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Tips

Developing a sense of pitch (Ear Training)

When I was learning how to improvise I realised I needed to develop my ear so I could easily hear chord changes and melody intervals.

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Arpeggios and triads

Do you know your arpeggios? An arpeggio is the notes of a chord (triad) played one after the other adding an octave above the root to complete, first rising then descending.

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Plectrum Stroke Dilemmas

A pupil recently said he was confused by different advice he was getting for 6/8 plectrum stroke direction.

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Smooth quavers

When I was practising for a concert playing the Beethoven Mandolin Sonatas I was having difficulty playing a fast quaver passage evenly.

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Virtual Practice

If you find you are pushed for time to practice or you are away from home and can’t take your instrument you might like to experiment with some virtual practice, or practising in your head.

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Play a ballad

Playing a ballad, nice and slow, using only sustained notes (no tremolo) teaches you many things.

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Getting a Grip

How do you prevent a plectrum from slipping in your fingers as you play? For some this is not a problem and for those who do experience this there are several solutions.

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More Confidence While Playing

If there is a place in a solo where you commonly make a mistake, you probably tense up just before you get there, worried whether you'll make the same mistake yet again. This makes the mistake more likely.

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Creating a good tone

The mandolin is a beautiful instrument and there are many factors that contribute to achieving a good tone. Not least of course is the quality of the instrument itself.

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Leave your fingers down

This week's tip is something I find useful and which has made a big difference for my pupils.

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Having fun with scales

When I was learning the violin I used to think playing scales was really boring and I didn’t pay them much attention.

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Cheap music source

Charity shops are a favourite hunting ground for me and they are a great source of cheap music if you are prepared to spend time going through the sheet music racks.

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Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Well are you? I’ve watched players practising a new chord or negotiating a tricky passage and concentrating so much on getting their fingers in the right place they haven’t noticed their body folding into wild contortions, as if it is their arms and legs that will make the difference rather than their left and right hand.

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New Year Resolution

At this time of year many people make resolutions to do or achieve new things. As a musician what do you want to achieve this year?

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Expression loud and soft

How many different volumes can you achieve with one note? There are many expression markings for volume from ppp to ff and sfz.

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Changing Strings

This is a quick tip. I was asked about the best way to wind strings, either if a string breaks or when replacing with a new set. I usually change a pair of strings at a time unless the frets need a good clean. This keeps the instrument under tension.

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Starting a tremolo

I was asked by a player in my mandolin ensemble "How do I get a good start to a tremolo?" She said "Once I get going I'm fine but I can't get a smooth start".

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4th Finger strength and stretch

Developing and using the fourth finger increases versatility and tonal range and tonal choices.

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