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Thread: What made you start playing mandolin?

  1. #1
    Mandogal Barb Friedland's Avatar
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    Default What made you start playing mandolin?

    I thought it might be interesting to jam on how we came to be mandolin pickers- whether we came to it from another instrument, whether we play as hobbyists or do paid gigs.

    Here's my story- I have been a closet musician most of my life and started out as a classically trained oboist. I left that behind and focused on playing fingerstyle guitar- on and off. Fast forward about 25 years. I was playing and singing one night at a local open stage and ended up being adopted by a local BG band because they liked my voice and wanted to build three part harmonies. Since they already had a guitar player, we decided that I should learn mandolin. I've been playing now with them for a couple of years and love it. Our practice sessions are one of the high points of my week. We are beginning to get more paying gigs now, which makes playing even more fun.

    What's your story?
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    When I was in my teens, there was an old Portuguese-style mandolin lying around the house. It had been given to my father, but neither he nor anyone else played it. I thought it was a lovely thing, and although I hadn't a clue how to play it, I would sometimes get it down and clean it, and just enjoy looking at it and handling it. Eventually I bought some new strings and a tutor book and started to learn to play it. I played for a few years at a basic level, then gave it up until I re-started a few years ago. I'm still just a hobbyist - have played in an ensemble, but now usually play in singarounds and sessions at the folk club. That old mandolin is still a nice, and very playable, instrument. I passed it on to my friends' children in the hope that it will have the same effect on them one day.

    Fliss

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    I started a weekly jam 5 1/2 years ago...at first there were too many guitars (like most jams) so I thought I'd pick up the mandolin. My wife (clawhammer banjo) and I started obsessing over old-time music and I in turn, began obsessing over playing those tunes/that style on mandolin.

    I must say however, the more I get into old-time music, the less I care about the instrument itself. Instead I'm concentrating more on the tunes themselves and the overall sound, on whatever instrument I'm playing.
    Such is the nature of ot music I suppose...

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    Like many, I started playing guitar in college, strictly electric, punk and rock. In high school, I had been a band nerd, but now I wanted to be a rocker. Played in variuos bands, never got that good but always had a blast. Eventually, it was just too much work to keep bands going, so no music for years. Then, met a friend who was also an ex-rocker who'd gotten inti acoustic stuff, so I got an acoustic guitar so we could play together. That got me excited about music again, got my courage up, went to an open mic, learned this same venue also had a regular wed nite jam, started going to that. Got comfortable there, bought a $200 mando on whim just to give a little flavor to the jam (the usual all-guitar orchestra, I was far from the best guitarist, so why not find another voice to add?).
    It didn't take long to learn enough chords to play along in G or D, then a few more chords and I could play in A or C. I was surprised by how easy it was to noodle around on the mando, making up little melodies that sounded like fiddle tunes. Eventually, I made up my own little "scales" that allowed me to play lead lines in variuos keys.
    I've been surprised by how much faster progress has been on the mando than on the guitar. It semms to make a lot more sense. Anyhoo, it's such a blast that I don't ever see myself giving it up!
    Mitch Russell

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    Gibson F9 tnbluegrasser's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    I started playing piano in 8th grade, doing mostly Texas Honky-Tonk music with my Dad and his friends. Fast forward MANY years when I met my beautiful wife, who grew up singing Bluegrass and had just started learning BG guitar. I played piano to her guitar and singing Bluegrass, but it didn't quite seem right. So...I simply picked the smallest Bluegrass related instrument as I had grown weary of lugging around electric keyboards, amps, etc. The result...I fell in love with both my wife and the mandolin at the same time. The rest is, as they say, history. It is truly a blessing to be able to play and sing music with your wife.
    "Always remember...no matter where you go...there you will be".

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    Registered User LKN2MYIS's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    Played the guitar for 20 years, just strumming. Then learned Piedmont-style blues. Realized that, while I could learn to play anything note for note, I lacked the imagination to expand on that.

    Back in 1972(?), I saw Ry Cooder play at a club in Roslyn, N.Y. called 'My Father's Place'. Shortly after I ran to Mandolin Brothers and bought a 1916
    Gibson Model "A".

