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Thread: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

  1. #1

    Question How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    I started learning the mandolin two months ago yesterday. I played guitar (chords only) in high school about 100 years ok. I love to practice but some days I want to just cry. My fingers don't behave!

    Sometimes I can do a few lines of a tab just right but mostly (if I'm not intently watching) I am either a little off the fret and it buzzes, or I'm on the wrong fret entirely, and then if I manage to HIT it just right..... my right hands wanders off and plays the wrong string. Sheesh. I have found going slower and slower helps a bit but feels more awkward.

    I don't practice every day and I know I should but my fingers still get sore. Maybe I should do just ten minutes of scales on the off days? I try to do scales, arpeggios, picking drills and then play some tablature or practice double stops. When I get totally frustrated I resort to strumming songs and singing along cuz that makes me happy.

    I do love the instrument but I'm anxious to get better. I go to a local jam every week (mostly just strum chords) and I definitely notice at the end of two hours my chord fingering gets sloppy as heck.

    Anyway - advice welcome.

  2. #2

    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    My advice is to pick an amount of time that makes it easy and try to practice for that amount of time every day, say 10 or 15 minutes.
    Play something that challenges you - scales, difficult chord fingerings, new songs, etc.
    If you still feel like playing afterwards, keep going and if you don't then you can stop.
    Don't worry too much about skipping a day, just try again the next day.
    Morris F5 #482, Kentucky KM-150s

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    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    You sorta hit it when you said that you're trying to go slow but it's awkward. Start slow and play a tune through till you don't really need to think about it much. Picking a song with a simple melody is a big part imo.

    Often a big part of these types of issues has to do with gripping the neck too tightly. To check this, touch your finger to any string so you get a muted note. Keeping picking and slowly add pressure until you get a clean note. Once you get a clean note, stop. That's all you need. If that's less pressure than you use now, that could be part of the issue.

    What songs are you working on?

    Do you have a teacher that can help point ya in the right direction?

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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Check out Mike Marshall's Fundamentals DVDs. He gets into some serious minutiae on really basic things like how to hold a mandolin, hold a pick, and fret strings. Really goos foundational stuff that is easy to overlook. Chris Henry's scale exercises are a great way to just work on fingering strings and getting right and left hand working together. I pick one right hand pattern and just run it up the positions every day, trying to constantly improve my speed. Everything is closed position, so it will challenge and build your fretting hand strength a great deal. Lastly, you REALLY need to play every day. It will develop callouses but it will also make the instrument feel familiar. If the instrument always feels a bit foreign, then you're never going to play smoothly.

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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    You need a good teacher. The issues you describe require the personal touch.

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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    I had much the same issue when I learned to fly but, after a while, things become second nature - a bit like riding a bike. I gave up flying years ago but like to think it would still come naturally to me. I still ride a bike! Give it time.

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Little known fact:
    Dopamine is a drug that the brain produces, and this drug gives you a feeling of pleasure.
    You have to figure out why, or in what situations it produces this drug and then you can feel pleasure on a daily basis.
    Then the whole of life is a pleasure!

    (it’s mainly produced through daily accomplishment of small, achievable and often incremental tasks)

    -you are at present unhappy with fumbling fingers, and now you are on a step by step pleasurable trip to become someone with agile, graceful, Tai Chi-like fingers.

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    Registered User Bren's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    45 years after first picking up a mandolin, I still get fumble fingers, but have learned to disguise it!

    Just keep playing, relax, breathe, build up your finger tip callouses, (hard fingertips help you get good intonation with a lighter touch) and do take a break of a day or two (but no more) now and then. You'll be surprised how much of your practising has been internalised and consolidated when you pick up the mandolin again
    Bren

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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    I am very much with Bren on this one. I have been playing since my teens, so over sixty years of playing, and still can get fumbles and like Bren I have developed ways of making those slips less obvious. I play mandolin family instruments and guitar equally and have to concentrate on the particular instrument I am playing, with regards to scale lengths and the different tunings and fingerings used on guitar and mandolins. There seems to be a sort of internalising and as Ray says of riding a bike, it is still there even if you have not done it in while.

