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I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!

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Áine 24 Oct 02 - 03:29 PM
Wesley S 24 Oct 02 - 04:10 PM
GUEST,old head 24 Oct 02 - 04:24 PM
Jimmy C 24 Oct 02 - 04:47 PM
Aidan Crossey 24 Oct 02 - 04:49 PM
Áine 24 Oct 02 - 04:57 PM
Alice 24 Oct 02 - 07:25 PM
Áine 24 Oct 02 - 07:39 PM
Alice 24 Oct 02 - 08:26 PM
Alice 24 Oct 02 - 08:36 PM
Áine 24 Oct 02 - 09:11 PM
Alice 24 Oct 02 - 09:36 PM
GUEST,Anahootz , no cookie 24 Oct 02 - 10:02 PM
Alice 24 Oct 02 - 10:23 PM
Mooh 25 Oct 02 - 12:37 AM
Áine 25 Oct 02 - 02:36 AM
Mooh 25 Oct 02 - 10:06 AM
GUEST,boromir 25 Oct 02 - 10:10 AM
mooman 25 Oct 02 - 10:59 AM
Willie-O 25 Oct 02 - 11:08 AM
Alice 25 Oct 02 - 11:18 AM
Áine 25 Oct 02 - 11:29 AM
Áine 25 Oct 02 - 11:36 AM
GUEST,old 25 Oct 02 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,old head 25 Oct 02 - 01:11 PM
Alice 25 Oct 02 - 01:17 PM
Áine 25 Oct 02 - 02:07 PM
Mooh 25 Oct 02 - 02:25 PM
Áine 27 Oct 02 - 02:52 PM
Peterr 25 Feb 03 - 05:33 PM
Cluin 25 Feb 03 - 05:44 PM
Peterr 03 Mar 03 - 11:29 AM
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Subject: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 03:29 PM

Fellow Mando-idiots,

I'm trying to learn my first two hornpipes - The Humours of Lewisham (by our own derrymacash) and Tipperary Hornpipe. So far, I've learned all the notes for Humours, and I'm trying to get up to speed on it (i.e. being able to play it the way derrymacash does on his CD).

Well, everything was going along hunky-dorey, until this morning. While my right hand is doing fine with holding the pic at the right angle, not too loose, not too tight -- my left hand seems to be falling victim to a 'choke the chicken's neck' response whenever I start speeding up my playing.

This, of course, results in my fretting fingers not being in the right place at the right time, and well, you can sort out for yourselves how it's sounding (bleck!).

Help! Any suggestions for this beginner would be sincerely appreciated *BG*

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Wesley S
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 04:10 PM

Aine - one of the best bits of advise I ever got was to spend some time trying to see how little effort - muscle strength - it takes to play a part properly.

I'm not saying I follow this advise - but it sounds good.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: GUEST,old head
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 04:24 PM

concentrate on your picking hand,don't lose rhythmn,go as slow or as fast as you feel,but in the long run,PRACTISE at least 1/2 AN HOUR A DAY.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Jimmy C
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 04:47 PM

Sounds like you are applying too much pressure to hold the instrument. Try holding it a little looser to see if that helps. Just keep at it slowly but surely and it will all work out.

Good luck

Slan

Jimmy


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Aidan Crossey
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 04:49 PM

Áine a chara ...

I do the same thing myself. I know the theory, but ...

Thanks for the plug!

Aidan


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 04:57 PM

Thanks everyone!

I guess I just have to step back a bit (or would that be a 'beat'), and not try to go too fast too soon. It's just so frustrating, 'cuz I'm almost there as to playing up to Aidan's speed.

It's just such an infectious wee tune -- so, dear Aidan, I'm putting all the blame on yourself, for writing such a sweet mandolin piece. *BG* And here I thought that learning a hornpipe would be the easiest way to step out of my strumming lessons . . .

Wesley, it looks like we need to get together again -- you're a great one for inspiration, don't ya know! And BTW, my tremelo and my barre chords are coming along nicely, thanks to you ;-) Got some more homework for me to try?

