Going Backwards

  1. Ellsdemon
    Hi All

    I've been playing everyday for the past 3 years or so and have never felt like I have at least progressed a little. I don't know if it's just this lousy winter we're having here in the PNW but I feel like I'm not even a beginner. It just seems like my playing hasn't been going well as of late.

    Have any of you ever experience this? I know it won't last forever but it's a huge buzz kill to be playing and kind of not enjoying it or at least thinking I can play better
  2. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    This is the time of year when my grandfather would sigh, "Well, February's short and March can't last forever." It's cold, grey, wet, winter has lost its novelty and it seems like spring will never come.

    Literal truth and metaphor. Spring does come, the sun shines, the birds and the mandolin once again sing. Especially for those of us who start as adults and aren't prodigies, progress is slow. If you have recordings from a year ago they will probably show that you have made a lot of progress.

    Sometimes a change in routine helps. Can you find someone to take a lesson with? Go to a jam or weekend festival? Even a concert, or to hear a decent bar band? Get together with an old friend or new acquaintance to pick? Banner at the top says Mel Bay is offering 15% off—a good excuse to enlarge the library and find some new tunes to learn.

    I have days where I swear I'm trying to play with someone else's hands. Nothing goes right. Or, if I haven't been able to practice for a few days when I go back to it, it feels like starting from scratch. I wish I had an instant cure. I don't, other than just bearing with it and hacking away again.
  3. HonketyHank
    All I can say is that when I get discouraged for an extended period I eventually decide to say to heck with tunes and set myself to work on really basic stuff using a metronome to help measure progress as well as to force good rhythm. Scales. Fingerbusters. Picking exercises. When I have done that kind of stuff for as much and as long as I can stand, I feel like I can play those old tunes a lot better in multiple aspects and I feel eager to push on.

    Speaking of winter, you guys really got pounded this past week or so. Out here in the PNW we don't really get the heavy winters like the midwest or east coast folks do. But Seattle area really got walloped this year. Down here in Portland (at least on the west side) all the yucky stuff bypassed us. Shoot I bought a snow shovel in November 2017 and it has not yet seen any use. Weird.
  4. bbcee
    I can't really add much to Louise & Hank's excellent posts, other than to encapsulate their points: change is good, when you hit a long plateau. Maybe try classical, ITM, something else that you wouldn't normally gravitate to. It will feed in some new ways of thinking & doing things.

    The rest of my team are out in Seattle, and our team video meetings have been interesting the last several days, what with the power cuts, snow sliding off roofs, etc.! When I lived there in the '80s, we sure didn't see these kinds of snowfalls - but I do remember Portland's freezing rain season just about at this time, Hank - something to look forward to for you!

    Remember that you will play past this plateau you find yourself in, Otto, they just get longer the more you advance on the instrument. Don't stop playing, keep it in your fingers. And post some videos - it doesn't have to be a song, it could be, "Here's me working on tremolo" for instance. That fiendish red light has a way of making you really learn on the spot. You're among friends!
  5. Tommcgtx
    It happens to me all the time! I think that during those times, as we keep plugging away at it, important things are happening in our brains, and with muscle memory etc. I agree with others, switch up what you're playing, try some different things. I've been going at this for about 5-1/2 years, and have been through that several times. I think I just came out of a period like that, and have noticed a little improvement. I'm actually taking my first formal lesson today. My next goal is to try and find people to play with, which I haven't done up to this point. Keep at it!
  6. HonketyHank
    Good topic. It sure makes me consider where I am, how I got here, and where I think I want to go. Some musing:

    When I started out with the mandolin, I had a lot of fun every day. Noticeable improvements came often, sometimes daily. I didn't really put much effort into it because whatever I was doing was fun and the noticeable improvement was powerful incentive to keep on keeping on. As I got better, the rate of improvement slowed. The increments of improvement shrank. I gradually lost the ability to recognize those improvements, even though they might still be occurring.

    That stage is basically where I recognized I could no longer just plink around and get better. I really enjoy plinking around. But that doesn't buy me much anymore. About a year ago, I realized I could do one of three things:

    1. Quit. (ie, let the rate of improvement go negative)
    2. Continue to plink around and find a way to enjoy living on that plateau. (rate of improvement hovers at or near zero)
    3. Do conscious work on fundamentals to get the rate of improvement up into the positive range.

    I chose option #1 in golf last year when my visits to the golf course came after longer and longer intervals and I found myself asking "why am I punishing myself like this?".

    I find that option #2 is a kind of default option. I find myself in that category often with the mandolin.

    My conscious choice with the mandolin is still #3, but I make it with the realization that the improvements that come with hard work are now puny compared with the improvements I so enjoyed when I started out. Basically, I must have faith that the work will pay off at some point in the future but probably not immediately.
  7. Ellsdemon
    All of you, thanks so much. It's good to hear some feedback and some great suggestions. Hank, I think you may have hit the nail on the head with as you progress you see less and less significant improvements but they maybe be happening. I might have to post a video on a song I've been working on like bbcee just suggested to help get the funk out
  8. MikeZito
    During those times when I practice regularly, I manage to advance past being pathetic to being just plain bad . . . but if I haven't picked up the mandolin in a while (like the past couple of months) - when I do go back I will have basically forgotten EVERYTHING, and will have to start all over again. It's like having short-term memory loss - but only about mandolin playing. Weird.
  9. SOMorris
    When I first started trying to learn to play the mandolin, I learned a few chords and tried playing with a couple of guitar players at church. It was fun and gave me an incentive to try to learn more chords. One guitar player moved and the other developed arthritis which prevented playing. Then my mandolin broke. Several months later, I basically started over. It has been a struggle since. Louise's suggestion is a good one if you can.
  10. Ellsdemon
    I take lessons with Matt Flinner a lot, maybe to much, but I enjoy his personality and his teaching style. His live sessions make me practice more so I'm up to speed each week. I wonder sometimes if there's a instance of too much playing that hampers you.

    I took bbcee suggestion and recorded a blues scale messing around recording. I'm posting it separately and I hope others will join in. Maybe I'll call it blues jam sessions?
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