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.
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.
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