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Map Out Your Practice like a Workout

Map Out Your Practice like a Workout

by Linda Ratcliff

Map out your practice session out like a workout.
When athletes are getting ready to go for a run, they usually warm up first with some stretches to loosen their muscles. Then they walk for 3-5 minutes, gradually working up to a brisk walk, then jogging, and finally breaking out into a full-steam-ahead run. As they end their run and the workout, most athletes cool down by walking briskly at first and then slower, and finally ending with a few more stretches.

For musicians, a pretty common scenario is to start with scales as a warm-up. I like to start with arpeggios up and down my hammered dulcimer. These exercises serve to loosen up your muscles and get your brain thinking about technique. Next you should move on to the “working” part of your practice time, where you plug away at new tunes. Finally it’s fun to cool down by revisiting some old favorite tunes that you already know well.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask Steve or myself.

 

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Are You a Teacher?

Are You a Teacher?

by Linda Ratcliff

A good teacher is like a candle.  It consumes itself to light the way for others.
– Unknown

Are You a Teacher?

Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up soon on May 8, 2018. If you are a dulcimer student with an awesome teacher, you might want to start thinking of a way you could surprise your teacher on this occasion. Maybe you could learn a new tune – all on your own. Or maybe you could give your teacher a handmade gift certificate for a dinner out with you; the gift of time is always the best gift.
The Great Teacher
Steve and I also want to support dulcimer teachers around the world, and show our appreciation for their dedication. These are some of the benefits we offer to teachers who join as members of Dulcimer Crossing.

  1. A list of National Musical Education Standards and how our lessons address them.
  2. Scholarships for TEACHERS at these festivals: Colorado Dulcimer FestivalKentucky Music Week, and Western Carolina University (which has a Mountain Dulcimer Teacher Program).
  3. Scholarships for young STUDENTS at these festivals: Colorado Dulcimer FestivalKentucky Music Week, and Western Carolina University.
  4. Scholarships at festivals for all students: Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering.
  5. A special subscription rate for you.
  6. A special subscription page with a reduced rate for your students.
  7. Access for teachers to the weekly video from mentors: Habits for Your Healthy Musical Habitat.
  8. An invitation to share your tips in 30-60 sec videos. We may include them in the weekly video: Habits for Your Healthy Musical Habitat.
  9. In addition, you may wish to consult with Steve Eulberg for our Teacher Mentoring Program via Skype – a service of Owl Mountain Music, Inc.

Steve Eulberg
All of these benefits are also listed on our website here. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask Steve or myself.

 

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Free Lesson: Jam Session Strategy

Free Lesson:  Jam Session Strategy

by Steve Eulberg

My mother was right.  Boredom is a choice.

If I am bored in a Jam Session because the other players are playing the tune too fast, or too slow, or too many times (is that even POSSible?) do you know whose job it is to fix that?

MINE.

In this free lesson, Steve offers a suggestion about what do to participate, support the other players AND keep yourself awake and interested in a jam session.

Try it and let us know how it goes for you!

 

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Hug Someone with your Dulcimer

Hug Someone with your Dulcimer

by Linda Ratcliff

One day, someone is going to hug you so tight that
all your broken pieces will stick back together.
– Author Unknown
Hug Someone with Your Dulcimer

I used to be an awkward hugger.  Oh yeah … it looked like a hug from the outside, but  there was nothing real about it.  There were just a few forced pats on your back, a bit of nervous smiling, and I might have been rolling my eyes behind your back.

But then I joined a church that was big on hugging, and I got a LOT of practice. Over time, I changed from being an awkward hugger to being a sincere hugger … a hugger who actually reaches out to people now for a hug (and sometimes realizes too latethat they’re still at the awkward hugger stage).

When I was thinking about the progress I’ve made with giving and receiving hugs, I realized that I’m still shy about playing my dulcimer for people.  And the light came on in my brain.  There are so many parallels!  

  • Hugs give people joy.  Music gives people joy.
  • Hugs give people comfort. Music gives people comfort.
  • Giving someone a hug makes them feel loved.  Playing your instrument for someone, especially one on one, makes them feel loved.
If you lack confidence in this area, start with something easy.  Hug the folks at a nursing home with your music.  You will be playing for people who appreciate your company and won’t judge.  I remember the first time I played for my aunt’s friends at her nursing home … she cried the entire time.  I still don’t know if it was because my playing was so bad, or she felt so loved.  
Seniors singing and playing with me
NOTE:  When I play for a “captive audience” like this, I always take along some percussion instruments, so they can play along with me.  I quickly get more comfortable in the environment, when I can see how much fun they’re having.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask Steve or myself.
 