    In those days the only material to learn from was the Sam Bush 6 cassette tape set being sold by Homespun. Bought it, and it lost me. Played a bunch of chords I could figure out. Found a local teacher who insisted I learn bluegrass, which I'm not a fan of. Put the mandolin down. Sold it many years later.

    Stumbled upon this site. Started to realize the wealth of information and teaching material available. Remembered the sounds that brought me to the instrument (very unique and moving to me). Decided to, as an adult, make a serious attempt.

    And here I am. Finding the instrument MUCH more enjoyable to learn than guitar, and I love the idea that there is so much to grasp and apply. I'm even starting to read music and understand theory, stuff I avoided on the guitar.

    Still have some great guitars, but it's the mandolin for me.
    John
    Long Island, New York

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    guitar players
    Look up (to see whats comin down)

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    Registered User fredfrank's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    The devil made me do it. It was an evil plot to drain my bank account.

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    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    For me it was the curves, scroll, points and sunburst . . . I'm a complete sucker for the f-style design. The petite size is also part of the appeal, and to seal the deal, the first person I remember seeing play one in person was Grisman, back in '78 or '79 at Memorial Hall at UNC. YOW!

    I never actually played or owned an f-style until 6 years ago, when I became the mandolin player in a band by default (otherwise there would be 3 guitar players). THAT was the best thing that every happened to my pickin' because it pushed me pretty hard to learn, yet in a very forgiving environment.
    Clark Beavans

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    I played French Horn from 6-9th grade. Never learned scales or any theory. It was either never taught or I never paid attention. I never really wanted to play guitar but played some mean air guitar, even with a racquet ball racquet. About 8 years ago we had to take a public speaking/presentation course at work and one of my colleagues did his presentation on the guitar, he gave lessons on the side. He said it wasn't too hard to learn, and was a good way to relax.

    About the same time I was volunteering for the first time at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and got to hang out after the Saturday night shows for the jam sessions at the hotel. That year Nickel Creek and The Wayfaring Strangers played fest. I sat right behind Chris Thile and next to Matt Glazer and watched them play off each other. It was great, they made it look so easy. If I had only known I was behind the shoulders of giants! I decided to give the mandolin a whirl. Here I am today, not much better but still really enjoying the time I spend on the mandolin. My tastes have morphed somewhat, I never really wanted to be a bluegrass player, I like Old Time music and cyclical fiddle tunes. I enjoy playing traditional Episcopalian Hymns, and Renaissance music but this isn't necessarily what I like to listen to the most!

    Jamie
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    Started playing guitar early on, later came back to it as an adult when I got into bluegrass and acoustic music. There was so many guitar players, and I found it difficult to play lead. I thought mandolin would be different and was intrigued by the sound. It has become my favorite instrument.
    Teri LaMarco

  14. #12

    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    I have always wanted to play an instrument just never took the time to learn as I was too busy playing ball instead of being in the band or taking any type of lessons. I have no musical background or skills at all. I recently turned 40 and can no longer run around like I used to do. I got hooked on Alison Krauss back in the early 90's and started paying attention to other bluegrass bands and always loved the sound of the mandolin. Went to see a Sierra Hull show about 6 weeks ago and was just blown away, so the next day I went to the local music shop and bought a cheap one just to see if I would like it and be able to learn something. I am now obsessed and probably do more harm than good by dinking around with it all the time. Can you practice too much? Anyway, as soon as I get a clear full 4 finger G chord I'm gonna go hopefully buy something semi decent.

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    "Wake up Maggie I think I have something to say to you"- and my dad had an old bowlback.
    Jon

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    I liked David Lindleys violin playing on Jackson Brownes records and figured the mandolin was a good bridge instrument between the violin and guitar which I already played. I also liked Ry Cooders use of mandolin on his records and thought it would be nice to be able to play that way too. I'm still trying to get there. And who knows - maybe I'll get a violin someday.
    You can't see your future in a rear view mirror.

