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Thread: Go Deeper, Not Wider

  1. #1
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Here's an interesting article about getting deeper into what you've started, rather than continually "consuming" new interests, which I think is relevant to many of us at Mandolin Cafe. It begins:

    "I keep imagining a tradition I’d like to invent. After you’re established in your career, and you have some neat stuff in your house, you take a whole year in which you don’t start anything new or acquire any new possessions you don’t need.

    "No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.

    "You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more."

    https://www.raptitude.com/2017/12/go-deeper-not-wider/
    Last edited by Ranald; Jan-05-2019 at 11:14am. Reason: punctuation
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    The multi-instrumentalist in me doesn't exactly agree... because l love finding new sounds and leaning new instruments.

    But being content with what you got and growing in what you do... that is definitely something I agree with.

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    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Well, Im trying to not buy any new instruments in 2019. Well see how that goes

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I agree with the concept, and it’s one I struggle with. There is so much access with the internet to EVERYTHING! It’s difficult for me to settle down and dig in. Thanks for the post.

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I've made mandolin my focus, increasing my playing time percentage from guitar to mandolin as time progresses. I've also cut down songwriting in lieu of what for me is a disciplined study of mandolin. Not that I didn't buy one and build another. This was just a natural ocurance, not some goal oriented endeavor.

    What has really suffered is TV consumption. That's just fine, but replaced by YouTube somewhat. I'd just rather watch real people persue real interests. I think you can get sidetracked by more stuff, but in the end it's how you want to spend your time.
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I accumulate very slowly, although I go through books. Still, I never stop being open to a new tune, or a technical idea, or a different group to play music with.

    I go deep and wide in steady progression. I admit to owning a few 10-string mandos but that is because they are not generally available. In my guitar days I never owned more than one, and only ever owned one viola at a time. Right now the other mandolins are spares, not used.

    For me the principle is to never give up and drop repertoire I used to play well—keep all tunes in good shape to the extent possible given aging joints and finite time. Keep improving the ones I love, and keep revisiting the technically challenging ones. Sometimes I will realize a few months have gone by without touching on one, and I find it’s in better shape than I expect, which is likely due to other progress I’ve made on newer repertoire.

    No way would I give up reading a new book or hearing new music for a year. I do, however, play only 10-string mandolin, no more viola, no guitar, etc. Learning new lyrics is definitely allowed, but not interested in different instruments now, because I can play in multiple genres with my 10-strings.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Like the idea, although won't ever be successful at it. Already have traded off two mandolins for one. Now, spending the rest of the year practicing and not accumulating more? That's a goal I already had. Then again, three guitars, four mandolins and a couple of OMs are probably enough for anyone.

    Not sure I can do it for music or books. Especially music books. Am still early enough in my learning curve of Finnish and Scandinavian music that things come along that have tunes I want to learn, or to bring to my band.
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Like many others here, I went thru the 'shopping process' at Christmas Time. I was after the best tenor guitar and / or an octave mandolin. The rational was that I wanted a lower 'voice' in accompanying my wife's beautiful violin music. Never mind that I have an outstanding guitar, and an even more beloved mandola.

    I did find the most amazing custom octave mandolin but I did not buy it. One helpful aspect is that it is very expensive and it would take at least a year for the luthier to build one. May as well hold out for the best. Right?

    Excuses and rational's aside, especially since I know how silly I sound. One idea kept bugging me. And that is that I think that a great instrument deserves a great musician. I'm no 'great musician'. So that stopped my shopping mode. And then I looked at the 'pile' of instrument cases. And all of them have top notch instruments. I started to get depressed about my musical abilities. Ha, ha.

    So I decided to concentrate at the 'task at hand', which is that I need to get better at chords with the mandola to accompany my wife's violin playing. And I also need to learn more 'third position' shifts and technical fingering challenges for the community string orchestra on violin. Yikes, that's enough for at least a year.

    I might sell the guitar and even a custom mandolin to get that 'most amazing octave mandolin'. Or maybe not. I could be happy just holding on to my instruments and working to 'deserve them'.

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I've got a friend who wants to form a duo or trio and we are both songwriters, but with very different styles, and he is motivated enough to really work on material. He is also convinced he can't sing harmony. I told him he'd have to if we were going to do this, and make an attempt to play another instrument. It will be interesting to see if we can blend our styles, so is that deeper or wider?
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    It is not quantity but quality that matters, truly matters.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Very interesting. I had a discussion with a friend and we both decided that we were not of the deeper or, at least, not constrained to only one quest for deeper knowledge. I have always been multi-interested in many areas, even those outside of music.

