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Thread: Tell me it gets easier.

  1. #1

    Default Tell me it gets easier.

    Iíve played guitar for many years and can get by on it. I bought a ukulele a couple of years ago and made the transition pretty easily.

    I bought a mandolin yesterday. Not the same experience as the uke. The most basic chords are finger twisters, the fretboard is tiny and the neck profile is uncomfortable after 10 minutes. Iím sure mine is a common experience, I just didnít think it would be this alien.

    If I work hard on it, how long before Iíll feel comfortable on some basic tunes? Am I better off to take some lessons now or wait until I get a few chord progressions under my belt?

  2. #2
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    When I started the mandolin the first mistake I made was thinking it was kinda like an upside down tiny guitar. It didn't take long for me to realize it is a wholly different instrument that coincidentally happens to have frets that uses a pick. I'd say get lessons first to avoid making the common technical mistakes.

    I never play " chords " on a mandolin but rather think of multiple voicing's and voice leading. The mandolin is primarily a melody instrument.

    How the mandolin is held is of major importance, both right hand and left hand.

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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Welcome to mando maddness, mandolin is quite a different animal than guitar or uke. Lessons from day 1 are highly advisable as there a lot of "bad" habits that can be hard to get rid of later.
    So if you think you need lessons - you probably do. The getting easier part is up to the individual, hopefully you will realize that you can make great music with just a mandolin or as part of a group.
    As for neck size and handling the beast, there are wider neck models ( standard is 1 1/8 inch, wide necks are generally 1 3/8).
    The good news is this web site is only one of the many many online resources available for beginning and any level mandolin players.
    I will say it was not that prevalent when I started about 20 years ago ( I did play guitar since my early teens before that) , and low and behold I am still at it, having taken a few online lessons this winter, so never to late to start learning. Did it get easier? Not sure "easy" is the word - am I better at playing mandolin than I was 20 years ago- I hope so, I will say I did pick it up pretty quick and moved to amateur ( where i could play a number of tunes decently with other musicians, played in a few working local bands) although I had no formal lessons in the early stages of my mandolin journey. Good luck on your journey and I hope you stick with it!
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Your questions can only be answered by you. I have found things do get easier and then I challenge myself with new techniques, new to me genres, and just attempting to reach a higher bar. I have come to realize that I will never attain a skill level that I will find adequate. I have never taken lessons but often question the wisdom of having not taken lessons.
    Just make it fun and with time, progress will come.
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    The uke may be part of the problem. I bought one several years ago thinking that, as it used 4 string guitar chords, all I needed to do was learn the new chord names. I’ve yet to get my head round it as muscle memory and the small scale of the thing keeps making me revert to mandolin chords.

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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Just a thought. I think proper setup is even more important on mandolin than guitar. Those small strings are under a fair bit more tension and being shorter have less elasticity. A poor setup can make the simplest chords a chore.

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  11. #7
    Mandolingerer Bazz Jass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by GChris View Post
    I’ve played guitar for many years and can get by on it. I bought a ukulele a couple of years ago and made the transition pretty easily.

    I bought a mandolin yesterday. Not the same experience as the uke. The most basic chords are finger twisters, the fretboard is tiny and the neck profile is uncomfortable after 10 minutes. I’m sure mine is a common experience, I just didn’t think it would be this alien.

    If I work hard on it, how long before I’ll feel comfortable on some basic tunes? Am I better off to take some lessons now or wait until I get a few chord progressions under my belt?
    Totally different instrument to guitar and uke, and you've had it a day - no wonder it feels so strange!

    I too am a guitar and uke player who thought mandolin would be a natural easy progression. Actually you're far better served to have been a violin player.

    Best advice is take it VERY slowly. I get all sorts of aches and pains for my mandolin (after a year playing) that I NEVER got in 40 years of guitar playing.

    I feel that because I can play 3 or 4 hours of guitar with no fatigue, I should be able to practice an hour a day on the mandolin, straight off the bat. Not so. Totally different muscles and contortions to deal with. I'd suggest not more than 10 minutes a day for the first month.

    If your thinking what you're used to in terms of string action (height off the fingerboard) for guitar and uke would be right for a mandolin, you're wrong. Strings need to be much much closer to the board. About half as high off the fingerboard as a guitar or uke.

    The big stretch mandolin chords are a nightmare for the beginner! The chop chords, where you're straddling about 10 frets!!

    Here's a great tip. Capo (uke capo will do) the 5th fret on the mandolin. Learn your big stretch chords there, where the frets are much closer together. When you get comfortable with them, shift the capo to the 4th fret for a week or two. Etc. Until you get to no capo.

