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Thread: Tips for beginners 1st camp

  1. #1

    Default Tips for beginners 1st camp

    Just over 3 months after first touching a mandolin I attended the June Oberlin ROW camp at Menucha. Here's what a beginner needs to know for this camp and likely for others:

    Learn every note from open to seventh fret cold. I thought I knew them but in fact it took me a second much of the time to locate the correct string and fret when a note was called out and that was often too slow to follow the instructor.

    Be able to hit the correct fret with the correct finger every time.

    Be able to play without ever looking at your fingers.

    Improve your tab reading as much as possible. I practiced, correctly thinking that it was one of the most essential skills for camp, but under the pressure of playing in real time with an ensemble I would sometimes lose the feel of what fret my finger was on and hit the wrong one or hit the right fret with the wrong finger. Also, I'd often lose my place on the tab sheet early on.

    Sit on the left as you face a right-handed instructor. I habitually sat on the right and when the instructor showed us his fingering I usually only saw the back of his left hand.

    Get a thin loose leaf notebook with sheet protectors and tabs to organize your material. Several people had their materials spiral bound.

    Our camp was so tightly scheduled that I had to skip the late night jams, so I could get up two hours before breakfast, find an empty classroom or spot outside away from sleepers to work on class material. Younger folks with more stamina may not have to choose one or the other but do try to find time somewhere to digest what you are learning.

    I was able to play one ensemble piece but the other was too hard for me so I marked every downbeat with a highlighter. When I ran into trouble on the fifth measure I'd start just playing the downbeats to get through the difficult sections. Simplify if you need to.

    I stayed up to 1AM on the last night watching the jams so that I would be better prepared to participate next year. I was surprised at the number of different instruments many people brought. I deliberately did not bring my guitar as I correctly judged that keeping my focus on mandolin would be all I could handle. When I play in jams next year I think I'll bring an acoustic bass guitar so that I can contribute more. Don't be afraid to jump in. All the jams I observed were encouraging to less advanced players. Do choose the jam to participate in based on your familiarity with the genre.

    My first camp was very worthwhile despite often feeling overwhelmed. It showed me the landscape ahead, the various routes I could choose in future learning. Don't hesitate to go to a camp because you're a beginner but do prepare as much as you can in order to get the most benefit.
    199? Ike Bacon F5
    1945 Levin 330
    192? Bruno (Oscar Schmidt) banjo-mandolin
    200? Olympia OM6-SW
    early Eastwood Mandostang
    2005 Tacoma CB-10 acoustic bass guitar
    Fender Tweed Deluxe clone

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Tips for beginners 1st camp

    I'd add don't feel like you have to attend every class, if you can take a break, it can allow you to sleep in or take a nap so you can participate in some jams.
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  5. #3
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for beginners 1st camp

    Greg, it was great to meet you at ROW; and as a fellow beginner I concur with your experience and advice wholeheartedly.

    One additional thought: be prepared to learn about genres that up to now have not appealed to you. I have never understood jazz but I enjoyed getting an introduction into how all those "weird" chords are constructed and used, both in general and on the mandolin specifically. (Thank you, Paul Glasse). It won't make me change my focus, but I think I gained a lot from the experience. Shoot, I might even throw in an occasional 9th chord when I get to feeling my oats.
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  6. #4

    Default Re: Tips for beginners 1st camp

    Iíve not been to a music camp before, but other camps yes.
    Iíd add:
    -If you can, go for an hours fast hike in the mountains once a day for the month before the camp -like this, if you are sixty years old you will arrive at the camp with the physical fitness of a fifty year old! Seriously.
    -record each class, carefully archive/name everything and when you get back home remember that you only have like ten days to do loads of repetition of the lessons and get it really firm.
    -when you get back start a thread on MandolinCafe, post any good crazy wild little brown bear stories, and out in the trees in the darkness at night, did you hear any banjos out there? Or at any time feel youíd like to go join them?

  7. #5

    Default Re: Tips for beginners 1st camp

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    Greg, it was great to meet you at ROW; and as a fellow beginner I concur with your experience and advice wholeheartedly.

    One additional thought: be prepared to learn about genres that up to now have not appealed to you. I have never understood jazz but I enjoyed getting an introduction into how all those "weird" chords are constructed and used, both in general and on the mandolin specifically. (Thank you, Paul Glasse). It won't make me change my focus, but I think I gained a lot from the experience. Shoot, I might even throw in an occasional 9th chord when I get to feeling my oats.
    I certainly enjoyed meeting you, Henry. That class with Paul Glasse is a great example of something unexpected making an impact. "Circle of Fifths and Jazz Chord Progressions" seemed like a snooze going in because, although I listen to a lot of jazz, I thought jazz chords were something to try to get a grip on a few years down the road. However what Paul taught was very accessible and dozens of jazz tunes came flashing through my mind as he walked through both chord progression and key modulation. Because of that class jazz/swing has moved towards the top of the list of what I will pursue in the wake of the camp.
    199? Ike Bacon F5
    1945 Levin 330
    192? Bruno (Oscar Schmidt) banjo-mandolin
    200? Olympia OM6-SW
    early Eastwood Mandostang
    2005 Tacoma CB-10 acoustic bass guitar
    Fender Tweed Deluxe clone

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Tips for beginners 1st camp

    ROW is a great camp, Iíve been a few times and was bummed to miss this year. Give yourself a break Greg - youíve only been playing for 3 months - I know people that have been playing for years that would be hard pressed to know all the notes from 1-7, many people donít read TAB or notation, and hitting the correct fret every time...well, many a pro has said the correct note is only a fret away.

    I think Camp is a place to go and be exposed to new things and pushed to a higher level. If youíre a beginnner put yourself in the intermediate classes, if int. go up to adv. no one is going to kick you out and you get exposed to new things to work on.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

  10. #7
    Registered User Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for beginners 1st camp

    Thanks for the notes, Greg, and I agree with them all.

    I would add that after a day of recuperating, I sat for an hour or so and mentally reviewed the classes we attended at ROW and wrote down about a half dozen Things To Work On Over The Next Year. I'm aiming to schedule my practice time according to those themes, and I think it will be a really good way to approach the next camp.

    ... and I was skipping lots of sections of La Luna Polka, too....

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