Notes from a LiteraryVixen

Snarks and Randoms for Your Enlightenment.

Fat Fingers, Skinny Neck. January 30, 2008

Filed under: The Arts — theliteraryvixen @ 9:06 pm

Last week, I embarked on an endeavor that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time: teaching myself to play the mandolin.   

If you’re reading this blog, then you should probably know me well enough to know that I LOVE to sing.  And I do it incessantly.  In the shower, in the car, while watching TV, or cleaning, or reading, and even at WORK, much to the chagrin of my coworkers.   

Here’s the quandary: I want to be able to sing in front of an audience (as a youngest child, why would I want to do anything without an audience?), but I don’t really respect singers who cannot play an instrument and/or write their own music. So, rather than becoming a version of myself that even I couldn’t respect, I just sat on the sidelines for years, using a karaoke night here and there to fill the void.  But, as we all know, karaoke is mostly relegated to being a dirty little secret, too many drunks and wannabes having slain the reputation of karaoke as a pastime. 

I tried the piano when I was 10.  Far too undisciplined to achieve any skill at it.  I played the violin, rather badly, from fourth through sixth grades.  I tried the guitar, kind of, for one semester in high school.  I say “kind of”, because it was really like study hall than guitar lessons.  A group of 5 girls, including myself, basically locked ourselves in the large practice room every day for an hour or so and chatted. 

But now I have determination.  Now I have a goal: fronting a cool bluegrass-tinged pop act.  Now I can tackle my sad history of learning an instrument and DO this!  I hope.  I love the sound of a mandolin in the hands of a skilled player.  I don’t know if I can ever attain “skilled”, but “passable” would work for me at this point.   

Since picking up the instrument last week, with the help of my guitar playing brothers, I can already play the cool licks from both “Sunshine of My Love” and “Smoke on the Water.”  [No “Stairway to Heaven” yet, but I will keep you posted.] Besides those omnipresent licks, I can only play three and a half chords.  Those would be C, D, G and A5.  I say “three and a half” because A5 is a total cheater’s chord, for those of us who cannot play an A to save our lives.  I cannot make my fingers get into the right position on the neck to make the A chord sound anything like it should . . . hence the title of this blog. 

Anyhow, now I have another good reason to learn to play.  While looking for a fierce mandolin strap (so far, nothing) online this weekend, I saw an acoustic electric mandolin on eBay with no reserve.  I kind of . . . accidentally . . . bought it.  It was a great deal, but now I have two mandolins and no skills. 

Well, if I fail this instrument, there’s always the tambourine, right? 

Wish me luck!


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