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Thread: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

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    Michael Grady MSGrady20's Avatar
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    Question Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    So I started to learn mandolin not too long before starting nursing school back in 2014. Now that I have graduated from nursing school and I can now pick up my mandolin with a lot more ease. I when I practiced before nursing I made the mistake of not learning rhythm and jumped right into learning melodies (I know shame on me). I was curious if anyone had some good tips on learning rhythm on the mandolin. I own several beginner books, but I am looking to hear other peoples ways of learning rhythm mandolin.
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    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Try playing along with records that you like (assuming you have learned the major and minor chords).
    "The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculations, and often lose themselves in error and darkness!"
    --Leslie Daniel, "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

    Some tunes: https://soundcloud.com/j-person

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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Your ears will be your most important tool to learn. A youtube search on mandolin rhythm would also probably help.

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    Michael Grady MSGrady20's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Jaycat, I guess I should have added that I do not know all the major/minor chords. I had a big problem with learning how to transition from one chord to the next properly (especially chop chords). So to add to my question how did some of you learn to change in between chords efficiently. Thanks!
    Kentucky KM-150
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    If you have an iPad check out the iRealPro app, it's a lot like Band in the Box but less expensive and not as complex. It has loads of songs already charted and you can set the tempo and play along. Also, you could check out the Steve Kaufman series of books for mandolin and bluegrass instruments, each tune has three arrangement in beg, int, and adv difficulty and comes with the tune being played at different tempos, you could also get the Amazing Slow Downer and load tunes you like in and play along with.

    And go to a jam if you can, that will really help you get on board with playing rhythm and you'll have fun too.

    Have fun!

    PS: I think all these apps are available for Android too if you don't have an iPad.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Pete Wernick's three Bluegrass Jamming DVDs on Homespun give you songs to play along with, the slower ones mostly in the key of G: G, C, & D major chords, maybe an Em. (I just lent the "slow jam" one to my nephew who's learning bass guitar.)
    https://www.homespun.com/shop/produc...-complete-set/

    One bit of advice: Don't worry yet about the "bluegrass chop" chord formations & technique. Start w/ two-finger chords and simple guitar or uke-style strums, and just get comfortable. Your ear will guide you from there. You sound like you know what you're missing, so trust your instinct!

    AFTER that, you might try Sam Bush's Rhythm mandolin lesson:
    https://www.homespun.com/shop/produc...ythm-mandolin/
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

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    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Quote Originally Posted by MSGrady20 View Post
    . . . So to add to my question how did some of you learn to change in between chords efficiently. Thanks!
    Practice!

    In the key of G, practice going from G to C to D, back again, and variations thereof. Then throw in an E minor after the G.
    In the key of C, go from C to F to G, back again, etc., throw in an A minor.

    And so it goes . . .

    Practice!

    PS - also what Ed said, stick with the two-finger chords for a while.

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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Quote Originally Posted by MSGrady20 View Post
    Jaycat, I guess I should have added that I do not know all the major/minor chords. I had a big problem with learning how to transition from one chord to the next properly (especially chop chords). So to add to my question how did some of you learn to change in between chords efficiently. Thanks!
    I would also take some lessons, you don't have to commit to a lifetime just a few would get you going on the mando and you would be developing good habits from the start. If there is no one locally then check out Skype as most of the pros are available for lessons there are also some online options from Matt Flinner and Steve Kaufman but I would take individual lessons when just starting out..that said Banjo Ben is a very good teacher and he has lots of videos on YouTube for free with extended lessons available at his website.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Quote Originally Posted by MSGrady20 View Post
    ... how did some of you learn to change in between chords efficiently.
    The Nike phrase of "Just Do It" will result in what's referred to a "muscle memory". After several hundred changes, your fingers will moving a lot easier. After several thousand, they'll move much more easily. Eventually, you'll forget fingers altogether and just think "D-chord" as it happens.

    Be aware that there are alternate chord formations and/or finger uses available, and you can be flexible based on what comes before or after. Even that simple open D-major, 2002, might sometimes use the index & middle finger and other times the middle & ring finger. And folks are ALWAYS substituting 3-string for 4-string chords, as is comfortable. In other words, don't worry too much about somebody else's "rules"!
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  13. #10

    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    A few basic mechanical things I have been working on with my wife to make her chord changes and picking easier.

    1. Don't lift up your fingers any higher than you have to. About 1/8 inch is all you need. Anything more slows you down.
    2. Get your fingers in position ready for the next change.
    3. Remember I-IV-V in each key and the VI minor and get a set of chord shapes that requires the least finger and hand movement within that key.
    4. Do not push too hard. Only push hard enough to sound the note whether picking or chording. Anything more makes it harder to move and shift.
    5. Make adjustments to your strap length, angle of the neck(both up and down and in and out) to find the position that gives the easiest access to the frets without having to twist your hand into an uncomfortable position for any of the chords.
    6. Loose wrist on the picking hand. Keep it flexible all the way up to your shoulder. Both hands work together and if one is tight the other one probably is also.
    7. Make sure your fingers are placed just behind the fret, not on top of it and not in the middle.

