October Mandolin Diary

October 2020

By Lucia · 4 minute read

Some questions to start…

Is my streak still intact?

Yes it is! I have however been clinging on by my fingertips, occasionally getting to the end of a day and suddenly realising – once just before 11pm! – that I needed to play at least something. Life has started getting busier again, so I think next month I’ll give myself one day off each week. Wednesday is the best candidate, as I teach violin in a school all day and then have private teaching and an online Pilates class when I get home.

Am I still enjoying it?

Absolutely! I’m loving discovering music by composers I’ve never even heard of, and it’s so interesting to see the differences between the low grade mandolin music and the violin pieces I teach my students each week. It’s been particularly rewarding working towards the videos, especially considering the lack of live concerts at the moment.

The highlight of the month’s playing was another jam session with our friend Lee, who you may have read about in my Week 3 diary. We were all on our “other” instruments: me on mandolin, my trumpeter husband Sam on trombone and our drummer friend on bass guitar. Between fits of giggles, we had a great time playing classics such as Super Trooper, It’s Not Unusual and Lionel Richie’s Hello.

And finally, did I complete my Grade 2 videos?

Yes I did! There are just two this month, partially as I gave up trying to guess when the noisy builders next door would have their next coffee break and partially as I had a technical hurdle to overcome in my last video (read on to find out more). I completed this grade’s videos on 13th October and have since been getting to know the Grade 3 list.

Scales etc.

I’ve done a little cello teaching over the past few years and am finding the fingering patterns in some of the mandolin scales remind me of cello fingering, as it’s not always best to use adjacent fingers for adjacent notes (violinists, think 1-3-4 fingering on the D string for G harmonic minor).

I had a few twinges in my left thumb, indicating too tight a grip on the mandolin neck. I’m trying to loosen this up a bit and hope the Grade 3 scales and pieces will help, as most of them require some shifting: it’ll be physically impossible for me to keep my hand anchored in one position for too long.

On to the videos!

Microjazz double-bill

I raved about this book in previous blog posts, but I still think Microjazz for Mandolin is brilliant!! The book comes with a guitar accompaniment booklet, but I noticed at the bottom of the contents page that there’s also a link to free piano accompaniment sheet music. I downloaded my two Grade 2 accompaniments and got practising! Playing the jazzy chords brought back lovely memories of playing piano for my school jazz ensemble.

Keep an eye out for the extra octave flourish that I couldn’t help adding at the end of Fly Away!


Of all my Grade 2 pieces, these three movements by Giovanni Fouchetti took the longest to nail despite looking like the simplest on the page. You’ll notice there was a whole week between me completing the duet recordings, mainly due to one annoying technical hurdle: trills!!! My tremolo warm-up (see Week 4) helped a lot but I had to keep reminding myself to relax my wrist and make sure the plectrum didn’t protrude too far through the gaps between the strings. I’ve learnt I need a bit more time for new techniques to settle and that it’s a great idea to practice trills every time I pick up the instrument, whether or not I’m working on a piece that contains them.

Although they are written by the same composer, the movements in this video don’t really belong together! They come from two books, 6 Serenades and 6 Sonatas by Fouchetti. As they all feature on VCM’s mandolin syllabus I decided to group them together into a little suite.

N.B. Since I ordered my music for these pieces, London Music Press has brought out a book for Grade 2 which includes all three movements plus other pieces for the grade, so check their website before you buy!

In November I scale the heady heights of Grade 3 with more trills, the last few Microjazz pieces and a few more unfamiliar composer names. Hope to see you there!

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Mandolin Diary – Nov/Dec 2020
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