Mandolin lesson #4 : Embellishing a melody

I recently had the opportunity to teach a beginner’s mandolin workshop at Sore Fingers October Weekend. The basis of this session was to show that developing a creative, colourful solo doesn’t have to be overly complicated or technical.

I ran through the song You Are My Sunshine, showing how you can take the basic melody and embellish it with a few licks and tricks to make it sound far more interesting and much more fun to play.

Rather than tackling the whole tune at once, you can break the melody down into phrases and think about how to change each one to add flavour. These changes might include altering the timing/rhythm, throwing in a blues note or lick, or adding ornamentations such as slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs. Add as many (or few) changes as you feel comfortable with – even one small, subtle change can bring a simple tune to life!

Below, I’ve provided a video and tab for both the basic melody and an embellished version of You Are My Sunshine. The latter version incorporates the following components:

  • a kick-off and ending
  • timing changes
  • double stops
  • slides and pull-offs
  • blues notes
  • a G7 chord
  • moving up the neck
  • a couple of bluegrass licks

I hope this will give you a good idea of how to apply similar ideas to your favourite songs and tunes.

Lesson resources

Below you’ll find a link to tab/notation and a video of me playing the tune.

Download the notation/tab:
You Are My Sunshine – Basic Melody (PDF)
You Are My Sunshine – Embellished Melody (PDF)

Got any questions? Get in touch and I’ll be happy to help!

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