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Thread: Strategies for learning without teachers?

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    Sheila's at it again! Round2's Avatar
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    Default Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Domradave's post on mandolin teachers reminded me that I have a complementary question to ask. If you are not working (or did not work) with a teacher to learn to play the mandolin, how did you go about it? What worked best for you, and what didn't work so well? What would you advise a newbie today?

    Thanks for your comments.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    I would imagine that my reply would be true for many of us self-taughties here:
    I learned to play another instrument before mandolin. I already understood how music "works" when I first picked up a mandolin (age 10? 12? something like that) because I could play the piano.

    What would I advise a newbie today? Need more info for that, like can you already play something else, can you read, is there a reason for not wanting a teacher, what are your musical goals etc

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    Sheila's at it again! Round2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Those points are well taken, Jim. In my own case, I studied violin for 10 years or so (but never fiddle, I'm sorry to say), double bass for one year, and piano for three or four years. I noodled around with a mandolin for a few years in high school, too, way back when. When I came back for a second round with mandolin, just last month, I needed a quick review to refresh my reading skills. My husband just took up mountain dulcimer so I decided it was a good time to come back to some musical pursuit, and it seemed that the mandolin might do nicely with his dulcimer. I have some health issues that make scheduled lessons impractical for me.

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  7. #4

    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Sounds like you're good to go.

    I'd say just hunt around on YouTube for someone playing something that you want to play, study it enough to figure out how it's being done (physically as well as musically), and enough to ask impressive questions here at the Cafe if needed.

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    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    I started with mandolessons.com, and have been working through Sharon Gilchrist's Intermediate sessions on Peghead Nation. Highly recommend both.
    "Keep your hat on, we may end up miles from here..." - Kurt Vonnegut

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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    I started playing the mandolin as a side activity to playing guitar and slide guitar. So I already had a basis when I started. I have learned a lot from listening to blues mandolin players - that is the music I play. I've endlessly listened to and tried to play along with albums by Bert Deivert and Rich del Grosso - still do. I have also made playing lists with mandolin music I pick up from non-specific mandolin albums.

    Nevertheless, I realise that my way of playing the mandolin is still that of a guitarplayer. So last month I started with Sharon Gilchrist's intermediate course on Peghead Nation and I find it really helpful for improving basic skills like posture and tremolo technique.

    By the way, it's not a 'side activity' anymore...

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Having a spouse who plays is a huge advantage to learning a new instrument. When I taught myself, I had a book, some eight years of formal music training and the experience of teaching myself and my friends the recorder (this was years before kids had recorders in school, and what i was playing and teaching was baroque, renaissance and medieval four- and five-part consort music). Getting up to speed playing the mandolin was helped enormously by playing duets with my-husband-the-guitar-player. Refining my playing involved stuff that is harder these days -- private lessons, workshops and playing with others. There now are skype lessons, youtube videos, free sites and many more books that come with either video or audio components than what i had lo, these many years ago, but being able to play on a regular basis with someone else is a game-changer.
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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Round2 View Post
    ... how did you go about it? What worked best for you, and what didn't work so well? What would you advise a newbie today?

    Thanks for your comments.
    Jim Bevan hit the nail on the head, and your response shows you have some musical experience. Iíll answer your personal questions from my own perspective.

    The way I went about it at first was to figure out a few things I knew from guitar, where to find the notes on mandolin. Then I used an online source to learn some fiddle tunes from mandolinists. Mainly, www.mandolessons.com and www.bradleylaird.com. Then I brought my mandolin to some bluegrass jam sessions and tried to fit in. Then I began collecting Homespun mandolin lessons from www.homespun.com. I also joined a worship band at a local church, found a guitarist there to do other gigs with for little money, and did some busking alone at parks & shopping centers to meet more people and have fun.

    All through the journey, I learned from folks here at the cafe, participated from time to time in the Newbies social group and the Song a week social group, and wasted away many hours just posting here.

    These days, I work on getting the tone I want in practice sessions, do exercises, figure out tunes I like, write exercises and tunes, study Homespun lessons, etc. it has all worked well for me, there is nothing that hasnít worked well, it has all been part of the journey. What I would advise a newbie is to have fun, put in the effort, and play what interests you.
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  17. #9

    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Hi Round2!

    If you are not working (or did not work) with a teacher to learn to play the mandolin, how did you go about it?

