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Mandolin Lessons: What Makes an Advanced Player

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Quick response or just being alert.
And when I think of really great players,
I think about their, their, most of them
are really quick.
And really can hear what's happening
around them in the room.
And respond to it.
This is this is something that also I
think can be nurtured.
It's just it's a conscious thing, you,
you, playing music is difficult.
You know, making all the chords, playing
with good tone, playing in time.
All those, all those things I keep harping
But, not being so fixated on your own
issues as a player.
That you're not conscious of what's
happening around you is,
is what I'm talking about here.
As far as being alert, quick response, if
somebody pushes at the time a little.
In one, you know?
Are you aware of what's going on?
Is it, is it best for you to hold the time
real solid at that moment?
Or should you go with them?
If they begin to answer and do a call and
response against something you're doing,
are you alert that that's even going on?
If it's time you're in a jam session, and
comes to the third verse and you start to
fill on the verse.
But then the fiddle player obviously was
to having the same thought and
jumped in and started filling.
Are you aware that, that he's doing that?
Does it take you, like, the entire verse
to realize.
Oh my god, he was playing Phil's too, I
didn't even notice that.
These are the kinda things that, that,
make great players,
you know, to, to realize that's happening
right away and make the adjustment.
Either get out of his way or, you know,
hopefully the other player's doing the
same thing.
There's these subtle clues, cues that go
Especially in an informal jamming where
there's, these are the kinda give and
take things that, that happen, that you
have to just be alert about.
Knowing as a backup player, and
we spend a lot of our time playing
background, playing back beats or rhythm.
That's a Bluegrass mandolin player.
So Sandbush is you know, my guru on this
You know, and he always would preach you
my job as a rhythm mandolin player is to
make you sound great when you're soloing.
And so, I've always kept that in the back
of mind you know, like what can I do as a,
as a rhythm player, the spotlight is no
longer on me.
It's on this guy.
Can I get behind him and lift him up, and
help make his job really easy?
And that usually means just playing a
really simple part, locking it down,
and getting your ego out of the way and
being able to get, be supportive.
And that's, that's really it.
That's, that's the job when you're
when you're playing rhythm on any
Another point that comes to mind is speed,
you know how do we play quicker, you know.
And of course this gets way too much
attention in my opinion.
Because as, as you know and I know, many
of the greatest
CDs that we all listen to on a regular
basis are not really about this.
And so I, in general it gets
overemphasized in Bluegrass,
so I'll, I'll get on my soapbox about
And then [LAUGH] I'll get back on it and
say, well, okay, but
all of us want to play faster and cleaner.
That's normal.
We end up in these jam sessions.
And their tunes are going quicker than we
can play them.
How do we, how do we survive that?
And the answer you've heard countless
times is
play it slowly [LAUGH] then it will come,
gradually build up the speed.
There's a lot of truth to that because
you're really trying to train your muscles
to make very intricate moves.
And to me, the only way that I can
identify what
it is that the hands need to do is to slow
it down.
And in the slowing down I rec, usually
recognize some issue that's going on.
Something is going on with the pick.
Where I'm not turning the hand in or out
or angling it enough or
doing the wrong down stroke or up stroke,
at that one particular moment.
And its usually only one or two notes that
are causing the hiccup,
causing this thing to no, to not go fast.
So, identifying that stuff.
Zeroing down.
Making use of your practice time so you're
only working on those little moments and
then everything else should come up.
But, you know, if you're not gonna be this
fastest mandolin player in the world,.
That is not a bad thing.
And keep in mind that, there is lots to be
said at medium and slow tempos.
And usually you stand a chance of hitting
someone in the heart,
a little deeper even, if you're headin in
that direction.
So, there you have it, that's, that's
Mikey's little preach.
I will mention, you know, my heroes.
And talk a little bit about the people who
came before me, and how I learned.
But I'll do that next time.
Thank you so much.