History of Mandolin Methods
Conference presented at the Accademia Mandolino 2020 in Sorrento
When I was 8 or 9 I wanted to learn the guitar. I got my first guitar and my first lessons - but the teacher recommended to wait some time until my fingers would be big enough for this guitar. Some years later I had more success, and when I was 14 I played in the local mandolin orchestra.
When I was a student I got more and more interested in the mandolin and started to learn this instrument. I had the methods by Konrad Wölki and Dittrich & Socha (published in East Germany / GDR).
The first vintage method in my collection was the method by Ernesto Köhler - I had got a copy of this book from my grandfather, together with his old mandolin. I gave the book and the mandolin away - and never got it back. Today I have several copies of the Method by Ernesto Koehler.
I have always been interested in the history of mandolin. So tried to find sheet music for the mandolin, including vintage mandolin methods. I still have not got all historical mandoline methods, but I rarely find a book that I don’t have already.
Public Domain & Copyright
I have always been a friend of public domain. The copyright of a work expires in Europe when the author has died more than 70 years ago. The right for the typesetting als expires after 50 years. This means that in 2020 works of authors who died in 1949 or earlier and that have been printed before 1968 are free.
The copyright is different in other countries, which makes the subject sometimes a bit difficult.
I have made scans of mandolin methods which are no more protected by copyright and made the scans available on my website first. Later the scans were uploaded to the Petrucci Library (IMSLP) - the largest archive of free music in the world. I have also uploaded many scans of mandolin methods and other sheet music to musicaneo - a site where you can sell and buy sheet music. I am selling some scans of rare mandolin methods to earn money to buy new discoveries.
I have presented many mandolin methods with pictures, examples and download links on my website MandoIsland.
To visualize the mandolin history using the publishing dates of mandolin methods I have created my “Mandolin Method Timeline”. This timeline includes the mandolin methods that I own, mandolin methods that are found in libraries and also mandolin methods that I have discovered in books, ebay auctions, and other resources.
In the timeline I am usually showing the cover of the method and some examples from the book - illustrations or some music. Many covers are still missing, but I am trying to add more pictures in the future.
Below the pictures you can find a link to a page on my website, to the library where the method can be found or to another resource of interest.
The mandolin methods in my collection
Hofmeister Monatsberichte - yearly list of all published music in Germany, Switzerland, Austria etc.
Documentation of Mandolin Symposium 1988 and 1992 in Trossingen
Mandolin cafe archives and discussions.
Books about mandolin history.
Use the buttons below to access those documents.
Mandolin history books
Agostino Pisani (1898/1913): Manuale Teorico Pratico del Mandolinista
Bone: The Guitar & Mandolin (first edition 1914 / second edition 1954, reprint 1972)
Wölki: Geschichte der Mandoline (1939, second edition 1974, reprint 1979, reprint 1989)
Wölki: Zupfmusik-Journale (1979)
Wölki: Entwicklungsphasen des Zupforchesters (1979)
Tyler & Sparks: The Early Mandolin
Sparks: The Classical Mandolin
R. Janssens: Geschiedenis van de mandoline (1982)
Die Laute in Europa
See buttons below for availability online / amazon purchase (partnerlinks)
Countries and Languages - The Most Important Mandolin Methods
Old methods (18th century): Leone, Fouchetti, Denis, Corrette, Bortolazzi
Italy: Carmine de Laurentiis, Branzoli: was also published in the USA and in Germany/ Austria, Munier,
Spain: several methods for Bandurria published by the end of the 19th century; available in the Spanish National Library
France: Cristofaro: very popular; French / English, also published in the USA, Jules Cottin, Pietrapertosa father and son, Edgar Bara, Fantauzzi, Leonardi
Germany: Köhler, Otto Schick, Weimershaus, Ritter, Wölki, Dittrich-Socha, Repke, Marga Wilden-Hüsgen, Rainer Zellner,
USA: Carlos Curti, Pettine, Bickford, Odell, Marilyn Mair, August Watters, Bluegrass Methods, Artistworks
Switzerland: Jul. Huber
Russland: methods for domra, but also some methods for mandolin; several early methods were published in Russian language
Method for children: Ariane Lorch, Gerhard Vogt, Maria Moors, etc.
Availability of Mandolin Methods
More than 20 mandolin methods are available as free downloads in the Perucci Library (IMSLP). I will add more free methods in the future.
More than 20 mandolin methods are available on my musicaneo site for purchase. Im am using the money that I get to pay for the website and to buy new methods for my collection.
Many methods are still in print and available from publishing companies or sheet music stores. You can also check Amazon to find sheet music.
I have added links to recommended mandolin methods in this document. If you use the links for Amazon and Sheet Music Plus to purchase sheet music I will get a commission (Partnerlinks).
I generally recommend to use the free vintage mandolin books as a base for learning, playing and teaching and buy new sheet music of living composers and authors to support the mandolin community.
You can find many useful links on the following page on my website: The best sheet music link collection for mandolin and guitar
The Tablature de mandore by François de Chancy published in 1629 is the most refined repertory for this instrument. It contains six suites of dances and a series of brawls.
The mandolin was popular in the 18th century. The methods by Fouchetti, Leone, Denis, Corrette and Branzoli are available in libraries, in the Petrucci Library (IMSLP) and as well as high quality scans at musicaneo.