    You only took the instrument up a couple of months ago, so you are at the very start of your mandolin journey and you seem already to be making progress. Attending sessions is a good idea as you pick up so much from other players. Hang in and remember not to do overdo your playing in the early stages which could cause damage to your hands and fingertips.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Well ... my first thought when I read the OP question was " the rest of your effing life". You practice, you play, you learn to cover your mistakes.... take your time and enjoy the process. Playing anything is not a race ... it's a journey. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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  20. #11

    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Yeah, forever. However, I suspect most of us saying that should also notice that over the decades we've slowly raised the bar. Possibly the same perfect-to-fumble ratio, but what we're doing keeps advancing in difficulty.

    To really amp it up (and notice the mistakes), try recording or using a looper. I got to the point where I could play for a crowd and be confident of my performance, but record or loop it? Yikes. I realize that what I've learned to do is to play through the little flubs and nobody notices. But when I keep hearing that flub over and over, it gets worse every time! So, ... do NOT try this at home! At least, not until you're ready for a serious dose of humility, and it sounds like you already have enough of that medicine.

    More seriously: as you get better, a looper is a great way to force you to (a) simplify what you're trying to do and (b) level up in performance especially timing. But you might want to give it a few years before punishing yourself with it.

    Also, I want to double down on what Simon DS said about dopamine. Find a way to practice so that it makes you feel good! I repeat: find a way to practice so that it makes you feel GOOD! Then, over time, you can't help but get better. (OK, there's a bit more to it than that. Your practice also has to be helpful, and not just endless noodling and repeating what you can already do well. But finding that dopamine trigger really is the important first step, even if it starts out with just noodling.)

    I'm 64, playing (guitar & keyboards) since 10 or so. I've always been clumsy, so good articulation (which I crave) has been a lifelong struggle that I always feel I'm losing. Regardless, over the decades, I've managed to become a half-decent performer, and I definitely enjoy playing, alone or with others, privately or on stage. And now I'm facing dealing with "essential tremor" which gets worse as I age and interferes with coordination. It'll be a challenge to focus on playing less but more musically meaningfully as I lose control of my fingers. But better to face that challenge than the thought of not playing!

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  22. #12
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    I switched to the mandolin a bit more than five years ago. I've found that I progress faster when I pretty much stick to playing the music that I enjoy. And, when my fingers begin to trip over themselves, I will generally give myself just a few more minutes and then stop playing until later. I do play nearly every day, and part of that routine is helped by the fact that I keep my mandolin case right next to my comfy chair. I used to fumble over strings of notes in 15 to 20 minutes, but now I am generally good for an hour or two of constant playing. My own rules dictate that when my fingers get sore, or when my fingers begin to act like they are drunk, it is time to take a break. I still have a long ways to go, but I have gotten considerably better over time. For me, it is all about playing for pleasure.

    Cheers, and good luck!
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    I like to play daily, if I don’t it seems like I missed something. If singing and playing cords makes you happy then that’s what I would be doing everyday. But for learning new things on your instrument maybe you should try doing two short sessions where your fingers and your mind will stay fresher, one in the morning and another in the afternoon or evening versus one longer session. Playing out with others will definitely make you a better player but that doesn’t mean you have to play the full two hours, play a couple songs and then sit one or two out, when you start playing sloppily stop, take a break or close your eyes and just listen to what everyone else is playing. learning for me sometimes comes in small steps, good luck and just keep playing.

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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    A friend of mine was learning banjo for some reason. He had a how-to book. In a box at the bottom of page 6 it said: How do I get that fast, clean sound? Answer on page 22.

    A box at the bottom of page 22 said: Practice!
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    I practiced this afternoon and everything was fine.
    Then I cranked the metronome up to, ‘breathtakingly-holdyourhatdown-jackrabbit-superfast’

    Would you believe it.
    Those good-for-nothing fingers start fumbling.
    This happens to me all the time!
    What am I doing wrong?

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  30. #16
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Just to be clear - by "fumble fingers" do you mean you're not able to get your fingers to play the notes you intended to play (i.e. trying to hit the 5th fret, but over / under shoot and get the 6th or 4th fret) or do you mean that you're not able to play something at speed yet? Two entirely different ideas.