    This site is a great resource. I've learned a lot. Best of luck!

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    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    First - yes, over time it gets a lot easier to play. The more you practice, the easier it is to play what you've been practicing. It also gets a lot harder as you realize how much further you have to go to be "the best" you can be haha. Just remember, you get better at what you practice - if you practice bad habits, you'll be great at those bad habits!

    As a teacher myself - I'm always a fan of new players getting lessons so they can start off right with no (or at least fewer) bad habits. The great thing with Zoom types of lessons is you can take a couple lessons from almost anyone. For the start, I'd recommend a private teacher either in person or via Zoom so they comment on your technique. After a couple of lessons, you could transition to something more like Peghead Nation or Artist Works that have great lessons and cheaper than a private lesson - but they are much less personalized (read: easier to form bad habits).

    Aside from a teacher, my best recommendation is to develop a practice schedule / routine that hits on a few fronts at once. For my new students, I usually start them with something like the below. One note, these are NOT speed drills - quality notes with good timbre are much more important than how fast you can play these.:

    1. Chord practice. I have them learn is the Church Candance so they can get used to playing 1 4 5 progressions and changing between all the chords. So in G, you'd play G C G D G (1 4 1 5 1). I have them play these chords in basic open positions at first, the move to more complicated fingerings around the neck once they have the idea.

    2. Song practice. We pick a simple tune that's in that key - that can be the students pick or something I think would benefit them - for example, I have one student learning "Ripple" because she's a dead head and another student learning "Will the Circle" because he's in to bluegrass and that's a great standard. I believe this is very important to both keep practice fun and to develop skills to play like your favorite artists

    3. Right hand and Scale practice. First I start them on the rest stroke which is where you play a string open, making sure to hit both strings, and then rest on the string below (i.e. play the D strings, have the pick rest on the first A string). After that I have them practice the G major scale using the rest stroke.

    If you follow something like that with regular practice (read: daily), you'll see improvements fairly quickly.
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    I rock at the mandolin and stink at the guitar, even though I can read my bandmate’s guitar chords at full speed when we play, even when he capo’s. I have yet to spend any time training my body to do any muscle memory for guitar. The hand work is complete different. Thus the reverse is true, I assume.
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Like most of us, we have done fairly well at other instrument but the mandolin is a new dimension in my musicianship. I started bass and guitar in the 60ís. Slow learning curve. Iíve built 4,5 and 6 string basses including fretless 4and 6. It came easy. Iíve played hundreds of guitars bc I did guitar repair. Some felt natural some not so. The mandolin is a new beginning and a new journey on a beautiful instrument. Iím just setting it up to play easier as fellow forum members have suggested. So Iím just learning my basic chords now and a variation of same in another position. Slow and easy. Iíve never been able to hold a pick but Iím trying now. I also enjoy noodling along with a tune I might like just to see how my ear can pick up the melody. It does get easier. It is another joy to behold. Iím grateful for all the friends who have helped me get started here on mandolin cafe!

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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    The guitar player's custom of having his fingers parallel with the frets will run him into problems with the mandolin, because fingers can't be spread wide enough to cover a 5th, not even on a small fretboard. OTOH, a fiddler's custom of having his fingers almost parallel with the strings makes the move to the mandolin a piece of cake, at least for the fretting hand. I recommend to be more of a fiddler and adopt their practical hand position.
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    nolt easier but more staisfying

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    It might depend on the mandolin. If you bought a budget import (under $100) then you are more likely to experience frustration then if you bought one that is well set up and better made.

    If in the end you find the scale length and neck too small, you might consider an octave mandolin.

    Good luck on your journey!
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    It might depend on the mandolin. If you bought a budget import (under $100) then you are more likely to experience frustration then if you bought one that is well set up and better made.

    If in the end you find the scale length and neck too small, you might consider an octave mandolin.

    Good luck on your journey!
    ———————

    It’s a new Collings MT2 (torrefied) mandolin. Any problems with my progressing are all on me.

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    It definitely should get easier over time - don’t work hard at it, work smart and easy. I second all the great advice given above. Check out my advice article linked in my signature, some of the resources mentioned may be of help. Enjoy the new challenge! Mandolins are very cool.
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    couple small things to add to the general advice: string weight and material can be a thing and the callouses you have for guitar aren't in the right place for mandolin.

