How has Noah Wise shaped his style of mandolin playing over the years?

By: Amanda Meyer

A crowd of music lovers listens with awe and bafflement as he quickly picks the strings on a mandolin, switching from playing traditional bluegrass to jazz and back again to bluegrass.

Noah Wise is no stranger to genre-hopping.

Since middle school, Wise has been shaping his unusual style of mandolin playing. Instead of only focusing on the music mandolin was made for, such as bluegrass and classical music, Wise has modified his playing to include elements from other genres.

“I think I do play mandolin in an unusual way. Initially, I didn’t pick up the mandolin for the music it was made for. I picked it up because I thought it was a cool instrument itself,” Wise said. “I then adapted it to the music that I enjoy playing, such as jazz, funk and soul.”

Wise is a master at dissecting a tune’s structure to create his own unique melodies.

“What I try to do is play a familiar, melodic tune while I’m improvising,” he said. “I’ll go outside of the scale and chords, play a totally different genre and then jump back to the style I was originally playing in.”

He gets inspiration from one of his favorite musicians, Chris Thile, who is a world famous mandolin player and host of Prairie Home Companion. Recently, Wise got the chance to play with him.

During Florida State University’s opening nights, Wise was selected to be a student in Chris Thile’s Master Class held in the Opperman Music Hall.

“It was me and one other mandolin student who were invited”, said Wise. “We each played for him our own original songs while he listened and taught us in front of an audience.”

This learning experience with Chris Thile helped further Wise’s playing style as he was taught ways to invent solos as well as how to play loudly and clearly.

Jean-Marc Wise, Noah’s father and guitarist in their band “Liza and The Wise Guys”, is both fascinated and proud of his son’s musical achievements.

“We are all very proud of Noah”, he said. “He has a very adaptive kind of style that really adds to the song that’s being played.”

Noah Wise’s style will only keep improving as he continues his journey to mastering the mandolin.