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Thread: only been playing a short while

  1. #1
    small instrument, big fun
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    Oct 2021
    Nashua NH

    Default only been playing a short while

    Guitar player who picked up mandolin recently. Enjoying it, but I have noticed one thing:

    Mandolins can make a lot of different sounds, but only a few of them sound like music. I REALLY need to work on my left hand fingering if I'm going to keep at this.
    Kentucky KM-250 Mandolin

  2. #2
    Play on FredK's Avatar
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    May 2017
    Irving, TX

    Default Re: only been playing a short while

    Left hand is different from guitar on mandolin and a lot of that is hand positioning on the neck. Keep the neck off the palm of your hand. What helped me is to think back on my organ lessons as a kid and how to position your hands with the hands curved and rounded, keeping the heel of the hands up. As a guitarist, we tend to play more with the flat of the fingers. On mandolin, you'll be working more of the tips and sides. There are others on here that can explain it much better. There are plenty of good videos and lesson on the web on posture and holding the mandolin that will help with your intonation. I started out on ArtistWorks which is subscription based but there's a lot of good free instruction, as well. Just like you did with the guitar, keep practicing with the mandolin. You can get the music out but it takes some time. Welcome to the mandolin journey. Keep pickin'.
    "If your memories exceed your dreams, you have begun to die." - Anonymous

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  4. #3
    Registered User
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    Dec 2020
    Lewiston NY

    Default Re: only been playing a short while

    Good advice from Fred. I'll add that the mandolin will require more noting accuracy than the guitar due to the closer fret spacing and string spacing. Common sense really, but it took me a while to realize that guitar playing allowed for a little more leeway. Be patient, practice slowly. Clear noting, and clear chording takes time.

    And welcome to the community!
    Ratliff R5 2007, Capek A5 2003, Washburn M5S-SB Jethro Burns 1982, Mid-Mo M-2, Epiphone MM 30 Bk mandolins, Harmony Batwing 1970's, George Bauer bowlback early 1900's Philadelphia.

    "Don't cloud the issue with facts!" Groucho Marx

  5. #4

    Default Re: only been playing a short while

    Quote Originally Posted by phydaux View Post
    Mandolins can make a lot of different sounds, but only a few of them sound like music.
    Exactly. It's the same with cats.

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  7. #5

    Default Re: only been playing a short while

    One thing that helped me was when someone commented that the mandolin should be fingered more like a violin where your fingers lay along the length of the neck rather than reaching over the top and down on the tips like a guitar. Neck angle makes a difference also.

    Guitars can make nasty sounds also though banjo and fiddle have them beat, almost being in league with cats.

  8. #6
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Jun 2015
    Beaverton, OR, USA
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    Default Re: only been playing a short while

    Try learning to make a musical sound come out of an oboe.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

    My website and blog:

  9. #7

    Default Re: only been playing a short while

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    Try learning to make a musical sound come out of an oboe.

    [insert gratuitious bagpipe joke here....]

  10. #8
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    May 2012
    San Diego CA

    Default Re: only been playing a short while

    Congrats on getting into mandolin! A few tips:

    1. Fiddle Tunes. The best way to work on your left hand is by learning fiddle tunes. Pick a few easier ones to start with and learn the melody and the chords in at least 2 positions. That'll really boost your playing quick. Often what you learn from one fiddle tune can be almost directly applied to another tune as well - so the more fiddle tunes you learn, the easier it'll get to learn new tunes.

    2. Scales. Whatever fiddle tunes you choose, practice the scale they are built on often. For example, Blackberry Blossom is in G - so practice the G Major scale. As a more advanced practice, you could also add in playing the G major arpeggio, C major arpeggio, D major arpeggio, E minor arpeggio, and B arpeggios (the chords that make up the song).

    3. Right hand. Just don't forget that the right hand is really important too as it controls your volume, picking speed, and dynamics overall. Mike Marshall's Finger Busters is a great resource for right hand practices.

    4. Practice correctly. Having a directed practice with a specific end goal in mind can help make the most of your practice time. If your goal is to learn Blackberry Blossom for example - then everything in your practice should be directed towards skills needed for that tune.

    I have a series of free lessons on my site under the "Lessons" tab. I'll be adding a few more videos / lessons soon too.

    Happy pickin

    Mando's in use
    Newson 2018
    Gibson F9 2014
    Jonathan Mann OEMsc 8
    Jonathan Mann OSEMdc 5
    Weber Gallatin Mandocello

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