View Full Version : Help, I think I need a sense of direction.

Scott Cressey
Nov-13-2005, 9:40am
I have been practicing with my mandolin for about a year now. It was my first instrument that I ever played. Between a couple of lessons and books I have managed to learn a few melodies, Golden Slippers, Farewell to Whiskey, Country Road, Wayfaring Stranger, Camptown Races, and a few riffs from Cripple Creek). I feel like I have hit a sticking point. Music Theory still seems to escape me for the most part, and I think that is why I have trouble with chords. I have been thinking that playing along with some others might help take me to next level, so I am going to a bluegrass jam today just to watch, and maybe I will get motivated enough to bring my mando to the next one. I have been very shy about playing in front of others. Does anyone have any recommendations, good scales to practice, Etc. I would greatly appreciate any motivation, and or practice advice. Maybe a little more structure to my practice will help me over the "hump".



Nov-13-2005, 9:50am
Get the fingerboard under your belt - learn scales, arpeggios in all keys, up and down the neck.

Nov-13-2005, 10:21am
If "open to public" jams make you uncomfortable, ask around with neighbors and friends and find people to play with. There is no substitute. I play with a couple of my neighbors once a week. They play guitar and are far better than me. Sometimes I get left in the dust. It doesn't bother me or them. As far as prepping to play with people, I think playing along with recordings or MIDI files is the best, but a metronome is good also.

Pete Martin
Nov-13-2005, 10:44am
Find folks to play with, do it as often as possible. You'll quickly find out what you need to improve, plus it is so fun, you'll have more incentive to practice.

Look at the "lessons" link at the top of the page, good stuff in there.

Scott Cressey
Nov-13-2005, 7:44pm
Is there a good website for the scales, and which one or ones should I start with?


Scott http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Nov-13-2005, 8:20pm
The Aonzo Family scales (http://www.mandozine.com/index.php/techniques/techinfo/aonzo_family_scales/) are a good exercise for the major scales in every key. You could do the same thing with minor scales or blues scales as well, I suppose. (I need to do that too)

Mandozine's 'Techniques' page has lots of good stuff. (http://www.mandozine.com/techniques/)

Nov-14-2005, 8:19am
If I were in your possition I'd listen to San Rafael. You can learn and play scales but if you don't know how to apply them they won't have you playing music.

My opinion is learn at least one new song a month. As you play single note melodies you will be working on scales and as you learn the chords you will begin to see how most songs (in western music) are structured very much the same. What you learn in one song you will be able to apply to the next. You will pick up the music theory gradualy and learn to appy it, piece at a time. You will also build a list of songs you can play with others, who will probably show you new stuff and the ball will be rolling.

Good luck.

Nov-14-2005, 10:19am
The piece of theory that recently blew me away because it is so obvious is the idea of tonality or key. I am using the Ionian Mandology pattern sheet and a jazz mandolin session from Mel Bay to practice arpeggios and chord in
I vi ii V I
sequence. It is ear raining, technique training, and nice sounding all at the same time.

I can't believe I didn't understand what "key" meant before.

James P
Nov-14-2005, 12:11pm
After a lifetime of guitar playing I started mandolin last March. I Googled mandolin, found this site, read tons of threads, bought TabEdit, and downloaded any and every file that looked like a lesson. In addition to the FFcP scales and Alonzo, I tried learning one fiddle tune per week, concentrating on playing for tone not speed.

But enough about me. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
The best advice I could give is to find a good teacher!!!

Nov-14-2005, 2:44pm
James P,

Sounds like your on the right track. Don't forget to work on your chords.

James P
Nov-14-2005, 3:33pm
Thanks. #I'm up to my ears in chordwork! I'm jamming w/ two different groups on alternate weekends, one folky and one jazz/tango. #And for the next three weeks "teach" has me working out three different inversions sets for three songs: Tico Tico, Cherokee and Djangology. ##

And that's the thing! #If I didn't have a teacher, I'd be practising fiddle tunes. #Which is great so long as you work 'em with a metronome, FOCUSing on timing and tone. #But a good teacher will suss out what you want to play, what you need work on, and set achieveable (I wish!) weekly goals. #IMO, starting out from scratch would make finding a good Coach even more important. #

Anyway, lots of good advice here, but no one was mentioning my current favorite: "Get Schooled."

Nov-14-2005, 4:39pm
Tico Tico, Cherokee and Djangology. Great tunes. I love playing that kind of stuff on mando and guitar.

Your fortunate to have a teacher in your area. Most of us are forced to be self directed.

Nov-15-2005, 8:54am
Scotty, you sound exactly like where I was about a year back. I'd been playing a year, knew a few melodies but just didn't know what to do next.

