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Thread: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the start...

  1. #1

    Default If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the start...

    Hey all, I'm looking to start learning the mandolin. I've been playing the guitar for many years--flatpicking for maybe an year and have about 30 hours experience on the violin. I was hoping to get some tips for picking up the mandolin--learn from your experiences.

    If you had to learn mandolin again from the start, what would you do differently? What advice would you give to your starting self? Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I started when I was 60 years old and I would have started as a youngster and taken lessons.

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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I would have said, "instead of assuming you will pick stuff up by just playing on it, go and get lessons and get involved with playing with others right away." Oh yeah, "and get an Eastman and throw away that piece of crap."

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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    What advice would you give to your starting self? Thanks!
    To be quite honest.....

    "I know, I know, Fiddle will sound horrible for awhile and will be hard as hell, but try to put up with it and tough it through if you want to sound like Dave Swarbrick. OTOH If you want to sound like Richard Thompson (or John Renbourn), get rid of that horrible high action Harmony acoustic guitar and get hold of a Strat or an SG. Yeah, you'll think that the mandolin is a compromise between the two - tuned like a fiddle but right hand like a guitar...but trust me kid you'll be compromising away far too much from both ends! Better yet...do both.

    PS, flute ain't a bad instrument either, and, don't wait until you are 40 to take up martial arts. (it'll help save you from getting ripped off).

    AND...this is really important - I know you are not into it (now), but please develop some singing chops so you can front your own band(s) and thus have control of the material you'll perform and not be at the mercy of someone else. And I know you've got good tastes in music/records -cos I'm you. (Believe me!")


    Good Luck"

    - Your future self

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    Quote Originally Posted by lyi View Post
    If you had to learn mandolin again from the start, what would you do differently? What advice would you give to your starting self? Thanks!
    The biggest thing for me, and not just in mandolinning, is the amount of time I have wasted getting started as I searched for the front door. I have learned that no matter where you start, you will have regrets, you will have things you need to relearn, bad habits to unlearn, good habits started too late. Unavoidable.

    So, for my personality, my biggest regret, in life, is wasting time trying to start correctly, when I could have had much more fun much earlier, and been much farther along, in many many things, if I just started, just jumped into the middle and swam out to the edges and figure out what I need along the way.
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    Registered User Pete Summers's Avatar
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I would tell myself to take lessons from a good instructor immediately -- most of all, learn music theory and scales early, no matter how boring it is ... devote some time on every practice session to theory. I would quit obsessing over what kind of mandolin I had and just get whatever I had at the time set-up correctly. And then practice more, at least once a day if possible. Also, learn to read music AND tabs. Now, at 75 years old, I'm too tired to do all that, but 40 years ago I had the energy but not the advice and guidance.

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  12. #7

    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I would have sought older recordings sooner and not spent so much time listening to jazz. Who knows though, probably weren't many and there were jazz, so.. what would I do *differenly?* - as above, or to pick up the pipes.

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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    If I could do it again I would not have taken a 4 year hiatus from playing, just as I was starting to get good! Life happened, and other musical distractions resulting in me not playing from 2011 to late 2015. I really rue all that lost time, only feeling like I'm getting back in my stride again now after two years back at it.
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus B View Post
    go and get lessons and get involved with playing with others right away."
    Those are definitely my top two. You don't have to take lessons full time. Take a group of 4 every so often

    Start out with a mandolin that's easy to play with a light touch. Playing with a light touch will be priceless later

    Get some slow down software and learn simple tunes by ear as soon as you get the basics down

    Learn how/why to make chords rather than memorizing where they are

  15. #10

    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I would make sure you don't bring your guitar playing to the mandolin. It's very easy to assume fretting and picking are "about the same" when they aren't.

    This should help:

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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    "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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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I wish I had known the ergonomics and about how the brain learns effectively like I know now. But not knowing those then is what eventually led me to know them now.
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I would have bought a much better mandolin much earlier and not wasted time and money on the mediocre ones. Also I would have started on mandolin at a much earlier age.
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    For me it would be right hand, I didn't pay attention to right hand for years and then had to unlearn before learning correct. DO NOT think flat picking guitar is the same as picking mandolin. The guitars sustain will cover a multitude of sins that the mandolin won't.

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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ostrander View Post
    I would have bought a much better mandolin much earlier and not wasted time and money on the mediocre ones. Also I would have started on mandolin at a much earlier age.
    Stop, you're going to end up costing me money, lol.

  24. #16

    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    Start earlier and take some lessons to get the right and left started correctly. Spent 6 months trying to play a little guitar, no, no, no.
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Registered User chasray's Avatar
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I would proceed at a slower pace, that is, I would learn that first song really, really well before I went to the next one.

