Essential Techniques for Mandolin
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Here's a lesson that will thrill and inspire mandolinists at all levels. Chris Thile shares his own successful formula for developing right and left hand dexterity, improving speed and accuracy and playing with heightened musicality.
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Some of the reviews here say that Chris moves thru the tunes too quickly for a beginner to play along right away. Part of that is bluegrass speed, but another part is that he assumes you have already reviewed the tabs that are included as a PDF file. Chris doesn't waste recording time with "put your first finger on the second fret of the third course," which is just as well because anyone who is not a beginner would be bored to tears. Pop the disc in your computer, get the PDF, and study that tab at low tempo.
Then watch the DVD to get Chris' advice on approach, nuggets like how to grip the pick without squeezing it, when to strictly alternate up and downstroke to build a solid foundation for speed, and when to downstroke twice in a row to hit the downbeat strong. Study the tab again at your own speed with Chris' approaches in mind. Then when you've got it, play along with Chris on the DVD.
If you're an absolute beginner, stick with it and have reasonable expectations. No one can follow another musician on first blush. Watch Chris play the tune, study the tab at your own pace, watch Chris play it again, study the tab again, and wash rinse repeat until you got it. Once you do, you'll be happy that you don't have to waste time skipping thru "Put your third finger on the fourth fret..."
I purchased this DVD despite other reviews that state this is not for the beginner. I am happy to say that after three months of playing, starting with this video was a great idea. The video teaches proper techniques (hence the name) including pic stroke theory for jigs, reels, etc, proper hand positions, hammer-on, pull-off, fingering positions, and more. Learning proper technique before you develop the bad habits saves the frustration of re-learning and allows you to develop faster.
Chris does an amazing job of going through things a couple of times, first pretty slow so you can pick it up, then faster for the more intermediate player. This makes it easy to listen, then practice, then play along with the slow parts. Playing through it fast gives you the idea of what it should really sound like and sets a goal to work up to. That combined with the printed music in standard and tab notation really helps pick up the songs, scales, and arpeggios quickly.
Also included is a lengthy discussion and demonstration of 3 octave scales and arpeggios that he got from a violin book, complete with positions and shifting. Chris definitely doesn't stay in first position and moves gracefully all over the fingerboard. You are treated to his long elegant fingers gliding up, down and around.
Two things he does not go into are tremolo and chopping chords. I guess there are a lot of other dvds that cover this area.
I like the discussion of bad habits and why you should avoid them. He does a great job explaining left-hand positioning, finger placement and efficiency, as well as right hand relaxation and picking position.
Finally, it's just an overall nice instructional DVD, because even though he is teaching, he does not make it boring, and he definitely treats you to four original compositions (two included with notation and tab).
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