How Hard Is It To Play The Mandolin?

Mandolin, like other stringed instruments, requires a lot of dedication to play it well. 

Several reasons make it hard for beginners to achieve the right tempo when playing the mandolin.

Age is a factor that most mandolin beginners ignore. The more a person advances in age, the more their concentration tends to go down, and this makes it hard to grasp the necessary skills. 

How hard or straightforward it is to learn mandolin depends on your experience on other stringed instruments, how much time and practice you want to put into it and some other varying factors. 

A guitar player will find learning mandolin very easy, unlike a violinist who will find it somewhat tricky. 

Masterly of the instrument can take decades or even a lifetime depending on the person. 

Although the tablature of the mandolin is more comfortable to learn due to its similarity with other stringed instruments, the fact that a single mandolin note is made up by pressing two strings down complicates the whole process. 

Other stringed instruments have one note for a single string.

Other factors that can help answer the question of how hard is it to learn the mandolin. Let dive deep into the details: 

How Long Does It Take To Learn The Mandolin?

Many beginners want to know how long it takes to learn the mandolin. This varies greatly depending upon a few factors. 

If a student is familiar with similar instruments such as violins, fiddles and guitars, they will have an easier time learning to master the mandolin. 

The answer to this question is dependent upon how often a student practices, how quickly they pick up on new lessons and their commitment level. Learning a new instrument takes dedication, patience, consistency and skill.

If a student were to practice everyday for 30-60 minutes per day, it would take approximately 3 months to play the instrument with confidence and consistency. As a student practices more, they will develop their skill set and playing will come naturally to them.

Learn about the best mandolins for beginners.

How Can I Learn Quickly?

Take it Slow

Learning an instrument can not be rushed. Patience is very important, especially in the early phases. When you begin a new instrument, it is important to take it slow. 

The very first step is learning how to hold the instrument properly. The mandolin should be balanced so you are able to play each note without shifting or struggling. 

Once you are holding the mandolin comfortably, the next step is to master your hand placement. There are three central points of balance to take into consideration. 

The first is the thumb on your left hand. This is to guide the neck of the instrument. The next balance point is the diaphragm which stabilizes the instrument. Lastly, is the inside of your right elbow. 

This also helps to stabilize the instrument and allow you to play notes and chords without excessive movement. 

Learn Each Note with Proper Technique

The notes on a mandolin are G, D, A & E. The mandolin is similar to the violin, however it has 4 sets of strings, rather than 4 individual strings. This is why mandolins can be more difficult to get into tune.

The first piece of advice is to develop a holding technique for your pick. The most common method for this is to hold the pick with your index finger curled. It is advised to have a somewhat loose and relaxed grip when strumming through chords.

When you are playing individual notes, a firmer grip should be used. A firmer grip is needed to get through the double strings on the mandolin.

Accurately playing each note will speed up the learning process and help you master simple songs quickly.

When you are confident and comfortable holding the pick, you are able to play with ease. Some players do not take the time to familiarize themselves with all elements of the instrument, which leads to errors and bad habits down the line.

If you correct improper handling early-on, you are less likely to continue bad playing habits later on. 

Develop Your Skills 

Developing your skills includes tone. Once you begin to feel comfortable with the instrument, it’s time to use fretted notes, with scale and simple, basic tunes. Practicing your strumming through chords is very important.

Playing through the major scales is a great way to master your technique. Playing simple ascending and descending scales are a great practice as well. Developing your skills on a daily basis will have you playing before you know it.

Play With Others

Playing with others that are more advanced is the best way to speed up your process. They will help encourage you to strive for success. Learning with others that have mastered the same skills you are stuck on can prove to be very helpful. This is why peer groups for learning are very effective. 

Reaching out to other mandolin players is a great way to build your knowledge on the instrument. Remember: 

The more you know about the instrument and how it works, the quicker you can develop a natural rhythm. When playing with others, it is important to be open-minded and embrace suggestions. 

Organizing a weekly support group will fast-track your progress. 

The more exciting the instrument is to you, the more inclined you will be to pick it up and practice throughout the week. When you meet back with your group the following week, you will have improved in leaps and bounds. 

These are the best strategies for mastering the mandolin with confidence, ease and longevity. 

7 Biggest Hacks To Learning The Mandolin Easier & Faster

To make the learning process easier you should try and get lessons either online or in person privately to make it not as hard and to make the learning process quicker.

The faster you start seeing results the more committed you’re to keeping learning and the more likely that you’re to stick to it.

You can also watch Youtube videos which isn’t as great but still a solid solution.

1. Instrument Size 

As compared to a guitar, mandolins have a relatively smaller size, this is not much of a problem to everyone, but for people with massive bodies and hands, it becomes a hurdle. 

Getting the right notes on a smaller fretboard can be quite a challenge.

2. Playing Techniques

The techniques of playing the mandolin are somehow hectic. This instrument requires the player to be able to use both hands effectively. 

For people who have never played another stringed instrument, it becomes hard to master. Getting your fingers used to holding double strings also poses a significant challenge.

This hurdle is mainly for people with large fingers because the mandolin frets are narrow for large fingers to operate comfortably. On the other hand, too small fingers will also limit your capability of playing the mandolin. 

Too little fingers will not be able to hold two strings at once.

3. The Mandolin Design

The mandolin has a short neck which in turn adds tension on the strings. The tension makes your fingers feel some pain. The pain may kill your morale and make playing the instrument a hard struggle for you.

Having known the limitations that can kill your dream of being a mandolin expert, it is wise to understand how to counter the above constraints for you to succeed. 

The following factors can help you gradually improve your mandolin learning skills and become an expert.

4. Acknowledge That Learning Is Hard

Get prepared for a hard task before you start learning mandolin. You should bear in mind that talent contributes ten per cent of a person’s success, and the rest relies on hard work. 

The moment you know that you will brace yourself for a hard task. With this mindset, your level of patience goes up, and you rarely lose hope when you make mistakes or find yourself learning slower than others. 

It is possible to see yourself progressing on well initially and retarding later in the process. Just bear in mind that you undertook a hard task which requires more effort.

5. Know your Learning Ways

Knowing the tactics that suit you is one way to learn mandolin with ease. On the other, using methods that do not suit, you will only make learning hard for you. 

If you learn more by listening, use audios for your case. For those who are visual learners, an instructor would be the best option for them. 

Some other people would prefer written material before playing an instrument. Failure to know where you exactly fit makes your learning a sort of hell.

6. Do Not Overload Yourself

Mandolin playing comes with a combination of skills. Learn to memorize the different positions on the fretboard one at a time. Learn the skills slowly but increase your speed steadily. 

Trying to grasp everything at once will only make learning a nightmare. Set realistic goals that you can achieve. Just know that the best mandolin players were once like you.

7. Discipline 

Discipline determines how you spend your time. With precise control, you can plan your practice schedule without fail. Avoiding procrastination when it comes to practicing the mandolin is an aspect of the discipline. 

Some sacrifices will help you to achieve faster. Such sacrifices include missing your favorite television programs to attend mandolin practice. A low discipline level will only make mandolin learning another task of chasing the wind.

Conclusion

Determining how hard it is to learn to play the mandolin is definitely key in the beginning stage but you really need to just jump in and start playing and practicing all the time.

If you really enjoy playing the mandolin it will come easily but not without handwork and dedication.

Learning any instrument takes time and practice but if you put the time and dedication into playing the mandolin you will be well rewarded for years to come.

Practicing more will increase your skills faster than just a couple minutes a day. It will also become easier as well. So you will see results if you put in more work.

Image from flickr creative commons David in Lisburn

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