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Alice
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 07:25 PM

Hi, Aine, I showed this thread to my son Ryan who plays mandolin and can go at high speed on Irish traditional music... he said you should warm your hands up first. Put your hands in a sink of water that is as hot as you can stand. You won't cramp up as bad if you warm up like this and your muscles will be more loose for playing. Ryan took a mando workshop class from Radim Zenkel (you can find his website on the net) and Radim had lots of good mandolin advice regrading warm up and other techniques. Another Radim trick is to take a rubber glove that fits you tightly, cut the fingers of the glove off right where they reach the first knuckles of each finger of your hand. Use one glove because you can turn it inside out for each hand. Play for awhile to warm up with the glove on one hand then switch and play with the glove on the other hand.

Alice


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 07:39 PM

Hi Alice!

I searched for Radim's website; but, I couldn't find it. Do you have the URL handy?

And please tell Ryan 'thanks' for the suggestions. I definitely will try them out!

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Alice
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 08:26 PM

Well, I spelled his name wrong. It is Radim Zenkl.... the
URL is http://www.zenkl.com


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Alice
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 08:36 PM

Radim is touring in Canada now. I recommend that anyone who likes mandolin should see him. You can see his tour schedule and read his bio on the website... how he listened to smuggled in bluegrass records in the Czech republic and then escaped while it was still a communist country. He's a neat guy. Definitely worth seeing his performance. He plays bluegrass, some Irish tunes, some European, some of his own compositions.   Enjoyed them all and his stories in between. He studied voice along with the many instruments that he plays and is a good singer, too.

He is also my choice for sexiest folksinger! Czech out his photo!

Alice


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 09:11 PM

Wow! What a hunk! *BG* I think I'm going to copy that pic of Radim and Sam Bush playing together and frame it for my office/studio...

Great website. But, I looked for any 'advice' about playing and I couldn't find any, Alice. Does Ryan remember any other 'tips' that Radim shared at the workshop? I'm sure that all the mando beginners here at the 'Cat would appreciate them.

Thanks so much for the link, too.

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Alice
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 09:36 PM

The advice is in his workshops in person, not on his web site.. . I looked at his schedule and he won't be in Texas. Sorry if I gave the impression that the workshop info was online. The two warm up techniques for the muscles already given are the main thing that Ryan said would help you.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: GUEST,Anahootz , no cookie
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 10:02 PM

Warm up by playing scales.

Don't wear any silly rubber gloves, and don't stick your hands in warm water...both contribute to excessive hand moisture, which is a no-no, and the warm water will soften your callouses.

There are hand excercises for both speed and dexterity, but trying to explain without diagrams would be fairly tough.

As for the "choked neck", try moving your thumb further towards the back of the neck, but not all the way behind it. Use more "finger press" efforts, instead of "grip" effort...make sense? no?

You would be suprised at how little effort it takes to correctly fret a mandolin, and the speed at which a relaxed hand actually CAN fret one.

'Hootz


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Alice
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 10:23 PM

Well, I assumed you would be playing scales to warm up. The glove isn't silly. It works.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Mooh
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 12:37 AM

Sorry if I repeat any of what's been said, this is sort of stream of unconsciousness just before bedtime...

(Get this, the local music shop turned down a Breedlove workshop by Radim Zenkl this month because they'd never heard of him! They'd also not heard of several other prominent mandolinists when I asked, so I'm not surprised. There's alot of pickers hereabouts who would have attended. So much for free publicity.)

Regarding the choke...Relax from the neck/shoulders to the fingertips (get a massage!), slow down, increase tempo gradually over a few weeks. Lighten your touch until you just avoid string rattle, and get comfortable with that feel, rhythm and tempo before you speed up or play more aggressively.

A metronome will help you record your actual tempo, even if you don't want to play with one all the time. That way you'll know when you are really progressing.

Check your set-up, string quality and age, intonation and so on to eliminate any distractions caused by the instrument itself.

Warm up with some brief scales or familiar tunes, and break up the practice routine with familiar stuff but keep coming back to the one you're working on. This helps with confidence and muscle memory.

Practice in several short sessions, especially if you get fatigued. Mental and physical fatigue are both at issue, so play with fresh mind and body, like after the morning's first cup of coffee.

A gentle shake of the hands, the aforementioned warm water trick, and occassional stretching exercises for the back and shoulders will help relax the muscles.

Sometimes when fingers aren't in the right place it has to do with where we choose to play notes. Mandolin, like other fretted instruments allows the player to choose the same note in more than one place. So, if there's a largish jump in interval, sometimes working your way there by playing the preceding notes on another string will help.

