Mandolin Diary – Week 3

17th -23rd August 2020

3 minute read

This week’s theme has most definitely been duets!

Podcast

Early in the week I visited my friend Davina Shum to chat about EcoNotes on her Podcast As It Comes (watch this space!). We chatted about my mandolin project, my Plastic Free July tips and about what we musicians can do to be that little bit more eco as we slowly return to our playing work. After the recording we had time to squeeze in some violin & cello duets. It was such a lovely treat after not having played chamber music in the same room as another string player for a good 5 months!

Second study jamming

Later in the week we welcomed a musical house guest, our Royal Marines bandsman friend Lee. You may remember him from my Mandolinspiration post as the friend whose bass guitar playing inspired me to pick up my mandolin again. Practice sometimes fades into the background when we’re hosting, but as we all had things to be working on we broke off into separate rooms for about an hour each day to spend some time with our instruments. After each practice we got together for a jam session. You’ll have to imagine this, but Sweet Child of Mine sounded pretty awesome as a mandolin and bass guitar duo, with the occasional trumpet interjection from my husband Sam!

Playing music with friends is one of the biggest rewards of playing an instrument, and as Lee and I were both playing our hobby instruments instead of our professional ones it really reminded me of childhood duet sessions with friends. We were just having fun exploring repertoire, free to improvise and stray outside our comfort zones with no pressure.

Tremolo

It’s not quite ready for a public outing yet, but I spent a lot of time this week on my tremolo technique. I’ve watched a few videos for tips on reliability and staying relaxed and hope to share the fruits of my labour with you all next week.

Microjazz

When I wasn’t tremoloing, I had a great time getting to know the first half of Christopher Norton’s book Microjazz for Mandolin. Norton has published versions of this book for many different instruments and I enjoyed the pieces so much that I may well order the violin version to share with my students! Each piece has a brief written introduction by mandolinist Barbara Pommerenke-Steel highlighting technical things to watch out for.

The book comes with a guitar accompaniment booklet and details of where to download a piano part, plus a CD with two tracks per piece: one complete performance and one with just the guitar accompaniment. In most practice sessions I played the CD from the start and played each piece twice as a warm-up before reaching no. 10, Face in the Crowd. This has been my main project this week as it features in List C of Victoria College’s Grade 1 mandolin syllabus.

A virtual reunion

Despite enjoying playing along with the CD, I saw this as a brilliant opportunity to reconnect with guitarist David Massey, another name you may remember from my first mandolin post. I decided to take a break from my newly-acquired video editing skills this week and just record myself playing along with David’s pre-recorded backing video, which made it feel a little more like a real face-to-face duet! Here we are playing Christopher Norton’s Face in the Crowd.

That’s all for this week, but I’m saying it here so I can’t back out… see you next time for some tremolo!

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