Pardon Me If I Quote Myself
Posted by Bradley Laird
I receive a lot questions from people all over the world asking things about playing a mandolin. I try my best to respond to such queries, but I fear that one answer to one question is not sufficient to impart any real wisdom.
Let's say you recently took up gardening and you ask me "How deep should I plant my peas?" I answer, "Well, I usually hack a trench about 2 inches deep with my wheel hoe, drop 'em in pretty close, and then walk down the line letting my feet close the furrow." That might answer your question and off you go happily planting your peas.
But, before I told you my pea planting depth a bunch of other questions enter my mind about you and your garden. Things like: "Where do you live?", "What's the soil like?", "What kind of pea are you talking about?", "Where did you get the seeds?", "Is it in sun or shade?, stuff like that. I have questions about you that help me answer properly.
A few pictures of last year's peas...
You see, it is always more complicated that one simple question followed by one simple answer.
Now, with regards to the mandolin, I recently had a person ask me (on Twitter, which, by the way, is not the best platform for back and forth conversations.) something like this... "I am having trouble pressing the strings down with my 4th finger. Is it okay to use my 3rd finger?"
I answered with "Sometimes yes, sometimes no." That probably didn't help much. But it is the truth. I also said "Many of your questions are answered in my book Mandolin Training Camp." And that also is true.
As much as I enjoy fielding questions about playing a mandolin, picking a banjo, planting peas or whatever, I think I sometimes I do a disservice by answering such questions in one short sentence. I have written books full of lengthy discourses on many of the things which you might ask about.
I have taught one-on-one private lessons for decades and I have observed players of every level and learned so much from them. I hate to sound like some guru sitting under my fig tree, but my students have taught me so much. I have heard them ask the very questions which puzzle you. I have watched them not ask a question because they didn't know enough to ask it. (Does that make sense?)
Years ago, when I started teaching, I was as nescient (look it up) as my students. Maybe I could pick a little better than they could, but I didn't know much. They taught me. At least they helped me identify the common puzzles of playing an instrument. Then, I actually spent a large amount of time devising or uncovering possible solutions. In my laboratory teaching studio I was able to test and re-test, observe the results of my lab rats, and revise my methods. (Amazingly, the lab rats paid me to study them.)
Then, after decades of all of this self-examination, study of my guinea pigs, observations "in the field" of other performers, endless discussions (internally and externally) I sat down and started writing and later filming what had crystallized in my mind.
If you are trying to learn to play a mandolin and have a question look here first. There is a good chance that you are not the first person to have that question and I may have already expended several hundred words in one of my books on that very topic.
To prove this point let's say you ask a question such as "My timing seems to be all over the place. How do I get straightened out? Is it me or is the people I play with?" Well, my answer is on page 20 of Mandolin Training Camp. Here is that one page.
You can click on it to download it as a larger PDF.
If you want to read about what else is in the book look here.
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