Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Lessons- Lesson Five

  Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Topics

Original articles, lessons plus the "best of the web" on mandolin purchase and set up by mandolin player/teacher Bruce Bernhart

New! Tabs for Popular Fiddle Tunes:

"Sandy River Belle"
"Liza Jane"
"Spanish Ladies"

Updated October 26, 2012

Chord Triads, Plus Fiddle Tune Tabs

In Minnesota, Bruce Bernhart has been a mandolin enthusiast since the mid-1980's
Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites
The Bernhart Mandolin Webpages explore the history of the mandolin, buying and building mandolins, lessons, 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 
Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Webpages

Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites
More Advanced Chord Groups

First, let's review the basic definition of what a chord is.

A musical chord is a collection of a certain amount of notes that are being collectively played together. A chord consists of three or more notes. Bernhart says chords mostly show the influence of European Music. A combination of three or more notes is known as a chord and a combination of two notes is known as Dyads or Intervals.  The word chord is a short form of Accord; it has been taken from the Middle English word CORD. The chords are mainly divided in to two classes the Major chords and the Minor Chords.


     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.

The most common chords are A, G, D, E, F, and C. There are also certain progressions to these chords that are related to each other. Other chord varieties include the Augmented, Diminished, Added 9th, Added 7th and many more chord disambiguation's are available on the internet.
In the previous Bernhart lesson, we learned about the basic 1-4-5 chord group.  To refresh, the 1 chord is the key of the song we are playing, and that becomes your starting point.  The 4 chord is the fourth note in the major scale of the key you are playing, and the 5 chord is the fifth note in the major scale of the key you are playing.  But not all songs are structured as a 1-4-5.  Many follow different patterns, such as 1-4-1-5-1.  In this case, you would play the 1 chord three times during each grouping.   Some songs simply alternate between the 1 and the 5.  "Reuben's Train" is an example of a popular bluegrass instrumental that simply alternates between the 1 and 5 chord.
How about 1-2-4-5-1?  What is the "2" chord?  It would be the second note in the major scale of the key you are playing.  So, if you are in the key of A, the 2 chord would be a B. 
Countless bluegrass songs, including many gospel songs, have a 2 chord.

Some tunes have a "7" chord.   What is the 7 chord in the key of A?  It would be a G. because G is the 7th note in the A major scale. "Little Maggie" has a 7 chord.  You can hear it right at the beginning of the song.

Play the different chord groups that we reviewed.  These include most of the numbered chords you will encounter playing bluegrass tunes. Now, you can play these songs in any key because once you know what the 1 chord is, you'll know what the other numbered chords are in relation to the major key.

Bluesy tunes often fall into the 1-4-1-5-1 pattern.  "Bluegrass Stomp" by Bill Monroe is a good example.

A note about minor scales

The other scale I’ll be covering in the Bruce Bernhart mandolin websites is the minor scale. It goes whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, and whole step. The A minor scaled is the same as the C major scale, but it starts on a different note. The minor scale gives a slightly more dissident and edgy sound than the major scale.

For instance, the minor scale of C has C, D, D#, F, G, G#, G, A#, C.

Some notes on the tuners:

Newcomers to mandolin playing often think that a lack of response in the string when the tuning peg is turned is due to worn gears.  With a newer mandolin this is probably not the case, though it is more common in older instruments. However, binding of the strings is more likely to be the culprit.  Bernhart says you can replace tuners - good quality tuning gears are nice to use, but you will still have problems if the strings are sticking excessively in their slots.

It does no harm to apply a few drops of oil to the tuner gears and bearings every few months. Do it when you have removed the string to change it, so you can turn the tuner mechanism easily and get the oil worked in.

The main frustration of mandolin tuning, particularly with bluegrass instruments, is that the strings always bind in the nut and bridge slots.  As an example:  You decide that one of your strings is very slightly out of tune. You make a fine adjustment at the tuning peg, but the pitch of the string does not change in the slightest. The string is binding, probably in the nut. You turn the tuner a bit more and suddenly the pitch alters dramatically and way too much., as the string suddenly moves in the slot.

The problem can be alleviated to an extent, but is one that you have to live with.  It is better to tune up to a note rather than down, believing that the string moves more immediately through the slots when tension is increased rather than decreased. In this method if a string is too sharp you first slacken off enough to detune it and then tune up again to the required pitch. I adopt a policy of estimating the delayed effect of tuning, like deflection shooting with a gun. When you make a fine adjustment at the tuning peg nothing happens immediately, but as you continue playing the string gradually moves in the nut/bridge and sets at the new tension along its complete length.  Another way to approach the problem is to adjust the tuning peg, then pull down hard on the string with your pick to force movement in the nut and bridge slots. This often results in a temporary flattening of the string before it settles back to what you hope is the new, correct pitch. Similarly you can push down on the string between the tuning peg and the nut, which initially sharpens the string before it stabilizes.

Bruce 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 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


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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