A few notes on the videos:
If there’s no fingering on the first note of a pattern, it’s in first position.
I’ve written the fingering for the CGDAE instruments with a scale-length of 14.7″ in mind, and in first position, the default (and unwritten) finger for all the sixth-fret notes is the pinky. You can finger ’em however you want, of course – it’s pretty easy to ignore unwritten fingering!
The time signatures may seem a little confusing at times, like why switch from 4/4 to 2/2? etc. The time signature controls the click pattern, so sometimes I change them just to control the groove – please don’t think that they’re always signifying more than that.
You may (and probably should) ignore the barre thingys that randomly appear on the fretboard when it’s “playing” chords. This doesn’t appear to be a controllable feature.
This kinda goes without saying, but good speakers certainly bring out the best of the backing-tracks’ audio. If you’re using computer software for your electric mando’s “amp”, you’ll of course already be using decent speakers or headphones, but for acoustic mandolin, what I find most enjoyable is a pair of open-ear headphones (I highly recommend Grado SR 80s) – the audio sounds great, and I can hear the mandolin just fine.
Why do I make these videos?
1. They’re a groovier, more fun alternative to me-and-my-metronome.
2. Say you’re jamming along with Spotify, and you come up with a riff, a pattern, the logic of which dictates that it should go for a couple of bars, but you stumble trying to get as much out of your fingers as you hear in your head. And you think, “Man, I wish I had that ready to go, in any key, in any position”. So you set out to practise this pattern, in all keys, in all positions, starting at the tempo at which you can play/think it now, and ending at the tempo at which you wish you could play it (if I want to be able to play something at 120 bpm, I’ll go back one click, then two more, then three etc – going from 80 bpm to 96 is about as difficult as going from 116 to 120.) What’s annoying is, if you’re focusing on relaxing your wrists, your elbows, not buzzing any frets, good picking tone etc, when the pattern ends, you have to stop and think, “Um, what’s the next position?”, or “What’s the next key?”, or even “What’s the next tempo?” You have to pull yourself “out of the zone”. But, if you’ve got that all mapped out for you, you can focus on your technique – you just have to glance at the video now and then to see what the next position or key is. And that’s the reason for the Big Note Easy Reader 4:3 format of the videos: you can shrink your player down to an unobtrusive size, and keep an eye on other things. These patterns are extremely memorizable – you just have to glance at the video now and then.
3. For easy-thinking exercises like scales, a backing track simply makes it more fun, but for a lot of the exercises it adds a level of difficulty. Ever learn a tune really well at home, and then stumble at the rehearsal? It’s simply because playing and listening to others at the same time isn’t as easy as listening only to yourself. A backing track is a safe, private halfway step, a way for you to confirm that you really do know the position shifts etc. Think of it as tough love!
The videos average somewhere between thirty minutes to an hour – it takes that long to do a pattern in all keys, sometimes in all positions, at maybe five different tempos. My routine is to pick a few for my practice session, and rotate ’em – finish one tempo, then switch to another video. The VLC player will continue where you left off, but you could also just take note of what page you were on (VLC also conveniently lets you assign a hotkey to “Very short backwards jump” (I use “B”), making it easy to bounce back a few bars when a passage needs another attempt).
So, get to work (me too!), enjoy yourself, and please feel free to drop me a line when you’re taking a break.