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Thread: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

  1. #1

    Question Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Hello everyone,

    I've always wanted to pick up an instrument. All of my closest friends from elementary school to college have always been musicians but I've never played (i was the guy with the camera). Well after listening to Punch Brothers for a long time, I've decided the mandolin is the one I'm going to finally try.

    My philosophy is to get between 10-60 minutes a day. I'm keeping it loose because this is purely a hobby for me and I don't want to ruin it by trying too hard. However, that being said, I don't want to end up practicing 10-60 minutes a day with the WRONG technique.

    My thought process on learning is meet with a teacher once or twice a month to keep my grounded in my practice and moving in the right direction. But is it worth spending money on a really good teacher right out of the gate or maybe find a more casual teacher to teach me the basics and then switch to a "higher quality" teacher when I want to get more advanced?

    I'm thinking maybe I use YouTube tutorials for lessons and then after about a month I invest in some lessons. Thoughts on best beginner practices? Thanks!!

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    A good teacher from the outset will help you adopt good fundamentals and avoid forming bad habits that you will spend considerable time undoing. Beware the guitar teacher who also can noodle a bit on the mandolin. Find a real mandolin instructor in your community or online to get you started on your way.
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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Welcome to MandolinCafe!! -Your first good step.

    My 2 cents:
    A good instructor from the outset will get you focused on the physical.
    Put some money down and get motivated and become driven.

    -and good luck, have fun, the mandolin is a wonderful instrument.
    Ask anyone round here!

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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Thanks for the replies! Sound advice for sure!

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    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Take a look at You Tube Pete Martin, learn Mandolin.
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Welcome to the Cafe and to mandolin playing. Most of us would benefit from the best teacher possible. However, the problem is that no one advertises themselves as a poor teacher. A big-name teacher isn't necessarily an excellent teacher. In fact, some of these people have never had to struggle with the problems of most of us, so can't really empathize with what we're doing. Furthermore, a musician who's an excellent teacher for advanced students may not be so good for beginners. Ask around, here and in your community, and you'll get recommendations for good teachers, perhaps in your region. And don't overdo the practicing -- see this recent thread: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...wb-s-first-day
    Last edited by Ranald; Jul-24-2021 at 4:06pm.
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    I'll point out that if you decide to spend the money on a good teacher -- and i feel about that kind of like I'd choose a doctor or dentist, i'd prefer someone who is better at their job than someone who's casually OK -- you ought to concentrate on a teacher who plays the music you're interested in. Basic technique -- like holding the mandolin, finger pressure, ergonomics -- may be taught (even badly) by anybody who's played, but there are differences once you figure out which finger should play which string. If you have the option, find a teacher who plays what you want from the start. Some will head you toward ear training, some toward reading standard notation; some will concentrate on strumming chords, some will head you toward single note melody. There are Youtube vids with some very good teachers, but some of us aren't as adept at learning from vids as we are from being there in-person, or some of us do better with a Mel Bay book and sitting on the couch than venturing out into the marketplace. The cafe offers links to several online teachers and courses that you may try to check out since you're just starting out.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Some comments on your beginner lessons philosophy. A less tactical and more strategic answer.

    I would definitely try too hard. Just head down and go after it.

    I think most people start with passion and a certain youthful exuberance and sustained excitement. (I think that moderation and thinking to ruin things by too much effort is the theme of someone with experience, who has hit a difficult spot, and lacks the momentum to continue.)

    My advice is to get addicted quickly, and work with whatever I had, listening to whatever I could, talk and seeking advice from musician friends, videos, teachers, tutors, workshops, festivals, books, PDFs. I would start where I was and use what I had. Today there are are a metric tonne of resources for learning mandolin (and anything else for that matter). Go after all of it, as much as you can. A thirsty man doesn't wait for a cup.

    Looking for the best front door is a waste of time IMO.

    I think the best beginner practices are passion, obsession, frustration with lack of progress, working at it constantly, and when not working at it thinking about it and talking about it. Failing big and failing bigger.

    There are enough resources today on line to save you from the most egregiously wrong techniques. The rest... well no matter how you start there are things you are going to correct along the way, and techniques you wish you adopted earlier. No matter what you will have some regrets as you correct bad habits and sloppiness. No avoiding it.

