Mandolin, Swing Rhythm and Repertoire, levels 2/3

Instructor(s): Don Stiernberg

This class will focus on chords and progressions for Texas contest fiddle, Western Swing, and Swing standards. We’ll be looking to broaden your rhythmic accompaniment skills by adding chord voicings (fingerings), commonly used chord progressions, passing/connecting chords, and right-hand pick-strokes specific to the above styles. All this will be shown in the context of tunes you will encounter at jam sessions everywhere. We’ll examine similarities and differences between these styles, and how to supply the “swing feel” to whatever you’re playing. The chord knowledge and fretboard familiarity you come away with can be applied to any style of music.

Don Stiernberg
Don Stiernberg


: It will help if you relate to chord progressions by number, as in I, IV, V (1-4-5), and have taken a look at basic “grips” for the five families of chords (major, minor, augmented, diminished and seventh chords). We’ll be adding color tones, and tensions a.k.a. alterations. Helpful to the instructor would be if you jotted down a short list of familiar tunes you might apply the concepts to.

Bring: Your tuned mandolin, writing utensil, spare paper for note taking or manuscript for musical note taking, and favorite recording device. Phones are great for shots of things diagrammed on the board. Please respect the instructor’s request to not share recordings and lesson materials publicly without asking permission first.

About Don Stiernberg

Don Stiernberg has been a professional musician for nearly 50 years. Along the way he has been involved in performing, writing, recording, producing, and teaching, but is best known for his mandolin playing. His path was set very early on as he grew up north of Chicago. Emulating his older brother, he experimented with playing various stringed instruments, finally settling on the mandolin. Things got serious when an ad played on the radio: “Study mandolin with the great Jethro Burns!” At his first lesson he discovered what he wanted to do: play the mandolin, be a musician, and try to be as cool as Jethro! Within a few short years he was playing professionally, first in a bluegrass band with his brother, later standing right next to his hero in The Jethro Burns Quartet. There was no turning back, and thanks to encouragement and mentorship from his family and hero he is still out there trying to achieve those early goals.

Don is regarded as a leading exponent of jazz mandolin style, and a respected teacher. In June of 2020 his tenth recording project “STRAIGHT AHEAD” by the Don Stiernberg Quartet, was released and quickly garnered praise in The Chicago Tribune as one of the “Best Jazz Recordings of 2020”. In September ’22 a special chamber jazz project “RHYTHM TWIST” was released by Don along with Greg Ruby, guitar, Evan Price, violin, and Kevin Kehrberg, bass. It features early swing tunes, originals, and swing arrangements of classical themes. He has four online instructional courses for mandolinists at, and the book Jazz Mandolin Appetizers is available from Mel Bay.

In person, Don teaches at mandolin-focused camps and events from coast to coast and abroad, and covers the same territory performing at clubs, festivals, and concert halls with his own group. There’s more of the same on the horizon: a dedicated pursuit of “the good notes” to share with audiences, listeners, and students. 

Don is joining our staff for the first time, comes highly recommended, and we’re very glad he’s able to be with us this fall.