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Thread: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

  1. #1

    Default Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    When I learned trumpet back in 7th grade, the next step was always so small as to be barely noticeable. By the end of the year those small steps had really built up, and 6 years later at the end of high school, there was certainly a lot to show.

    As an adult, I picked up ukulele and it felt the same — it was possible to make gentle incremental progress and have fun most of the time. So many one-and-two-finger chords. Lots of exercises to get you used to moving from one chord to another. There’s a book called the Daily Ukulele with nearly 400 super easy approachable tunes that make it really fun to get into it every day. Easy on your loved ones too!

    I picked up Mandolin for Dummies, and in the first four chords, two of them have you either holding down two strings with one finger or jamming two fingers up together, nothing but buzz and muted strings. I’m not looking to suddenly be amazing without working for it. But I’d like to be able to make more gentle progress without absolutely killing my left hand and my wife’s patience. Is it possible? Is there some kind of method book geared for little kids, so you can build up the hand strength slowly while having fun? Or do you just need to get through several months of not much fun for an eventual pay-off?

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    I'm not much help as I'm an ear player. I don't have any books. I do sometimes look up chords with extensions. But that aside start playing the G C D chords. You can play those in the second and third frets using two fingers for each and actually play all four strings on each chord or 2 or 3 strings and play thousands of tunes. Just start working on your major scales (do re mi fa so la ti) for your GDAE strings, do the scales forward and backward. Just play the notes clean. Start playing single notes to nursery rhymes you remember the melody to. That right there will get you going good and is not complicated or as I've told myself... KISS

    G - 0023
    C - 0230
    D - 2002
    Last edited by CBFrench; Apr-05-2021 at 7:03pm.

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    You may want to check the setup of your mandolin. While I would not recommend chords that use one finger for more than one course of strings for a beginner, two fingers on adjacent strings at the same fret shouldn't be too hard. Many mandolins are sold with the action way too high.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    Dix Bruce's First Lessons Mandolin (Mel Bay), with CD's or MP3's, has a gentle approach, with easy chords, to get you playing. (By chance, he just posted some videos on playing today; I haven't looked at them, so I don't know if any are at a beginner level: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...81#post1818181 .)
    Last edited by Ranald; Apr-05-2021 at 9:24pm.
    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: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    When playing mandolin the approach with the fingers is different from a guitar or ukulele. It should be more like a violin. Your fingers should be more parallel with the neck and you press more down on the pads of the fingers father than the tips. That helps a lot with the problem of having all your fingers scrunched together.

    Many great mandolinists were not exactly little skinny guys. Look at the videos below, one with Jethro, Red Rector and Bill Monroe, the other with Peter Ostrouschko. All those guys, along with Mike Marshall, John Duffy, David Grisman and others were known to have fairly large hands and fingers to keep in such a small fretboard. Watch especially the left hand closeups and how they hold their fingers along the fretboard.





  8. #6

    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    Thanks all. The setup is good. I have more money than sense so I have a custom Gibson Gold Rush set up by Dennis Vance in 2014. And when I tried to start again in 2017 after feeling discouraged I had the setup checked again by my instructor, who made it sing no worries. So here I am trying again.

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    Go to Mel Bay's website and spend an hour or more looking through their mandolin books. Everything is on sale right now, you can get either print or e-books, and every level and style you can imagine is there. They stock books aimed at kids as well as old people and the general public.

    It has to be fun or you won't want to continue.

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    now where was i...oh yeah...kis...more will come later





    and in no time...


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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    I agree and I disagree.

    I think there is no short cut to getting past the initial finger tip pain. If you take longer getting through that it only hurts longer. So for that I recommend pushing through con molto furia. (I don't know if that is a thing, but it should be.)

    But once past the fingertip pain, I like your idea of taking things no further than is fun. It is a life long journey, and with luck you will never reach a point where you are totally satisfied with your playing and don't need to work on it. Better to get kind of content working through the incompleteness, seeking only to be less incomplete in the future. This is as opposed to listening to many of our mandolin heroes and feeling entirely disheartened in continuing the journey.

    If easy-does-it means competing only with your prior self and striving to enjoy the sounds you make along the way, I am all in.

    Except for that painful bit at the very beginning, of course.
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  13. #10

    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    I’d suggest taking a song or two that you already know on the uke and just look up the chords to play the same song on the mando... pretty instant gratification IMHO. I started with a couple of songs I already sang and played harps with and found immediate fun when I started playing strings.

