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Thread: Identity crisis

  1. #1

    Default Identity crisis

    Would like some input. I started playing Mandolin about 6 years ago really enjoy it. I met a lot of people in the community through my initial jam class , public jams and camps. I play everyday something for the most part and weekly out at jams. I started learning guitar chords from jam class and starting trying to play guitar when one was lacking for small group. That evolved into playing guitar when leading the slow jam in my community. Really love guitar and singing with guitar. I have been taking instruction in both these instruments for the duration of my playing time. Frequency varies, progress varies depending on what I have been playing the most that week or month. Many times when playing guitar though I have found that I have been supplying just the rhythm backing at a very basic level so I have been trying to dress that up and learn to play a hand full of songs in beginner style. Most recently I have been playing around with a fiddle- same story. Just experimenting . Liked the sound . It is a lot like the Mandolin for fingering , now just how do I work the stick with strings that goes with it? You get the picture . If there are too many mandolins at a jam I try to pick up something else and fill in as best I can . I have found that some of this is really helpful. I learn something on Mandolin I can switch it to guitar if I sit and work it out. Or I discover that my slow tremolo/ shuffle that I can not get out of my head is the sound of a fiddle shuffle . It was like a revelation to me as I was not playing it purposely. I usually have something in the works for each instrument through my lessons or something on the my own. So I am learning but I am struggling with all of this. As most players might say I am not happy with my level of playing and I am trying to improve. I am getting frustrated as I find myself switching instruments for the needs of the varying groups that Iím playing with. Letís not forget trying to add the vocals, lyrics, harmony. Maybe I am too new a player to be trying to get all this down. I know I have seen it in individuals that have played one instrument for many years. They have a good background before they started another. The couple of people that I have had the nerve to speak to about it have had varying ideas on this. Some have thought that it allows for that cross learning, relieve boredom when you have reached a plateau on learning one thing switch to another type thing. Another suggested putting everything down but one and focus. They were instructors. I have invested money in decent quality instruments, for my income, all around. I am not in a band so I will be presented over and over again with these same driving forces. So I am curious how others have reached some type of balance in their playing and learning. How do you not be the 6 th Mandolin in the group , yet be playing and focusing on the instrument that you chose to play ? My biggest desire is to really make some ground somewhere. But then again from the conversation I see on the Cafe it sounds like this drive to improve really never is satisfied. I appreciate any input .

  2. #2
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    It was easy for me. I always wanted to be a one-instrument guy, and my instrument should be universal enough to fulfill all my needs of sound. In the end, the solution was the OM: a mandolin with the pitch range of a guitar. Best of both worlds. The deep sound without the cranky tuning.
    Fiddle was never an option anyway, because the violin was the instrument I originally ran away from.

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Jams are fun in one way, a lot of different styles and songs that you run thru once then on to another. They are the pot luck of music, you get what you get. If you want a gourmet meal you need a group of dedicated musician that want to excel on their particular instrument with in a " band". The desire may be to perform or it may be for enjoyment but it has to be more structored than a jam.

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  6. #4
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    The music is always the most important thing to me so I was and is usually the one to fill in the missing instrument in a group.

    When I first started playing fiddle I had a few friends at my level but they always wanted to play fiddle so I became the guitar player. Then we formed a regular group and met two guitar players so I ended up as the mandolin player.

    OTOH I always loved many instruments and took up at various times banjos, ukuleles, viola, and bass and even accordion.

    There is nothing wrong with any of this. Each experience contributes to musicianship and each is a different voice. Of course if you really want to “master” and instrument you need to concentrate on that one. So it is a toss up. Still it is fun and I wouldn’t really change anything I have done in y 40+ years of playing.

    Mostly these days I play mandolin and fiddle on a daily basis.
    Jim

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    I am with Jim on this one, I have always had a fascination for trying to learn as many instruments as I could; (although success in this endeavor has been minimal). I always figured that if I showed up somewhere with my guitar and they needed a drummer - I could join in. If I bring my mandolin to a recording session and they need to add a little keyboard part to the recording, I could get the job, etc. In short, I love music . . . and everything about it - I love playing, learning, watching, listening, experimenting - everything; (okay, well, maybe the pay could be better - but that's another story).

