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Thread: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

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

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    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.
    Perfect summary of the situation in my opinion. Might be worth investigating other options for a teacher....
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    I've been playing seriously for about 3 years. Started in the 1970's though, and played mandolin including performing during the 70s. Then I took a hiatus because I moved and couldn't find any other jammers. I played piano for 50 years and taught it for 20, including chords, ear playing and arranging, so I am a competent "musician," but I totally know what Sincere Corgi is saying about callouses. Without them, no tone and can't play cleanly. I truly appreciate all of you! Thanks for this great discussion. As for my teacher -- did I say that I only take occasional lessons, only when I feel the need. We've already worked on clean, but maybe I need another lesson. I think it was me saying "competent" about the 10,000 hours. 27 years to be an expert at 1 hour per day sounds reasonable. So if one plays 2 hours a day, it takes about 14 years. Not bad, considering that most experts play probably much more than 2 hours a day. My nephew is a horn player, very serious and an expert who makes his living with music. When he was in high school, he'd practice several hours a day. He thought nothing of playing three gigs in a row on Saturdays. He warms up with scales and chord runs. He's been a big influence for me.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

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

    Getting back to the obvious question stated in the post - based on my experience it is much easier to get to "clean" on the mandolin than it is on the violin. I started with violin almost 40 years ago. Fiddle technique is harder than mandolin technique to master for a variety of reasons (bowing vs picking, no frets, use of vibrato, etc.). I've played guitar for the past 30+ years. I believe guitar is easier to get "clean" than mandolin, because of the single courses and longer scale (and lower string tension) which leads to less effort to cleanly play a note. Also, a guitarist who can cleanly strum chords to accompany a song is considered competent for some genres, where a mandolin player will always be expected to bust out a break.

    The 10,000 hours has been quite the buzz for a couple years now. The only thing I like about it is that it makes the important distinction that in any pursuit, its the hours you actually put in and not the number of years elapsed since you started that count.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    The 10,000 hours has been quite the buzz for a couple years now. The only thing I like about it is that it makes the important distinction that in any pursuit, its the hours you actually put in and not the number of years elapsed since you started that count.
    I really think that overlooks the simple fact that some people "pick things up" a heck of a lot faster (and better) than others. Anyone who has taught workshops or individuals will know that. You find someone who just seems "a natural" and they get it down fast and clean in surprisingly short time. Another individual... well... 10,000 hours or 100,000 hours might not do it!
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    I have been thinking lately that the 10,000 hours thing is sort of a tautology. Any activity that can be advanced to an expert level will eventually end up with practitioners who have invested something like 10,000 hours, and those individuals will set a standard that would probably require about an equal amount of time investment to reach.

    For example: I don't know what the competition is like at the heights of pumpkin-carving, but if a large group of people with an affinity for it worked at it for 2-3 hours a day for 17 years or whatever, they'd eventually arrive an 'expert' level of pumpkin-carving so impressive and assured that it would take a newcomer a comparable number of hours to carve pumpkins as beautifully. (And then there'd be some guy on a message board saying that he finds that sort of pumpkin carving to be flashy, and egotistical, and that they use knives that cost too much, etc.)

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    It might take 10,000 hours to get to "full competence" (whatever that means), but it only takes an HOUR to get better than you were an hour ago.

    Enjoy the journey.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by SincereCorgi View Post
    I have been thinking lately that the 10,000 hours thing is sort of a tautology. Any activity that can be advanced to an expert level will eventually end up with practitioners who have invested something like 10,000 hours, and those individuals will set a standard that would probably require about an equal amount of time investment to reach.

    For example: I don't know what the competition is like at the heights of pumpkin-carving, but if a large group of people with an affinity for it worked at it for 2-3 hours a day for 17 years or whatever, they'd eventually arrive an 'expert' level of pumpkin-carving so impressive and assured that it would take a newcomer a comparable number of hours to carve pumpkins as beautifully. (And then there'd be some guy on a message board saying that he finds that sort of pumpkin carving to be flashy, and egotistical, and that they use knives that cost too much, etc.)
    Exactly right - it's just an observation made after the fact of an apparent correlation, and then the 10,000 hours is claimed to be the cause of playing well, where it is far more likely to be an effect.

