First Form mandolin JuliaThe fingerboard of the mandolin has four strings. Well, really eight strings, but since they’re tuned in pairs, we refer to each pair of strings as if it were a single string. The first string, the highest sounding and thinnest string, is the E string, the next string is the A string, the third string is the D and the lowest sounding and fattest string is the G string.

In this first lesson, we introduce the First Form. There are four common forms, (plus three or four special forms). With these four common forms, we can play 95% of all music for the mandolin. (You’ll be amazed at how much you can play with just the first two forms.) For the whole picture on the four forms, take a sneak peak at lesson 10.

First Form Scales D-A.pdf

First Form Scales D-A.mid

In First Form scales, the first finger plays on the second fret, the second finger plays on the fourth fret and the third finger plays on the fifth fret. Notice the key signature (the two little sharps) at the beginning of each line. These sharps tell the second finger to play on the fourth fret on both the D-string and A-string.

Note: numbers above the note refer to the finger (the index finger is the first finger). A number and a letter below the note refer to the fret and the string.


As you go up the scale, keep you first finger down when you play the second finger, and both the first and second finger down when you play the third finger. It’s the quickest way to teach your hand to find the frets without having to look.

Now that you’ve mastered the First Form scales, here are a couple familiar holiday tunes that use First Form Scales.

Joy to the World (playable)

Joy to the World (printable)

The First Noel (playable)

The First Noel (printable)

If you’re feeling adventurous, try these Celtic fiddle tunes that use the First Form Scales.

Paorach s Farewell to London 1-1 k-D.pdf

Paorach s Farewell to London 1-1 k-D.mid

Boyne Water 1-1 k-D.pdf

Boyne Water 1-1 k-D.mid

=> On to Lesson Two — The Right Hand