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Thread: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

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    Default Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Just wondering how long it takes to get "clean." My teacher says is takes 10,000 hours of practice to be fully competent. I've done the math, and he's right. But I do not intend to become as competent as he is -- just clean, that's all. I submitted a "wimpy notes" thread that people responded to really great. I practice about 30-60 minutes a day (most days, sometimes longer sometimes less).

    I get real bored playing the same 25 tunes for an upcoming 2-hour paid gig.

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    Registered User Mike Bunting's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    I'm sure you must play some things "clean" if you are getting paid. 30 to 60 min a day practice is fine, obviously you need to practice the tunes for your gig but probably mixing in some scales & arpeggios would help stretch your skills and maybe make those 25 tunes a little less boring. I'm not sure how long it takes, I've played Mandolin 17 years and guitar 45 and not everything I play is "clean" on either one. I do know the new tunes I learn get cleaner , faster then they used to.
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    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marian View Post
    Just wondering how long it takes to get "clean." My teacher says is takes 10,000 hours of practice to be fully competent. I've done the math, and he's right. But I do not intend to become as competent as he is -- just clean, that's all. I submitted a "wimpy notes" thread that people responded to really great. I practice about 30-60 minutes a day (most days, sometimes longer sometimes less).

    I get real bored playing the same 25 tunes for an upcoming 2-hour paid gig.
    I submit your teacher may be a charlatan for full competence can never be attained...but yeah 10,000 hours sounds about right

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry View Post
    full competence can never be attained...but yeah 10,000 hours sounds about right
    True, there never is an end. And that's independent from exactly what you do in those alleged 10,000 hours - boredom is a sure sign that they are not exploited to the maximum, and it's an incentive to remember why you chose that instrument in the first place.

    Don't practice, play. And play for your own enjoyment, not to impress your teacher or your audience. Playing a gig is supposed to be just a phase included in those 10,000 hours, not an end in itself.

    And to answer the thread title: difficulty of technique is determined not by the instrument but by what its masters can do and make you want to do as well.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    I have been to the monroe style mando camp, I like to attend the advanced sessions, I also will attend the beginners, one in particular a class on tremelo by Mike Compton, he looked around the room at those attending and said I notice a lot of you have been attending my advanced classes, my response was I will always be a beginner, he laughed. My point is I am no way considered an advanced player I feel no matter how much you know, there will always be something new to learn, this comes through playing and practice. A lifetime.
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    David Mold OldSausage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    If you're doing all that practice but you're not picking clean, there is almost certainly a problem with your technique. Your teacher should address that instead of burbling unscientific nonsense about 10,000 hours.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    To learn to play "cleanly," I suggest one won't arrive by only playing tunes. You have to work on specific fundamentals, isolating pick stroke, finger grip, fretting facility, right hand/left hand coordination, blah, blah, blah... 10,000 hours may be the magic number, but there's an efficient way of going about it that can enable you to play cleanly before you get there. It won't happen just playing tunes. Exercises and good pedagogy will fast track the journey. Healthy vegetables in the daily diet.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Some good advice stated above...Here is my take on playing clean: Play some slow simple songs over and over and try to use a style that makes you feel comfortable with it...A lot of beginners think that they have to play like the pros in order to be considered ready to play in a band, you will be surprised as to how many songs there are out there that are pure simple to play and not have to resort to speed and scales....If all you have is 25 songs you have just scraped the bottom of the barrel....You didn`t say what type of music you are wanting to play so maybe you are trying to learn some complicated material too quick....

    ABOVE ALL, DON`T GIVE UP...It will all fall into place one day when you least expect it....

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Perry and Old Sausage, I think my teacher was being somewhat tongue in cheek. I think he is really saying "a lifetime," as Wilbur James puts it so well. (And, I hasten to add, I only take lessons from him once in a while...every few months.) But, based on a 40 year study by the US Foreign Service Institute on language learning, which I studied in grad school, 10,000 hours is a useful figure on learning a new language skill. One can decide how many hours a day, a week, or a year to practice. This is how I think of it, and I know a lot of others would think this is either silly or overwhelming! Also, in defense of my teacher, he's a recognized world-class mandolinist in many genres, and, in my view as a teacher myself, an amazing teacher. And we all know how rare that combination is in any musician!

