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Thread: Trouble with Chords

  1. #1

    Default Trouble with Chords

    Hello! I'm new to mandolin, but I have a lot of musical experience. I'm working on learning my first mandolin chords, & I keep having the same problem no matter which chord I try to play.

    My fingers keep hitting strings they're not meant to! For example, when I play an D major chord, my pointer finger presses down the first E string, but it doesn't quite depress the second E string all the way. When I adjust my grip & successfully depress the second E string, it ends up partially hits the first G string, too.

    I've tried adjusting my hold of the instrument & my hands, but I'm stuck. I've watched several YouTube videos, but I haven't found anything that specifically addresses this issue. Are there any tricks to hitting the right combination of strings with the left hand? Does anyone have suggestions for YouTube videos or books that might help with this?

    Thanks for entertaining a question from a beginner. Any advice would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    It was suggested to me to angle my fretting hand towards the head stock rather than straight on to the fret board. I am also relatively new to this instrument.
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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    If you are trying to play a two finger D chord try using your 2nd and 4th fingers instead of 1ar and 3rd.
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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    I agree with pops1 - use the index and ring for D (2-0-0-2)
    if you need to - start only playing the first 3 strings (2-0-0-x) omit the E string (or vice versa play only the top 3 omitting the G string (x-0-0-2)
    do that until you are comfortable and then add the 2nd fret of the E string.
    classical mandolin teaches to use the index middle and ring finger, and only use the pinky when necessary.
    So I doubt many players follow that to the letter ( I don't)
    There are probably some online demonstration of basic chords and how to form them, maybe Dave Benedict has something out there
    the Mel Bay book - learn to play mandolin has the chords with pictures not sure if that's available anymore.
    Don't press too hard, try to relax both the left and right hand ( easier said than done I know).
    Watch other players if you can, even on youtube or something like that.
    Good Luck, a lot of us have been there, I'll admit I was already used to fretting guitar and 12 string guitar so that part of mandolin was not new to me.
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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    Quote Originally Posted by xmarksthespot View Post
    Hello! I'm new to mandolin, but I have a lot of musical experience. I'm working on learning my first mandolin chords, & I keep having the same problem no matter which chord I try to play.

    My fingers keep hitting strings they're not meant to! For example, when I play an D major chord, my pointer finger presses down the first E string, but it doesn't quite depress the second E string all the way. When I adjust my grip & successfully depress the second E string, it ends up partially hits the first G string, too.

    I've tried adjusting my hold of the instrument & my hands, but I'm stuck. I've watched several YouTube videos, but I haven't found anything that specifically addresses this issue. Are there any tricks to hitting the right combination of strings with the left hand? Does anyone have suggestions for YouTube videos or books that might help with this?

    Thanks for entertaining a question from a beginner. Any advice would be much appreciated.
    The trouble may be clear from the words "hold" and "grip". I've had to point this out many times before: you just don't hold the instrument. Secure the instrument in place using a strap and a portion of your forearm, then bring your fretting hand to the neck and start playing.

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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    Indeed, the angle of the instrument is exceptionally important to clean playing. Everybody's body is different so you need to experiment with your playing position. Which you have started. Firstly, always use a strap so the instrument is in the same advantageous position. Some gain this by using a foot stool or block of wood or their case. The angle that works best for me is somewhere around 40' across my chest. And practice using loose hands fingers and wrist. Be careful not to over grip your instrument. Lastly, is it well set up? A poor setup makes it a fight to do anything on a mandolin. R/
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    Also, to reiterate what colemole said, make sure you're using mandolin technique and not guitar technique when fretting the mandolin. good guitar technique -- fingers perpendicular to the fretboard -- is terrible mandolin technique. You need to hold it more like a fiddle/violin than guitar, with the fingers angled to the fretboard. Easiest way to mimic what you want is to hold the mandolin up to your chin as if it were a fiddle and see the angle your fingers fall into. Then use that angle when you play the mandolin.

    As for specific chord technique, i've been told it just takes practice (once you get the angle right). I don't play chords, so i can't give you any specific hints, but i've also been told that there's nothing wrong with starting with two-fingered chords and advancing from there once you get a clean sound. So don't worry about starting with fewer than four fingers as you learn.
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    Registered User Ken Berner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    Lately I have been reading chord charts with some I am unfamiliar with such as; A2sus, G2, Bb2. What do the numerals indicate? I have seen them as high as 6, 9.

  10. #9
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    It’s the notes of the scale, or more technically, the “scale degrees”.

    For example, G9 (or G2) would be a G chord withe the 9th or second note in the G scale added to the chord.

    You Get the 9, 11 and 13 by using a two-octave scale.

    1 G
    2 A
    3 B
    4 C
    5 D
    6 E
    7 F#
    8 G (1st octave)
    9 A
    10 B
    11 C
    12 D
    13 E
    14 F#
    15 G (2nd octave)

    As you can see from the above, the 2 and the 9 are the same note, the A note, etc.

    The G major chord is built from the 1, 3 & 5 of the scale (root, third, fifth) as are all major chords. You extend the chord by adding the 7 (or the b7), the 9, the 11 and the 13 at will … these can be added to the major triad, which in G is G, B, D (1,3,5) the G major chord.

    A sus chord is different though. Sus means the third is suspended in the major triad, and either the 2nd or the 4th replaces it. So a sus chord is an altered chord, not an extended chord.

    Gsus2 is G, A, D (1,2,5)
    Gsus4 is G, C, D (1,4,5)
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  12. #10
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Trouble with Chords

    A couple of hours with a teacher will sort out a lots of handling problems.
    As Ralph has said, the mandolin is held by the straps and picking forearm pressure. It should be firmly in place like that from ‘grip’ on the other side of the mandolin that you’d expect, the picking side.
    Get someone to pull down gently on the headstock, and get them to push horizontally on the headstock to turn the mando counter-clockwise when looking down from the ceiling), it shouldn’t move because your picking forearm will push the mando clockwise (No fret hand at all).
    No thumb touching the neck, just downward pressure from the finger tips on fretboard.
    Good luck, it’s a great journey!

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