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

    Regarding the "10,000 hours" - I agree there are some folks in any pursuit; artistic, athletic, intellectual, etc. (or a combination of all three) that have a natural talent and they will show improvement and mastery in less time than others. However...how many folks near the top of any field (however you define the top) have got there without some serious time investment? A person needs a passion for the field, and the desire to achieve specific goals in that field, which will keep you going during the grunt work of putting in the focused, attentive practice required to achieve a goal. Did any of our favorite pickers (Grisman, Skaggs, Hull, Thile, etc.) start at age 45 like me? Not to discourage people from starting late, far from it. My point is those folks didn't simply appear out of nowhere and coincidentally happen to have been playing for 1000's of hours (beginning in their youth). Sure the hours put in on any pursuit is largely due to the enjoyment of that pursuit, and the enjoyment is more than partly due to achieving self-defined goals (some level of competency/mastery) in that pursuit. So yes the 10,000 hours can be seen as a cause and an effect of skill development.

    I have no idea if the specific value of 10,000 hours is the magic key to mastery of any field, or if its 1000 for some or 10,000 for others. I can say that I've met so many people in professional and private life that have aptly illustrated the difference between those that apply focused, attentive effort and those that don't. And it makes a much greater impact on their skill development than whatever natural talent they possess.

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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.
    I like the idea of becoming some kind of expert in less than a decade with a mere 3 hours a day; And for those with real dedication, 15 hours a day and you'll be seeing the benefit in less than two years, giving you plenty of time to master mandarin, tennis, computer programming or whatever else you wish.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Ah, playing with numbers. Reminds me of those jokes about 'if it takes one ship 3 days to cross the ocean, it should take 3 ships one day to do so ... or if it takes one woman 9 months to produce a baby, it should take 9 women one month do to so' ... I don't think it's the hours themselves, it's the time as a package deal. I would think Chris Thile, for instance, achieved mastery before he was 27 years old. It's just some sort of shorthand for 'longer than you think but still possible.'
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    I would think Chris Thile, for instance, achieved mastery before he was 27 years old.
    Thinking about it, that would mean it took him about 22 years of dedicated playing wouldn't it?
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    I think we all agree on the 10,000 thing. It's an arbitrary number taken from Outliers to signify that it takes a lifetime to master a skill. Even if you do reach mastery in the eyes of the rest of the world, you won't be satisfied.

    As to the practicing question... it sounds like you're probably doing the right thing, and that maybe your expectations are too high for yourself. You know 100 or so tunes and you can play many of them cleanly, but you have trouble playing jigs up to speed. You're practicing regularly every day. Getting faster on the jigs will happen. If you've been practicing those jigs a lot and are making no progress, then it's time to talk to your teacher about your technique and if you're doing something wrong.

    As for comparative ease of technique, it's really hard to compare. I would say technique on non fretted instruments is harder, but once you get past stringed instruments it really is apples and oranges. Even within stringed instruments, difficulty will be different for different people. For instance, I know a lot of people that struggle with mando because they have big fingers, but they have a much easier time with guitar. I struggle with mando because I have very short fingers. I do not do well on guitar.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by katpiercemusic View Post
    For instance, I know a lot of people that struggle with mando because they have big fingers, but they have a much easier time with guitar. I struggle with mando because I have very short fingers. I do not do well on guitar.
    And for every example there is an exception. Mike Marshall has sausages for fingers and plays delicate and immaculate mandolin and Sierra Hull has tiny hands and does the same. For every rule there is a rule breaker; for every deal, a deal breaker; for every rhyme...

