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Thread: Strategy to get better

  1. #1

    Default Strategy to get better

    Iíve got limited time to play mandolin most days, usually about 30 to 45 minutes during the week, a little more on the weekends. My brain works well with a structured plan.

    After reading what others have offered up on this site, I put together a little plan on how to get better.

    Anything to add or take away on here? Anything that has been particularly helpful to your growth?

    ➢ Play with my guitar buddy or someone else at least twice a month
    ➢ Take lessons on Skype or in person twice a month
    ➢ Work through lessons on Artistworks or Peghead Nation
    ➢ At least pick-up the mando every day and have an idea of 1 small goal to work on in advance to maximize practice time.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    I'm going to assume you are a beginner. I would recommend that you focus on the artistworks curriculum to start and make sure you submit videos to Mike for review so that you don't pick up bad habits. As you progress through the curriculum you will find areas that need more attention. Maybe tremelo is difficult or you can't quite get the big chop chord shape. Once you identify a weakness, or a technique you want to develop, put an exercise for it into your practice.

    Two other tips, focus on learning tunes by ear and focus on learning tunes. Having at least 20 tunes under your fingers (including backing chords) will open up jams and playing with others which will excelerate your learning. Don't spemd too much time working on things you know, always push against your boundaries.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    Good tips frm dadsaster. I've spent time taking lessons with a variety of very good working pros and always ask about their practice techniques. Many of them also took lessons from masters, so if you can that obviously can help. I have taken lessons lately from Peghead and like their work. Artistworks seems to have good material also. Or find a great teacher locally. Skype is ok if both of you have fast bandwidth.

    At my age (older) I play with a guitar player that plays my style multiple times a week. So that's good. Repertoire work. But how do you get repertoire?

    Butch Baldissarri had a good routine, as does Evan Marshall. Butch taught me this. Evan's is different but very similar without the paper described below.

    Butch's Way: Take a piece of paper or computer spreadsheet. Divide it into at least four columns.
    In the first column, list scales and other technique builders. If you don't know what to add. Start with the C scale and all the variations. C, Cm etc. Look up the list of scales online and plug those in.
    In the second column, add all your repertoire. If it's blank to begin with, so be it.
    In the third column, add all your difficult passages. If you don't know them yet, you will find them quickly as you add repertoire!
    In the fourth column, add all your songs you want to learn. Keep the list fairly short with your favorites *you* want to be associated with.

    Each day, decide how much time you have to practice. 30 minutes? No problem. Get your phone alarm set to 7 or 8 minutes. Start on column one. Slowly. work each scale. When the timer rings, put a line under where you stopped. Move to the next column. Repeat your known repertoire to keep it in muscle memory. Draw a line under the last before the bell.

    When you are done, you have a solid understanding of where you stopped. Tomorrow, start from where you left off. If you have a decent small list, then you should get back to the top fairly fast. (a few days).

    You can add all the stuff you learn from the masters into this list on the right.

    Butch added that when he started out, his goal was to master one song a month to bring to the monthly jam session. By the end of the year, he had 12 pieces in his repertoire. By the time he had a couple of years done, he was a serious amateur and eventually turned pro. I try and follow this and add one new piece to my repertoire a month. So when you start, with no real repertoire, you can spend the second 7 minutes with the song you want to learn, the next 7 minutes with the most difficult segment, and the last 7 minutes with the next new song you want to learn. Even with limited time, this should allow you to improve.

    Evan Marshall, a master of duo style mandolin, is still alive and teaching (Butch died some years back). Evan teaches practice techniques that go beyond Butch's and because he makes a living at teaching, I'll not talk about his ideas. It's well worth taking a workshop from him, regardless if you never intend to play classical. He is funny, a great teacher, and has some superb ideas that take Butch's further on down the road.

    I used these techniques last week on 5 hour practice days and also on days with only 30 minutes. It works with whatever you have to give.

    In lieu of that, 15 minutes with someone like John Reischmann, Don Stiernberg, Don Julin or Sharon Gilchrist or Mike Marshall on the web channels, or others on Skype will not hurt! They all are very good teachers. Best of all, just do it, enjoy it, don't make it hard, and share the music.. Good luck!
    Last edited by Al Bergstein; Jun-12-2018 at 1:19am.
    Al in PT

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  6. #4
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    From dadsaster - ".....make sure you submit videos to Mike for review so that you don't pick up bad habits." .''Bad habits'' may often be someboy else's ''technique''. As a totally self taught banjo / mandolin & guitar player,i'm 100% sure that i have ''bad habits'' but - 'whatever' works for me. Very often it comes down to playing in a way that ''works for you'' - bad habit or not.