    I have never worked with a teacher, except maybe just a smidgeon with Mandolessons.com and others when I was trying to figure out if I was holding the mandolin correctly. I just don't have the patience (much) to watch videos. I started from "ground zero." I did not read music at all. I was fortunate in that my wife is a lifelong amateur musician, so she was able to help me when I had questions about how to play triplets, what a particular rest was, how do do the "fine" (I call them gobacks ), etc. I started with Dix Bruce's book, "You Can Teach Yourself Mandolin." That book starts with chords and gets one playing songs very quickly to keep the interest level up. Then, based on a recommendation here, I bought Marilynn Mair's book "The Complete Mandolinist." I am still working my way (slowly!) through her book, and never did get all the way through Dix's book. I know my problem is just not practicing enough, so having a "live teacher" or computer teacher wouldn't help much.

    What worked best for you, and what didn't work so well?

    The books work best for me. Online just doesn't do it for me, either something like Mandolessons.com or Skype, etc.

    What would you advise a newbie today?

    Playing with someone else, like your husband will help. It adds a lot of fun factor to playing. As far as advice from me, I think each of us learns best in different ways, so some folks have to have a teacher sitting in front of them, some can sit in front of a computer, and some (like me) do best reading about it. Reading about it helps me to understand more because I like to know why things are like they are, not just how to do something.

    My $0.02 worth.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    10 years of violin should set you up quite nicely. I took piano and guitar lessons when I was a kid but never steady lessons on fiddle or mandolin. I wish I had violin lessons. I have been playing mandolin and fiddle for over 45 years but other than one shot workshops and camps never really took steady lessons from a teacher. However some of those workshops were taught by top musicians. Nowadays there is so much amazing music on line you can do quite nicely learning that way.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Round2:

    I agree with everyone. With your past musical background, I wouldn't consider you to be a novice. Transition from violin to mandolin is quite easy. I also second the suggestion about Sharon Gilchrist's lessons on Pegheadnation.com. I would add just one more thing, if it has not already been suggested: join a slow jam group and jump in with both feet. Jamming with a group of like-minded musician's is the best way to learn.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    There's plenty of good advice above, but I didn't find the transition from fiddle to mandolin all that easy. Picking out notes was simple, but what I was doing with both hands was quite different from violin. As well, unlike many mandolin players, I found picking easier than chording. However, you have piano background so chords won't be brand new to you as they were to me. It's important to know that you'll be positioning your left hand differently than you did for violin. Otherwise, I don't have a great deal of advice as I didn't learn on my own. I would take a few lesson, then stop until I felt that I needed some more, then start again, perhaps with another teacher. Much of your process will depend on how easily you pick up music and learn on your own. There are free online sites to help you with basics, and you can use them as aids, taking breaks or stopping as you choose without obligations or payments to a teacher. I find Pete Martin's Mandolin Basics helpful. Here's one for the left hand:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrs2549QNsg

    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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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Working with the voices in my head .. ..

    Music in my head came out by whistling and humming, then the head tunes ..
    took me a while.. getting my fingers up to the task..

    this was in the cretaceous era, before the internet..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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  27. #14

    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    I would find time in your week to take a lesson with a teacher that plays mandolin - many of them have 30 minute lessons. May as well get started off on the right foot so to speak, picking a mando is nothing like bowing a violin. A session or two with someone who is an expert in your chosen instrument will save you loads of frustration and time later on.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    I have had a teacher for a couple of years. With his help, I have made much faster progress than I would on my own with YouTube. Occasionally, I attend a camp (virtual these days). There is never enough time to get all of my questions answered in camp so my teacher gets many of them afterward. He sort of rounds out the camp experience.

    Before I found my current teacher, Kaden Hurst, I had gone through two other teachers. Both were good players but they weren’t so good at teaching or explaining techniques. Kaden came highly recommended at a camp I attended by some of the better players. Lesson learned: get references from people who’s abilities you respect.

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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    I think someone can become a mandolin professional with Don Julin's 2 mandolin books for dummies. The book of mandolin exercises has stuff in it I have never seen in any other mandolin book. The chapter on minor scales, harmonic minor, natural minor, and melodic minor scales will make you into a Dawg mandolin player! The mystery of why Dawg plays everything in a minor key is solved!
    David Herman

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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Started when I was 20, having played guitar a bit. I didn't know any mandolin players.
    I had learned and forgot some basic music reading from recorder lessons at school when I was 12 or 13.