    If it means you're not able to get your fingers to play the notes you intended (which is what it sounds like to me), then go slow and play songs you like (and can sing either out loud or in your head), and make sure you don't have the DEATH GRIP! Often, many beginner problems boil down to the death grip as a part or the entire issue to solve.

    If it means you're not able to play something at speed yet - then the answer is more simple. Pick a couple tunes, listen to them as much as you possible can stand, and play them slowly at first. The scales and etc help for somethings like soloing and etc - but the melody is the soul of any song. Start with that.

    Either way, getting a teacher or coach would be helpful I'm sure.
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  32. #17
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Consider also that the ‘death grip’ on the fret hand can sometimes be because there’s not enough forearm pressure on the pick arm.
    And try to use almost no fret hand, thumb pressure.

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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    Consider also that the ‘death grip’ on the fret hand can sometimes be because there’s not enough forearm pressure on the pick arm.
    And try to use almost no fret hand, thumb pressure.
    Or that the mandolin is not balanced well with the strap. IMO, if I have to hold the mandolin up with my hands, then I'm introducing additional friction with the mandolin resting on my hand that will make it harder to move around the neck. For that reason, I stopped using the scroll to hold my strap and loop it over the middle of the headstock (between the G and D pegs) so I don't really need any pressure to keep it in place. No issues with tuning or being able to get at all the frets etc. To each their own but that's my $0.02
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  36. #19
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    I agree, the straps are really important too.

    One interesting exercise is to hang the mandolin by it’s straps in the centre of the room. The weight of the neck will make it drop.
    Now hold the end pin and input a force (down) that raises the neck. Hold that.
    Now use a single finger to push down (into the mandolin neck) just to try to fret the third string at the second fret. (mandolin will probably pivot)
    Now input another force at the end pin end of the mandolin to counteract the movement of the neck. (force towards where you belly normally is).
    By this time the whole mandolin should move towards where your belly would be.
    Now use your third hand to push from the back, where your belly perhaps pushes.
    Work out the relative forces (There are others at different angles) and try to imagine them while you’re actually holding the mandolin, and playing.

    I think there’s a vid by one of the famous guys (not Einstein) where the mandolin is held very firmly in position with no fret hand, sort of loose too, but like it’s definitely not going to move without your (extra) input.
    Very personal, but I think this makes it much easier on the fingers, with far fewer fet hand variables involved.

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  38. #20

    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    If the problem is playing faster (even if your top speed isn't very high), there's good thread or three thread for that.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...vice?p=1863783

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...peed-Exercises

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...d-and-accuracy

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  40. #21

    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    I don't have a teacher. I have to find one. At first I thought I could do it with books and youtube but for technique things I think nothing would be better than a teacher. Trying to cheap out!

  41. #22

    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Wow. I death grip the fret hand for sure. Hmmmmm.

  42. #23

    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    Yes I mean when I am playing I go for 5th fret for example and end up on 6th, or I fret the wrong string, or my fingers trip over each other. I am now trying to go slower and NOT LOOK (that is correct, right??) and use a metronome set really slow. I did learn to touch type pretty well about 50 years ago so I am thinking this isn't too much different. Thank you.

  43. #24

    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    No I don't have a teacher. Trying to do it with books and youtube but I think I need to find a teacher for the basics with technique. Thanks.

  44. #25
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    Default Re: How long does it take to get over fumble fingers?

    As a novice or early intermediate learner it’s extremely hard to evaluate your playing while you’re playing. If you have a smart phone use the recording app to record your practice. Then after you’ve practiced for a few minutes play it back and listen to what you’ve played. Don’t wait for the end of your session, it should be a part of the session. When you recognize something you need to do better, go back and work on that right away, while it’s fresh in your mind.

    Above all, practice slowly and accurately. The tempo should be slow and your movements should be at normal speed. IOW while you play slowly you still want to move your hand/fingers quickly from one note or chord to the next. That’ll give you performance speed much sooner than practicing mistakes at fast tempos for a long time.
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