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Learning to play an instrument as an adult  RSS feed

 
Ann Torrence
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I finally started mandolin lessons, after having my instrument for two years and getting nowhere on my own. I sound awful but I trust my instructor when she says I'm doing just fine. I want to play blues someday, inspired by Yank Rachel. I have to learn everything from the beginning: keeping time, finding the notes and chords, strumming patterns, reading music. It's more than a little overwhelming. I just try to break it down into small pieces. This week's assignment is to learn where all the G notes are on the fretboard, then the G#, and so on.

Anyone else started learning to play music as an adult? Any tips?
 
John Weiland
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"Any tips?" Yes: Have (1) patience and (2) fun. And if you want at least some proficiency, be prepared for at least some repetitive practice. I took up 2-row melodeon (BC diatonic button accordion) about 3 years ago at age 50 and it's been a blast.....a great way to unwind after work and before dinner.
 
Debra Snook
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Hello Ann,

lessons are great..

I think finding a group to "Jam" with is equally inspirational ..
I don't have one close by and my playing suffers for it.

I just happened to sign up here today, i thought you may find it useful.
http://www.mandolincafe.com/mp3/

I found an interview .. that recommended to acquire all the music that is free to download... in order to train the ear to listen for notes , chords and rhythms.

here is a thread on different way's to practice
http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-16165.html

the best practice advice i ever got was from Steve Kauffman -
set a finite amount of time for your daily practice.
Keep songs in a Jam book (so others can play with you)
get an egg timer or the like.. that will ding .. loudly.. the key is .. when the ding goes off you must stop...

Start off with review Of songs in your jam book .. to improve timing and or speed (practice with metronome )
take the first half of practice in review of material you already know
like old songs , scales , strumming patterns . ( Ding !!!) . take the pick away from the instrument )

part II of practice is on new material.. scales, songs, play until the ding goes off.. then take the pick away from the instrument and put it away in the case.

I started with 2 practice sessions 30min in the am (15/15) and 30 min pm(15/15) to save my fingers when i first started steel string guitar.


This leaves me wanting more..
You've reminded me to .. get back to the basics.. thanks for that.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Location: Volant, PA
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I started the Uilleann pipes at 28, it's a very difficult thing to learn. The tradition is 7 years listening, 7 years learning, and 7 years playing to be considered a piper.

Practice at least an hour a night, an hour in the morning doesn't hurt.

Get a good teacher/mentor

Get a good quality instrument, learning on cheap stuff is counter productive.




"If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn" dizzy
 
Ann Torrence
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Chadwick-great tips.

Debra-What is this jam book you speak of?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I came across this Ted Talk today that might help: How to learn anything in 20 hours.
 
Debra Snook
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Debra-What is this jam book you speak of?
The Jam book is one you make your self.. several ways.. or options
1-Composition Book - ( I like this better than a) -2 spiral notebook -3 ring binder
Fill the notebook with Tablature or sheet music of songs. you are playing now..
you have every thing you know or are working on in that book This is what you practice out of every day.. learning the new. polishing the songs you know
.. and when you go to a Jam. you can easily share the songs / lyrics / chords / tabs/ with others .. so they can play along with you.

This differs with other song books in that .. you are currently learning ( or have learned ) every song in the Jam book..
copy and past or transcribe songs you like from the other books .. in to the Jam book - only when your ready to learn that song
For me its easier to keep focused on 1 book.
 
chip sanft
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I played guitar when younger, mainly strumming and other monkeying around, then set it aside for some years. Then I decided to get serious about improving, and then I started playing bluegrass. So while not starting from scratch, I was beginning in this particular form and waay rusty.

My advice:

* Technique really is important. It's usually boring to work on and can even be painful (literally) but getting those muscles to do what you want will pay off big time. It was too boring and painful for me to bother with when younger; that's no longer the case.

* Play almost every single day. 1/2 hour of playing is, as a rule, much better than zero, and an hour+/day is standard. BUT I find that if I don't play for one day every few weeks, that also has positives. It makes me miss playing and I then feel more energized about practice. That energy has helped me break past plateaus more than once.

