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Trials and Tribulations of a Complacent Mandolinist

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
Let me start by saying that I love the mandolin...always have; always will. I bought my first mandolin in the 1970s for $500 and, believe me, that was a big investment for me at that time.

I already knew how to read music, having taken music lessons on clarinet for 3 years beginning when I was 9-years-old. Reading music is like riding a bike...once you learn, you never forget. Sooo...I self-taught myself until I felt I couldn't progress any further.

I started taking music lessons with a very sweet, but elderly gentleman who owned the local music store...the same place where I took my clarinet lessons. We worked through a book of tunes and he even got me playing some bluegrass as he accompanied me on guitar. It was great fun, but after a couple of years my progress was in stall-mode and I concluded that I had gone as far as lessons could take me.

Fast forward 35, getting my kids through their teen years and my career all caused me to put the mandolin on the back burner of my life. With my retirement about 7 years away, I found myself thinking about what gave me the most pleasure in life...what passions I wanted to take with me into my golden years. Of course, the mandolin was high on my list. I pulled out the old mandolin, all the worse for its neglect.

Frustrated with the sound, as I had become accustomed to listening to mp3 recordings of some pretty incredible mandolins, I invested in a new mandolin...a really good one. My passion was instantaneously rekindled. I was surprised at how quickly I reached my prior level of proficiency. I once again hit a wall in my musicianship and started looking at youtube clips of some pretty amazing mandolinists. Some, of an instructional nature, discussed pick direction and chord construction and progression...concepts that were foreign to my ears...not to mention experience.

I plodded along, attempting chords now and then...but, for the most part focusing on melody. Lazy? Yes, I think so. I played to the extent that it was "fun". Then my daughter asked me to attend an old time music festival. I signed up for two workshops: one for beginners and one for advancing players. Believe me when I say it was a humbling experience.

I erroneously assumed I would fit right in with the advancing mandolinists, what with my pretty proficient sight reading ability. Wrong! The instructor focused on chords and chord progressions and I was totally lost. It was at this point I realized my total mandolin proficiency was rudimentary at best.

The day after the festival I signed up for mandolin lessons with one of the festival organizers. At my first lesson we discussed my musical goals. My response was that I want to be a versatile and well-rounded mandolinist. I had to admit knowing next to nothing about chords and even less about theory.

After being told that while I sight read beautifully, I was playing with my fingers too flat (stay on your tips). I also had issues with pick direction and am just now acquiring a conscious awareness of it. My instructor also has me memorizing music and every lesson begins with a quiz about some aspect of music theory. Most difficult of all are those darn chords. When it comes to chords I am a rank amateur and I struggle...boy, do I struggle!

But what I have discovered in all this is that I'm loving it...everything about it! I can't wait to practice. My former complacency has become a catalyst for perseverance. As my instructor tells me, "It's all about the journey!" And you know what? It is!

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Updated Aug-29-2013 at 9:53am by lorrainehornig



  1. JeffD's Avatar
    Good stuff. I loved it.
  2. lorrainehornig's Avatar
  3. PastorDoug's Avatar
    Thanks for sharing.
  4. lorrainehornig's Avatar
    You are quite welcomed, PastorDoug!