    Better to do 10 to 60 minutes a day (wow) with suboptimal technique that you can correct later, than to only practice when you have it down.

    Seeking to avoid all regrets is another waste of time IMO.

    Of course burn out is an issue. My experience is that burn out doesn’t occur because of trying to hard, it occurs because of a lack of diverse approaches and lack of patience. Constantly banging into the same things will burn you out. Bang into different things. Something will give. Something will become easier and make you feel the progress.

    Bang into the unfamiliar parts of the fret board, bank into chords, bang in to strumming, bang into reading music, bang into tremolo, sustain, drones, double stops, whatever. Keep moving keep banging. Something will give. Not making progress in a certain area, look up the best practices in that area, and see what bad habits you need to excise.

    Good luck. Get after it. Be patient with yourself, but be sure to burn out two or three times. It will take about a decade to sound like you have been playing ten years.
    Last edited by JeffD; Jul-26-2021 at 3:34pm.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Sage advice by Jeff and I want to underscore that you need not waste time worrying about having to continue learning, continue stretching, continue correcting and continue relearning as a lifelong process. I actually kind of shudder when I hear beginners obsess over learning “correct” technique so they won’t have to “relearn” anything in the future. It is not possible to learn everything or every habit perfectly from the start! Allow yourself to be human and have fun figuring things out. Go for the gusto and learn to play whatever YOU are interested in - or at least attempt to again and again.

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to develop great habits from the start, and seek help from journeymen and masters - not at all - but I guarantee those journeymen and masters are still correcting some bad habits and/or learning new ways to do things, with no regrets for doing so. Listen to the interviews with pros on Mandolins & Beer podcast and you’ll see what I mean.

    Enjoy the journey, and don’t waste time on regrets. Life is short, play hard.
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Indeed. Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short. Play really really hard. That will be my new signature.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    double post
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Another one: as soon as you can (even if you don’t feel comfortable), record yourself playing just the A part to some good OldTime tune and post it to the Newbies social group. https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/group.php?groupid=76
    The sooner you do that then the more progress you’ll see for the B part!
    Have fun!

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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Agreed with all the above, in person lessons if you can, skype/zoom or whatever (they're working on video/audio synch so two can jam over the internet but right now it's very short distances) if you can't. To start you need a instrument that's as easy to play as possible, can't really assess that over skype.

    I can't find a teacher directory so if you say roughly where you are maybe somebody can suggest teachers.
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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    I’d also remember that the instrument is a tool to make music. Find music you like to play. There’s lots of ‘shoulds'. You should play this or that. Rubbish. Play whatever you like. Learn chords and scales, but again they’re only tools to play.

    10 minutes at a time to start.

    We play music. We don’t work it. If it’s a chore, something has happened. Think about what has. Maybe you need to grind through some chord theory. Think of the reward. Or maybe you don’t want to play th song you’re doing. That’s ok. Find another one. There are millions. If you don’t like any you’ve found, make your own up.

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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    You won’t spoil anything by trying too hard. Learn a few scales D G and A.Listen a lot to music with fiddle tunes. Listen to bluegrass, but not exclusively—a lot of bluegrass technique and tempo is intimidating to beginners. So take in lots of oldtimey and Celtic. Find some simple tunes that appeal to you. Like Flop Eared Mule in D, Scotland the Brave in G, Red Haired Boy and Campbell’s Farewell to Red Castle in A. Arkansas Traveller, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the cornier the better as long as you have the tune in your head. You’re training yourself to learn, so start with stuff 5hats already in your head and find it on the fingerboard.

    Note: don’t start with something you’ve always wanted to play if it’s Orange Blossom Special, O’Carolan’s Concerto, Battle of Evermore, Cape Breton’s Welcome to the Shetlands, Devil Went Down to Georgia (which is the A part of a great tune called Lonesome Fiddle Blues.) etc. As a beginner, you need to get into simple tunes that you can get a groove going on, which is the key to playing any kind of music in the world.

    Get a good teacher, probably not a famous teacher. Lessons and classes are rated “beginner, intermediate, advanced and master class” for a reason—so the students can self-select the one that will benefit them.