    The advice above is sound,but,if it's easier for you to play using 'whatever' technique ,do it - nobody's been hung for it (yet ??). If i used some of the techniques i've seen posted on YouTube / read about - it wouldn't work for me as well as my own technique. The way i sit /stand / hold the mandolin / pick - ''whatever'' - because of physical constraints,i have to do it the way i do,& it works fine. So don't be totally bound by the advice of others. Use what works for you & discard the rest,
    Ivan
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  8. #5

    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    I think there are probably an infinite number of ways to get better, and all of them probably have some merit.

    An observation--

    I know a number of people who practice their instrument regularly, even every day-- and have done so for years--and can't play songs all the way through. So, I'd suggest spending the vast majority of time learning and refining actual songs (by songs, I mean tunes, songs, composed pieces... i.e., "musical works").

    I think that virtually all technique can be learned via a musical work that incorporates that skill. By doing this, you learn how to express your "betterness" as well as achieving your "betterness".

    My 2 cents

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  10. #6
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    Personally, I am a believer in the fine art of 'noodling'.

    Every once in a while
    , just start fooling around on the mandolin . . . play random notes and runs in different places on the fretboard, experiment with making up your own augmented chords by moving one finger on a chord up or down a fret or two, take a lesson that you have been working on and play it backwards, etc. This experience has helped me to find new and different things that I may have never stumbled upon otherwise.

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  12. #7

    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    Whatever you do, make sure you learn the rhythm more than all the little notes. The notes matter so much less than staying on time. You can leave notes out, fill in extra ones, play around with the melody, but if you don't keep time, everybody will hate playing with you.

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  14. #8
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    From Mike Zito - " Personally, I am a believer in the fine art of 'noodling'. " I totally,100% agree Mike. 'Noodling' for me,is one of the most enjoyable aspects of 'informal practicing'. Adopt an almost 'anything goes' attitude to a tune(s),& see what comes along.
    If it fits - use it,if it doesn't...... !,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

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  16. #9

    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    Whatever you do, make sure you learn the rhythm more than all the little notes. The notes matter so much less than staying on time. You can leave notes out, fill in extra ones, play around with the melody, but if you don't keep time, everybody will hate playing with you.
    Absolutely agree 100-percent. Excellent advice, IMO.

  17. #10

    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    .At least pick-up the mando every day and have an idea of 1 small goal to work on in advance to maximize practice time.
    This will be fruitful....if you don't work at it, it doesn't improve. I know i sound like a broken record but learning jazzmando.com FFcP lessons will also help a lot. My pinky was pretty useless until i did, now i can go up and down the fretboard instead of just first position.

    http://jazzmando.com/ffcp_studies.shtml

  18. #11

    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    Try the Matt Flinner courses if you can. These are very structured, and they are interactive (in real time, if it fits into your schedule). Playing with other folks is also very important. It's great to be able to play a tune yourself, but playing with other individuals regardless of their skill sets can be very different.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

  19. #12
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    Quote Originally Posted by Hoogus View Post
    Anything to add or take away on here? Anything that has been particularly helpful to your growth?

    ➢ Play with my guitar buddy or someone else at least twice a month
    ➢ Take lessons on Skype or in person twice a month
    ➢ Work through lessons on Artistworks or Peghead Nation
    ➢ At least pick-up the mando every day and have an idea of 1 small goal to work on in advance to maximize practice time.
    I like your plan. Not too much, not too little, something that you can do. I might tweak it a little, from my point of view:

    Play with others regularly once a week

    Skype lessons or in person once a week, or Artistworks / Peghead. (Avoid distraction of too many teachers.)

    Get behind that mando every day. Actually I don't care what you do on it, but its good to have a goal. But picking it up every day is huge enough, I wouldn't beat myself up if all I can accomplish is 20 minutes of noodling and a few scales.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  20. #13

    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    No mention yet in this thread of using a metronome. Slow and clean practice with a metronome has been my biggest technique builder over the years.

    If not using a phone app or computer program, I like the Korg MA-1, available for less than 20 dollars.

  21. #14
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    "On the journey to excellence, enjoy mediocrity."

    That's my only advice. Well, that and keep playing. Every day. Learn to sing the mandolin. Learn to take some musical thought and make it sound out loud. It's like learning to talk. Just do it! It'll take a while to know what your saying.

    f-d
    °papŠ gordo ainít no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  22. #15
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    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    In a phrase: always keep it fun and challenging for yourself!

    Seek variety in everything that you practice -- scales, tunes, rhythm, licks, chords, tremolo, techniques. Make sure your timing is solid. Find others to play with on occasion. And be sure to listen to lots of recorded and live music (on the mandolin, but also on other instruments), to keep your musical brain stimulated.
    Last edited by sblock; Jun-15-2018 at 10:42am.

  23. #16
    TBI survivor Richard J's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategy to get better

    I also don't have a lot of time, but I crave out 15 minutes every day, play scales and then a different song each time. Then when I have 45 - 60 minutes I play a new song. Works fine for me. Noodling is also great fun just to open the case and tune the mandolin, everyday.
    I think, therefore, I pick.

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