Monday, May 1, 2017

What does it take to learn to play the mandolin?


I've been teaching mandolin since I graduated from Hampshire College in 1985.  I teach all ages and all styles.

One of my earliest students was DJ and radio personality "Johnny Memphis".  At the time, he was playing celtic music and wanted to be able to play the mandolin to compliment the sounds of his band, and he wanted an instrument that he could play and sing at the same time.

The first thing you have to learn is how to hold the instrument.  Of course a good strap will keep the instrument from falling to the floor, but you'll need to understand how to position it so that your right arm and hand is in the right place for picking the notes, AND for playing rhythm and chords.

Next, you need to learn the best way to hold the pick for picking out melodies, and for chording.

In the same hour, you will learn how to hold the neck of the instrument, where to place the fingers of your left hand, and how to position your left arm, elbow and wrist for the most advantageous use of all 4 fingers (yes, string players have 4 fingers and a thumb).

I'll also spend a good amount of time in your first lesson introducing you to some basic music theory.  I want you to get started on scales right away, so the first thing you'll learn are the intervals (spaces between the notes) for each scale.  I'll introduce the concept of the Circle of Fifths, and talk a little about key signatures and modes.  These are topics that we'll go over weekly from now on.

Finally, if there's time, I'll talk about proper practice habits, how to divide your time to be the most productive, and tell you about a couple books I'll want you to get.  You can buy the books now and take a look at them.  We'll go over them in detail the next time I see you.

How do you get started with lessons?  Use the contact form on this page, or call 413-561-2275 any time.  I have slots available during the week, and I offer lessons online with Google Hangouts.

Check my schedule for openings and availability.

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