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Thread: Balancing practice between two instruments...

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    Default Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I started with mandolin and recently added banjo. I used to never miss a day of practice with my mandolin, now I miss about 1/2. I'm sure some of this is the novelty of a new instrument but what strategies do you multi-instrumentalists use to get enough practice in?

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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I quit the banjo😊

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    Registered User jpugh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Quote Originally Posted by dadsaster View Post
    I started with mandolin and recently added banjo. I used to never miss a day of practice with my mandolin, now I miss about 1/2. I'm sure some of this is the novelty of a new instrument but what strategies do you multi-instrumentalists use to get enough practice in?
    Hi all,
    I donít have any specific resolutions, but too am curious to hear what works for others...
    I play same instruments as you, plus guitar that is thus far still my ďmainĒ instrument, i
    Sometimes manage a guitar/mando - am/pm routine, or guitar/banjo etc, but mostly find I spend to much time w one at the neglect of the others, which I gotta assume is not the ďbest practiceĒ....
    Although, after spending the last 2weeks or so on mando exclusively, I got behind my Martin last night and went through some fiddle tunes, BBB, Billy Lowground, WBB, and found That much to my surprise I hadnít lost anything and seemed able to play them faster and cleaner than normal, not ďseemed toĒ actually bc I was using a metronome and I typically fall apart around 85bpm and 85 was cleaner than normal and even 90-95 was better than normal, my point is I think itís helping my guitar to practice mando somehow, Iím not sure if that relates banjo/mando at all, since the common thing was a flat pic , but someonenmore knowledgeable may have some other input as to why. Sorry for the ramble, main point is I typically have same struggle and am looking fwd to hearing what advice you get, as thereís so many knowledgeable and helpful folks here,
    Have a great MONDAY!
    jp
    Learniní....

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    "Jack of all trades,master of none", or master of one.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    When I started mandolin 11 years ago I found my guitar and fiddle playing improved. There are many multi-instrumentalists out there at the amateur and pro level who sound great on eveything they pick up. There are others who devote their musical and professional lives to a single instrument - a recent post shared the feeling some have to focus not just on mandolin but on a single mandolin (forsaking all others).

    I just play - mandolin, mandola, resonator mandolin, banjolin, solid body electric mando, octave mando, mandocello, 4 guitars, 4 fiddles....just today I spent some time on my 21-1/2" octave and thought how it is the perfect instrument to develop and illustrate cord construction on a fifths tuned instrument. My practice readily transfers to all my other fifths tuned instruments.

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    "Jack of all trades,master of none", or master of one.
    I would tend to think that the amount of time that you spend on any one instrument could often dictated by your current musical endeavors. If I am concentrating on live solo performances, I have to keep up my guitar chops. If I get a band gig playing bass, then that takes center stage. If I am just learning to play the piano, then that gets the bulk of my attention. When I am starting a new album, I take mental inventory of what instruments I am a bit rusty on, and brush up; etc, etc.

    Very early on I fully realized that I just to not have the natural talent to be a 'master' of any one instrument - so, subsequently, I am very content to stick to 'Jack of All Trades'.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Ah yes, the perennial question of opportunity cost. What do you give up for activity A, when pursuing activity B?

    I'm a multi-instrumentalist on guitar (40 years), mandolin (12 years), octave mandolin (8 years), and "Irish flute (4 years). For me, the balance of practice time is heavily influenced by the investment of time I already have in those different instruments.

    I can skate on guitar. It feels like I've played it forever, and it doesn't take much time to get in shape on it. I still play it once in a while, and that's enough. I've left behind all the really complicated stuff I used to do, like Brazilian bossa nova and Ralph Towner transcriptions. I don't play that music any more, so I don't need to practice it. When I pick up a guitar, it's to back my fiddler S.O. on something slow and nice playing fingerstyle, something in the Irish/Scottish mode like "Dark Island," or "Farewell to Nig."

    Mandolin I try to keep up with, because it's the instrument where I have memorized the Irish/Scottish tunes I play now, and can play up to speed in local sessions. I try not to spend more than a day or two without practicing some tunes on it. A friend of mine is a local player of Scottish smallpipes and border pipes, and we have a sort of challenge thing going about playing tricky Gordon Duncan pipe tunes together, when we meet in local sessions. I will get the stink eye if I haven't kept these up to speed!

