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Thread: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

  1. #26
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    I have a "hunch" that many great players lean forward while playing seated, often without a strap! Examples abound. But these very same players tend to lose the lean-in when they are standing upright, for example, to play in a band situation, with a strap. So it's not appropriate to compare seated playing with unseated playing. And if virtuosos like Mike Marshall and Chris Thile are capable of coaxing such great music from their instrument while playing seated and leaning in, I see no reason at all to dismiss this posture!

  2. #27
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    << Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments? >>

    Because they can.

    But not all do...

    Learning to play an instrument without looking is one of the best things a person can do. I had a close friend lose his sight and he had to give up mandolin playing altogether. When that happened, I decided if I ever lose my sight I want to still be able to play my instruments.

    I had already stopped watching my picking hand years ago, so, what that meant is that I also needed to learn the fingerboard sufficiently that I didn't have to watch what my fretting fingers were doing. After getting used to that a person can actually play more cleanly and sometimes even faster, and the likelihood of making mistakes is frequently less than if you are watching -- it's very much like typing in that respect.

    There are lots of advantages in doing this beyond being able to continue playing if you lose your sight. Those advantages are mostly related to being able to respond to things around you...

    If you're in a band, you're able to watch and respond to your band-mates' body language and visual tempo hints, so if you can't hear them, you can still keep the right tempo. This can be a huge advantage, and it also helps similarly in a jam situation.

    Also you can watch your audience and be more in touch with them, which is something that many audiences respond positively to.

    Of course, this can also be especially helpful if you are needing to dodge food or beverage items that people in the audience are throwing at you. Of course, in that case it might be better simply not to antagonize them.
    -- Don

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  4. #28
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Does the name "Quasimodo" ring a bell?

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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    I don't, but then again I like to be comfortable and led by their design don't use a strap for carved or bowlback mandolins sitting or standing. I do tend to lean over my mandoloncello which I normally play while sitting..... maybe there's a need for people to practice standing up more?
    Eoin



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  6. #30
    Registered User Chunky But Funky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Well.....what would Chris do?

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    And to stretch your back from all of that hunching, Chris recommends this stretch...

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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    I play for dances so rarely look at my hand, but instead watch the dancers and the caller. The caller only has a short time to communicate to the band any request he/she may have. I agree with dhergert that not looking allows faster smoother playing. If you know tunes well enough it also allows you to sing while still playing all the notes of the tune, looking at the fingers would very much inhibit this. It also allows you to sit more upright. I do like in a jam keeping my mandolin close and sometimes lean over to hear it better, but usually sit upright.
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  11. #33
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    In your comments, some of you seem to be confusing leaning forward while playing seated with looking at the fingerboard! These are totally independent things. If you examine the pictures of Chris Thile and Mike Marshall while they're playing seated, you'll see that both these players lean forward over their instruments, but they rarely (if ever) look at the fingerboard. In fact, they are constantly looking at their fellow players for cues. Leaning forward is not (just) about being able to watch your own fingers, people! It provides a different soundscape of the instrument for the player (for better tone production), and it allows slightly different arm and hand positioning, too.

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  13. #34
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    OP << ... mandolin players hunch over their mandolins, intensely staring at their FRETBOARD! ...>>

    Mostly I was addressing the OP's comments. I agree, they aren't necessarily the same thing. But, if you're staring at your fretboard, most of the time you'll also be hunched over the mandolin. Depending on how good your vision is and on how mobile your neck is.
    -- Don

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Mandolin players lean forward over their mandolins whilst seated because it helps stabilize the instrument and free up the sound. If you lean back or sit upright, the back of the mandolin presses against your stomach, and is only supported on the tops of your legs. But hunching over the instrument and getting your chest onto the bass side helps stabilize it. And, unless you have a rather large belly, leaning over the instrument gets it off your belly.

