Working on basic technique

During our recent trip to Ireland, my inspiration to play the mandolin again came back – big time. I don’t know why, I haven’t enjoyed playing Irish tunes on the mandolin for years. Maybe now I just simply met inspiring people, good musicians, and I remembered the good times we used to have when we lived over there.

I actually bought my mandolin while we lived in Ireland. I met the brilliant builder Victor Smith of Flatbush stringed instruments some year before that, it must have been in 2007 at the Gränna festival. He later came by with some of his instruments to the oldtime gathering in Denmark, and I totally fell in love with the sound and the feel of his mandolins. Because I didn’t want to spend more money than necessary just for some extra fluff (read f-model scroll), I decided that I wanted to order an A-style mandolin. The year after we went to live in Ireland, and I finally ordered one. It arrived by UPS on the 19th of July if I’m not mistaken. I remember following the whole process on the internet, and when the mandolin had travelled from Dublin to Cork I was very excited.. I remember it arrived to us in Clonakilty in the afternoon, and we made a video when I unpacked it. That video had crazy amounts of views and likes on You Tube.. 😂😂

I’ve played lots and lots after that, until 2012 when I suffered tennis elbow after building our new garden, and with that I also suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, and its sibling on the ulnar nerve that goes from the pinky finger and out. I had a lot of pain and couldn’t played stringed instruments for a long long time (instead I started learning to play the concertina, so at least I could play music in some form). After that my music making has declined a LOT.
I remember buying my guitar the year after, so I must have been ok during 2013, but I never went back to playing Irish music on the mandolin, and I wasn’t able to play fast oldtime tunes because it was too painful. I played the concertina, the guitar, and I played the mandolin for songs, the duets that my husband and myself do.

So now my inspiration to play Irish tunes on the mandolin is back. I’ve been working on “Maid behind the bar”, “I buried my wife”, and “Chief O’Neill’s favourite”. Sadly I’ve noticed that I have a problem with my left thumb, and I have the same problem when I play the fiddle, actually. It seems I hold it incorrectly in some way and it gets tense and hurts. I’m now trying to watch other players and what they do, how they hold the mandolin, what they do with their thumbs, etc etc.. a bit geeky maybe but I’ll have to get this right to be able to play well again!

I have a feeling that when I first started playing the mandolin I held it differently, but learned another hand position to be able to play chords. So now I’ll have to test different things to see what works. 🙁 The problem is that when I see other players on videos, it seems like most of them hold their thumbs as I do. Total confusion! If you have any idea or suggestion let me know! Maybe I should record a video of myself playing first?

2 comments on “Working on basic technique”

  • Claudine

    Aww, I’m sorry you had to go through such an injury and that it affected your music playing 🙁 Good on you for still wanting to pursue your music though! I don’t know have the slightest idea about these instruments unfortunately, so I don’t think I would be able to help you on how to hold them and stuff! But I do agree about recording a video of yourself playing, since you’ll be able to see and compare with other people, and even notice some little quirks that you may not be noticing when you’re doing them. Good luck and I hope everything goes well 😀

    • Susanne

      Hi Claudine! Thanks for visiting! I hope you still play your ukulele. I’ll have my “test” next Tuesday because then we’ll have our Irish music session here in town. We’ll see how that goes… I’m trying to practice new ways to hold my thumb. It’s a way I twist it that makes it hurt. I hope I can re-learn!


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