I thought I was doing well.  Scales, simple tunes – making definite progress.

Until yesterdays lesson: chords.

Individually, the simple chords – A, G, C, D, E minor are all things I can do.  But moving from one to another? This will take some work.

And then there is the basic 4/4 strumming pattern – Bass string, down, up [pause] up, down, up.

Such a lot of new stuff to be working on.


Most of the right notes

And sometimes in the right order!

I have now had 3 lessons since I decided that otherwise I was going nowhere. I can feel that I am making progress. Presently I am hacking away at learning a tune that is a step up in complexity. It’s called The Red Haired Boy. I’m working towards being able to play it all the way through before next Monday’s lesson.



I have started playing the mandolin again in earnest.

Most important, I have tracked down a teacher.  I had my first lesson last week with Cai, at Clanfield music school.

I turned up full of trepidation.  Was he going to tell me I was wasting my time?  Thankfully no.  Cai proved to be patient and encouraging. I learned so much in one 30 minute session, I have been practicing all week.  Some simple tunes now sound like tunes, rather than just a sequence of notes.

Second lesson this evening.  I am really looking forward to it.  Maybe in a few weeks’ time I will feel up to recording something to post here for you to listen to.  As the title says, I feel revitalised.

Just like starting over

It’s been several months.

This evening I picked up my mandolin again. I have been meaning to, and tonight decided just to get on with it.

i went back to the beginning of the Simon Mayor book, playing open strings and then a few scales. I went over those pages several times until I felt comfortable again and had done each exercise smoothly and correctly. Finally, a couple of simple tunes.

My fingertips are sore!

picking up again

I  picked up the mandolin again last Thursday, after a break of 5 weeks. Not good.

This evening I played for just a few minutes, practicing House of the Rising Sun and the Skye Boat Song. The latter I played from memory, and lost my way a bit in the middle. Moral of the story: get the music out.

I can’t read music, by the way. I use the tab (tablature), a way of noting which string I should hold down and on which fret. So far I am playing notes rather than chords.

March audio update

Almost 3 months into this project, and here’s an audio progress report.

I was recommended to another site, Nigel Gatherer’s The Scottish Mandolin, which has a couple of beginner’s tutorials.  So I’m working through those exercises as well as the Simon Mayor.

I was getting stuck practicing the simplified version of the Ode to Joy.  I had thought I should master that before moving in.  But about 2 weeks ago I decided that I needed to move on.  So I am working on chords and scales.  And at the same time on (1) the fingering, getting the fingers right on the frets and (2) picking technique, hitting both strings in up and down strokes.

So, here’s something to listen to.  A slightly frustrating session of scales and chords.  How do people get their fingers into the contortions to make the E chord?  Click here to listen.


Oh, and isn’t this mandolin beautiful?  It’s a  Breedlove McKenzie KF.  Would anyone like to buy me one?

picking chords

I have been practicing the same thing for a few weeks, the same exercise.  This is the simplified Ode To Joy on page 21 of Simon Mayor’s The Mandolin Tutor.

This week I bought a pack of plectrums.  When I bought the mandolin on 2 January 2013, the shop threw in 2 plectrums, Jim Dunlop “Tortex” .50mm and .73mm, if you’re interested.  I bought a mixed pack of 6, ranging from .50mm (red) to 1.15mm (purple).plectrums

The different thicknesses do make a difference.  They feel different to play with, and I feel that the sound produced by a thicker plectrum is different to that made using a thinner one.

Today I decided to move away from the Ode To Joy, or rather not to practice and work on that tune exclusively.  Picking up the Mandolin For Dummies book, I learned four new chords.  I had already learned G on day one.  The new chords are C,D, A and E.  D, A and E are all tricky in that they each involve holding down 2 strings on the same fret.  A different skill to practice, using the fingers of the left hand.  Maybe after more practice I’ll post some more audio next week.