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Thread: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fields

  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Dec 2013
    Almaty, Kazakhstan

    Default Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fields

    Howdy folks, after playing classical mandolin consistently for about 10 years, I took a 6 month break due to some major life changes, including moving to Kazakhstan. Today I picked up the mando, for the 1st time since then, and it felt so good, but boy was I rusty. Beyond rusty. I can see I need to just get back into the fingers falling where they should, not flattening out, and other basics. It seems like my tremolo has disappeared.

    Also, I've decided I'd like to try to learn some other areas of music. I'm going to do some ear training for the first time in my life. Maybe learn Irish, classic rock, or maybe bluegrass, old time or jazz. I'm not sure. In the US I played in 2 community orchestras, which I loved, but it was a huge time commitment. Now I don't have that (although some of the time has been filled by trying to learn survival skills in Russian), I'd really like to be able to go to jams when I come back to the US, and now's the time to try new things.

    I'd welcome any tips on how to get back into it. At some point I'll have some some mandolin books arriving (dealing with modes, chord melodies, basic technique), but that stuff may be months away from getting here. I've got 110 Irish songs for mandolin on my phone, so I'm going to try to learn some of them by ear. But I guess my thought at the moment is that I need to focus on my technique. But how best to do that?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    The best approach to starting ear training is to pick out melodies for simple songs that you know. Pick out songs that you can hum or sing. Make sure that you hum or sing them accurately and consistently. Trying to pick the melodies may bring some surprises as you find out you are not necessarily hitting all of the notes or not hitting them the same.

    Also as you pick out the songs do it phrase by phrase rather than the whole song at once or one note at a time. This gives the flow and expression of the tune without overwhelming you.

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  4. #3
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    Cornwall & London
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    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    I can recommend The Mandolin Companion for getting back into daily technique building.
    You can get it in PDF format
    I think you'll find it brings back a lot of what you knew fairly quickly.
    That in conjunction with a few tune books would be a good way to get back in the saddle.

    A great source of Irish tunes is the Kingston Irish Tune Book

    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

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  6. #4
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    Sep 2002
    San Antonio, Texas

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    Your post caught my eye for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I too ďtook a breakĒ and then came back to music. The excuse that I use for my 23 YEAR hiatus is that I went to Kazakhstan, to Tengiz to be exact for a year. I went to Kazakhstan to work and just didnít/ couldnít bring my instruments, guitar and mandolin along w8th me. After that year I just didnít play anymore. Iím not too sure why not. Maybe it was I was afraid that it was all gone. Maybe life just got in the way or maybe it was that I had made my passion, playing bluegrass, into work by pressing myself too hard. That was back in 1993 and things were very, very different in that part of the world. It was an experience that I wouldnít take a million dollars for, but then again, I also wouldnít give you a nickel to do it again. As to the break, donít worry too much about it. itís all still there inside you. I was shocked when I decided to resume my musical journey two years ago. It is coming back to me much, much more than I anticipated. No, Iím not back to where I was and at age 76, I probably never will be, but Iím having fun. You just have to wake up that muscle memory a bit. Oh yes, unfortunately the bad habits come back too.
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  7. #5

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    It sounds like your musical tastes are pretty diverse, If I was there I would be trying to find some local musicians to play with.

  8. #6

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    Just out of curiosity, what takes you to most glorious nation Kazakhstan?

  9. #7
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    May 2012
    Seattle WA

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    IMO Ear training is easiest with a piano to start though you could do it on any instrument I suppose.

    While I'm not a great singer personally, I've found that practicing vocals (like do re me etc) is incredibly helpful to becoming more familiar with intervals - which ultimately make it easier to hear "oh, that's a 5th". I don't think you need to be a good singer to have this type of practice pay off - so don't let that stop you.

    There's also a slew of ear training apps you can get. I've used a few in the past, but they aren't on my current phone and I forget their names. I think "perfect pitch" was one of the apps, but I can't recall. Either way, many of these apps have practices you can use to help.

    There's a few tricks to helping learn the intervals too - like the Jaws theme is a minor 2nd and star wars main theme is a perfect 5th etc. Here's a good site to help there - Reviewing that stuff is really helpful in learning by ear.
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  10. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    Yes! I would include Kazakh music in your list of possibilities especially since you are there.

    Here's a short article:

    These song are accompanied by a cousin of a mandolin, dombra:


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  11. #9
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    Sep 2003

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    Just a coincidence, but I am a ham radio operator and had my first contact with Kazakhstan yesterday. The best thing to get back in shape picking, is to just play. It will come back fairly soon. Your finger callouses will return and you will be back to where you were before you stopped. Someone told me many years ago to practice in the dark to improve your ear and help you play without having to look at the fingerboard while you play. If you cannot see the fingerboard, you will begin to play with your ears and brain. It can be a good help for many. It’s a simple thing to do, and you will begin to play what you hear by just doing it for a while. Many players have enough theory and techniques, but that can get in your way too. Just play the song as you hear it in your head. Good luck on your new life’s adventure.
    Have a Great Day!
    Joe Vest

  12. #10
    Registered User haggardphunk's Avatar
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    Sep 2014
    Littleton, CO

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    I sold my mandolin to focus on my guitar playing. Took years off. Basically forgot everything but within two weeks not only was I back, but I was better than when I left.
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  13. #11

    Default Re: Tips for someone who took a 6 month break and is changing fie

    I agree with others that the knowledge is still inside of you. Maybe just a little practice to get up to speed.

    FWIW, I played banjo as a teenager. Now, 50 years later I only pick one up when I visit a music store. Usually, people are surprised/impressed with my playing -- "oh, I didn't know you played banjo!" Yes, I still know how, but I'm just a lot slower due to lack of practice. (certainly not old age....)

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