Things I am learning from mandolin lessons:

It is both exciting and frustrating to take on something new.

It is humbling, when my fingers absolutely will not hit the right frets, or my pick hand can’t keep hold of the pick, or no matter how long I practice, there’s still a hitch between the fourth and fifth notes on the scale that I can’t seem to smooth out.

I want to be good at it. I want to be better at it than I am. I want to be getting better at it, faster than I am actually getting better at it.

I have a little panic that maybe I won’t ever be good at it. Maybe it’s just not my thing, and I should stick to what I already know. This panic tempts me to quit now, even though I’ve been taking lessons less than four months.

Sometimes practice makes a huge difference. If I practice every day, I can really tell a change in how I’m able to play. Practice is really fun at these times.

Sometimes practice doesn’t seem to make any difference at all. I get stuck at a plateau and keep making the same mistakes over and over. Practice is less fun at these times.

Sometimes I use a metronome to pace myself, and practice primarily for speed. This is fun.

Sometimes I stop using a metronome for a while, and realize that while I can play a song quickly, it sounds like crap.

One week, I practiced “Solider’s Joy” every day and could play it really quickly AND fairly well. When I went to my lesson that week, my teacher wanted to hear me play “Alabama Jubilee.”

I can play more evenly and with fewer (or at least less noticeable) mistakes when my teacher plays alongside me.

If I wait for the “perfect time” to practice, when I won’t be bothering anyone else, I don’t get much practicing done. My family has to put up with listening to that hitch in the scale and the hard parts of “Alabama Jubilee” over and over. Oddly, they don’t seem to mind it as much as I expect.

Sometimes, slowing a song down, and taking it section by section, helps my hands to learn the patterns. Then I can speed it up and hear it as it should be.

Sometimes, speeding a song up – and playing it regardless of mistakes – breaks through some barrier in my mind that says “I can’t play this” – because I’m playing it anyway. Then I can slow it down and hear it as it should be.

Sometimes I’d rather write about playing the mandolin, than actually pick up the instrument and practice it.

time to practice…

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