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Thread: Best way to learn to play Smooth and Clean (not sloppy)?

  1. #26
    Registered User thesecretmandolinist's Avatar
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    Jun 2022
    Somewhere beyond the deep blue sea

    Default Re: Best way to learn to play Smooth and Clean (not sloppy)?

    There are only so many movements we can make on the instrument. Break them down and practice each movement to the point you can't mess it up even if you try. This focus on micro-details of playing will tighten your playing up extremely quickly.
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  2. #27
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Upstate New York
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    Default Re: Best way to learn to play Smooth and Clean (not sloppy)?

    OK so the advice above is all great. Spot on. What helped and helps me on this specific issue is this.

    I grab something I can play, scales I think are the best, but any moderately complex fiddle tune will do. I play it slowly and as clean and smooth as possible. Like I was trying to convince a beautiful romantic music fan that mandolin was legit.

    Then I up the speed until I can't play smoothly. I actually do this the other way, go fast enough that I can't play smoothly, and then slow it down incrementally till I can. But no matter. I am searching for that transition point where faster can't be done smooth.

    I then work right there, over and over, trying to suss out what gets in the way and fixing them or managing them.

    That transition speed has moved much higher in speed over the years, but there is still a transition point, and always will be.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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  3. #28
    Registered User WJF's Avatar
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    Apr 2003
    Warwick, NY

    Default Re: Best way to learn to play Smooth and Clean (not sloppy)?

    There is some good advice here but I'll add my two bits ... If you aren't video recording yourself periodically during practice, you're flying blind. Think about all the things that go into playing just two or three notes: what pitch am I supposed to play? Where is it located on my instrument? how much time value is assigned to it? Is it a down-stroke or an up-stroke? Is my finger close enough to the fret to get the sound cleanly or is it too far away (buzz) or too close (choked)? Am I leaving my fingers down from one note to the next or am I allowing them to fly? Am I carrying speed-killing tension anywhere in my hands, arms or shoulders? I could go on, but hopefully, you get the point. If you aren't actively looking for these little things, you WILL miss something!

    Combine this with the fact that the brain is very good and efficient at learning new things and not so great at unlearning them, and if you aren't recording and catching the little things that could potentially become big obstacles in your playing down the road you really are flying blind.

    I encourage all of my students to periodically record themselves during practice ... just 30 seconds or so at the beginning and end of each session (noting of course, that if they want to record longer chunks, there's nothing wrong with that at all). Then review each recording multiple times looking for different things each time - because again, the human brain does not multi-task well. So the first time, maybe look for flaws in what's happening with your right hand, view it again, and focus on what's happening with your left hand, view it again and listen for overall timing, tone-production, etc.

    The students I have who embrace recording on a regular basis, flat out get down the musical path faster. And the ones that don't? ... Well, I still love them and gently prod them towards this strategy

    Give it a try ... just 30 seconds to start. You'll be amazed at the things you discover and how helpful it is!!
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  5. #29
    Registered User
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    May 2016
    Houston TX

    Default Re: Best way to learn to play Smooth and Clean (not sloppy)?

    I don't tap that hard, so neighbors would not be a consideration. I don't use a metronome but I believe that it is better, because if I come to a hard passage I tend to change the rhythm to accommodate, and that is not helping.

  6. #30
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    South of Fort Worth, Texas

    Default Re: Best way to learn to play Smooth and Clean (not sloppy)?

    Best way to keep time on mandolin & guitar - in my opinion - is by developing the groove in your right hand, rather than foot tapping. But there’s nothing wrong with having your whole body involved if you have that groove in your strumming/picking hand. Bang your head, tap your foot, dance or sway, whatever floats your boat. But if you can’t find the groove in that hand, it’s all for naught.

    BTW it’s why at 68 I can’t play really fast. Lose the groove in the right hand :so sad:
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