For book advice I'd recommend Simon Mayor's books and videos, though there're others...maybe search Elderly.

Give yourself time. Good luck!

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 02:36 AM

Dear Mooh,

I do believe I shall print your suggestions out and paste them on the front of my practice book, so I'll see them every time I open it up -- A brilliantly comprehensive system, indeed. Thank you so much for taking the time (especially before bedtime!) to type all that into your post.

And Anahootz -- Yes, I do understand what you mean by "Use more "finger press" efforts, instead of "grip" effort..." I think I'm still having a hard time NOT trying to play my mando like my guitar ;-) Thanks for your suggestion about the hand exercises, too.

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Mooh
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 10:06 AM

Aine...My pleasure! Your guitar comment is right on the money. None other than Simon Mayor set me straight on that. He bluntly informed me that my playing would be "arrested" until I adopted a non-guitar approach to my technique. He wasn't being hurtful, it was the best thing he could have said at the time! Watching good fiddle players has helped too for that pinky reach thing they do, but mandolinists tend to be more relaxed I think. I wish there had been a Mudcat when I started playing! Mooh.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: GUEST,boromir
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 10:10 AM

You might try what my piano teacher calls slow motion practice.

Practice in rhythms. Dotted eighth/sixteenth and vice versa keeping in mind the relaxed feeling in your fingering hand. This allows you to play two notes 'a tempo' while keeping the relaxed hand position. You are practicing in small chunks and yet still going fast.

When you are able to do that, divide the notes into groups of threes (for jigs) or fours playing one slow note and following it with two or three fast ones.

I should add that this technique can improve anyone's playing no matter the instrument. If you want to play fast, you've got to learn how to play slow!!


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: mooman
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 10:59 AM

The key (I teach mandolin to several students) is to relax, both left and right hands, then once fully relaxed, relax some more. Comfortable and relaxed fretting and picking hands will improve playing, and hence enjoyment and speed of learning, immeasurably.

I'd go along with most of the hints posted. Don't worry too much about speed to start with, that will gradually build up to what is appropriate, but pay more attention to "feel" and varying your playing dynamics, and also to getting a crisp picking technique.

Good luck and best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Willie-O
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 11:08 AM

Damn, disappearing post syndrome strikes again.

I agree with a lot of the comments, but would also ask: how's the action and comfort factor on your mandolin? You want light strings, pretty low action, and hopefully a bit wider neck than most bluegrass style mandos have to play Celtic music, and a A style rather than an F.

Also, it's very old hat, but scales are everything. Being comfortable with the notes you're trying to hit is a prerequisite to speeding up, which will come in time. Worry about that last. Make the tune flow first.

Best
W-O


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Alice
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 11:18 AM

Áine, do you keep your mando by the computer while you are online? In addition to regular practice time, if you can pick it up every day for a few minutes and just play scales or bits of what you are learning it is amazing how that time can add up. Have it with you when you are online or watching tv and play exercises in a relaxed way.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 11:29 AM

"If you want to play fast, you've got to learn how to play slow!!" -- How true, how true, dear boromir!

Thanks mooman, for the relaxation emphasis -- I've got it pretty much down in my right hand, now that I've found a pic that I'm comfortable with. And my left hand is pretty relaxed, except when I try to go 'full speed' on Aidan's hornpipe. Obviously, I'm not ready for 'full' yet; so I'm going to bring it down a notch or two, and work on my technique and dynamics. It's just that I got so excited about being able to (a) memorize a whole song on my mando, and (b) play something faster than a slow waltz *BG*.

Willie-O -- I am blessed by being married to the son of a bluegrass playing family. My father-in-law chose my mandolin for me, buying it (for a really good price) from his brother, Dear Hubby's Uncle Bobby Joe, who is a mandolin player par excellence and mandolin collector. Needless to say, Uncle Bobby Joe made sure that my mando has great action and great strings, and all the bits and pieces are in perfect working order.

It's a Fender FM-52E acoustic/electric with a teardrop shape and F-style soundholes. I've been learning bluegrass and irish tunes on it, and it works great for both styles. Eventually, maybe in a year or two, I would like to get a Davey Stuart (strictly acoustic) mandolin to play my irish tunes on.