A manuscribt attributed to Francesco Conti from ca. 1770 - 1780 "l'accordo della Mandola è l'istesso della Chitarra alla francese SCOLA del Leutino, osia Mandolino all Genovese' is located in the Library of the university in Glasgow.
The German mandolin technique as taught by Marga Wilden-Hüsgen is based on those historical methods.
Detailed information about the historical methods for the mandolin can be found in The Early Mandolin by Tyler & Sparks.
Use the timeline on my website to access descriptions, pictures and more about those methods. The Canzonetta from Don Giovanni and the Beethoven pieces have been included to the timeline as a reference.
The Methods from 1869 - 1900
Around 1870 the mandolin became popular again and new mandolin methods were published
The oldest mandolin method that was used until the 20th century was the method by Carmine de Laurentiis published in 1869. At about the same time the first method for bandurria was published in Spain.
Branzolis method Metodo teoretico-pratico per Mandolino was first published in 1875. It was awarded prizes at the international music exhibitions in 1888 and in the Industrie Palais in Paris 1890. It was published in several languages and was very popular.
Ferdinando de Cristofaro had already published a method in 1873 in Naples.
He published his method in two parts in Paris in 1884, this method was very popular. It was published in French, English, Italian, Spanish and Portugese. In the 20th century it was also pubished in Russian and Turkish editions.
In 1879 the Figaro Spanish Students came to the USA after successful tours through Europe. They played the bandurria, but the Italian mandolin players used this interest in the mandolin and started their own Spanish Students orchestra with mandolins.
The first American mandolin method were published in 1884 by Winner and 1885 by Tocaben.
American methods like the one by Fischer copied from the methods by Carmine de Laurentiis and Cristofaro.
The Methods from 1900 - 1930
Around 1900 the mandolin had become very popular in Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain and other countries. The best Italian mandolin players came to Paris, London and othe rbig cities to teach the mandolin, and they also published their mandolin methods.
Many important mandolin methods were first published in this period, and most of the methods from this time are public domain now. However some methods are still protected by copyright and are not available for free. The last of those methods will become public domain within the next 10 years - I will add more scans as soon as it's possible.
Some of those methods are available in different editions and languages.Those methods are containing hundreds of exercises, folk tunes, classical melodies, jazz tunes, duets, some mandolin orchestra pieces, diagrams, instructions about the position, about the pick, and much more.
Giuseppe Pettine (USA)
Herbert Forrest Odell (USA)
Carlo Munier (Italy)
Raffaele Calace (Italy)
Jules Cottin (France)
Madeleine Cottin (France)
Edgar Bara (France)
Jean Pietrapertosa (France)
Otto Schick (Germany)
Ernst Vorpahl (Germany)
Theodor Ritter (Germany)
Heinrich Albert (Germany)
Silvio Ranieri (Italy / Belgique)
Alberto Bracony (Germany / Denmark)
Agostino Pisani (Italy)
Jul Huber (Switzerland)
Joh. B. Kok, Populaire Mandoline School (Netherlands)
The Bickford Mandolin Method (USA)
Use the Mandolin Method Timeline to see the covers of the methods and a link (below the image) to a download site or to the detailed page on my website.
The first Japanese mandolin method was written by Hiruma Kenpachi (1864 - 1936). He was a violoncello player (wikipedia). In 1898 he went to Berlin to learn to play the mandolin and the guitar. His method has some similarities to the method by Otto Schick which was very popular in Germany. The two methods by Hiruma Kenpachi are now available as free downloads in the Petrucci Library.
The mandolin became very popular in Japan, and the mandolin is still very popular in Japan today.
Most Japanese methods are still missing in my collection.
Mandoline Methods 1930 - 1960
The methods after 1920 are mostly smaller methods, but you can also find some interesting exercises and tunes. Some of those methods are already public domain and available as download.
In the 1920 and 1930 the banjo mandolin or banjoline got popular. Examples from dance music and jazz were included in the methods. I have added some covers with banjo mandolins below.
Wolki published his mandolin methods in the late 1930s. At that time in Germany the Italian style was abandoned and the mandolin music from the 18th century was used as a reference for music without tremolo. This was the beginning of a development that led to the German school of Marga Wilden-Hüsgen.
1970 - 2020
Since the 1950s bluegrass mandolin methods were published teching the playing style of Bill Monroe. Blues mandolin methods were written, brazilian choro music was discovered.
In the 1980s the Mandolin World News magazine made a lot of research and wrote articles about every mandolin style in the world.
In the 1980s Marga Wilden-Hüsgen established her school based on the mandolin methods by Denis, Leone and Fouchetti. German mandolins (after R. Seiffert) became the standard in Germany.
In Germany Rainer Zeller published his Mandolinenbuch with a good selection of mandolin music from classical, to folklore, bluegrass and jazz.
Audio and video-tutorials, playalong tapes, CDs, DVDs and now online or skype lessons started from the 1980s till today.
Special methods for children were developed.
Keith Harris wrote his important method "The Mandolin Game" (Das Mandolinenspiel).
Don Julin published his Mandolin for Dummies books.
Mandolin methods were made available online by libraries and other organizations.
Fidlle tunes and folk tunes are widle available for free.
On youtube you can find tutorials in many languages, videos of performances, including examples from the mandolin methods.
I have added some pictures form my timeline below - use the timeline to find many more!