The magic of using forms to guide our fingering patterns is that this system works for all the keys. The forms are the same for every key and they show up in the same order in every key. 1-1 2-2 3-3 4. Yes, only one four, and then they start over. 1-1 2-2 3-3 4. If we had a mandolin with an infinite number of strings, that pattern would repeat for ever.
But mandolins only have four strings. So in the key of G for instance, the pattern is 1-1 2-2. That is to say, first forms on the G-string and the D-string, and second forms on the A-string and the E-string.
The key of D is the next key up from D, so the whole pattern moves up a string. 4 1-1 2. The first forms move up to the D and A strings, the second form moves up to the E string, and we use a fourth form on the G-string.
The key of C is the next key down from G, so the whole pattern moves down a string. 1 2-2 3. The first form moves down to the G string, the second forms move down to the D and A strings, and we use a third form on the E-string.
Take a look at these examples. First let’s look at Steamboat Quickstep in three keys: A, D, and G. You’ll see that this tune works as a 1-1 tune in each key.
Steamboat k-A 1-1 (playable) Steamboat k-A 1-1 (printable)
Steamboat k-D 1-1 (playable) Steamboat k-D 1-1 (printable)
Steamboat k-G 1-1 (playable) Steamboat k-G 1-1 (printable)
Similarly, O’Hehirs March can be played as a 2-2 tune in A minor, D minor and G minor.
O Hehirs March 2-2 k-Am (playable) O Hehirs March 2-2 k-Am (printable)
O Hehirs March 2-2 k-Dm (playable) O Hehirs March 2-2 k-Dm (printable)
O Hehirs March 2-2 k-Gm (playable) O Hehirs March 2-2 k-Gm (printable)
Learning how to use the forms is a lifelong musical experience, but hopefully you find the information and techniques in these introductory lessons useful. Feel free to contact Josh Bell with any questions you have.
I’d like to thank and give credit for the concept of the forms to Carlo Aonzo who introduced me to this new way of looking at the fingerboard of the mandolin (and any instrument tuned in fifths) at a workshop he gave in 2008.