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Thread: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

  1. #26
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    I think his point was that if you look at playing as "practice," then you classify it as work. You don't have fun at it, you work at it, you give yourself work assignments, you consign yourself to boring stuff.

    If you just play, you're deciding to have fun. His point was that even when he practiced scales, he was playing, not "practicing." Why just do the boring practice of scales when you can play the same notes but in rhythm--blues, folk, jig, polka, whatever? The thing is, this is music, not mathematics. It's supposed to be a communicative medium, not some sort of platonic practice.

    And no, A., though I am a punster, I didn't get it.

  2. #27

    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Lackey View Post
    Man I am frustrated right now. I have only owned my mando for a few weeks and have been working on the various scales in an attempt to work on my right hand rhythm and fretting notes with my left. I figured this would be a good way to work on those techniques, I am not trying to tear it up right now just trying to get clean notes and timing down.

    However I feel like I am hitting a mini wall. How did you guys who are no longer noobs get through this part of the learning cycle? I am sure the answer is more practice. In my mind I can see myself beyond this point and playing some things I know I have no shot at right now, but it feels like its so out of reach right now.

    Just had to vent a bit...
    Here are some ideas:

    Join a bluegrass band Alan, as early as you possibly can. Even if all you can do is chops and a bit of harmony singing to start with. Nothing will drive your playing on quicker than having a firm direction to follow and a pragmatic, specific end result to achieve. Playing with a band will give a real focus to your practice and a sense of meaning to whole process.

    Expect to struggle a little - if you are not struggling then you are not learning. At the end of each practice session you should be physically playing and mentally understanding the instrument differently to the way you do at the start. Remenber to improve you must physically play differently to the way you play now - only at present you don't know what those changes need to be or have the physical building blocks in place to make them - that takes time.

    A performance plateau is not necessarily a learning plateau. We tend to have 'jumps' in performance standard and flat areas in between. But the work you put in during the 'flats' is actually preparing you for the next 'jump'.

    Robin

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  4. #28
    Searching for the Sound
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    Allan, thanks for brining up this thread. Speaking of the "wall", while I am still thrilled to have made a commitment to playing and I'm having a blast (and learning so much from MandolinCafe), I too seem to have hit a wall and feel that my progression is slowing. I've been playing for 5 months, religiously for 1-2 hrs a day, but find I'm not mastering the tunes I've been practicing from the beginning. I warm up with scales, then chord progressions, and then picking tunes. I still stumble through "Brian Boro's March", which is the first fiddle tune an instructor gave me at my first lesson. I have about 10 tunes that I try to play each day, and while some are better than others, I would have thought I'd have them down by now. I've come a long way, my wife is impressed, but this wall thing is frustrating ...

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  6. #29
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    So here's something passed along by the guy who leads the contradance band that I play with when I can:

    Play it by ear.


    And:

    Don't get caught up in playing it EXACTLY the way the "music" says to play it.

    The point he makes is this: "Whiskey Before Breakfast" is a tune, it's not a religious text. It wasn't commanded by God like the Bible or the Ten Commandments. So you don't have to play it the way Bill Monroe or Willie Nelson played it. You can play the tune the way it sounds in your head. That's how it's been played throughout it's lifetime. That's music; music isn't the compulsive adherence to one particular artist's version played one particular time in front of a recorder.

    This sounds really hard, but it's not, it turns out. You only have to know two things: (1) the key and (2) how the song goes. Well, there's a third, I guess--it's (3) the scale of one key. But if you know the key, then the scale always has the same pattern as every other scale ... so you can kind of guess where the melody's going. Then you can play without having to play it exactly they way it's written or the way it's recorded. And this not only makes your playing better, it also helps you learn scales--but not because they're scales, because they're the components of the music you want to play.

    And the great thing is that, like Itzzy says: you get to play, not practice, and you become a better mandolinist just by accident.

    I come from a classical music family--play every note exactly, don't curl your pinky, watch your wrist position--and this approach has been a complete revolution for me. It has taken me less than a year to go from the point that I can't even guess if the next note in a tune is up or down, or how far (half step? whole step?), to the point that yesterday I sat and played along with Pandora, figuring out keys and movement up and down the scale on the fly. And I'm not a very competent musician. Not a musician at all. This is not as hard as people want to make it.

  7. #30
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    belbein,

    I think I put too much pressure on myself to play better than my skills at the moment, which are as new as they can be. I watch the videos on YT do beginner mando stuff and see people playing fast and clean and I want to do that now LOL. I just have to be patient and learn how to practice. Have taken a couple of lessons but the guy, while really nice, mainly teaches guitar and does. To have a lot of experience teaching mandolin. So, going to look for someone else.

    In the meantime will just keep on working on the basics and techniques. Is still don't have a clue how to free form play along with anything as I am still learning where the various notes are and where progression from those goes.

    It's fun even if frustrating, but I anticipated that so won't slow me down.

    Thanks to everyone for the words of advice and encouragement. This place is truly the place to be if you play this little beast.

  8. #31
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    Alan: Again, I think that thing about us putting too much pressure on ourselves was Perlman's point, and also my band director's. Just know that I am a fellow sufferer with you on this suffering thing.