    Above and beyond everything else, I also believe that music is personal - if you feel very strongly about something, do it! If you want to be virtuoso at one instrument, then work as hard as possible to make it happen . . . but if you want to tinker at several instruments, and just have fun at jams, then that is great too.

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  10. #6
    Registered User Roger Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    I too am a "multi-instrumentalist," and have asked the same questions of myself. I have decided that, at least for me, it is not a something I wish to change! I enjoy playing banjo, guitar, mando, and banjolele. Each has it's own voice, and place. I play in a band, and I switch freely from one to the other depending on the song we are doing, and the texture we want. When I practice, I usually give each a spin around the room to keep fresh. I am strongest on the 5 string banjo, but can pull my own on the others. I just love the music and enjoy the variety, and challenges that each instrument presents. There is something liberating about having choices about what I want to play in a given setting. I suppose this means I will never be the "Master" of any, but I can live with that - at least until I get that call from Nashville!
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  11. #7

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Paragraphs!Please!

    I too play mando, bass, guitar, banjo, some harmonica and can roughly chord on a piano.
    Oh yeah, im taking vocal lessons too.

    My primary instrument is/was guitar, but, in my 2 bands, i am solely relegated to mando in one, banjo in the other. Point? Sometimes circumstances decide.

    Op, you clearly listen, and, think about how to embellish! How to color.

    Exxxxccccceeeelllleennnnttt!

    Be a dilitante, as i get experimental sounds. Don't expect to soar without hard work. Most of us require years of playing to sound musical, with advances and plateus in progress.



    Let me offer this, based only on my experience:
    Continue to play all, so as not to get rusty, but, really focus on one, for at least acouple of years, and, playing with others. This allows me to stop transposing from one instrument to another, and simply think in mando, banjo, etc.. Learn the nuances and finesse of each instrument, and integrate things into muscle memory.

    For me, i need a baseline, ie one instrument upon which i build a musical foundation, chord theory, scales, voicings of chords, techniques, tunings, etc. Once solid, its easier for me to translate to another instrument.


    It may vary with age. I can muliti task, but, really making things flow takes , focus, slow practice and time. Do not underestimate the slow. Go slow and fast will come.

    Singing is important. If you do this, then, imho, the instrument must be on auto pilot, so that you can attend to singing with mindfulness and feeling. Soooooo, you gotta practice enough that you dont have to think about it, and free yourself to listen to the band.

    If you really want to improve get a teacher and stick with it for a year or more.
    Last edited by stevedenver; Mar-11-2018 at 10:34am.

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  13. #8

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly Adams View Post
    I too am a "multi-instrumentalist," and have asked the same questions of myself. I have decided that, at least for me, it is not a something I wish to change! I enjoy playing banjo, guitar, mando, and banjolele. Each has it's own voice, and place. I play in a band, and I switch freely from one to the other depending on the song we are doing, and the texture we want. When I practice, I usually give each a spin around the room to keep fresh. I am strongest on the 5 string banjo, but can pull my own on the others. I just love the music and enjoy the variety, and challenges that each instrument presents. There is something liberating about having choices about what I want to play in a given setting. I suppose this means I will never be the "Master" of any, but I can live with that - at least until I get that call from Nashville!

    Hijack,
    Hey griz, know a good banjo teacher in denver?

  14. #9
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    For me, it's a matter of balance. I play other stringed instruments and like you, I will usually play what's needed. I'm never gonna be a master on them but I'm adequate. I enjoy playing them and don't intend to give them up BUT I don't concentrate on them. My actual practice time is spent on mandolin. I'm new to the instrument and it's tempting to fall back on a more familiar instrument but I try to play mandolin at least 50% of the time at jams and 90% of the time at home. It's the one instrument that I'm following a method book for, learning the fretboard, working on simple leads, etc. In other words, it's the one I PRACTICE, the others I just PLAY. I felt that w/o a fair degree of concentration, it would be difficult to make much progress. And of course, I'm enjoying it.

  15. #10
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    I loved playing the guitar but when I was in high school we had a "country" band with four guitars and then we heard a bluegrass band and we all wanted to change to bluegrass and four guitars would not cut it so I started playing mandolin but also kept my guitar in case I ever needed to fill in if our guitar player couldn`t make a gig, then after many years I found that I couldn`t make the C chord on the guitar any more due to breaking my hand in a fall so now I am strictly a one instrument person, the mandolin...My chop on the mandolin has suffered but I can still do a decent job on it...