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    After being sick of me lying around on the floor playing air guitar with Led Zeppelin my wife bought me an acoustic guitar. Then she turned me on to bluegrass with the Will The Circle Be Unbroken album back in the '70's. I fell in with a group playing bluegrass and eventually there were too many guitars. Since I seemed to be the worst guitar player I decided to give the mandolin a try; plus it gave some variety to the band. After three tries, I finally got the mando for life and have no plans on looking back. The Cafe remains a hoot, a holler and educational. Thanks Scott.

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    Traumatized by classic musicians as parents, forced to learn to play the violin (wait, that's wrong, it should read: forced to learn to torment innocent people with the violin), I stopped playing altogether after finishing school.

    Later, became a lover of Irish music and wanted to be able to play that. Saw a cheap Portugese mandolin in a shop, liked the looks and bought it. Found out it was tuned like the violin and I could reuse my left hand routine. That purchase was the second best decision in my life.

    Bertram
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    Howdy. In my last year of high school (many years ago) I stopped at a small storefront around the corner from my house. The proprietor was a pratitioner of something occult and she offered "readings." She was selling everything and moving to Jerusalem and had an old mandolin in the window (a 1920's Mellowtone). I knew it was a mandolin, but that was all. I walked in and asked the price; I had $7 dollars, which was, apparently, enough.

    The next year, for some reason, I took it with me to my tiny College dorm room. After I unpacked I heard music from outside - a banjo and a guitar and went out to say hello. The two fellows said that they were playing bluegrass, but needed a mandolin player to make it sound right....

  23. #19

    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    Started piano lessons at age 7 and did that for 10 years. Loved it but was constantly frustrated by my lack of a "portable" instrument and the lack of piano sections in school bands/orchestras. Got around that somewhat by playing the xylophone (yes really) in junior high band, accompanying my high school chorus on piano, and teaching myself the baritone horn in the 11th grade. Simultaneously got sick of playing bass lines and fell in love with Irish and folk music, contra dancing, etc. Decided I should learn the fiddle, but got delayed by a year of bad classical violin lessons in college. Took up choral singing instead. Got too busy with school and then with life to try to pick up the fiddle again until I was 23. That was about 4 years ago. I took lessons off and on for a few years, and then got serious about it about a year and half ago. From there it was the cool sound, portability, relatively low volume, and the option to learn fiddle tunes in a different way that led me to the mandolin. I'm now awaiting my first mando purchase...should be here in a couple of weeks!

  24. #20
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    I knew I wanted to play mandolin the first time I heard Kate Rusby's album Underneath the Stars. There's a song on there called The White Cockade that has a very beautiful, yet simple mandolin intro. The mandolin part is very understated, but the simplicity and the beauty of it hit me hard. Within a few weeks I had found this place, and a few weeks later I had my first mandolin. That was in 2006. I'm glad I found the mandolin, and I'm glad I waited till I was an adult to start playing. Something tells me that if I had started as a kid I wouldn't have really "gotten it."
    ...

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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    the charango.

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    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by fredfrank View Post
    The devil made me do it. It was an evil plot to drain my bank account.
    To the contrary, MAS is good for the economy.
    "The problem with quotes on the internet, is everybody has one, and most of them are wrong."
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    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by LKN2MYIS View Post
    Back in 1972(?), I saw Ry Cooder play at a club in Roslyn, N.Y. called 'My Father's Place'. Shortly after I ran to Mandolin Brothers and bought a 1916 Gibson Model "A".
    My Father's Place... what a GREAT club that was! It was once a bowling alley there underneath the Northern Boulevard Roslyn overpass, and the long tables were taken right from the wooden lanes. Saw a lot of now-classic shows there over the years. My wife grew up near there. Wrote my first music review for Good Times magazine after seeing Aztec Two-Step play there.
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    John Faulkinbury Nighttrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    I've been playing the guitar since the mid 60's. Over the years when I've had the opportunity to sit in with other bands (they are always guitar rich) and they already had a bass player (my second instrument) I would get my capo out just to add another layer to the song. People would tell me afterwards that it sounded like I was playing the mandolin. So after many years I thought maybe I sould look into this mandolin thing. Now the mandolin is fast becoming my first love. I guess I got bit by the mando bug !

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    Registered Mandolin User mandopete's Avatar
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    Default Re: What made you start playing mandolin?

    David Grisman.
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