Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Mandolin, and Rock and Roll

I purchased this low-end mandolin,
the Epiphone MM-20 A-style.
A month ago, I decided to pick up the mandolin.  I've been listening to a lot of bluegrass the last couple of years, and that instrument plays a large part in that genre.  I've been particularly inspired by the work of Chris Thile in his band Punch Brothers, and having seen the likes of Thile, Sam Bush, and other masterful mandolin players, I became drawn to the mandolin.

Subsequently, I started noticing mandolins in rock music, and I decided to go buy one.  A mandolin is an excellent way to add an extra dimension to an otherwise basic tune.  Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones was one of the early pioneers in this technique, and many Zeppelin songs contain mandolin parts (further cementing John Paul Jones into his position as my favorite Led Zeppelin member).

Later, R.E.M. raised the bar, and the instrument became a prominent feature of their music, starting around Green or so.  Their most successful song, "Losing My Religion," brings the mandolin to the front, and might be one of the most popular songs to heavily rely on the mandolin for its sound.  In fact, the mandolin is the only musical instrument to make an appearance in the music video for the song.  See for yourself.

The cool thing about mandolin parts in rock songs is that in most cases, the musician using the mandolin is not a virtuoso mandolin player, which means the mandolin parts tend to be easier to play.  This is nice for a beginning mandolin player like me.

Last night, I even decided to figure out how to play Pain of Salvation's "Healing Now," which is one of my favorite new songs this year, and features not one, but (at least) two mandolin parts.  Listen to this awesome song:

The mandolin has never sounded better, nor has rock music.

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