    When you find a tune that you can start to play, hitting most of the right notes and more or less in time, play it and play it and play it. Do this at least until it seriously annoys the people around you, then move to the basement, front steps backyard or local park and keep playing it, because it’s fun now. That is the point.
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by Estaley View Post
    My philosophy is to get between 10-60 minutes a day. I'm keeping it loose because this is purely a hobby for me and I don't want to ruin it by trying too hard. However, that being said, I don't want to end up practicing 10-60 minutes a day with the WRONG technique.

    My thought process on learning is meet with a teacher once or twice a month to keep my grounded in my practice and moving in the right direction. But is it worth spending money on a really good teacher right out of the gate or maybe find a more casual teacher to teach me the basics and then switch to a "higher quality" teacher when I want to get more advanced?

    I'm thinking maybe I use YouTube tutorials for lessons and then after about a month I invest in some lessons. Thoughts on best beginner practices? Thanks!!
    Iím a mandolin novice (just 1-1/2 weeks, now) but Iím 70 and through the years Iíve played many and varied instruments and thereís a lot of common ground among them for beginners. In no special order:
    1. Practice slowly to learn to play fast. Itís much easier to use good technique and to sound good at slow tempo than at fast tempo. So get it right first, then start to play it faster. If you try to be fast before youíre ready youíll just be practicing mistakes and thereís no future in that.
    2. Use a light touch with the left/fretting hand. Pressing hard to force notes to ring out cleanly will get uncomfortable fast. Your fingertips will hurt and your hand will tire quickly. Besides, pressing hard genuinely doesnít help. Here a teacher is particularly helpful.
    3. Take a break. Take note of your hands and arms, your posture and especially your neck and shoulders. When you start to feel tension or tightness in any of those, especially shoulders pressing up toward your ears, you should consciously relax them. If you canít quickly relax then put down the mandolin, walk away and do something else for awhile. Overnight if needs be. Playing relaxed is a fundamental of good playing and the enjoyment we want from a hobby.
    4. Play with others at every opportunity. Sure you arenít ready and you have neither ďchopsĒ nor confidence but playing with others will advance your skills faster than you can imagine. And it feels fantastic!

    Iím a big fan of getting a skilled teacher for a grounding in the basics: how to hold the mandolin, strap selection and adjustment, posture, left and right hand positions, tuning, finger shape and placement, picks and picking, major and minor scales in open and closed fingering, basic chords. It reads like an awful lot but if you were to ignore that list and learn just a few songs youíd actually be doing it all!

    Best to you and do enjoy your new mandolin!

  25. #17
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Music teachers agree, the biggest indicator of student retention is if they play regularly with others. Probably as important as regular practicing. A regular jam, open mike, meet up with friends, what ever it is it should be in person, and regular like clockwork.

    It pours gasoline on your fire of desire. You want to nail that tune for the next jam. You don't want to let the chamber music group down. You have people to whom it matters how you are coming along. You will feel awkward going in with that beautiful instrument if you can't do something with it.

    I have to admit a prejudice in that playing with others is my main thing. It surprised me to learn that this is not the case for some people. For me playing mandolin is akin to playing basketball. There is only so far you will get playing alone.

    And don't wait till you are ready. I guarantee that you will go to your first jam not because you feel ready, but because you are just tired of letting unreadyness inhibit you.

    I still don't feel ready.

    Go to a jam regularly as soon as you can tune the instrument. Even if you sit it out and just listen the first several times (with your instrument of course).
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    Absolutely agree with above post from JeffD. Aspire to play with others. I was lucky enough to meet up with some fellows about
    thirty years ago and we got together every Tuesday night for three hours of picking. You will never get that playing by yourself. This isn't just about becoming a better musician, although playing with others will certainly help.
    Two of Tuesday buds have passed on. They certainly made me a better musician. And I'll always appreciate their friendship. More to life than just playing by yourself.
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    I’d recommend:
    Get a good teacher to get started.
    Develop the practice habit, don’t make it something you get to.
    Play with others, sometimes just one other to ‘workshop’ stuff.
    Enjoy the process. There’s fun at every level.
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  28. #20

    Default Re: Beginner Lessons philosophy/discussion

    This from Yo-Yo Ma has some profound insights on learning. You can skip ahead if to 10:38 minutes if is is too long. He also has insight for learning in his podcasts, including an outline for success.

    Last edited by MrMoe; Aug-03-2021 at 7:36am. Reason: 10:38

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