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    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    Any easy does it method is a time waster. Toughening of the fingertips is a fundamental requisite of learning to play string instruments. It is only achieved through repetition. There really is no shortcut. Just get through it.
    When I began learning trombone at the age of twelve, my teacher, a very talented trombonist, figuratively threw me in the deep end of the pool. Initially she would tell me it wasn't a flute, and to "Play that thing!" Later, she chastised me from the podium for playing "blastissimo". Yes, I was blessed.
    Last edited by Jacob; Apr-06-2021 at 1:29am.

  15. #12

    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    The "Easy Does It" method is to focus on the goals, not the obstacles.

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    What worked for me was going into the field across the street from my house, where I wouldn't bother anyone and no one would bother me, and banged away until things began to make sense, and then banged away some more. I got some songbooks of bands whose music I knew and a book of mandolin chords, and interwove those two information streams until I learned as much as I could - which was a lot.

    CBFrench had a lot of good suggestions. The chords he mentioned are some of the good easy ones. There are more, and there are plenty more others. You are going to want to learn as much as you can, and it will also help to have goals, and work toward reaching them. Challenges are meant to be surmounted, and these are not the biggest ones in life. Far from it.

    The chords he mentioned are a good place to start. There are other two finger chords as well. And the problem you mentioned about holding down two strings with one finger - barre chords is something you are going to have to address, and better sooner than later. When you see the same frets indicated on two neighboring strings, that's a barre. This notation indicates finger locations on frets; 0 means an open string. Pick whichever fingerings feel right.

    G - 0023
    C - 0230
    D - 2002
    Also
    Am - 5200
    E7 - 1020
    Dm - 2001
    Gm - 0013
    C - 0233
    Em - 0223

    Your fingers are going to have to adjust to their new tasks. No shortcuts around that. But don't worry - they will.
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  19. #14

    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    You could also check out Irish traditional music where you play mostly melody. Then bring in some double stops. There is a lot of fun to be had before stressing over chords.

  20. #15

    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    Welcome to the forum! What kind of music do you like? Id pick a tune or two and just work on them, you already know alot due to your background of trumpet and uke. Just the other day I watched a UU video of the Drifters and have been obsessed with Up on the Roof...great fun. Anyway, there are method books from Hal Leonard and Alfred but it’ll probably be too easy for you. Have fun.
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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    David Nichols at Custom Pearl Inlay in Malone, New York sells a DVD that is probably the fastest way of getting something going on the mandolin I've seen. It's not the end all be all but it's a great starting point if you have any musical experience at all. I walked into his shop one day to drop off a banjo for some inlay work and left with a $1000.00 mandolin.

    http://www.custompearlinlay.com/
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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    You must have been lost to end up in Malone. Hopefully it wasn’t winter
    Play it like you mean it

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    I feel the OP's "pain". I started and stopped playing mandolin about 3 times before it "took". I had played guitar about 12-14 years prior. I didn't have the problem with left (fretting) hand stuff. I had (still do to some extent) pick issues. I guess that's why I have a big bowl of all kinds of picks. Didn't at that time do any flat picking of the guitar. Unlike the OP every time I gave up, I sold off all my mandolins and related gear. I'd suggest finding some easy fiddle tunes, listen to YouTube versions and then start picking them out. Also if chord playing is on the agenda, go to the three finger section of "dummies" and work on those. Just my $.02-YMMV
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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    Just MY 2¢ worth ... Since we're discussing basics ... The Alt code for the ¢ sign is Alt 0162. That is, hold the Alt key down and type the code, and the desired symbol appears. After years of typing as you did, I searched and found this oh-so-charming method. Now you know, you can wow all your friends. Or, as in my case, both of them.

    PS: The Alt code for é is 0233. So now you can impress everyone here by typing Café like a pro.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    I would second fiddle tunes. There isn't really a gentler start than to pick some fiddle tunes from mandolessons.com and learn to pluck them out, especially if you already know other instruments. I play most of the fiddle tunes that I've learned as the beginning of my practice, just because it sounds nice and warms up my fingers.
    Once you feel comfortable with a few, learn the handful of chords you need to play them. I think that a key to the easy method with mandolin is learning through songs over concepts, because songs give motivation to learn.
    -But that's just my four half-pence. Us poor folk who can't afford a numpad are left tragically stranded without use of alt codes

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    Quote Originally Posted by Reywas View Post
    -But that's just my four half-pence. Us poor folk who can't afford a numpad are left tragically stranded without use of alt codes
    I'm sorry - hadn't considered that. I'm on my laptop. I cannot manage to communicate in a forum on my phone. Do not have the requisite skills. I am quite envious of people who do. Sort of block that from my thinking. Quite out of my ken.