I sure hope that the other beginner mando-idiots are putting a tracer on this thread, 'cuz you all are giving us such wonderful advice and helpful hints!

Thanks to you all from all us 'newbies' *BG*, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 11:36 AM

Dear Alice,

My little 'Moira' is never far from my side. She's either beside my computer, or in my lap when I'm sitting on the couch in front of the TV.

Dear Hubby has even deigned to let me play during commercials when the hockey game is on! What a guy!! ;-)

Gotta share this with you all. I'm still recovering from back surgery I had earlier this year; and every once in a while, I overdo it, and have to deal with some serious pain for a few days. For the last two weeks, the only thing that was able to get my mind off the hurt was playing my mandolin. A truly magical instrument!!

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: GUEST,old
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 12:28 PM


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: GUEST,old head
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 01:11 PM

i have NICK STRUTT here and he would like to offer his advice. he is one of the fourmost mandolin players in G.B. here he is................Hi Aine,you dont say how & why you are playing the mdo. Are you performing for an audience standing with hideous adrenalin levels? Are you sat with a group of Guinness soaked Celts?Each offers different opportunities. On the premise that the instrument is perfectly in the playing position ( it is easier to imagine a banjo perfectly balanced on your lap with no hands )no choking should occur. If there is muscular tension from whatever cause a sort of freezing effect can hit right or left hand. The producer of BBC Country Meets Folk [a 60's country/folk programme] told me the listening figures shortly before my performance live on air and this gem of knowledge paralysed my right arm just on cue for the solo. Sofas are death to musicians. Your body and the instrument must be married in the dance and one needs space to sway spin and fearlessly indulge your passion.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Alice
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 01:17 PM

There you go, Áine. Fearlessly indulge your passion, as soon as your back is mended. I think this may be all connected to your injury, actually. The muscles may be cramping because you still have to heal. Sure does take a long time for a back to heal and muscles to be normal again.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 02:07 PM

Dear Nick,

"Your body and the instrument must be married in the dance and one needs space to sway spin and fearlessly indulge your passion." Love it! Well, the swaying and spinning are out for the time being, and the only time I need to worry about adrenalin levels is when I play in front of a microphone *BG* I just wish I was drinking a Guinness and swaying with some Celts (!)

I should have said that I sit at the edge of the sofa, with very good posture (it hurts to sit any other way anymore), when I play.

And Alice, you may well be right about the problem stemming from my back injury. All the more reason to concentrate on relaxing when I play, right? If I can overcome this 'choking' thing, it ought to help in general, don't ya think?

Thanks all, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Mooh
Date: 25 Oct 02 - 02:25 PM

Shiatsu (I likely speltified it all rong) massage has worked wonders for my left shoulder (dislocated last year) and general stress (which caused me to leave a good job a few years ago). Any massage therapy is good though. Mooh.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Áine
Date: 27 Oct 02 - 02:52 PM

Just wanted to let all you folks that were nice enough to give your advice here -- I managed to get ALL THE WAY THROUGH Aidan's hornpipe, without choking, all notes memorized -- but, playing it through a LOT slower than I had been trying to do. I used a bit of all the great advice I got here, and boy howdy, did it make a big difference!

Can't thank you all enough for all your help. Mando-idiots are the best. *BG*

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Peterr
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 05:33 PM

I started mando years ago as my flatmates played guitars the started fiddle because'easy, the fingerings the same'. Well, we hope we eventually learn in this life. After a couple of fiddle lessons what improved most was the mandolin - I altered left hand so thumb was more behind the neck instead of strangling. My dear old thing is very old Neapolitan and it will never leave me, but it's a lot easier to hold a flatback relaxedly(?). Vin Garbutt once siad that to play a bellback while standing you need to have your pancreas removed.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Cluin
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 05:44 PM

I find I have the opposite problem. I'm gripping the pick too hard on the fast tunes. After about 2 or 3 minutes of steady picking, my right hand starts to cramp up. Hard to relax it in the middle of picking.


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Subject: RE: I'm Choking My Mandolin's Neck - Help!
From: Peterr
Date: 03 Mar 03 - 11:29 AM

Cluin
Ever tried a bit of Blu-tack or double sided tape on the pick? Fingers stick to it and it may help to relax your hand


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