* Find songs you like to play and play them. I don't mean completely avoid other tunes, of course. But having a couple of songs (simple, hard, whatever) that you really like to play can help when practice gets tiresome or you're tired or whatever. One of the advantages of getting old is your taste improves (*wink*) and you know what you like and what you don't. Bonus of playing songs you like frequently is, when someone asks you to show them what you've been doing, you can whip out your current favorite tune, enjoy playing it, impress your audience, then stop.

* The right teacher is really important. As an adult, I'm learning solely because I want to. I want someone to be exacting and to push me to do the best I'm capable of. I've had teachers in the past who taught more in the "pure encouragement" mode, but I don't need that anymore. I need to get better.

* Aim high. Perhaps - perhaps - you won't become Bill Monroe II, but a person can start later on in life and still get really good.
 
Kris Mendoza
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New ukulele player here. Yes, aim high, there is value in that. I want to strum like Iz someday....

But also make time to learn some jokey songs, kids' songs, etc. I am amazed at how much more FUN the ukulele is than my experiences learning guitar/piano years ago as a teenager. It is not an intimidating instrument. I think I've learned more in my 2 months of ukulele than I did in many years of guitar practice as a kid. Of course, it has two less strings so it IS simpler, but I also think that because I'm not taking myself seriously at all, I'm feeling freed up to learn lots of songs for sing-alongs, etc. I've played in front of more people already than I think I ever did on the guitar.

I think it is similar to learning a new language, at least for me--don't over-analyze, have a drink or two, and get silly! You may surprise yourself at how much you can learn if you let your guard down.
 
David Livingston
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I think playing music is like sex . It's more fun with others and just learning from a book is not that much fun either
Never herd about the blues on he mando Thats more a guitar thing I always thought , have you thought about Irish trad ? It's a great friendly scene that covers the whole world and you don't need a PA you don't need to Learn the pipes like Chad ( although much respect to him for that ) mando goes just fine ( although it is often considered a gateway drug to the darkside * ) you don't need to read music either as many of us don't .

David

* ie the Banjo
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Agreed, mandolin plays very well with Irish trad! I love a good mandolin in a session!

I do not read music, in fact I am likely the least musical person around, but I exel at muscle memory and body dynamics....

If I were to choose a stringed instrument I think it would be mandolin.....they have so much joy!

Bluegrass is the great granddaughter of Irish trad, I find that I like both because of this....
 
Johanna Sol
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For the past three years I have been learning how to play backup (rhythm) guitar for the tunes my husband plays on guitar, mandolin, and mountain dulcimer. (I also play recorder and mountain dulcimer). We work on around 100 tunes at any given time. Jam sessions and performances are my motivation for practicing the guitar stuff - it has been quite a challenge starting this new instrument in my mid-50s. Using a metronome for consistent timing has been an essential tool - you don't need to buy one if you have Internet with speakers in your practice space. Although hubby practices his instruments every day, I give myself days off since otherwise I'd burn out. The most fun we have is when we play to a non-discriminating audience for tips. When we get paid a set sum there are usually expectations that limit the choice of what we play.
 
ari gold
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Ann Torrence wrote:This week's assignment is to learn where all the G notes are on the fretboard, then the G#, and so on.


For introductory lessons, this miiiiight work & be fun for a lot of folks. That said, I've always noticed that folks do best when they're having as much fun as possible. And that people like speaking languages before their learn their structures and grammar and spelling and all that.

Music is a language, similar to spoken languages. Little kids don't start by reading and writing, they start by speaking, right?

So - what would be the funnest thing for you to say, musically? What mandolin songs would you love to play? Or, for that matter, non-mandolin songs? The best part about having a teacher is that they can watch you play, see whats easy & what's hard, and help you ... have fun playing

Ann Torrence wrote: I want to play blues someday


So start today! Start by strumming chord shapes! Maybe sing!

Believe you me, I'm a software engineer and I looooove knowing the different between G# and Ab in equal temperament and other temperaments and all that good stuff. But my guess is that your time would be better spent trying to speak music, not learn it's letters.
 