    There is the clunky work-around of finding the desired symbol somehow, and copying and pasting. Not recommending, just mentioning its existence. For the more driven nerdy types to consider, perhaps.

    Speaking of work-arounds, as must be clear by now, there are many paths, methods, and devices which will aid the traveller on the journey of discovery to reach enlightenment. Look at all these suggestions. So many of them, and so many more to come, I'm sure. Hardly any of this was available when I started out, as well as some who have contributed, in another lifetime. Yet we managed, somehow. The best way, is to follow Malcolm Forbes' advice regarding success in business - choose your parents wisely. If we all could have had parents like Marty Stuart or Ricky Skaggs, and/or families full of pickers of all types. we would have had such an easier time of it. Got to make do with what you get to work with, and muddle through somehow. Just keep at it. Persistence will pay off.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  30. #22

    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    One does have to acknowledge the structural differences in a Uke and mandolin. Mandolins have much more tension and double strings that are typically metal. Those differences alone are going to have a major difference in the pain factor versus a uke that has 4 nylon strings and less tension.

    You can do exercises to see how lightly you can fret the instrument and still get a tone, which turns out to be much lighter than the beginner thinks. So if you can find that lightness sooner it may be easier on your paws. Unfortunately it usually takes a while to develop a light touch. I spent many of my early years bearing down hard on the instrument. That helped me build callouses and after a while I began to appreciate playing longer periods of time over the pain that I was caused and then I was able to learn to play lighter. I still play for hours a day but you wouldn't know it by looking at my fingers although after especially long sessions they may start to have some pain.

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    For me, and not everyone thinks so, mandolin was very hard. Excuse me, is hard. I'm making progress now, but once I abandoned the instrument completely, just gave up. Those high tension double courses will reveal hand problems you did not know you had. But it's really worth the effort. There's something about that sound, and the library of tunes that work great on it is huge. At least you don't have to subject anyone to years of playing out of tune, as you would on violin.

    I'm sure there are many books with good beginner methods. Which one does your teacher prefer to work with?

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    To work on hearing and finding the note location on the mandolin, I expect you already know the melody by heart in your head to christmas songs like jingle bells, frosty the snowman, rudolph etc, nursery rhymes like mary had a little lamb, twinkle little star, london bridge, old mcdonald etc, I can't stress the importance enough of working on tunes that you already know the melody to. Don't worry about chords, tabs or anything at this point but what you can already hear. Just hit an open string and that will be your root key, hunt and peck till you find the melody notes (they are located in various places but most always look for the nearest location), even if it's just a portion of the tune to start with, do that portion over and over slowly then faster to comfort. You'll start hearing and learning note location on the mandolin. There's several worlds of more learning but that'll get you started. This will also toughen up your fingertips.

    You can also hit each string open and play a major scale all the way to 12th fret and then back down again and sing each note out as you play it. If you stick with it hopefully at a point in the future you'll be able to hear the structure of the song (chords to the song) in your head just by listening. Like a simple 3 chord song that you'll know by listening that's it's a 1-4-5 structure (EAB, GCD, DGA etc) in whatever key you want to do it in.
    Last edited by CBFrench; Apr-06-2021 at 2:19pm. Reason: spelling

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    Default Re: Where’s the easy-does-it method?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Just MY 2¢ worth ... Since we're discussing basics ... The Alt code for the ¢ sign is Alt 0162. That is, hold the Alt key down and type the code, and the desired symbol appears. After years of typing as you did, I searched and found this oh-so-charming method. Now you know, you can wow all your friends. Or, as in my case, both of them.

    PS: The Alt code for é is 0233. So now you can impress everyone here by typing Café like a pro.
    Yeah, I'm a one finger guy on the phone...... So, I'm old, what can I say. Thanks for the heads up on the cents sign. Unfortunately, I'm on a Mac. No Alt key and the Option/alt key does not work like on a PC from what I can tell. I've kind of always liked the $.02 deal anyway. That being said though, I'm going to play around and see if I can come up with the cents sign somehow......


    Hahahahahaha! The ¢ is the Option/alt 4 or $-makes too much sense
    Thanks

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