Mandolin 1 - Old Town School

  1. TTT
    Finished Intro to Mandolin last week and starting a new thread chronicling the 8-week course Mandolin 1 (hope this isn’t obnoxious- kind of a shared journal)

    Last week we talked about how Old Town structures these classes and it’s interesting- they have a decent method.

    The intro class really is for absolute beginners - a way to get a taste of playing the instrument without too much commitment. We had people drop out after a few sessions.

    So here’s how the rest of the path works

    Mandolin 1 will introduce certain fundamentals and give us exercises and some songs to work on.

    Mandolin 1 Repertoire will have us learning songs that help us practice those fundamentals

    After that, there’s Mandolin 2 and Mandolin 2 repertoire, and finally Mandolin 3 and 3 repertoire that work the same way.

    Apparently the whole thing is structured so you can go away and come back, or spend some time at the appropriate repertoire level - there’s a group that has met for Rep 3 for a long time I guess

    So I’ll probably get to Rep1 and take a break from classes for a while, kind of noodle around on my own. But it’s nice to know the path
  2. Southern Man
    Southern Man
    Interesting, I hope you don't mind a couple of questions.

    1. How do they choose the songs to work on? Are these consistent, or do they vary every session?
    2. Is there any plan that involves playing with other instruments as you progress?
  3. TTT
    Good questions! Old Town has curated a song book of folk music that they use for all their classes

    And they host free jams each week. Kind of curtailed due to the pandemic, but gearing up again now

    I believe once we can all b in person again they’re going to continue having an online aspect. We had one person in the intro class joining us from Utah!
  4. HonketyHank
    Sounds like a good program.
  5. Southern Man
    Southern Man
    I had a look at the they have you learning standard notation right off the bat? Do the supplement with tab? Do they try to teach by ear with the notation for backup?

    My school is somewhat similar, they try to have all the mandolin, guitar, fiddle, etc. beginners learn the same material, then at the end of the class there is about a 20 minute mini-jam. Plus there are weekly jams for people of all levels.

    So similar philosophies, but my school is about 6 years old, so they've had a big of learning curve to make all that work smoothly.
  6. TTT
    And it’s got to be a huge challenge for them with the pandemic. But how fortunate are we to have access to such resources?
    Based on the intro course, I think they encourage all three - by ear, tab and notation. But the teacher sent us pdfs with tab and even simpler guides for strumming.
    I’ve dipped my toe into doing tabs from standard notation but I’m really a novice
  7. TTT
    Things going fine with the new class, we’re learning slides and trying to make upstrokes work
    There’s more people in this class - mix of folks from the beginners and others who have more experience with music

    For myself, I’m getting my strings changed this weekend. I figure it’s time to get into the habit and frankly learn how to do it myself.
    Will be working with a young luthier who will check my whole set up. We’re also going to try a lighter set this time.
  8. TTT
    It’s probably my inexperience but I get a lot of string buzz with the G and D. Anyway, good to get it checked.
  9. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    I'm guessing the buzzing is related to your fretting and that you will like the lighter strings, as it will be easier.
  10. TTT
    So I took my mandolin in to a young luthier. I’ve been having trouble with buzzing on upstrokes and I thought maybe I just need lighter strings. Plus, this being my first instrument ever I wanted to see how to change a string.

    So he takes a look at it for a bit, comes back over and shows me that my strings are really wide - like 5 mm. I thought it was me - I have small hands and have never played an instrument like this. I’d been having all this trouble trying to hold the G and D strings down especially at the 4th and 5th fret

    Which is why I thought maybe I just need lighter strings. Maybe that’s true, but I think maybe I also needed to have the mandolin looked at by someone who knew what they were doing.
    I’m getting it back Tuesday and I’m very excited
  11. SOMorris
    I hope it works better for you. Sometimes not knowing what you don't know isn't a good thing.
  12. TTT
    Happy to report it’s like a whole new instrument.
    Huge difference - able to do the left and right hand exercises from David Benedict’s beginners guide now. Down and upstrokes I’m getting tone instead of buzzing due to not covering both strings. And I can push down on the first fret for all four sets of strings.
  13. HonketyHank
    Good news, indeed!
  14. bbcee
    I gave up on guitar the first time around, when I was 12, because I couldn't push the strings down. It turns out they were about four feet off the fretboard!

    Glad you stuck with it, and now are into the enjoying-the-instrument phase!
  15. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    So great that it's playing more easily now. It makes all the difference in the world!
    Did he make a new nut as well as change to lighter strings?
  16. TTT
    Didn’t have to touch the nut - said it was slightly high but recommended I try out the new strings and bridge set up first. Which makes me trust him more, not doing unnecessary work

    And I do wonder how many people give up on learning an instrument without realizing that maybe it’s just something that’s easily fixed.
  17. HonketyHank
    That is exactly why I recommend Rob Meldrum's e-book so strongly.
  18. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    Henry's right. Rob's book (plus advice from the luthiers here) gave me the courage to sand down the bridge on my Kentucky, which had such high action that it was tough to fret, as a beginner, even with light strings.

    Reason I asked about the nut was, you mentioned the distance between strings. Glad it wasn't an issue. Though if it was, I'm sure your luthier woud've straightened you right out.
  19. TTT
    It's good to know that all the awful sounds that come from my mandolin from now on are not due to the setup, but are entirely my fault.

    oh wait ...
  20. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    It's kind of amazing, how much difference a few small fractions of a millimeter of adjustment there and there can make!
  21. W2DWL
    I just found this Old Town School, I guess for Newbies, but am confused, are the lesson posted here or somewhere else?
  22. NDO
    This is just a Newbies social group (on a great mandolin forum) and isn’t associated with the school in any way. But you should definitely stick around, this is a great site.
  23. TTT
    Old Town School of Folk music is an institution in Chicago - lessons in all kinds of instruments. It’s where I’m taking lessons right now. They’re remote so we have some people from out of town in our mandolin 1 class - one person dials in from Utah.
    It’s a neat place and I’m kind of documenting my learning here.
    And this social group is just as neat - very friendly and helpful
  24. HonketyHank
    Hi, W2DWL, and welcome. We are just a bunch of folks having fun trying to learn how to play mandolins. Take some time and scroll down through some of our conversations and you'll get a good idea of what we do. I see you have a mandolin, so you are certainly ready to go. We are a very supportive group, so fire away with questions. Chances are that one or more of us have struggled (or are struggling) with the same issues.

    ps: A lot of us have used, Baron Collins-Hill's website, for free video lessons. That is a great place to start. There are lots of great free or reasonably priced lessons out there on the internet.
  25. TTT
    Class went really well, I feel like I’m progressing. Will start ‘Mandolin 1 Repertoire’ Jan 3. That essentially builds on the type of songs we’ve been working on.

    On my own I’m starting to use a metronome. I’m easing into it by doing right- and left-hand exercises with it, and then practicing basic strumming patterns with chords. Working with 74 bpm, which is the speed of the Beatles Hey Jude.

    Next two weeks I’m working on learning this lovely tune
  26. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    74, that's not too shabby. I've barely cracked 60 myself.
  27. TTT
    That’s good to know Sue, thanks. I switched to 60 bpm and upgraded the metronome app so I could hear eight notes. Much better
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