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Learning to Learn Free Lesson

Learning to Learn Free Lesson

by Steve Eulberg

We often overlook the basics, don’t we?

How DO we learn?

Of course there are many different learning styles and we bounce between them as individuals, but Steve presents some ideas here that you might find helpful in learning new tunes on your instrument.

Try them out and let us know how they go for you!

 

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Time for a Tune-Up

Time for a Tune-Up

by Linda Ratcliff

When something seems unbalanced and out of rhythm, just a song can tune things up in a moment.  The power of music is therapy.
– Anthony Liccione

Time for a Tune-Up

Tuning a hammered dulcimer for the first time can be pretty intimidating. The first couple times you tune your dulcimer it may take quite a while, and you’ll think it was very difficult task. But, with practice, you will get the hang of it and soon you won’t even think twice about tuning.

I use a chromatic electronic tuner to make the job easier, and Steve and I recommend the Snark™ Dulci-Tuner. With these senior eyes, I find the display to be very readable, and it slips right over the hammered dulcimer tuning pin. You can read more about the tuner in Steve’s blog here.

You can order the Snark™ Dulci-Tuner from Steve by clicking on this link

Snark™ Dulci-Tuner

In the Absolute Beginners section at Dulcimer Crossing, our lesson called String-Side UP addresses many of the questions and issues you may have with tuning your hammered dulcimer. Video #17 covers the mechanics of tuning. Video #18 includes 4 tips to help with tuning, and addresses issues if you are experiencing difficulty trying to get both sides of your bridges in tune.

In addition, we offer The Tuning Game on our FREE page, to motivate you to practice your tuning more often. 

The Tuning Game

The thing to be careful of is when you are tuning a string is to make sure you are turning the the right tuning pin. If the needle on the electronic tuner is not moving, STOP! You are on the wrong string, and may turn too far and break it.

Some people ask if they need to tune their hammered dulcimer EVERY time they practice. I find when my dulcimer is in perfect tuning, I play better and practice longer. If I only have about 15 minutes to practice, I usually skip the tuning. But when I’m going to have a serious session of working out a new tune, I tune first and then warm up. Here’s some tuning guidelines you might want to keep in mind.

    1. Give your dulcimer a thorough tuning at least once a week – don’t ever let it get way out of tune.
    1. Always carry your tuning wrench and electronic tuner in your dulcimer case.
    1. Turn the tuning pin SLOWLY, while softly plucking continuously.
  1. Give your instrument a final checkup by matching the tones of your octaves at each bridge marker.

String-Side UP
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask Steve or myself.

 

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Why is Playing with a Group Important?

Why is Playing with a Group Important?

by Linda Ratcliff

You are not alone in the world.  You are part of an ensemble.
– Rich Mullins

 

Why is Playing with a Group Important?

Let me introduce to you my daughter-in-law, Mary Ratcliff. Mary has been teaching private piano lessons for over 25 years. She also is the Worship team coordinator for her church – she plans the music and makes sure all the musicians have what they need for worship on Sunday mornings.

We spent Christmas week with their family, and I asked Mary what advice she would offer our dulcimer students. She said she could not stress enough the importance of getting out there and playing with others.

Mary Ratcliff

Here are some of the reasons that she shared.

    • Playing with others will challenge you to achieve new skill levels. For example, you might think you’ve been keeping a good steady rhythm pattern. But when you play with a group, you may discover you’ve been speeding up for the easy parts and slowing down for the hard parts.
    • If you prefer to play backup chords rather than the melody, playing with others will help develop your ear for hearing the chord progressions.
    • Instead of being a one-man-show, playing in a group will help you develop musicianship as you learn to blend in by adjusting dynamics and tone balance, and develop a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie with the others.
    • While we may spend many hours practicing and mastering our own instrument, the best memories of making music are always of making music with others.
    • You may find yourself extremely bored and stop practicing – if you choose to play your dulcimer music alone, behind closed doors, without any involvement other than with your teacher or the Dulcimer Crossing videos.
  • Finally, Mary sees a spiritual value to playing music with others – as it is a practical picture of how the body of Christ should look. 1 Corinthians 12:20-21 says we are many members but one body, and no one is more important than another. Each person has something specific to contribute, and there is no room for self-pride or promoting yourself.
Berkeley Dulcimer Orchestra
Berkeley Dulcimer Orchestra

How long has it been since you attended a jam session or played with a group? It’s time to pack up your instrument and get going! 

As always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 29, 2018 in subscriber news

 

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