    Octave mandolin is a sideline for me. Very nice for slower tunes played at home, but I don't play it as much as mandolin or flute.

    Flute... that's the new kid in town. It has an insanely high (for me) learning curve, since I'm learning it later in life, starting in my early 60's with only a small amount of fooling around on wind instruments in my 20's before shifting to guitar. All the previous instruments listed here have something in common as fretted stringed instruments. A flute is way, way different. It's the most physical, body-intensive instrument I've ever played, other than Rock drums when I was a teenager. I have to learn how to breathe again. Posture matters. I can't slack off and ease back in a chair or sofa like playing mandolin. So right now my daily hour or hour and a half of practice time is mostly flute, with just enough mandolin to keep the chops in shape.

    If I could pick just one of these instruments to focus on to the exclusion of the rest, I might be better on it. But that isn't the path I've chosen. I seem to need these different voices for expression. Over the years, I have let other things slide off the back end, like kit drums, electric guitar, electric bass guitar, bottleneck slide guitar. It was all good, but I've drilled down to what I care about now.

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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Iíve played the guitar for years and years, mandolin for three or four, but badly.
    Then I bought the Octave two months ago, and am determined to really master the instrument.
    So I play it almost exclusively. Metronome, reading, slow, no errors.
    And I play a tiny bit of bass ukulele (tuned in fifths), not much, and very relaxing.
    A couple of weeks ago, just to be adventurous I took the Octave and put a capo on it at the fifth fret, but thatís all. Donít want to over do it.
    But seriously, I feel Iím getting there.
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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Well, I play Mandolin, guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, and a few other things, and I'd say make SURE to play each one for at least five minutes, every day. Admittedly though, I'm a homeschooler with no life, so I have plenty of practice time. And practice on any of them will help your abilities on the other. $0.2
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Well … make a list of the tunes you play on mandolin. Divide them into the days of the week in sets. Play a set daily to warm up your fingers and keep your chops up. Add one or two tunes a month new to these lists. When you finish playing the daily set and work on a new tune pick up your banjo. Start with rolls and chords then move on to specific tunes or songs. Don't be in a hurry and enjoy the process …… there is more cross breeding of ideas musically than you would expect. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I've played 4 instruments for the past 45 years or more. When asked which one I like best I say something like, "Like the late Hugh Hefner used to say, 'which ever one is in my arms'." I don't know if Mr Hefner ever said that but...

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Quote Originally Posted by dadsaster View Post
    I started with mandolin and recently added banjo. I used to never miss a day of practice with my mandolin, now I miss about 1/2. I'm sure some of this is the novelty of a new instrument but what strategies do you multi-instrumentalists use to get enough practice in?
    What style(s) of music do you play and what type of banjo? Generally I find that just playing every day, even a little bit, helps everything. If you have a practice regimen but limited in time them stick to 1/2 the session for each or alternate days or else don't care so much and enjoy yourself. On the third(!) hand try out different regimens and see what works for you. It will be different for each of us.
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    Registered User Froglips's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I am so happy to hear that others are like me too!

    Personally, I am a beginner at both the banjo, and mando, for the most part. I wanted play in jams ASAP, so I practiced closed and open C, D, and G chords like crazy. Then started going to the jams after 1 month on the mando. I am focusing primarily on getting really good at playing rhythm and backup on the mando, and banjo, so I have options at the jams. I am doing this in a kinda two step process. 1st rhythm and back up on both instruments. 2nd step will be generic walk up/down leads/breaks for the C, G, and D chords. At the same time practicing all major, minor, and 7th chords as well.

    I am taking lessons online at Banjo Ben Clark's web site. He teaches both instruments. I really like the way he teaches you.
    I would also suggest checking out this really, really cool thing called FFcP. It will change your whole world in a month.

    Good luck! Have Fun!
    Frog...