    A quick story . . . I was not allowed to play folk guitar when I was a kid. When I got old enough and had time enough to buy myself a guitar and pay for my own lessons, I chose to learn . . . classical guitar. The reason for "classical" was the early childhood brainwashing that the ONLY proper way to play music was the CLASSICAL way. It took me about a year to figure out that classical guitar was waaaaaay too demanding for me to ever be any good, or to enjoy playing. I put down the classical guitar and left music aside alltogether for more than 10 years. Then for one reason and another I went back, this time with banjo. This time I decided I was only going to get good enough to play along with a guitarist: 3 chords, a few picking patterns, and I was going to be satisfied. With NO PRESSURE, I actually learned . . . because I was playing, not working. I learned chords up and down the fretboard, in every major key and a bunch of minor ones, learned by accident chord progressions starting at literally any point on the fretboard because it was fun, not work. The more I played the more I wanted to learn--not to learn how to play a minor scale because that was the next thing in the theory book, but because I wanted to play a song I liked that was in E minor. What a life lesson! (Though I had yet to ascend to the pinnacle of creation, Mandolin.)

    So, my advice, if you want to learn this instrument, is to learn exactly ONE scale on the mandolin that is most popular ... the D major scale. Once you've got that down, fool around with improvising some tunes in D that you know well enough to hum. And only after you've done that, tackle a book like this: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/en...to-Doublestops. All it really does is to give you a clue about how to translate a D scale pattern to any other key (hint: they are all exactly the same pattern, no matter where on the fingerboard you play them--the only thing that changes is where you start and where you hit the "carriage return," if you're old enough to remember what that means). After that you can do the FFCP and all that other complicated stuff. This isn't anywhere near as hard as it is made out to be, because you don't have to learn all that complicated stuff . . . at least, not until you're a good enough musician that "hard" is the next logical easy step.

    That's my opinion, anyway.

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  10. #32
    Registered User AnitaM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    Great thread with lots of good advice. I too am new to playing the Mandolin and have hit the proverbial wall, so this post comes comes right in the nick of time. I purchased Greg Horne's Beginning Mandolin book and have found myself completely bored with playing scales and trying to read the music. I also have Mandolin for Dummies and am thinking its time to switch gears, but can't help thinking that I may be trying to do too much too quickly. So far I've learned to play Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire (G, C, D) and am in process of learning Gone Again by the Indigo Girls (G, D, C, Am, Em), but the Am and Em chords are a real challenge for me (trying to play with 3 finger chords). I've also been trying to practice picking by learning You Are My Sunshine. Am I trying to do too much too soon?
    Late 2012 Eastman MD305
    Early 2012 Eastman MD605

  11. #33
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    It's hard to say what's good advice for someone you've never met or heard play but I've been teaching for twenty years and have formed a few general impressions of the sorts of trials beginners go through.

    First, I would never say don't practise scales. Scales are the basis of music and you need to learn them. You do not need to learn them all at once, so I'd say stick with just a few keys, the ones that are easiest to finger. This will likely be because they have open strings as part of the scale and don't call the pinkie finger into use very much. Closed positions and flat and sharp keys can come later.

    Make sure you work on right hand technique, alternating pickstrokes, letting your wrist loosen up. This can actually make you play sloppier at first but you eventually realize the advantage of a loose wrist.

    Finally, learn some simple melodies. The simpler, the better. Oh Susannah, Twinkle Little Star, nursery rhymes...anything will do. Once you've learned a few melodies, spend a bit of time with a metronome.

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  13. #34

    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    I Got a Mando for Christmas I was having the same problem but my school has a Music ensemble which allows any instrument one wants to bring and the teacher there has given me a few tips which really help. But what I find is most helpful is having to pratice to prevent myself from letting everyone else in the group down. I have really seen a good increase in the 2 weeks we have had classes (only once a week do we meet)
    To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself incredible and inconceivable - Aaron Copland

  14. #35
    Registered User Pasha Alden's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    Agreed. As a beginner I know the ceiling you speak of. Must say much of mandolerious said applied for me - I have done some cross picking, kept at easier scales, and strummed a few songs with chords. Also am working furiously on strumming technique, my first performance is 16 March. Can't wait!

    Playing:
    Jbovier a5 2013;
    Crafter M70E acoustic mandolin
    Jbovier F5 mandola 2016

  15. #36

    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    Cool! Another "Alan" who just took up the mandolin (and you spell it right! )

    I've been breaking my practice/playtime into three areas - play some chords, committing a new one (or three) to memory each time. After that I spend time on scales or just building controllable rhythm/speed (fingering). At the end I play through a song or three (or four, or five!).

  16. #37
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    Quote Originally Posted by belbein View Post
    Why just do the boring practice of scales when you can play the same notes but in rhythm--blues, folk, jig, polka, whatever? The thing is, this is music, not mathematics. It's supposed to be a communicative medium, not some sort of platonic practice.
    .
    I agree totally. There are tons of tunes that contain scale passages, arpeggios, etc. Play those and you'll be learning the scales by osmosis and having fun at the same time. Remember, they call it PLAYING the mandolin, not WORKING the mandolin.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
    www.busmanwhistles.com
    Handcrafted pennywhistles in exotic hardwoods.

  17. #38

    Default Re: Getting past the frustrations as a mondo newbie.

    Can't imagine being bored with a mando in my hands, tunes or scales.

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