    These things seem simple and basic but are a lot of the difference between average players and top players.

    A couple of comments were made about practicing it over and over and doing what comes natural. I would say that while those things are true to a point there are a couple of things to be careful of. One is practicing bad habits. If you do it thousands of times in a bad way then that bad habit is hard to break. The other is that what comes natural without some direction at least for me was rigid arm and flying fingers and things did not smooth out till I got some professional instruction to break those habits. Some people more naturally do what is right but it should be smooth, relaxed and your hands should not have any more motion than is necessary.

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    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    I remember switching chords was really hard when I started playing guitar. I would learn a new chord everyday and spend the time going from nothing to that chord, then going between all the different ones I'd learned. A more fun way I later discovered is learning simple songs. For mando chord changes, I figured out "The Sweater Song" by Weezer. I can now go G-C-D-C like a champ
    "There ain't too many folks, who can play too many notes... on the mandolin"

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    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bowsman View Post
    I remember switching chords was really hard when I started playing guitar. I would learn a new chord everyday and spend the time going from nothing to that chord, then going between all the different ones I'd learned. A more fun way I later discovered is learning simple songs. For mando chord changes, I figured out "The Sweater Song" by Weezer. I can now go G-C-D-C like a champ
    The first song I ever learned on guitar was "Feelin' Alright" by Traffic. A7 and D, that's all it is, over and over. But it's very cool when you first start out to know a real live song.

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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    A metronome is invaluable for solidifying your rhythm. And focusing your chop on those D and G courses will pay dividends.
    "Well, I don't know much about bands but I do know you can't make a living selling big trombones, no sir. Mandolin picks, perhaps..."

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    Registered User Al Trujillo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    I picked up a mandolin for the first time a little over a year ago. While I played by myself - learning what I could from the internet, books, etc., I don't think I really transitioned to a slightly higher level until I found an instructor. My instructor has never played a mandolin but he is a degree'd musician (guitar) and has taught me much. Also, having his direct feedback to my questions has been critical. Learning chords is important but a couple months ago I was pretty tired of playing them and found a website (nigelgatherer.com) that has a lot of mandolin tablature for Scottish, Irish, Celtic and some American tunes. Between my instructor and playing multiple songs from the Gatherer website I am finally playing something that makes sense to me. Good luck on your journey. Its all about having fun, isn't it?

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Here's my same old story, often repeated. I started many years ago playing violin in elementary school orchestra. You need to play with others to learn rhythm. Sure playing along with the radio, youtube, etc. will help. But playing with others in a regular basis (weekly if you can) is how I learned. I progressed faster on mandolin than on guitar, which I learned decades ago playing all alone for hours every day. In two years of regular group jams with mandolin I surpassed what it took me 15 years to learn playing guitar with myself. Lessons are fine. Method books can be good. Hours of woodsheding alone are necessary. But the single best way to develop rhythm and timing is regularly playing with a small supportive group of people.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Hi MSG - It's nice to know that you're getting 'back on the hoss',& congrats. on your graduation.
    The first thing that i would do is to buy a good book of mandolin chords. This is the one that i bought - ''The Gig-bag Book of Mandolin Chords'' - all 1,100 + of 'em !!. then i'd look for a few tunes that you like & look at the chord for them.You can use this
    website to do that ''Riff Station'' - https://play.riffstation.com/ Type the song / artist you want & see what comes up.If a song does come up,click 'play' & the chords & the chord changes will be shown. Use YouTube also, to watch how mandolin players play 'rhythm' & watch how they play 'chop chords'.
    Apart from 'Riff Station' which i only discovered fairly recently,that's exactly the way i learned, IvanClick image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Quote Originally Posted by jaycat View Post
    . . it's very cool when you first start out to know a real live song.
    When you hear that chord change, and you're the one that made it. That's life altering.

    I can't remember just exactly what my first tune was, maybe Wabash Cannonball?

    I always contend, it's not knowing the three chords, it's knowing how to transition from one to the next within the beat.
    It's all in the changes. (chord changes) When you can hear it coming, anticipate it and complete it. you're making music.
    No longer a mere mortal, but a Musician! Immediately start sleeping late, forgo bathing, and start making vague promises.

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    Michael Grady MSGrady20's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Thanks for all the input guys/gals. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to answer my question. Some great tips on here.
    Kentucky KM-150
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    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Welcome back!

    I'm also guilty of learning melodies and not the chords. Ha!

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    Troy Shellhamer 9lbShellhamer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Back from a 1.5 year hiatus

    Great advice above. I'll share my own two cents.

    When you learn the melody, play along with a backing track like on Steve Kaufman's 4 hour BG workouts. It'll give you a chance to practice rhythm and melody, and there are various speeds.
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