    I bought this cheap mandolin I saw in a shop window and found some basic instruction somewhere.
    Then I found a music book (Kerr's Merry Melodies Vol 1) with "Soldier's Joy" in notation on the first page.

    "Hey! I know how that goes" and I worked out how to relate notes on the fretboard to notes on the page.

    Then I found Jack Tottle's Bluegrass mandolin book.

    But nothing improved me like playing with other people. It took me years to find them but every time, it gave me a turbo charge.
    Bren

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  35. #18

    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    This is more of a psychological viewpoint on learning
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-regulated_learning


    ‘In particular, self-regulated learners are cognizant of their academic strengths and weaknesses, and they have a repertoire of strategies they appropriately apply to tackle the day-to-day challenges of academic tasks. These learners hold incremental beliefs about intelligence (as opposed to entity, or fixed views of intelligence) and attribute their successes or failures to factors (e.g., effort expended on a task, effective use of strategies) within their control.[8]’

    Do I hold an incremental belief about my (musical) intelligence? Yes, well... most of the time

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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Round2 View Post
    Domradave's post on mandolin teachers reminded me that I have a complementary question to ask. If you are not working (or did not work) with a teacher to learn to play the mandolin, how did you go about it? What worked best for you, and what didn't work so well? What would you advise a newbie today?
    My dad used to say that you cannot teach anyone anything. That the most you can hope to do is make them uncomfortable with their ignorance.

    There are so many resources today, with books, and videos, and youtubes, and online classes. Anyone who wants to learn can find some kind of way.

    What I recommend is a weekly jam session. Regular playing with others adds gasoline to the fire of desire. Play once a week with others and I would not want to be between you and any kind of instruction. And... music teachers say that the students who do best are the ones who play regularly with others.

    So what works best? Wanting it real bad.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    A big question is how to find other people to play with in these covid days. We got together with my brother and his wife this past weekend, and he brought his guitar. It was indeed very fun, even though my playing was pretty lousy (he didn't care). That's my brother. Other people? I don't know. The cold weather is about here and people are getting more skittish.

    While it's a good time to be learning an instrument, it's also kind of a bad time to be learning an instrument.

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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    I’m coming up on 5 years of playing, and most all of my instruction has been via video. Sharon Gilchrist’s courses have been great resources, and Chad Manning’s PegHead course on music theory is really good, too (I’m going through it a second time right now). I’ve played somewhat regularly in two jams, one that started in my living room and now meets on Jam Kazam, and another in a local pub that was started by one of the people in my living room jam. I don’t learn from being in the jam, per se, but it is strong motivation to improve!

    The best habit I’ve picked up, apart from practicing almost every day for at least an hour, is to learn songs by ear. Sharon Gilchrist’s course got me started with that, and now when I am learning a new song, I always try to find an mp3 and download it to the Amazing Slow Downer app. If there’s an instructional video on how to play a song, I’ll wait until I’ve learned the song vie the mp3 before watching the video. The video then helps fine tune appropriate techniques for that song.

    I’ve taken a few in person lessons over the years, maybe a half dozen total. They were useful, but didn’t seem that much better than learning via video for someone at my basic level. My plan right now is to finish my current one year Peghead subscription next month, then work through the book The Mandolin Picker’s Guide to Improvisation, and then (or maybe sooner) begin online lessons with a teacher. I think that will help me assess where I am at, improve my technique, and help me move on to move advanced mandolin playing.
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    Default Re: Strategies for learning without teachers?

    In my 42 years or so of playing I have had the sum total of one lesson, and have only seldom opened a mandolin-related book. I am incapable of playing bluegrass (fortunately it's not something I wish to do), and do not play celtic music at the velocity of the speed-merchants. I seem to appear to be able to play rock, some jazz, a bit of classical and some folk music to my satisfaction, and that of both fellow-musicians and audiences.
    Would I recommend this approach? if your goal is to play in a highly idiosyncratic, unorthodox and somewhat cack-handed style (believe it or not, it was mine - I am a child of the punk era), go right ahead and follow that road. If your aims are more conventional, there's plenty of good advice in this thread. As Jeff D says," wanting it real bad" will motivate you to get "better" at the fastest rate you are capable of, but bear in mind, that you have your whole life to learn (which might only be till next week, though I hope not most sincerely). The most important thing is to enrich your life, and maybe you'll get to enrich others'
    "Give me a mandolin and I'll play you rock 'n' roll" (Keith Moon)

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