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Willie, I love your recent post. Very encouraging. The band actually has probably 50 tunes ready to perform, that we have performed, just not all in the same gig. I myself know maybe a 100 tunes? I've never counted. One of our band members knows over 1,000 tunes in several genres. The genre my band and I play is mostly Old Time. The melodies are beautiful, and I realize now that some are much harder than others. And yes, folks, I play a lot of them very clean including tremolo. Tremolo is easier on waltzes than on reels. I can't play jigs to speed.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    I dont think the mandolin by itself is harder to play than other instruments. Heck, I find it a lot easier to play than guitar, and look at all the lunkheads who play guitar with ease! I mean, the regular seven fret interval between strings makes much more sense to me than the way other instruments are strung.

    I think you may need to take a look at some basics. Is your action too high? That could make even easy riffs a struggle. Lower your bridge as far as you can without causing fret buzz. Also, slow down your parts until you can pick them cleanly, then gradually bring them up to performance speed, dwelling at each speed where you have problems until you get clean there before increasing your tempo.

    BTW, that 10,000 hour figure gets tossed around a lot, and I have no idea where it came from nor how close it is to the truth - nor how much it matters. It isn't like you put in that many hours and you will be good, automatically - if it were, I wish I had been keeping track. It's more like, you put in your time, work on everything, keep a sense of fun and enjoyment in what you are doing, and believe in your ability and how much you have progressed, and one day you'll realize you are where you wanted to be.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Journey Bear wrote: "slow down your parts until you can pick them cleanly, then gradually bring them up to performance speed, dwelling at each speed where you have problems until you get clean there before increasing your tempo."

    That is just what I am doing today. I started a Klezmer tune in Dm which has a lot of beautiful chords I was not familiar with smooth playing -- Bb, F, Gm and Dm among others. I play that for a while and it's easy to "really get into" because it's so new and difficult. Then I go over some of my gig tunes and go slowly on the wimpy note ones, and up to speed on the ones already smooth and clean. It's been enlightening to discover that most of my tunes are fine, and discover which ones need extra work. I've got a full two weeks to improve. No ploblem.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Yeah, that 10,000 hours thing is a big cliche, that really got popular from Malcom Gladwell's book, The Outliers. Sometimes I think it's true, other times not.

    Here's a quick Wiki on it, but you can read the book to get more of a sense of it . .
    Naw... get more hours on the Mando "clock" since you have to get to 10,000

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    There is also an aspect involved of confidence to deliver over time. If I need a break for a certain song I will just start with the first few notes and begin to construct or compose the lines of the solo according to it's changes and my taste and ability. When I am doing that I give no care or notice to how long it takes me or how many bad notes I have to hit to find the right ones. By the time I begin to have the solo under my hands, I will have played it enough that things like it's clean execution will have taken care of itself. When I was less experienced, I simply just didn't have the ability to do this at all, but now that I do, I don't have to waste time wasting my time. It becomes a little edgier when one is expected (or expecting) to do this instantly and on the spot, which a top-level player will do routinely.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    The problem with the '10,000 hours' thing is that implies that time in the saddle is enough, whereas the quality of how you spend those hours, like Ted said, makes a lot of difference. It's really easy to practice badly.

    How long have you been playing? I find that with any instrument, it takes a certain amount of months just to develop the muscles (or calluses or scar tissue) to be capable of playing 'clean' or with decent tone, so it's good to have patience with yourself at the beginning.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    ... slow down your parts until you can pick them cleanly, then gradually bring them up to performance speed, dwelling at each speed where you have problems until you get clean there before increasing your tempo...
    Sometimes it helps me to bump the tempo up a bigger step at a time, rather than gradually. Say from 140 to 180 for example. I mix this up, mix it in, with the incremental steps in speed (like 10bpm at a step). Sure, there are generally parts of the tune that don't work. The Big Step makes those parts real clear. But also, I often discover that the Big Step draws out, or develops, an somewhat innovative/different approach that works for a part of the tune, that I was NOT discovering or developing by working up the incremental tempo steps.