Tam Deal
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This is probably person specific, but I see the part of music one learns,as opposed to performance, or "speaking" as mentioned above, as a challenge. When I make a break-through, I move onto the next challenge. I realized at one point that while I had some upper level skills, I was actually unable to play any of my challenge pieces to a performance standard (and I am not being hard on myself as regards that). I guess this is part of the reason that during childhood lessons they have recitals. At some point or other you have to put it together.

Youtube and other things online are amazing. When I was a kid and learning guitar around '71, if one wanted to take a rest and learn a Beatles song, one had to make a long trip downtown, then spend 2 month's money on a songbook. Today you can probably watch Paul McCartney run down the details, then take any number of lessons on it, while downloading the TAB for free. So one may as well take advantage.
 
Wendy Fisher
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I've been teaching piano and voice lessons for fifteen years, and right now I'm the director of music at a church. Here are my suggestions:

1. Play songs that you love, early and often.
2. Play regularly; nothing beats hands-on practice.
3. Be prepared for the jumps in your abilities after a good night of sleep; your brain will often work things out while you're snoring.
4. There's nothing linear about learning to play an instrument; expect cycles, plateaus, and sudden spikes in your abilities.
5. Listen to music you love from a variety of genres and discover new musicians who inspire you.
6. Definitely look for a teacher who tickles you, intrigues you, inspires you, and supports you.
7. It's better to practice a little bit every day (for even five minutes) than it is to ignore your music all week and then binge for four hours on Saturday--that's a recipe for burn-out.
8. Figure out which parts of mandolin playing really light you up. Do you like strumming? Finger picking? Classical guitar-like things? Gnarly jazz solos? Pay special attention to what you love to do and do more of that. (Once you're there--I realize that you're just starting.)
9. If you like permaculture, you might love the structures in music theory. Once you get beyond key signatures, sharps and flats, and note names, you can learn wonderful forms and patterns in music that are wonderfully synergistic and puzzle-y.
10. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Be light in your being and try not to stress out over missed notes or rhythms.
11. You can have the most fun when you're playing music when you're playing it with other people, and to that end, being able to play the right chord at the right time is a golden skill. If you learn how to play along with recordings and keep up, neither drifting too slowly or rushing too quickly, you become an asset to a group. To this end, YouTube can be very useful. It can also be useful to start playing with other (supportive, kind) people as soon as you can in duos or trios. Just friendly living-room musical puttering.
12. If it hurts you physically, first rest --- and then adjust your ergonomics, your posture, or your hand position until it doesn't hurt.
13. Consistently showing up to play the mandolin, year in and year out, will yield more consistent success than having talent without follow-through. Show up and try, show up and try, show up and try, show up and try, show up and try, show up and try...
14. Get familiar with the basic routine of caring for your instrument and know how to tune it and restring it as necessary.

I'm pretty excited that you're starting this musical journey. Keep us posted about how it's going for you, if you'd like!

**edited to be talking about the correct instrument. =P
 
Kerry Ceilidh
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There are some really great suggestions here.

My advice is
Divide your music into 3 piles.
There's the A pile - these are the tunes you can play - the feel good I know how to do this pile.    Play these regularly.  They make you feel good.  I can play my instrument.  This pile will get bigger and bigger.  It's your repertoire.  Things you could play with friends.  The tunes can be really simple but it's important to see that this pile are things you can play.
The B pile - these are the ones you are working on improving.  Your aim is to convert these to A tunes. Try not to have loads of tunes in this pile so you don't get bogged down.  
The C pile - ones you'd like to play - aspirational tunes.  You can have really difficult stuff in here but it is worth having some realistic goals in here too so that you can see the tune going from C aspirational​ to B in progress and then to A I can play it!!

By dividing up your tunes you make the actual progress easy to see and keep the feel good vibe going.

Try to play for fifteen minutes every day.  It's not much to ask.  Not much of a commitment so you can succeed and meet that goal really easily.  Stop if you're not enjoying it and try again tomorrow.  Chances are that what will happen is that you'll still be playing 40 minutes later.
Enjoy 😀
 
Angelika Maier
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It makes me cringe... I really really want to get back to my recorder club and play all these nice renaissance pieces .... once I have time! If you are an adult AND like renaissance recorder is great but is is an ensemble instrument.
 
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