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!