Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Mandolin lesson: Alternate Mandolin Rhythm–Key of G

We’re familiar with the 4-finger mandolin chop, but is there another way to play rhythm? There is, and we’re gonna learn all about the technique, theory, and application in the key of G!


Needed this one. Really good and useful lesson!! :slightly_smiling_face:


Great news! THANK YOU BEN!!
This will help alot of folks! :+1:t2:
It also means I’m now legal to play this a way! :rofl::grin:
It’s funny now, but I have been questioned by the BG police… :thinking::grin::rofl:
Partial chords is all I play for backup.

In case some Mandolin Folk didnt see this (it was originally posted under Banjo - I was backing up @Severin 's Banjo post), here’s a link that shows partial chops in action. It’s not as clean as it should be, & I think I’m going to try & tweak my method for dampening fingers (like Ben does). In this vid I mixed up chops & more open chords to get the end sound I wanted. Conveniently, it’s also in key of G (like this lesson) but there is one A chord in there. Hope this helps to show how I get by not doing big chops…


I really really like this approach. That explains some things I have heard that I didn’t know what they were doing. Thanks!

BTW, that origin looks cool and sounds good as well.


Now that I’ve been watching and practicing this lesson for a couple of weeks. I must say that it is one of the best mando lessons altogether and great at helping establish a good foundation. For those of you who haven’t looked yet, check it out. I guarantee it will be worth some quality time.


I have been playing mandolin for a year. I have a nice Eastman (brand new last Christmas). I still cannot get the G chord when playing a song. I can chop it and get a good sound, but if I need to hold it for any length of time (a measure) I cannot. I play guitar so I am thinking more like a guitar player probably. I cannot strum a G chord. My little finger is the problem. Any suggestions to build strength??

If I was going to hold a G chord on mandolin for a whole note I would probably use an alternate to the full chop chord to get a more sustained ring.

one option is lifting the 4th finger and using an open 4th pair
another is lifting 3rd & 4th fingers giving you open both 3rd & 4th pairs
There are more alternate options but these two are the easiest to understand in my opinion.

To build strength in the fourth finger you have to use it regularly. Anything you play where you use an open string can be played using the fourth finger on the next bigger string @ the 7th fret. Also, learning to re-create things done down in 1st position up in a closed position (2nd, 3rd,…) is good exercise and forces use of the 5th finger.


A picture of your hand holding the chord might get some good feedback. One thing that I often see as a problem for me is not getting the last joint of the fingers upright (pointing down into) to the fingerboard. Of course me supplying a picture of this might help too :slight_smile: When my fingers are upright (almost perpendicular to the finger board) it seems to take little force to fret the notes on all four strings and it feels like I am using “big” muscles with leverage. Another thing to watch for if you are a guitar convert is having your fingers pointing across the strings. They should typically be pointing more toward the bridge than across the neck on a mandolin. Just a couple guesses.