Thursday, July 12, 2018

May Frost: 64 Original Mandolin Tunes (with harmony parts and guitar chords)

May Frost tunebook, download free PDF (donations encouraged) or purchase print copy at this Mandotopia page:

May Frost is a collection of mandolin tunes written mostly between 2003-2013, most of which first appeared in this blog. In putting this collection together I wrote harmony parts for the tunes that didn't already have them. I also corrected a few errors and made a few improvements.

In most cases you can look up each tune in this blog using the alphabetical index and play along. Better yet you can find a friend or two and play them as duos and/or trios at whatever tempo you prefer.

I've also included a short section at the end with brief notes on the tunes.

I hope you find some of these tunes fun and useful. Ideally they will add pleasure to your playing and to the people who encounter them.

Here's the title tune, "May Frost", as it was presented back in May of 2010 (mp3) (pdf)

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

James Oswald on the Ohio (for mandolin quartet or ensemble)

James Oswald on the Ohio (for mandolin quartet or ensemble) (PDF music and MP3 here)

Today's posted link will take you to a web page on my Mandotopia site that includes information about this new piece, along with the usual links to PDF music and a recording.

I explain the title in more detail there but the piece itself is another in a long line of pieces and tunes that I have written over the years inspired by the work of Scottish composer James Oswald (1710-1769). I am also trying to add to my supply of pieces composed for smaller groups of mandolin family players who don't have easy access to a large mandolin orchestra.

On this Independence Day I hope that you will enjoy a piece that makes fictional reference to our colonial past (although the artwork above probably depicts a slightly later time period).

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Ten Easy Duos, no. 5

Ten Easy Duos, no. 5 (mp3) (pdf)

Just over a month ago Martin Jonas posted recordings of Duos no. 2 & 3 in this series over at the Mandolin Cafe as part of his John Goodin Mandolin Duets thread. He gently reminded me that only Duos 1-3 of the supposed 10 have actually appeared.

That sent me looking back and I found the beginning of no. 4, which will need considerable work, and two versions of no. 5. I had the original version of no. 5 ready to go back in December 2017 but, apparently, decided it wasn't finished and I made it longer sometime after that.

So here is no. 5, recorded on Sunday using a 1920 or 1921 Gibson A-2 mandolin.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

St. Francis and the Birds - recorder quartet

St. Francis and the Birds (recorder quartet) (computer mp3) (pdf score)

This is the third appearance of this tune since 2007 when So Many Tunes first appeared. As best as I can remember I probably first wrote it down somewhere in the mid 1980s. It's published as a melody with chords in the Contratopia Tunebook and it originally appeared here in October of 2007.

Then in 2012 I wrote a fun second part for the tune and posted it again in this blog. That time I let my computer "play" the tune.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a partially completed arrangement of the tune for recorder quartet from a few years ago. This had required me to change the original key to better fit the range of an SATB group of recorders. I spent some time finishing that arrangement and I'm presenting it here.

Once again I'm letting my computer recorder players "perform" the piece. They certainly get all of the pitches just right and their tempo never wavers. I'm sure if I spent several hours tinkering I could coax the computer to sound a little more human but I think it sounds OK for my purpose here.

I'm also linking to a pdf copy of the new quartet score. I'll be happy to send copies of the parts to anyone who asks. Just email me at

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Easter Fool - Winter Window Sun

Easter Fool (mp3) (pdf)
Winter Window Sun (mp3) (pdf)

It's been quite some April. The photo above was taken on the morning of April 18 from our front porch. Normally you would see the bit of yard and a sidewalk that is visible in the photo from my previous post. You would also be able to clearly see the street from here. This was just the beginning of a record April snowfall for us. At our house we had 10-11 inches by late afternoon.

Easter Fool was mostly written on Easter Sunday / April Fool's Day. Winter Window Sun came along a couple of weeks earlier. We have enjoyed a full week of spring-like weather and we have every reason to believe that we are done with the snow until at least next October. Time will tell.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

No Show Snow

No Show Snow (mp3) (pdf)

The photo above tells the tale. Going to sleep on Friday evening we were under a Winter Storm Warning and we expected to see anywhere from 3 to 10 inches of fresh snow, depending on the wind and temperature changes.

Saturday morning showed us no snow. Fifty miles to the west, Osage, Iowa received up to 16 inches. New Hampton, just 35 miles southwest of here saw 11 inches. Here we didn't see even a flurry.

I have been the owner of a beautiful Flatiron Octave Mandolin (or octave mandola, if you prefer) since around 1981. I believe I am the original owner. In recent years, however, I have played it less and less, primarily due to the long scale length of the instrument and the toll it takes on my aging hands. When I do play it (heard on several tunes from this blog last year) I have been using a capo to shorten the scale length but I haven't been pleased with the results.

I read about the new MDO-305 Octave Mandolins now being produced by Eastman Guitars for a modest price and decided to give one a try. They are shorter scale (21") instruments. I received mine a couple of weeks ago and, so far, I have enjoyed it quite a bit.

Today's tune was written yesterday on the new octave mandolin and recorded using it along with a fine old Gibson mandolin. I imagined that the snow had fallen and I was finished with the shoveling, looking out my window at the fresh powder.

Even though I sound disappointed about the No Show Snow, I am perfectly fine with waiting until next winter to see any more.

I've enjoyed taking a couple of months off from feeding this blog but rest assured that I've been writing tunes all along. I hope you enjoy today's piece.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Grandview Ridge

Grandview Ridge (mp3) (pdf)

This first post of a new year presents one of the oldest tunes that I can remember writing. After 10-15 years of writing songs I figured out sometime in the mid-70s that I really enjoyed just writing music more.

I first recorded an early version of this tune on a TEAC A-1340 reel to reel tape deck that I then mixed down to a cassette. I'm estimating that this was sometime around 1979-1980. I remember going to the bank to take out a loan to buy the TEAC, it was my first chance to record sound-on-sound outside of a recording studio. I recently came across a digitized version of a cassette that included this tune a couple of weeks ago.

I may have written the music during one of the summers that I spent at the old CYO Camp Christina in southeastern Brown County, Indiana. The camp was just off of Grandview Ridge road. I have great memories of the two summers I lived there, sometimes helping out with the chores and sometimes washing dishes in Nashville at Rudy's Country Kitchen.

I know that there is a lead sheet somewhere that I used for that original recording but after an hour or so of searching I figured it would be easier to just transcribe my own playing from the shaky cassette evidence. I made a few small changes and re-recorded it here yesterday.

I found the photo above thanks to my old Clarksville friend Tim Buckman. Apparently my dear Mother spotted him wrestling with the unusual snowfall and came out on our front porch to capture it on film. This was decades ago of course. I had never seen this picture until Tim posted it on FB and I'm very grateful for this glimpse of winter in southern Indiana.

This was our family home on the corner of Carter Ave. and Fairbanks in Clarksville. If I didn't write today's tune in Brown County I may well have written it in the upstairs of this house. It was all a long time ago.
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