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  16. #14

    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    What style(s) of music do you play and what type of banjo? Generally I find that just playing every day, even a little bit, helps everything. If you have a practice regimen but limited in time them stick to 1/2 the session for each or alternate days or else don't care so much and enjoy yourself. On the third(!) hand try out different regimens and see what works for you. It will be different for each of us.
    I play mostly old-time clawhammer style on the banjo. I love bluegrass on the mandolin but really don't enjoy bluegrass banjo (sorry). Clawhammer is new and shiny, which is mostly why I gravitate toward it. I'm leaning toward doing a morning mandolin, evening banjo schedule and see how it works out.

    Best

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    Registered User Yeet's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I'm not close to mastery in either of the instruments I play and I'm not the best at making sure I practice an equal amount on both BUT I find that playing each instrument with a specific intention helps me keep from neglecting either too much.

    Let me try to explain...

    I have a ukulele too, but of course I play a different style of music on the uke than I do on the mandolin. I play more pop/rock/indie pop/rock on the uke. More just chords and singing along. With the mandolin, sometimes I strum some chords and sing along but usually I let the mandolin do the singing.

    Because I play different styles and have different intentions with each instrument, it's easy to switch between the two without getting tired out of playing one and not having the energy left to switch to the other; there's no chance to get burnt out because when I play either one, they're two totally different beasts.

    I feel it would be harder to have this approach with banjo and mandolin though since they both tend to play a lot of folk/bluegrass; not as much of a difference as mandolin and ukulele! This isn't a very technical recommendation, but maybe as you get used to having a deep relationship with your banjo unique from your mandolin, it might become more natural to split your time between the two.

    Like you mentioned though, I feel like it could just be the novelty of the new instrument kicking in too! Definitely left my mandolin in the dust for a while when I first got my uke.
    Feel free to donate to my MAS fund.

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    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I play several instruments and don't worry about being a master of anything, just enjoying making and learning about music.

    I will say that anything I do learning on one instrument ends up helping my abilities on the other instruments and gets me further in my lifelong study of music.
    "All of us contain Music & Truth, but most of us can't get it out." - Mark Twain

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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    ^^ This is the takeaway for me. I love playing guitar, but I only do it occasionally these days. But I inevitably find that when i pick it up again, it isn't long before I'm playing better than I was before. I think that intentional practice and playing time on any instrument leads to growth as a musician.
    Mitch Russell

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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Add me to the list of folks trying to balance skill on more than one instrument. When I began on mandolin (almost a decade ago I guess) I had been playing guitar for 30+ years and dabbled on bass during that time. I went deep into the mandolin rabbit hole, and barely touched the guitar for nearly 5 years. My goal was to get as comfortable and accomplished on mandolin as I was on guitar. As my mando skills improved, my guitar skills atrophied and eventually I realized I was going to reach my goal, but not the way I had intended. At some point I went back to the guitar with renewed intensity, and barely touched the mandolin for over a year... This see-sawing went on for a while until I bought a new bass, and then I got way into the bass rabbit hole! In the past couple of years I've barely touched the bass, bought an Anglo concertina and gone down the Irish trad rabbit hole, and recently sold the squeeze box because as much as I loved the concertina I realized that I would have to commit myself completely to it in order to reach a skill level that would come anywhere close to where I have reached on various stringed instruments and I was really missing the guitar and mandolin. But that journey opened my ears up to a whole new world of incredible music, and also wired my brain and hands for triplets in a way I'd never been able to achieve. I think I have reached a good balance now on mando and guitar practice (I still see-saw, but my periodicity is on the order of days or weeks now, and there are days when I play both instruments over an hour each). I have been recording rhythm tracks on guitar and then overdubbing on mandolin, which is a great way to expose weaknesses in my playing and focus my subsequent practice. And I have been trying to jam with others more often, which I think is perhaps one of the best, if not THE best, ways of improving as a musician. I also think that playing multiple instruments can be a two-edged sword. It can help you improve your ear and be more sensitive in a band/jam setting because you understand better how to fit together with the other instrument(s), but it also means you can't dedicate all your time and energy to improving and refining your chops on any single instrument. I like having the ability to play two instruments well enough to hang in a jam on either. I am also really looking forward to retirement, when I can put as much time as I want into mandolin, guitar, bass, and maybe even add banjo to the mix someday....
    "Well, I don't know much about bands but I do know you can't make a living selling big trombones, no sir. Mandolin picks, perhaps..."

