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How Hard Is It to Learn the Mandolin?

Do you want to learn to play the mandolin but are unsure about how difficult it’s going to be?

It’s normal to have questions about learning a new instrument. Today we’re going to discuss the main challenges and explore how to make the learning process fun and engaging.

Identify Your Mindset

The most important part of your learning process is your mindset. A wise man once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right” — a truth that applies to learning how to play mandolin as well.

By simply acknowledging that learning a new instrument takes time, you accept that the process will require patience and commitment on your part in order to achieve your goals.

And while it’s important to have specific goals, such as learning your favorite songs or being able to improvise in all keys, the real joy is in the process. It might sound clichéd, but it’s true. The cool part is that in the first weeks and months, you’ll be able to notice your progress on an almost daily basis.

Discover Your Learning Methods

If you want to discover the best way to learn mandolin, you must determine the learning modalities that work best for you. This simple yet often-overlooked practice will ensure you get the most out of your time and effort.

For example, if you’re an auditory learner, make sure you listen extensively to the music you’re trying to learn. If you’re a visual learner, you’ll do well by having a qualified instructor demonstrate a technique or song, and then practice reproducing it. Some people like to read about a technique before they try it. You can check out great lessons with Mike Marshall at ArtistWorks to help guide you through the process.

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Like any instrument, the mandolin presents unique challenges. Doubled strings, a small scale length and precision picking can require lots of practice to navigate with ease. However, as long as you don’t bite off more than you can chew, you’ll stay engaged and have a lot of fun in the process.

For example, it’s not realistic to set a goal of learning 30 songs in your first week of practice. Nor is it sensible to expect that you’ll be able to play at blistering speeds or memorize all the positions on the fretboard.

These are all skills you may eventually be able to achieve if you follow the advice in this blog, but also remember to set the bar high enough that you feel challenged without becoming overwhelmed.

Allow your passion to express itself in truly mastering one phrase before you worry about tackling 20 more. Think quality, not quantity.

Develop a Ritual

Developing a practice ritual is all about discipline, which is the foundation of successful learning on your instrument. No matter how much you love the idea of being a great mandolin player, you’ll never get there if you don’t put in the time and effort.

The best way to develop a ritual that works for you is to take stock of your available time on a daily basis, and then commit to a specific time for your practice session. Understand that you may have to sacrifice time you might be spending on other activities in order to achieve your goal of learning the mandolin.

If you are very busy throughout the day but usually spend a couple of hours watching TV in the evening, make sure to set aside 30 minutes of that time for mandolin. If your free time is typically in the morning, have your practice session then. It’s as simple as that!

Make Practice Fun

The whole purpose of learning a new instrument is to enjoy what you’re doing, so make your practice fun! If you get too caught up in the details of techniques and analysis of harmony, you won’t have any time to relax and get into a flow.

Of course, technique and theory are important, but how can you combine those with fun practice?

Let’s say you’re working on a new major scale pattern. You’ve played it ascending and descending, but you need to make it musical. Take that pattern and improvise with it. Play it in triplets, play it with swing or listen to a song in that key and invent your own part.

When you’re ready for some cool new ideas on how to keep your practices entertaining, check out some lessons at ArtistWorks.

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