    However, the one thing I have realized, as I approach my seventh decade on earth, that I do not need to add any more new instruments to learn from scratch. I can pickup most fretted ones and even chin positioned string family instruments but ones that require other skills really need to be off my table of possibilities. Therefore I returned the borrowed nyckelharpa to the generous friend who lent it to me—if I truly want to play Swedish music I can play it on the violin or mandolin or guitar. Same goes for Dobro/lapsteel and any accordions which I always loved but realize will take more time and patience.

    I doubt I will ever just concentrate on one instrument or genre but that is what keeps me alive. And why would I give up the skills I have on those others.
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  23. #12

    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I gave away about half of my gear when we relocated out of state 3 years ago. I expunged all of my drums, electrics, amps, hi fi gear, and a few acoustic guitars and banjos.. But that was pretty easy, since I wasn't using it.

    So that helped me whittle it down to "essentials"...which included a Chinese guzheng that I'd recently acquired.

    Although I was, and am, engaged in deep study in a variety of forms, and knowing that trad Chinese Han requires study every bit as consuming as the rest, it was also the "deepest dive" into stringed instrument study.

    Lately, I've further whittled it down to: fiddle, box, harps/zithers - which about covers it, since I don't perform publicly on woodwinds, but still love to play them at home occasionally. The only drumming I do any more is on my other instruments, so I don't really miss all that gear. (I do play a bit of gtr/bnj/mndln in social settings, but I no longer study).

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Yea, accordion. I have thought I'd play my mother's accordion someday. Well, I'm running out of 'days'. Ha, ha.

    And the other situation, you may know, is that some instruments in the collection 'collect dust' while the 'main' instrument is used daily.

    I 'went back' to guitar after not playing for ten years. Oh is this a problem! Some things seem easy and others are just not possible without some serious work on technique and knowledge. Is it worth the effort?

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Since I started playing a bit of folk - gtr/bnj/mndln - recently for social purposes, I thought I'd try to re-acclimate to some of my classical gtr repertoire, after an almost decade-long layoff.

    But I think it's just too strenuous, while fiddling is just so much easier (physically).

    Re accordions: there are so many varieties, just call em free reeds... I went through the - chuck em all for ONE chromatic button accordion...but that didnt work either.

    *Wrt general topic: for me, the music dictates what instrument I study. Unfortunately my thirst for variety (sound) is boundless...but there's a corresponding drive for depth of study in form.

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Going deep is good. Going wide is also good. Furthermore, these are not necessarily mutually exclusive, although there is only a finite amount of time in the day, alas!

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  31. #16
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Quote Originally Posted by Zach Wilson View Post
    The multi-instrumentalist in me doesn't exactly agree... because l love finding new sounds and leaning new instruments.

    But being content with what you got and growing in what you do... that is definitely something I agree with.
    I don't know that the writer is necessarily addressing you, Zach. I gather from your posts that you're still raising young children. I think, to some degree at least, he's addressing older people.

    Advice is cheap, and I don't think any piece of advice is good for everyone. For instance, here's some great advice for someone: keep a steady but boring job that pays well, and this will allow you to have security and lots of money to do enjoyable things in your spare time. However, I have a low boredom threshold and like creative pursuits, and would probably have serious depression and perhaps heart trouble if I'd followed that path, which I could have done with the job I had when I was nineteen. Personally, I think that if people are playing or enjoying their instruments, that's great. Even if you get joy from a collection -- though I don't really understand that -- that's fine. However, many older folks (this comes up on Mandolin Cafe discussions) have been confronted by dilettante peers, who turn up for musical (or other) activities, with no sense of commitment. Many can't even show up once a week for six weeks, let alone work on tunes at home. Meanwhile they may be going to a half dozen other groups with the same lack of dedication, which takes away from the experience of themselves and others. I have many interests, but can only be good at a small number, and will commit to those. Furthermore, many of us think, "There's a glockenspiel for sale! I've always wanted to play the glockenspiel, since I saw my first marching band; I have to have one." Meanwhile, we have instruments at home that we're still hoping to master. (I never was tempted to take up glockenspiel -- I just like the name.)

