Webcam mandolin lessons
By Vince Carbone on Dec 20, 2007
I've been hacking around on guitar since I was a teenager. But in my late '40s I decided to learn flatpicking guitar in the style of Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Tony Rice, etc. This style of guitar is associated with bluegrass and old-time Appalachian fiddle tunes. One thing I noticed while listening to to these tunes in a group setting was that I always seemed to latch on to the mandolin solos. The vocal quality of the instrument seem to mesh really well with my musical brainwaves. So this past summer I picked up a used mandolin (Collings MT) and started working through some tunes.
Living in Klamath Falls, OR the nearest mandolin teachers are 60 miles "over the hill" in Ashland. Luckily I have some local friends who are good mandolin players that showed me a few things to get me started. I took a few lessons in Ashland but as winter sets in the thought of driving back and forth over the pass is not my idea of a good time. So I started searching the Web for online mandolin lessons. I came across a teacher in SoCal that was doing webcam lessons. That seemed pretty interesting to me so I started searching along those lines and discovered that Mike Compton was also offering webcam lessons. Now Mike is a fantastic player who is considered one of the greatest mandolinists that plays in the style of Bill Monroe.
I jumped at the chance to take lessons from him and sent him an email right away. He had some openings and we agreed to give it a try. My setup consists of a Macbook using iChat/AIM and a Snowball USB microphone. I have a 3Mb Qwest DSL connection. We've had one session so far. For the most part the video chat worked well, though there were times when it broke up pretty badly. I had already started working on "Evening Prayer Blues" and Mike had me play it for him. After messing around with the iSight camera a bit Mike was able to see me play and totally changed the way I am holding the pick and using my right hand.
Also I told him that I really liked the intro and solo to "New Muleskinner Blues". Well he had notation/tab and a slowed-down quicktime movie to send me and I've been working through it. And with that I think I've figured out how this is going to work and how it is different from DVD lessons and other online music lessons. It's 2-way, Duh! Using the video with sparing use of the sheet music I can learn the tunes and technique "front porch" style. Once a week or so, I get together with Mike and get to go over stuff and learn new stuff. The DVD and online lessons are fine in themselves but there is no feedback. The main drawback of webcam lessons is that we can't play along together due to the delay in communications.
Here is a sample of Mike's videos on YouTube, this ones called "The Mountaineer"