Okay, so you've listened to enough bluegrass, or maybe celtic folk music, and decided you want to play the mandolin. Congratulations! The mandolin is a unique and fun instrument with a rich sound that accompanies so many other instruments so well, and can also be played on its own. Weather you are back-country or a backpacker, the mandolin is always a rewarding instrument.
The only problem with learning the mandolin is also one of the greatest draws to playing it: its uniqueness. Although its fun to play something other people often don't know, its hard to find someone to teach you to play if few people know how. Luckily, we have a few tips here, a lot of them from personal experience, to get you started.
So how do you get started?
First off, get a mandolin(duh). If you already have come across or purchased a mandolin, great! You can skip to the next part. However, if your decision to play is freash and you don't have a set of eight strings yet, here are the four ways to go about scoring one:
1. Borrow a mandolin
We are often inspired by the people we surround ourselves with. If you have a friend who plays mandolin that made you want to play, ask them to borrow theirs. If you're short on cash and have good social connections, this is the perfect option. Even if you don't currently know anyone who plays, never be afraid to ask around or post on social media. You may be surprised with the results; musicians are often excited to encourage new musicians and have spare instruments laying around.
2. Rent a mandolin
If you're not sure about the mandolin being for you yet but want to put in some cash on trying a good one, check out some local rental services. Long and Mcquade offers instrument rentals as an example. This is often extremely cost effective and an amazing opportunity to play around and find the right instrument for you.
3. Buy a new mandolin
Of course, this is the most obvious way to approach it. I always suggest if you have a little more money to go to a local shop and talk to someone and test out the instrument before you buy, however there are always cost-effective options online that are darn good. Even the wish app has deals on mandolins!
4. Buy a used mandolin
If you are a fan of discounts and eco-friendly living, this is definitely the option for you. I suggest checking your local online classifieds (craigslist, kijiji, used, etc) and never forget about your local pawn shop. Also, check local thrift stores, although finding one can be rare; try leaving your name and phone number in case they get a mandolin in stock. It will definitely be a waiting game, but for under a hundred bucks you could end up with a vintage mandolin to make all your friends jealous.
Once you have a mandolin, you need to learn to play. Of course its no use otherwise, other than being an expensive paperweight. Here are your options for learning how to strum and pluck those eight strings all the way to twangy glory:
1. Self Teaching With Books
2. Hire a private tutor
You can look up any local music schools you have as well as instrument shops that offer lessons. Don't forget to use local classifieds as well; even if you don't find any listings, you can always post one asking if anyone who has the skill to play mandolin has the time to tutor. Another option if you are more remote or even want to save money is online tutoring. There are tons of great websites for every type of tutor, including music tutors. Try searching around for online teachers.
3. Use Youtube/Video Courses
There are hundreds upon hundreds of free and cheap video courses and classes online that are professional and easily accessible, some even live. A quick youtube search will show you mandolin lessons are abundant, and free live classes occur often. With one of these you can learn mandolin at any pace you want.
4. Find a local music class
If you can't quite afford a private tutor but still want some professional training, research music schools and group classes in your area. There may even be free class/workshops available as promotions for companies or to support mental health. I'd also recommend contacting any local music schools to see if they have any mandolin classes open to the public, or if you can enroll.
5. Ask a friend who plays
As discussed earlier, you may have someone in your life who currently plays mandolin that in part or in full inspired you to learn. It may be nerve-racking for some, but asking them is your best option. You'd be surprised how willing practiced musicians are to pass down knowledge to new ones. Not to mention you can count on a friend or family member to teach you with your best interest in mind- and more often than not, for free!
Thats it. Good luck learning to play, I know you'll be a star!