    To others who responded, the writer isn't saying, get rid of your stuff. He's saying, use what you have, and don't be in a rush to buy more. As he tells us, "Ever-branching possibilities make it harder for us to explore any given one deeply, because there’s always more 'newness' to turn to when the old new thing has reached a difficult or boring part."
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    ... "Ever-branching possibilities make it harder for us to explore any given one deeply, because there’s always more 'newness' to turn to when the old new thing has reached a difficult or boring part."
    Or, as Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh observed, "impossible to remain in one tradition..." (prphr) due to those possibilities..

    On the other matter of materiality: to help him with his excesses, Clapton observed the aphorism to "want what we have, rather than to have what we want."

    *I read the article linked. No doubt there's validity in approaching life meaningfully. And of direct aesthetic experience. Me, I'm a dancer and live/love to use sound to widen and deepen my experience of dance/life. Certainly it's my method of imbuing meaning.
    Last edited by catmandu2; Jan-05-2019 at 10:36pm.

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I am in my 6th decade, and I know my time is somewhat limited, although my families tend to be rather long-lived (90s.) I try to go deeper, but love learning new things, and it's hard to limit myself (my family says I don't have interests, I have obsessions - where I try to learn everything I can about a new subject.) I wanted to take up tenor guitar, but I have been able to stop myself so far. I need to get better at guitar and mandolin and violin first.

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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I think it is obvious that there is a issue of values being discussed. Just 'having stuff' seems to give in to the consumer culture. And 'playing with' musical toys is not the same as 'playing' an instrument with any skill worth listening to. Also there are people who just dabble and have no commitment towards team work.

    On the other hand, I think it is fun to 'play with' my 'toys'. However I have very strong feelings about quality and commitment. (as others have described here).

    Pebber Brown a really cool guitar instructor on youtube, a guy about my age (mid 60's) said something that I think of often. And I smile every time. He said that he could not think of anything that would 'get through' to the young, 'head strong' rock guitarists. Then he did have an idea. So this 'old hippie' looked right into the camera and said, "YOU SUCK!"
    It makes me laugh every time.
    Last edited by DougC; Jan-06-2019 at 11:25am.
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I think of it like a vee. The deep point right now is mandolin, the middle is guitar, recording and theory, the top is dobro, bass guitar, uke, and 12 string guitar. Floating belly up on the surface, steel guitar, and electric guitar.

    Basking in the sun in a boat is crime fiction and vegi gardening.
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    Registered User John Hill's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    It’s the same with any hobby...be it (for me) fly fishing, fountain pens or watches...you come across a new interest, learn a lot and buy a lot of new stuff (the Internet is all to happy to help you buy the next shiny new thing that will take you to the next level). Eventually you realize that more reels don’t make you a better fisherman, more pens don’t improve your handwriting and a new mandolin doesn’t make you a better player. Somewhere along the way we tend to see that using the stuff we have is more important, and THE point of having the stuff, than accumulating, well, more stuff.
    There are three kinds of people: those of us that are good at math and those that are not.

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  42. #22
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Quote Originally Posted by John Hill View Post
    Eventually you realize that more reels don’t make you a better fisherman, more pens don’t improve your handwriting and a new mandolin doesn’t make you a better player.
    But working on more reels (and jigs) will make you a better musician.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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  44. #23
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    I guess I've done both and by wider I mean more styles and types of playing like classical or choro or eastern European as well as bluegrass and traditional. I was "deep" into Celtic music for a long time, but it just started sounding "stale" to me so I really departed from studying those tunes and trying to play that style - but I still run through Julia Delaney or Banish Misfortune quite often. I do have multiple mandolins, mandolas, octaves and mandocellos, These days I concentrate mostly on mandolin ( as a matter of practicality), still I find myself wondering "how that would sound on mandola" or can I arrange a mandola part for that particular tune. So in hind site I would say go deep before you go wide, but if you never leave your comfort zone you will may be missing out on a lot of great experiences.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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  46. #24

    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianWilliam View Post
    Well, I’m trying to not buy any new instruments in 2019. We’ll see how that goes
    Highly unlikely for me, too. Last year, the furnace and our outside sewer connection went. This year, a snowplow totalled our parked car, and the chimney's leaking into the house and needs repointing.

    So we're replacing things, but I can't justify buying much beyond groceries.

    We're going deeper whether we want to or not!
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; Jan-07-2019 at 8:58am.

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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Go Deeper, Not Wider

    While I don't think the concept is bad, we are not a one size fits all creature. Some of us need multiple stimuli in order to stay fresh and constant new information to stay interested in this life. But what do I know, I just like to play the mandolin.

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