    Willie

  16. #11
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Like many here, I started playing guitar and during college was in a three guitar band - that led to picking up a mandolin in a pawn shop for some sonic variety. When I left for postgraduate training, I mostly played guitar but always found some time for mandolin. 10 years later I joined a bluegrass band - initially played mandolin because I lost the "who can change a broken string fastest" contest to the other guitar player. When we picked up a "real" mandolin player I went back to guitar. 15 years later I was in groups with too many guitars and started playing lap slide and got more serious about playing mandolin...

    Now I'm in a mongrel folk/proto-swing band only playing mandolin and a rock band only playing guitar. It's all good!

    I currently spend much more time practicing/playing mandolin at home than I spend with the guitar.

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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    I am never in a jam with more than one other mandolin, but often 5-7 fiddles. We play old time music so all the melody instruments are playing very similar notes with exception of skill level and a few extra embellished notes. I don't feel compelled to change instruments as there will be guitar, banjo, bass already. What I do is play the melody an octave up, or play in the same range up the neck. An A tune can be played starting on the A of the D string at the 7th fret, at the A octave at the 12th fret or the A of the E string on the 5th fret. Knowing scales is helpful to doing this, but it is pushing my skill level as I am doing it on the fly. This can be done for any tune in any key should you fee like doing it. It stands out in a jam, changes what you play, yet retains the exact same melody as everyone else is playing so doesn't foul up the tune. It also makes you a better player on your instrument.
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  19. #13

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Hard to give practical advice in this area. Everyone has their own talents and limitations.

    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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  21. #14

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    I recall being inspired by Ms Mandrell and that approach way back when..

    We've a house filled with everything from trumpets to tsimbis to tech - it definitely requires discipline to keep developing on something. For practical "advice," I guess it boils down to choices; spending time "studying" vs "playing." Often, public playing/performing was at direct odds with developing. I did a lot of playing/performing stuff that wasn't artistically satisfying, and I was always highly aware of the dichotomy.

    I play out only every other week now, so that it doesn't interfere with my studies. Late last year I fell into yet another idiom, and I couldnt even manage my uber-light performing schedule at that time as I was completely immersed in study..

  22. #15
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    I gave up virtuosity for versatility a long time ago (partially because I feared virtuosity was unattainable, but all you need to add another instrument is the price of one).

    Circumstances dictate my emphasis at any given time; I play several styles of music in a quasi-organized fashion, and each calls for different instrumental support. My solo work is 90% guitar/banjo/ukulele/harmonica, with the 10% being mostly concertina. My Celtic band calls for octave mandolin, mandola and concertina -- occasionally mandocello. Playing historical music with another group requires guitar, banjo, mandolin, mandola, Autoharp and concertina. The Dobro comes out when I'm backing up some vocalists with whom I work, which also gives me a lot of mandolin time, and I have enough gigs playing dances and backing up fiddlers, to keep me playing bass fiddle a few times a year.

    Odd how other instruments come out occasionally: I play exactly two songs on kalimba (thumb piano), but it's there when I need to play those two songs. I only use Jew's (or "jaw") harp for certain kids' programs, but always keep some in my gig bag.

    It does help to decide if there's a particular instrument that "speaks to you" more than others, and then to put in the largest share of playing time on that one. It is the non-virtuosi who are versatile, generally, though of course there are some who are masters of more than one instrument. If you become a virtuoso on the mandolin, through talent and dedicated, developmental practice, you won't be the one that switches to another instrument in a jam situation; it'll be one of the other mandolin players.
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    Registered User Roger Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by stevedenver View Post
    Hijack,
    Hey griz, know a good banjo teacher in denver?
    No, but I know a good one in Alburquerque!
    If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a vet.

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  25. #17

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Late last year I fell into yet another idiom, and I couldnt even manage my uber-light performing schedule at that time as I was completely immersed in study..
    If that idiom has anything to do with your first youtube vid, you were already immersed.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    It does help to decide if there's a particular instrument that "speaks to you" more than others and then to put in the most significant share of playing time on that one.....

    Lately, I had some 'time off' due to some broken bones. So my disability provided me an opportunity to work on music theory.

    During recuperation, for some reason, I missed my guitar. I had traded it for a mandolin ten years ago.