    Not that these are necessary for decent playing, of course. But when I first learned to play, it was natural to want to put my chest on top of the mandolin and sort of pin it to my lap by hunching over it. It was only when I got a good strap and learned to play standing up that I realized just how badly I was hunching to play.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    And if virtuosos like Mike Marshall and Chris Thile are capable of coaxing such great music from their instrument while playing seated and leaning in, I see no reason at all to dismiss this posture!
    I quite agree. We try to use their picks, why not their posture. Heck, if I though it would do any good I would wear my hair like Marty Stuart.
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    ... unless you have a rather large belly, leaning over the instrument gets it off your belly. ...
    That's me.

    It started at around age 45.

    I used to have to wear a thick piece of leather over my belt buckle to keep from scratching the backs of various instruments.

    I no longer need to worry about that. Oh well.

    It's not that I'm fat. I'm just short for my width.
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  19. #38
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    I don't know about fiddle players but for violinists, any hint of looking at the fret board is considered evidence of incompetence. As a point of pride they just don't do it.

    I do it to make sure my fingers end up on the right frets. Especially above the 5th fret I need to see where I am going. And yes, it is evidence of incompetence. I have only been playing about a year.

    If you look at Lonzo and Oscar videos, you will see Lonzo making a point of looking directly at the camera while doing the most amazing things with his Mandolin. And he is making funny faces and popping bubble gum all the while to emphasize how easy all that highly technical playing is for him.

    Undoubtedly, playing without looking at your hands is cooler than looking at them. But then, the good thing about being married to the same woman more than 30 years is that you no longer have a need to look cool.

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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    I'm used to looking at my left hand as I play, so it's what I usually do. Some pickers, like John Moore, rarely look at the hands. Jethro was the same.

  21. #40
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by RodCH View Post
    I don't know about fiddle players but for violinists, any hint of looking at the fret board is considered evidence of incompetence. As a point of pride they just don't do it.
    I thought that was the rule too, but I've seen lots of concert violinists do it. Heck, just a few days ago when I was reading about Mira Wang playing the Totenberg Stradivarius, there was a photo of her staring at the fingerboard while she played. Granted, she was way up the neck, not playing in first position, but still...

    I do look at my left hand on the fretboard a lot while I play fretted instruments. But I quickly weaned myself off of it when playing the fiddle. There's really nothing to see there when there aren't any frets. My ears give me more important feedback than my eyes on a fretless instrument, and I find that I play better when I don't look. But on fretted instruments where there's no feedback mechanism to tell me how accurate my finger placement is (especially on longer-scale instruments like the banjo where there's a lot of room between frets), I do like to have a visual reference. Especially for a guy with small hands like myself, who has to shift a lot, seeing the fretboard makes for smoother play.
    Keep that skillet good and greasy all the time!

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  23. #41
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Maybe when you are in a room full of mandolin players, get out your clipboard,
    walk around and take a survey, asking them..


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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by RodCH View Post
    Undoubtedly, playing without looking at your hands is cooler than looking at them. But then, the good thing about being married to the same woman more than 30 years is that you no longer have a need to look cool.
    Yes.
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  25. #43
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    I thought that was the rule too,.
    There's a rule?

    I look at my hands frequently. Because I want to. I look around the room, I look at others, I look at my hands. I look at the music. I look at the conductor. Whatever.
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  26. #44
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    I hunch when I concentrate. When I no longer have to concentrate, I will (probably) no longer hunch.

  27. #45
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Well if someone is an internationally renowned musician and educator and is on the front page of the Cafe...and I'm not...then I might ask why that is then ponder the answer.

    And then I might ask myself why I have to advertise a gig on a message board.

    Sayin'.
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  28. #46

    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    I NEVER lunch over my mandolin.....

    What??

    Hunch??

    Oh.... Never mind....

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  30. #47
    Registered User Chanmandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    This thread has me shaking my head lol
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  31. #48

    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    I can't hear myself if I stand up straight. I hunch, nos problemos...

    Len B.
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  32. #49
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Quote Originally Posted by lenf12 View Post
    I can't hear myself if I stand up straight. I hunch, nos problemos...
    I stand up straight so I can't hear myself. In that way, I can at least imagine that I am playing well.
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  34. #50
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do mandolin players hunch over their instruments?

    Maybe they aren't hunching......
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    Eoin



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