I started going to bluegrass jams and it quickly became very apparent what I didn't know and what I needed to learn. For example, I realised it's no good just knowing a melody, you need to know the back up chords too. These jams also helped give me a goal of something to learn before the next session. I set myself a target of learning 2 new tunes a month. Now I'm learning a few a month because the more you learn, the quicker the learning process becomes. Learning scales and arpeggios is helpful but only if you can put them into some sort of context. By learning songs and tunes for the next jam, you can incorporate scale exercises for the appropriate key into your practice time.

As for being shy infront of other people, don't worry about it. It's natural and it'll become less of a problem the more you play with others. I still find myself shaking from nerves in some jams, but that's just another thing to conquer and makes it all the more satisfying when you get through your break.

Playing with other people on a regular basis completely changed my approach to playing (and made it so much more fun!) so I recommend going to your local jam and joining in as best you can. That may just be watching and listening the first few times, but even that will be an incentive to go home and practice.

Avi Ziv
Nov-15-2005, 9:22am
A long time ago (1998) Niles Hokkanen posted a thoughtful and interesting set of 10 exersises on the co-mando mailing list. I just went back into the archives and dug them out to use them myself. They were called "CoMandocrucian Exercise Program". The interesting thing about these lessons was that they gradually moved you into using more of the fretboard, transposing, vocalizing, and playing in different position by repeated use of a *tune* and not abstract scales and patterns. I found that highly motivating. The fact that I even remember them from 7 years ago, is some testement to how useful I thought they were. I pulled them off the archive last night and put them all in one Word doc. I'll send them out to you, if you PM me, or you can go get the individual pieces there yourself.

Niles is remarkable in his knowledge generosity and concern with education. Some day I'll have to take a private lesson with him.


Nov-15-2005, 9:41am
I've just had a dig on the co-mando archives, and those exercises look really useful (but I found 22 not 10!). Thanks for the tip.

Avi Ziv
Nov-15-2005, 10:02am

When I did a search on "CoMandocrucian Exercise Program" it came up with more than 10 hits but some were replies and comments about the lessons. Are you saying that you found lessons actually numbered up to 22? I'd love to see those


Nov-15-2005, 10:10am
On the search results page, there is a box at the top that has the text:

Search Results:
COMANDO: 50 matches (more available).
More Hits...

Click the "more hits" link to find the other exercises.

Avi Ziv
Nov-15-2005, 10:28am
oh - you are correct! Archeology at it's best http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif


Nov-17-2005, 8:31am
I think most players at whatever level probably have phases where a sense of direction is lacking.

I think that the best advice in this situation is to play more with other people (whether in a band or just informal jamming sessions). I think that this provides an inspiration/incentive to take your playing in a new direction and learn new stuff...

Of course this may not be the answer to your question..

Incidentally I read somewhere about different learning styles (which can be applied to anything). Broadly speaking there are 4 different learning styles; pragmatist, theorist, reflector and another which I can't remember! My approach is probably a pragmatists.... A theorists approach would probably be to sit down and learn a whole load of scales etc. before joining a band, personally speaking that doesn't appeal to me but may do to some people..

Nov-17-2005, 8:40am
and another which I can't remember

Activist. (That would be me.)

From Honey and Mumford:

Activists (style 1): 'here and now', gregarious, seek challenge and immediate experience, open-minded, bored with implementation.

Reflectors (style 2): 'stand back', gather data, ponder and analyse, delay reaching conclusions, listen before speaking, thoughtful.

Theorists (style 3): think things through in logical steps, assimilate disparate facts into coherent theories, rationally objective, reject subjectivity and flippancy.

Pragmatists (style 4): seek and try out new ideas, practical, down-to-earth, enjoy problem solving and decision-making quickly, bored with long discussions.

Nov-17-2005, 8:46am
and another which I can't remember

Activist. (That would be me.)
Thanks! Knew it was something like that!

Possibly joining a band would be more of an activists learning strategy than a pragmatists...

Thomas Chapmond
Nov-17-2005, 9:40am
I am interested in the CoMandocrucian Exercise Program, but I can't find it using search. Obviously I am doing something wrong. Can someone walk through it?

Avi Ziv
Nov-17-2005, 1:05pm
Uncle Tuffy,

Here you go:

1. Go to http://listserv.nodak.edu/cgi-bin/wa.exe?S1=comando

2. Enter the following into the "Search for" field. It's the first field in the page

CoMandocrucian Exercise Program

3. Click on the Submit button.

I just re-tested it. It should get you the postings with the lessons.

Hope it works for you

Thomas Chapmond
Nov-18-2005, 1:21pm
Got it, thanks Avi.

Scott Cressey
Nov-19-2005, 5:44am
Thanks guys for all the great info and inspiration. I checked out the CoMandocrucian Exercise Program and I printed out the first lesson. I don't know Soldiers Joy, so my first assignment will be to learn it.