Marcus: Learn to play a mandolin in four easy lessons by Marcus Kelson aged 51 and one quarter.
February 23rd, 2012 by pilgrims
Col Bernau is a patient man, a very patient man.
When I first undertook the challenge of learning a musical instrument I and my wife Virginia were to choose between violin (or fiddle in the folk world) and Mandolin. Once in High School I picked up a violin and made such a howl with my first bow I put it quietly down and left the room swiftly – I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice. Added to this was the fact that one of the great pop songs of recent years, Losing My Religion by REM, featured a Mandolin prominently… so really, my choice was made for me.
But my initial enthusiasm turned to despair…
Early conversation/lessons may have gone something like this:
“So first finger, second fret on the G string, but after the open chord…”
“What’s a G string? There’s a piece of music by Bach yeah?”
“Not important… then the other strings, D, A and E. Think of it as G’day! “
“OK, what? Sorry but where’s the apostrophe string, shouldn’t there be five strings then? Why are there eight but kind of four, because you play two together? But not really when you’re playing chords… and where’s the Y?”
“No the E is the last one, G’day is only how it sounds…”
“So the E is the Y? Please tell me why I am here because I am confused and I want to cry….”
As I said Col is a very patient man…
After four lessons I am kind of playing notes, I know three chords badly and I have callouses on my fingers where they have never existed before. No, I still don’t know what I am doing but the mandolin is much better than the fiddle – or at least that is what I am telling myself.
This was all before this week’s lesson with Col, who asked me if I was having fun. I paused for a moment, because I hadn’t thought of it like that before. Just trying to get my thoughts around a musical instrument has done my head in these past few weeks, but in recent days I’ve just been strumming away making a bit of a racket and not really thinking about it.
This is when I had something of an epiphany. “It doesn’t matter because I just love it,” I replied.
When the folk festival sent out the press release, I did a few radio interviews and most of the announcers expressed surprise Virginia and I were even doing this at all and often praised our bravery. However, it isn’t bravery. It is the excitement of something new and different and these instruments, even when we play them badly, sing to us.
Yes it will take time and who knows how we will sound when the festival comes around, but I have something new in my life and it is making me think differently about one of my greatest loves: music.
So you see I’ve started a voyage, and no doubt it will be a long one, but my bags are packed and I’m on the ship, and we’re slowly pulling away from the dock!