View Full Version : Advice on learning to play

Jack Roberts
Apr-19-2004, 10:51am
On anothe thread, Mandohack wrote:

Take each section, say for example, it's 8 beats (of 16th or 32nd notes)--play the 8th beat until comfortable. Play the 7th and 8th beat until it's in the fingers, and you aren't "thinking" it. Play 6, 7, and 8, same approach, adding measures, but slowly backwards, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc.. Keep doing this, but don't play the preceding beat until you're ready. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

I would like to take the liberty of starting a new thread on the topic of learning to play. #I'll be 50 years old soon, and have been playing for about 2 years. #I started playing mandolin because I have always enjoyed listening to music, and I wanted to start making it myself. #Since the mandolin is tuned like a violin, I thought I could learn to understand orchestral stringed instruments without the insufferable sounds that beginners make with their bowed instruments.

This weekend I tried Mandohack's advice. #I am playing a piece (the Courante from the first cello concerto) written in 3/4 timing, and I went through the piece several times playing only the third beat of each measure.

When I went back to playing the whole piece through, the improvement was obvious. #For one thing, my mind and my fingers had a more complete understanding of the structure of the composition, and how each measure leads to the next. #Also, in this piece, the third beat seems to carry information or emotion in the piece that I had missed before, probably because as a beginner I was concentrating on the first part of the measure and then just pushing through to the end to be done.

Mandohack, your advice was great. #I greatly appreciate the quality of advice and the kindness that all of you show to me in my efforts to learn. #In another part of the Mandolin Cafe, there are lessons, but I have a question to ask of the group:

What other technical approaches to learning can help make a player able to advance to more difficult pieces?

If the question it too general, forgive me. #Asking questions that are too general is diagnostic of beginning learners.


Michael H Geimer
Apr-19-2004, 11:52am
I read in another thread this morning about the tendency beginners have of 'trying to fit in all the notes' ... Mandohack's method above teaches you how it is more important that you finish each prase on time, rather than that you fit in 'all the notes'.

Another similiar exercise was suggested by Pkilma. It involves setting your metronome to click only on one beat of each measure, rather than on every beat #

... then when you are comfortable with that, set it to click only once every other measure ... once every forth measure, and so on.

In a similiar way to Mandohacks excercise, it will teach you how to internalize the phrasing and timing, while still keeping you on pace regarding your overall tempo.

I like both of these excersies, as they force the player to really find the phrasing, and to play more muscially overall.

A last one, that is geared more towards memorization:

Try learning a tune from end to beginning. Start off learning the just last four measures of the song, then start moving forwards. After you have command of the last four, learn the last eight ... working backwards until you have reached the beginning of the song.

The idea is that by that time you have worked through the whole piece, it will be the end section that is most familiar to you, and as a result your playing will sound more and more confident as you progress through your performance.

Of course, none of these are my ideas, but I've used them all at different times, and they all work ... and they are all a lot of *work*, too!

- Benig

Apr-19-2004, 12:04pm
Jack -

Here's something that I like to do when practicing to speed up "busy" passages. It works the best with ones that have long runs of continuous 16th (or shorter) notes.

Say, for example, that the passage is one of continuous 16th notes in 4/4 time.

First, I will play each beat (4 notes) followed by a 1 beat rest, and then gradually work the tempo up to where it will eventually be.

Then I will reverse things, by starting out playing only a half beat (2 notes), followed by a whole beat rest, or if you prefer to think of it as two half-beats rest, followed by 1 beat (2 half-beats) of notes, and so on, speeding that version up gradually.

Finally you should feel comfortable enough to leave out the rests. By the time you put it all together again, you will have a much better facility and grasp of the passage as a whole, enabling you to play it at a faster tempo without mistakes.


Jack Roberts
Apr-19-2004, 12:27pm
Benig and Bratsche:

Thanks. I will try all of these as I move into the Sarabande and Minuets. I think it will be great help in the Sarabande, where the phrasing gets very interesting.:p