    I find a couple other benefits as well -
    - helps me keep my eye (ear) on how I want the tune to SOUND ... just the feel + the flow + the movement etc.
    - helps break up the monotony of 20-50-100 times thru the same tune, or the same phrase, at slowly increasing tempo's.
    - helps me solidify the parts that I CAN do cleanly ... and enjoy the fun and satisfaction of hearing them sound good.
    - helps me just plain old "enjoy the tune" while I'm woodshedding it.

    I always gotta go back and work on the parts that were rough, or even fell apart. But this approach does seem to help.

    FWIW ... YMMV ... just a bit of my own experience / approach. Not saying how it might / might not work for you or others.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    Perry and Old Sausage, I think my teacher was being somewhat tongue in cheek. I think he is really saying "a lifetime," as Wilbur James puts it so well. (And, I hasten to add, I only take lessons from him once in a while...every few months.) But, based on a 40 year study by the US Foreign Service Institute on language learning, which I studied in grad school, 10,000 hours is a useful figure on learning a new language skill. One can decide how many hours a day, a week, or a year to practice. This is how I think of it, and I know a lot of others would think this is either silly or overwhelming! Also, in defense of my teacher, he's a recognized world-class mandolinist in many genres, and, in my view as a teacher myself, an amazing teacher. And we all know how rare that combination is in any musician!
    Fair enough, and I concede that there is some evidence for the 10,000 hours theory if you're talking about becoming a successful professional player, and also, sad to say, if we're talking about people who start before age 30. I'm not saying it doesn't apply otherwise, just that there's no evidence. My real point is that picking cleanly is simply a nuts and bolts technical issue, and if you're really not picking cleanly it should be something your teacher can address quite easily. It may be that you're simply not ready to play at the speeds you're attempting, and you're right that achieving that is a matter of regular practice for longer.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    "Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?" Perhaps not the technique....but I think initially it's harder to sound good on a mandolin. Learn a half a dozen chords & buy a capo and you're away to the races on the guitar. (Yes, I'm being simplistic here). But I think, like the fiddle, there is nowhere to hide on the mandolin....Developing tone on the mando is more difficult. I think the shorter scale & higher string tension makes single note melody lines harder to play cleanly. Yes the tuning in 4th is easier to comprehend...but if you want to sound like a mandolin player & not just a guitar player wailing on a small instrument.....time & practice are your friends...

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    10,000 hours at an hour a day works out to be about 27 years.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    who's technique? ... which technique? if you can play tremolo, crosspick(ish), know - or be able to figure out - chords and have a fair knowledge of the circle of 5ths, i'd say you have technique. if you want to race or sound like someone else - one of the greats ... i don't know where that ends. (just my euro-2 cents.)

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    The 10,000 hours is what it takes to be an "expert", whatever that means, not competent. I am pretty sure that most, if not all of our favorite players have that kind of time invested.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Davis View Post
    10,000 hours at an hour a day works out to be about 27 years.
    Thanks for crunching the numbers so I didn't have to. I've been at it for 44 years, and though I don't play an hour a day every day, I wouldn't be surprised if I averaged that, seven hours a week. I ought to be pretty good by now. Wonder what happened? But you know, people ask me al the time how long have I been playing, and I tell them, and then I say, "I figure if I keep at it, I'll be good some day."
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    All i know is that when I am wailing away, I FEEL competent. That and the fact that all of my friends play guitar works for me.
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    Registered User Santiago's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    The comment from your teacher that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient is Malcolm Gladwell's claim in his book Outliers. He wasn't talking about mandolin playing particularly but any musical instrument or computer programming or sports, or any complex human discipline. I agree that it also takes instruction, and quality varies, but once you have that instruction it takes practice, practice, practice. Some aspects of mandolin playing make it easier than some other instruments, but to master it is not easy by any standard I know.
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