    I play fiddle, mandolin, and mandola and love them all. So it made no sense to go back to guitar. But it 'spoke to me' and I bought a guitar even though (for the present time), I can hardly hold the thing.

    I believe that guitar was part of my "identity". I owned an old Gibson J40 since I was 17 years old. Now I'm 65. This sure seems like an identity crisis!
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

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  29. #19

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Speaking to what Doug said, I was totally guitar-guy/identity from age 10 (an acolyte of that guy in my avatar) to about, oh, maybe 45-ish. For the past several years, due to proritizing other instruments, I no longer play any gtr, bnj, or mndln; the only "small" stringed instrument I play now is fiddle - which kind of scratches that niche, as it were. (I still have oud, saz, cittern, chrng...but don't play much other than fiddle)

    So, that's several decades of study - and repertoire - that's no longer accessible to me. It was hard to give all that up.

  30. #20
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by Fretfet2 View Post
    this drive to improve really never is satisfied.
    Let's hope not.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

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  32. #21

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Thanks! I appreciate the input.

  33. #22
    Registered User J-45er's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Making ground is your question.

    There is nothing wrong in learning to play both the guitar and mandolin. The change in neck size and fingering scale may help avoid many of the repetitive hand problems some players develop over the long term.

    I have played the the guitar for around 50 years and, more recently, the mandolin and banjo.

    Keep in mind that, for several reasons, the guitar is much harder to learn than the mandolin. Your pace of learning will be slower on that instrument. So don't expect to get to the same playing level on the guitar as fast.

    Learning methods for the guitar are endless, but there seems to be a finite number of mandolin books. On the mandolin side of things, if you are beyond just the basic books, you might try Mel Bay's Complete Jethro Burns Mandolin Book (be sure to get the CDs too). That book alone can boost your playing ability in about two week. Then I'd look at some of the Bill Monroe "favorite" books as well as some arrangements without tablature.

    On the guitar side, I really don't know about YouTube lessons, though I've been at times been tempted to buy a few of the Truefire video lessons - but have never done so. The most significant book on basic guitar out there is the "Modern Method for Guitar" by William Leavitt. I'd suggest just getting Volume 1 (but you may be able to get the all three volume book at about the same price as Volume 1). I recommend this book because there is no tablature. There is no fooling around. It is very professional and there is no BS. You are forced to learn the notes on the fretboard and the notes to the chords. Until you can get through Vol. 1, you really can't start making ground in a serious, constructive way. (Keep in mind that even guitarists who read music also rely on tablature. I admit using that crutch.)

    Hope this helps.

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  35. #23

    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Respective of J-45er's..

    The guitar is more like a piano (than is the mndln), and if it's not approached in the manner as J- describes, you'll be studying it piecemeal and in idiomatic application, say, BG flatpicking.

    Which is fine, of course.

    However, you then run the risk of eventually becoming exposed to aspects of guitar, and music, that is compelling and beyond your purview, leading again to the "now what do I choose?" dilemma.

    Many guitar folks experience this in a different form - learning idiomatic playing styles, partial aspects of the guitar, etc, then find they feel "in a rut" with the instrument, locked into repetitive patterns, etc.

    Depending on what you do, who you study with, etc, it could potentially be somewhat at odds with concurrent mndln study. Otoh, it could as well be synergistic.

    It (gtr) is a big instrument with quite broad potential. If you approach it comprehensively, as mentioned above, it can teach you a very great deal.

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  37. #24
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    So, that's several decades of study - and repertoire - that's no longer accessible to me. It was hard to give all that up.
    All of that time with a guitar (and I only learned a few tricks) seemed lost. What I really missed was a big rich strumming sound. Something like Altan playing Island Angel (Aingeal An Oilean).

    Now I'm going nuts with some music theory and playing D major chord scales on Guitar, Mandola, Mandolin and some double stops on fiddle. It is quite a 'work out' for my aging body. Ha, ha.

    There is an outstanding guitar teacher on youtube. And right now he is a big inspiration. Pebber Brown.



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  38. #25
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identity crisis

    I played guitar for a long time, then took up bass, then mandolin, now I'm getting into hand percussion. Problem is, now I'm in three bands playing bass, mandolin and percussion. I think I'm at my wife's limit.

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