Upstrokes, not the same as downstrokes.

  1. NCEric
    I have been steadily working through the lessons in my Mandolin For Dummies book over the last couple of weeks and have realized a pattern that is causing me some difficulty. I donít know if anyone else is running into this too, and may have some advice for me.

    My problem is with the upstrokes.

    1. I have trouble getting a clean, crisp sound on the upstrokes when picking.
    2. When practicing rhythm, I seems to always lose the time on the upstrokes.

    I know that I really just need to be patient and keep practicing, but I wanted to throw this out there and see if anyone else was experiencing anything similar.

    Thanks for the read.
  2. MikeZito
    Although I was recently voted 'Worst Mandolin Player In The History Of The Universe' (the trophy is of angels, devils and space aliens wearing ear plugs), timing has never been an issue for me.

    It is hard for me to describe with words - but when teaching new players who struggle with this problem, I always used to tell them to practice by simply strumming chords, in up-and-down strokes, to any beat they choose (playing along with a record, tapping your foot, metronome, whatever). Keep that 'beat/pattern' going in a non-stop motion - and even if they miss a chord or two or ten . . . just keep that arm or wrist going until it becomes a natural metronome.

    If the music requires the stop and start of any chords at points in the song, I tell them to keep that rhythm pattern going with the strumming hand and simply stop the sound by muting the strings with your chording hand.

    With time, practice, and concentration, you will see results before too long . . . after all, if a bum like me can do it - anyone can!
  3. HonketyHank
    I think many, if not most, 'intro to mando' books start out with some simple exercises that are worth while for even relatively advanced players to come back to and work on. I remember a video of somebody like maybe Radim Zenkle or Ave Avital (can't remember, but of like stature) talking about his daily warmup routine - he was doing those basic up down things just like on the first page of the basic mando instruction.

    Like, start on the G string. Up. Down. Up. Down. etc until it sound smooth and even. Then up, down, up down. Then updownupdown. Then move to the D string and start over. Then the A string. Then the E string. Then some variations like maybe GDGDGD (updownupdown), blah, blah, ad infinitum.

    These are all aimed at two things - developing awareness of where those strings are so you never have to look, and developing a smooth up-down technique.
  4. FredK
    Like Henry's comments, Mike Marshall recommends the 1 string up-down-up-down until it is smooth and even in his introductory lessons in ArtistWorks. Doesn't matter which string - in fact, it's best to work each one of them in this manner. It may take several days of consistent practice but it will happen. The same idea applies to chords and I like Mike's suggestion of working with a steady beat. It's easy for me to be heavy on the G on the down-stroke or heavy on the E on the up-stroke if I don't work on the chords.
  5. NCEric
    Don’t you just hate it when the answer is “practice and hard work”?
  6. NCEric
    But seriously, I think those basic strumming and picking exercises are probably a good idea.
  7. SOMorris
    The basic exercises must be a good idea, Eric, since so many great references start out that way. Like you, though, I hate the "practice and hard work" part. Sometimes I think it is just me fumbling around with a mandolin while everybody else picks it up and starts playing like Chris Thile right off the bat! It makes it difficult to stay motivated!
  8. NCEric
    Amen to that. I am seeing progress, but sometimes it seems like you can barely order off the menu, when everyone else is a native speaker.

    But I do have an interesting follow up questions. And perhaps this is just me and other people are the opposite. Why when doing rhythm exercises, is it that I always speed up? I find myself ahead of the metronome. I am never to slow. It seems that as I keep going, my tempo just naturally wants to go faster - even when I am consciously trying play with the beats. As I alluded to earlier, this problem is exacerbated when I add in upstrokes.

    Is this a 'natural' human tendency? Is it linked to heart rate? For example, as I do better, I get excited and my heart rate goes up, so my tempo does as well. Just wondering if there is scientific backing as to why rhythm seems to be such a difficult thing to so many of us?
  9. HonketyHank
    I don't think it is UN-natural. Part of the discipline of music is keeping a steady beat and practice with a metronome helps drive that home. Speeding up and slowing down is also part of the discipline, but only when it is explicitly called for.
  10. MikeZito
    I am no psychologist, but I think that the process of 'speeding up' is a natural reaction to a certain amount of nervousness. Think about seeing somebody who is new to live performing - it is not unusual to see their nerves cause them to play a medium-tempo song at nearly break-neck speed. Or think about (as Eric pointed out) how your heart-rate suddenly goes faster in stressful situations. When you are nervous, stressed or over-concentrating about 'getting it right', a certain amount of panic will start to set in, and that is when the adrenaline in your body will kick into overdrive, and off you go like a hyper-active dog chasing a squirrel.

    Relax, focus on the beat, and not necessarily on immediately getting it right . . . the world will not come to an end if mess up more than a few more times. Success is not too far away.
  11. Posterboy
    Playing slowly is harder in terms of keeping time, there is a lot more space between the beats to put the note in the wrong place
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