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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Spent 6 months trying to play a little guitar, no, no, no.
    There it is.
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I'll join the chorus of those who've said they'd tell themselves to get started earlier. It would have been great to have come to the mandolin in my youth. At least, I think it would have. But all in all, I'm happy with how I started, and what I've done. I subscribe to Jeff's sentiments expressed in post #5. That one bears a careful read. It matters less that you "get started just right" and more that you simply, GET STARTED. It's doubtful you get everything right from the start. If you really care, you'll work at discovering, improving, correcting, and re-learning things for the rest of your life anyway.
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    Like George Lane,i began playing mandolin aged 60,13 years ago. I fell in love with the sound of Bluegrass mandolin back in 1964,however,trying to buy a mandolin in the UK at that time wouldn't have brought much success. But if i could begin again,knowing what i know now,it would be very much earlier than i did start - IF the availability of the mandolins was better than it used to be,
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    Registered User Darren Bailey's Avatar
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I would have paid attention to my pick grip. Coming from guitar I paid too little attention to my right hand. Ten years later I had to relearn how to hold my plectrum. A frustrating few weeks.

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  34. #22

    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    I'll join the chorus of those who've said they'd tell themselves to get started earlier. It would have been great to have come to the mandolin in my youth. At least, I think it would have. ...
    It probably all works out even, in the long run.

    I started playing music young (learned a bunch of different instruments from my dad, including mandolin), played for years, got reasonably good, eventually got bored because I ran out of new ideas so I quit playing music at *all* for many many years and forgot nearly my entire repertoire.

    Just got back into mandolin several years ago, after 30+ years of no mandolin (and no tenor guitar either, which is where my GDAE interest really has always been anyway). So, a little rusty, to say the least!

    Although the technique stuff (holding the pick, etc) came back really quick, like riding a bicycle.

    But in a way, who knows, I might have learned more easily if I'd started as an adult, for this reason:

    I was a fidgety restless hyperactive kid, and it showed in my music. Took years to get my playing to where it didn't sound all stressed out. Plus, unsurprisingly, I had a tendency to play too fast.

    So in those regards, I would have had fewer bad habits to overcome if I'd started playing as an adult in later life, after I'd mellowed out a little (or perhaps just gotten too tired to be hyper any more heh).

    One thing I can say: My time off from playing music was actually beneficial because I was still exploring cool new sounds to listen to, such as live jazz bands, live opera singers, later on live funk bands with the cool bass lines, and other weird stuff (weird to me anyway, since I'd grown up with oldtime fiddle/banjo dance tunes and limited exposure to other types of music).

    Lots of listening is the key to getting new ideas for stuff that's possible with music.

    And, at least for me, those new ideas I got from listening, was what it took to eventually spark a renewed interest in playing music again.

    Quote Originally Posted by lyi View Post
    ...I was hoping to get some tips for picking up the mandolin--learn from your experiences. ...
    As others have probably mentioned (yeah I did read the thread but I can't remember now), get a competent teacher of some sort, who can get you set on the right course. That way you (hopefully) don't learn a bunch of bad habits that hinder your progress.

    Some of the things that seem the most obvious to an experienced player, will be the *least* obvious to a beginner. That's why it's important to have someone to guide you. I would almost certainly never have made it past beginner stage if I hadn't had someone right there to show me how to do stuff and answer my questions. I am quite capable of learning from books but it depends on the quality of the book, and even a well-written book can't anticipate every newbie's questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    ... But all in all, I'm happy with how I started, and what I've done. ...
    Same here. I did everything I wanted to do, including things I hadn't even anticipated such as playing on stage with some of my musical heroes and being invited to record with them a few times, and that was sufficient excitement for me for a lifetime. Lol.

    The fact that, later on, I let my music playing ability slip, meh it doesn't bother me, I'm catching up on it and even learning *new* things that I hadn't messed around with before (experimenting with writing multi-part harmonies in MuseScore etc), gives me something to do & new stuff to learn in my old age now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    ... If you really care, you'll work at discovering, improving, correcting, and re-learning things for the rest of your life anyway.
    Absolutely! Well-stated. And I agree completely. Even in the 'plateau' times, a person can still learn about tangentially-related stuff that might someday find some practical application in one's music. It's quite a trip!

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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    If I knew then what I know now, the approx. 40 years I lost while life got on the way (career, family, etc) between playing in my 20s to taking up music again in my late 50s to 60, would not have happened. I would have found a way to keep going. I lost very little with my piano/organ/harpsichord, it only took a little time to get it back. I lost more on recorder and guitar, and I only took up mando around age 60. So I would have kept going, started mando earlier, and taken "in person" lessons. I still haven't done that, no time (yet) for consistent practice, although I can say that my scales and arpeggios book is getting more use this year, after 15 minutes working on them, I can see an improvement in my playing, which gives me incentive to do it more.

  36. #24

    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I sometimes wonder if the “music mechanism” in your brain is like the “language mechanism”. They say the ability to integrate new languages fluently shuts off around puberty, if you don’t use it.

    My kids started playing at age three, but were never very serious about it. They just chugged along at 10, 15, 20 minuets a day—and yes I did “force” them to at least play a little each day. Then when they reached their teens, and playing became important to them, they seemed to hit the ground running. They seem to learn anything musical that interests them so effortlessly, and their brains and fingers seem to be connected in a way that my late-starter brain never will be.
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  38. #25
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    Default Re: If you had to begin your mandolin journey again from the star

    I would tell my starting self to get my mandolin setup properly. In fact, if Rob Meldrum's e book on mandolin setup were available then, I'd have recommended learning to setup my own instrument.
    That, and learn how to read music. Still can't and my old brain learns slower and slower every year.

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