    You get my point and now to do the "low blood sugar" plum fairy dance *du duh du duh du duh Du Duh duh* and take my leave and go make some supper.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by katpiercemusic View Post
    I think we all agree on the 10,000 thing. It's an arbitrary number taken from Outliers to signify that it takes a lifetime to master a skill.
    Although I agree it's quite arbitrary, I think it signifies significantly less than a lifetime. I was joking about 15 hours for 2 years, but 2 or 3 hours and you'll do 10k in 10 or 15 years, meaning if you start young you could have reached that number by the start of adulthood, and even if you start at 50 it's still well achievable. I've got a feeling Chris Thile probably practiced for more than 3 hours a day when he was younger.
    I have heard someone else using the figure of 35,000 hours as the amount to not only to master a skill, but to be considered some kind of genius; much as I think it gets even more ridiculous with this, it is more approaching a lifetime than 10,000 hours. It reminds me of a quote I read somewhere, possibly on here, by some great musician (don't remember who), who when told by a fan that they would give there life to be able to play like that, replied "I did";

    I think, though, that LevinBravo hits the nail on the head:

    Quote Originally Posted by LevinBravo
    It might take 10,000 hours to get to "full competence" (whatever that means), but it only takes an HOUR to get better than you were an hour ago.

    Enjoy the journey.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Whenever asked why I play the mandolin I usually reply "So I can entertain myself as an old man." figuring by that time I'll be competent enough.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by greg_tsam View Post
    And for every example there is an exception. Mike Marshall has sausages for fingers and plays delicate and immaculate mandolin and Sierra Hull has tiny hands and does the same. For every rule there is a rule breaker; for every deal, a deal breaker; for every rhyme...

    You get my point and now to do the "low blood sugar" plum fairy dance *du duh du duh du duh Du Duh duh* and take my leave and go make some supper.
    Ya, and look at what those "tiny hands" do with a "Gigantic Fretboard" Geez!

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Santiago's right, the book was an interesting read. First of all, Thankfully, 10,000 hours aren't required to get you proficient on the mandolin. Gladwell's claim was that after 10,000 hours, you would be world class--think of the best mandolin player you know and that would be you. You'll sound really awesome after a few thousand though and that's where most of the really amazing players you hear are. If you do the math, 10,000 hours take many, many years to accumulate, even if you put in an hour every day. The really great thing I got out of that book was that tallent is a factor in the earlier hours, but as players put in the time, they're bound to progress--and there is absolutely no one who's put in 10,000 dedicated hours at any skill and isn't phenominal.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcelyn View Post
    ...there is absolutely no one who's put in 10,000 dedicated hours at any skill and isn't phenominal.
    You haven't heard some of the fiddle players around here.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by SincereCorgi View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Marcelyn View Post
    ...there is absolutely no one who's put in 10,000 dedicated hours at any skill and isn't phenominal.
    You haven't heard some of the fiddle players around here.
    I also know some of that kind - the only thing they can be sure of after 10,000 hrs is that all the houses in their neighborhood will be for sale.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by greg_tsam View Post
    Whenever asked why I play the mandolin I usually reply "So I can entertain myself as an old man." figuring by that time I'll be competent enough.
    ...exactly. And it doesn't take much to amuse me.

    The danger I see is when the goal becomes reaching the 10,000 hour mark. As has been suggested - it's not how much time you log, but what's done with time you log. I have a idea that very few serious musicians ever think they have "arrived" after 10,000 hours time invested - or even care about the amount of hours logged.

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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    I have been playing the mandolin for 30 years and some day I will learn how.
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    Getting back to the obvious question stated in the post - based on my experience it is much easier to get to "clean" on the mandolin than it is on the violin. .
    Much easier. The violin helps you not at all.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    Thinking about it, that would mean it took him about 22 years of dedicated playing wouldn't it?

    I bet Thile practiced a bit more than 1 or 2 hours a day.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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    Default Re: Is mandolin technique harder than other instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Levinbravo View Post
    It might take 10,000 hours to get to "full competence" (whatever that means), but it only takes an HOUR to get better than you were an hour ago.
    Thats it, right there.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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