surge of immigration in America, mandolin orchestras grew in popularity. Many towns featured "mandolin clubs", where local talent gathered to play waltzes, parlor songs, college songs, light classical music, marches, ragtime and other popular music of the day. These clubs, particularly in larger metropolitan areas, grew in size and membership, forming full-fledged mandolin orchestras, which featured the members of the mandolin family, in addition to guitar, bass, and occasional other instruments as the local talent pools had readily available. After World War One, however, and the rise of Jazz and Big Band/Swing, the mandolin faded from the limelight. Most of the mandolin orchestras of the era retired into the pages of history...but not all.

Some of the more long-standing organizations to survive the changes over time include: The New York Mandolin Orchestra, one of the oldest continually-performing orchestras in America, which celebrated their eightieth anniversary in June, 2004; The Sydney (Australia) Mandolin Orchestra, founded in 1932; the Bloomfield (New Jersey) Mandolin Orchestra, founded in 1942.

1.  Imagine
2.  Eleanore Rigby
3.  Boulevard of Broken Dreams

a.  Left versus Right
a.  Orchestration
b.  Percussion Instruments

(half the bow for each note: down-down/up-up)
a.  Note Reading
b.  Review of line/space note reading
a.  Spiccato Bowing Passage
1) Use of wrist

1. Rocky Top
2.  Eleanore Rigby