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I started playing baritone uke in my late 50s. Added guitar a few years later. I'm 66 now and realize I am gonna be master of none, but I play for at least a few hrs each day (sometimes longer), with about an hour being actual practice. Since I added mandolin about 2 years ago, I too, have been trying to balance practice time between guitar and mando. A few months ago, I came to the realization though that my mando playing require more time and solitary dedication. So, I put the guitar mostly away for now and am only focusing on mando. My progress has much improved. I still break out the guitar for solo accompaniment or campfire sing alongs but keeping my mind and fingers on exclusively mando is really helping to get that fretboard down.

  24. #20

    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Quote Originally Posted by dadsaster View Post
    ... what strategies do you multi-instrumentalists use to get enough practice in?
    One thing I do is commit to play publicly on a regular basis. I do this weekly, so it affords me the opportunity to break out an instrument that gets neglected. A scary thing, though, happens when I miss: Last week, I came back from two week vacation/absence - meaning, I didn't get any practice in for three weeks.

    If it gets to the point where you're neglecting something that you don't want to lose, make a public commitment - which will require you to play - practiced or not.

  25. #21

    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Actually, (reflecting on what I'd written) I realize now that this may not be particularly helpful to a beginner - although playing in public is always a learning experience.

    *Otherwise, I'm afraid I've no expertise to offer with balancing any multiple learning pursuit; my approach has always been immersion, which precludes any balance, as well as the hope of maintaining everything I've learned in a lifetime (instruments, styles, repertoire..). And, I used to be better at it when i was younger..

    But what's been said by Mort, U-Pickin and others seems sensible.

    Oh, maybe I do have something practical to suggest. I tend to think in styles/idioms, for example. The rest comes with effort, and with the goal of making music (in given genre..), so let it flow. So, maybe with age comes a certain economy of thought. (If not of potential! )
    Last edited by catmandu2; Jul-20-2019 at 8:52pm.

  26. #22

    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I read somewhere that improvement is only accomplished with focused intense practice, which my experience tends to confirm. So I focus on one instrument at a time over multi-week or even multi-month periods. My own experience is that I can maintain what I have learned for far less effort than it takes to improve, so I will focus on one instrument at a time, and give maintenance to the others...
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
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  27. #23
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I use the seasons to define my focus.
    Nothing ever gets left behind as everything is forced to bubble along by playing in a band, duo, fiddle orchestra & mandolin orchestras
    At the moment it is just out of orchestral end of term concerts and into folk festival time.
    This means I spent May-July concentrating on the ensemble playing, with band and duo being in the working up stage or ‘panic practice for the odd gig.
    That swaps now to be mostly duo along with band. I will play more tenor guitar and less mandoloncello this summer.
    Mandolin technique development will focus more on chord based techniques and my cross-picking efforts on the carved top, and trad tunes & sets on the bowl back.
    Fiddle will just be about consolidating things to see me through.
    From September I will be more focussed on mandoloncello and classical mandolin technique and repertoire, with more bowing experiments on the fiddle.
    The run in to Christmas is always a clash of everything and it’s about survival.
    This year it will be even more contentious as I will have the national orchestra repertoire to get down for January through March.
    Then the Easter concerts for the fiddle & mandolin orchestras.... and so on. Always on the back foot but always improving in some direction or other.
    Eoin



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  28. #24

    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    Slow and steady wins the race, and trying not to get too far ahead of yourself are good things to keep in mind.

    It's all so much fun to want to play every instrument that we're attracted to but buckling down to fundamentals is always a good idea and prepares you for the next step in your development, whether you're a serious amateur or a pro.

    If you're going to tackle two instruments at once, and you're not already very proficient at one of them, just try and allot your time evenly between them and make sure you're practicing efficiently. How you practice is a very important factor in getting better.
    Paul Viapiano - Los Angeles session guitarist

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    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Balancing practice between two instruments...

    I play the guitar and mandolin (mandolin two months, guitar twenty+ years). I've found it best to start off my practice time playing the mandolin, then after an hour or so play the guitar.

    Luckily, a lot of the skills transfer over between these instruments. And I believe that is why there are a lot of great, great, guitar pickers that play or played more than one instrument. Clarence White. Molly Tuttle. I would certainly call them masters.

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