    The double string of a mandolin is under immense pressure. If you're accustomed to nylon strings (like with the uke or classical guitar), the bendy movement you're used to isn't there. And the double metal string is different from a single metal string on the guitar, which can be bent relatively easily. and as has been pointed out, correctly placing your fingers on the mandolin means the callouses you have on the tips of the fingers right under the nail are in the wrong place. also, you need to consider where the neck of the mandolin falls in your hand. You shouldn't be cradling the neck in the palm of your hand or the web between thumb and pointer finger. Placing a thumb on the frets to help with a chord isn't a thing on the mandolin despite how "narrow" the neck looks because the angle is wrong for your fingers.

    I have to admit I don't play either uke or guitar (my guitar knowledge comes from my-husband-the-guitar-player since we play together and I can see his technique) so i can't say whether the finger strum thing with a uke or the guitar finger strum thing is what you're trying on mandolin and whether you use a down/down/down motion on either doing single line melody (if you do single line melody). It's one of those things that look like they'll easily transfer and really don't. Trying to force any of this stuff will generally mean you end up frustrated because it looks like it shouldn't be a big deal. Alas!

    Where you can transfer your uke/guitar knowledge is in musical literacy, instead of technique. To get better at any instrument means you ought to give it the respect it deserves. You can, for instance, respect your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend for who they are, but if you respect your different spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend for who their predecessor was, you won't get a lot of traction.
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    It gets easier!

    Then, it gets harder.
    Bren

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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    I rock at the mandolin and stink at the guitar, even though I can read my bandmate’s guitar chords at full speed when we play, even when he capo’s..
    I have to read my bandmates chords from behind him, judging by capo position.
    Did I mention that he plays GDAD bouzouki?
    Actually I'm not that successful at guessing the key, let alone which chord.
    Bren

  34. #19
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    I’d take some basic lessons, it’ll be more efficient learning in the short and long run. I spent 6 months playing the ‘little guitar’ and it took a trained eye to tell me it’s a violin analog, at least for the left hand. I figured since I’d played guitar for years, I didn’t need any instruction, wasn’t the smart move. Ymmv

    And my guitar strings fit right in between my mandolin calluses
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    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    I don't think anyone needs a teacher these days - anything a teacher could teach you, you can find online (often free).

    I think every mandolin player needs a coach. Someone to lead them in the right direction, answer questions, ask questions of them, and most importantly be honest with the student. With the proper coach, you'll be able to learn anything you want because they'll show you how to learn and show you the best path.
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  37. #21
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by mbruno View Post
    I don't think anyone needs a teacher these days - anything a teacher could teach you, you can find online (often free).

    I think every mandolin player needs a coach. Someone to lead them in the right direction, answer questions, ask questions of them, and most importantly be honest with the student. With the proper coach, you'll be able to learn anything you want because they'll show you how to learn and show you the best path.
    The coaching is a characteristic of the best teachers, indeed that's commonly just called 'teaching'.

    The 'often free' is often worth just that price.
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    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Learn the two-finger chords first. They're not "finger twisters." Learning to hold the mandolin properly will help, too. You've invested in a fine instrument. I'd suggest you also invest in some lessons if you can find a good teacher. Check out mandolessons.com, Artist Works and Peghead Nation for tips and lessons ranging from free to not free.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Many of the hardest 20 things I have ever tried to do in my life involved a mandolin.


    I am not sure the mandolin gets easier, especially if you take on the challenge of continuous improvement. But... It certainly gets more and more worth it!!
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    Remembering the beginning of each experience with guitar, violin, mandolin, mandola and then octave mandolin. My attitude was, 'what does this need from me?' Rather than 'how soon before I can play?' Sure, I wanted to play the thing but forcing the issue has led to disaster or at least frustration. Looking back over many years, I realize that, on my own was slow learning. And when I had a teacher, I learned quickly.
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    Default Re: Tell me it gets easier.

    I'd put a plug in for Artistworks, they have two mandolin teachers now with Mike Marshall and Sierra Hull. I've been taking the Mike Marshall mandolin course on Artistworks and love it and his teaching style. I'm sure Sierra would be great too, she just started teaching on Artistworks. What's great about Artistworks is that they have a course order to follow and also you send in Video Exchanges (VE's) to the instructor and they will send you back a reply within 7 days usually. Your VE's are also available to other students which is actually a good thing because there can be a student going through the same thing you are and you can get a lot of help out of the response's from the teacher. Right now they're having $50 off of a 6 months course but they just got finished with $100 off of a year course, I'd hold out for that kind of a deal. At Christmas time they have a week or two period where they give 50% off of an annual subscription to a class and that's when I renew.

    You've got a nice mandolin there with the Collings, enjoy it!

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