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Category Archives: chromatic mountain dulcimer

Theatricum Botanicum

Theatricum Botanicum

by Steve Eulberg

While on tour in southern California in August, DulcimerCrossing instructors, Erin Mae Lewis and Steve Eulberg arrived early for their gig, Peter Alsop’s Kids Koncerts (Dulcimer-Wellcimer) at the “magical treehouse” of Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum.

SetUpTheatricumBotanicumErinMae

Erin took these photos as we prepared for the pre-school kids concert on Sunday morning.

As Erin relates in this highlight video from their recent Concert Window show, Steve was playing this new composition, inspired by the setting, during the sound check for his guitar.

She came to the stage from the second floor green room and joined in to complete the tune, which they named for the location that inspired it.

This Highlight Video will also be available on the Live Events page at DulcimerCrossing.com.

Enjoy!

 

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Chord Wizard Tool

Chord Wizard Tool

by Steve Eulberg

Have you ever wondered how to find a particular chord you are looking for?  You might be familiar with a couple of fingerings for your favorite chords, but then there is that “weird” one that the music calls for and your musical chord theory is a bit rusty.

This one is for you!  Tom Strothers has created this interactive webpage as tools to help mountain dulcimer players.

Diatonic Chord Wizard This page has an interactive Fret Finder Tool, below which is a tool to find the notes on the 7-note fretboard, and then once you choose the chord you are looking for and choose the Fret Finder, the possibility for finding the notes (by their fret numbers) shows up on the fret board.  (This also includes the 6+ fret.)

Chromatic Chord Wizard This page is like the Diatonic one, but assumes a Chromatic fretboard (or 12-tone scale.)  The functionality is the same.

One additional benefit for the Chromatic page is that it can be set up for 4 Equi-distant strings configuration which is popular for some players.

Well this is simply AWESOME!

Take this out for a spin and let us know what you think!

 

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“Try to Make ANYthing that happens…

“Try to Make ANYthing that happens…

by Steve Eulberg

…into something of Value.”

–Herbie Hancock

Jazz Pianist Herbie Hancock tells a story of something that happened when he played

a “wrong” chord during Miles Davis’ solo.

This video is from Herbie’s MasterClass.

This is some GOOD advice for more than just jazz music.  It is for ALL music.

And for life.

(Thanks to Lois Hornbostel for sharing this on Facebook!)

 

 

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Learn More from Mistakes

Learn More from Mistakes

by Linda Ratcliff

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
– John Powell


I Learn More from My Mistakes Than Successes.
Do You?

 
I love to play through a tune perfectly, time after time, but lets get real – in my world, that simply doesn’t happen.  I fail to play a tune perfectly more often than I succeed. But mistakes can be good. In every mistake, there is the potential for growth. They can help me, if I will just take time to do the work.  For example …

Mistakes help me to think laterally.  There may be a skip and a jump with my hammers that just isn’t working.  Repeating the same mistake over and over is just teaching my muscles to follow the wrong path.  So I usually try to think of another approach for playing the same run or chord.

Mistakes reveal my weak areas.  If we’re honest, we have to admit that we all have weak areas.  I still can’t do a smooth “multiple bounce roll” with my left hammer.  And I’ve tried.  I always have to plan my arrangements so that technique lands on the right hammer.  Wouldn’t it be better if I started developing that skill with my left hammer too?

Successfully correcting a recurring mistake builds confidence.  When I finally begin to play through a section correctly, and without slowing down through the part that was giving me a headache, I feel ready to give myself a new challenge.  I am encouraged by knowing my desired outcome is one measure or one section closer.

Mistakes build character. When we’ve “messed up” enough times, a musician can go one of two ways! We can choose to throw in the towel, pack up our instrument, and lean it in the corner. Or we can learn from the experience, gain confidence, build character, and become more of the musician that we ideally wish to be. 

I choose to keep on keepin’ on, until I can play through successfully.  How about you?

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda

 

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Slipping Dulcimer?

Slipping Dulcimer?

by Linda Ratcliff

Either you let your life slip away without doing the things you want to do, 
(like learning to play the dulcimer) or you just get up and do them.
– Roger von Oech 

Slipping Dulcimer?

Do you feel like you’re constantly chasing your dulcimer? I’ve heard and read comments from several people who can’t seem to get the dulcimer to stay put on their laps when playing. As a matter of fact, I am sure most of us experienced this problem when we first began to learn to play.

I have several suggestions for you that might help, if you’re having this issue.

  • The solution that I’ve seen most often is to attach a strap to the dulcimer and wrap the strap around your back.
  • Another trick that many folks do is to put a piece of non-slip shelf paper on their lap, and then set the dulcimer on top of that.
  • Some people raise their knees by resting their feet on a footstool. There are several varieties of footstools availabile online. But with a footstool or not, sitting in a chair that is at the right height is also a must.
  • I saw a performance by one dulcimer player who put his dulcimer case on his lap, and then put the dulcimer right back in his case and played that way. That looked awkward to me, but he did an excellent job.
  • On YouTube, you will see professional dulcimer performers standing up, with their dulcimer set on a dulcimer stand.
  • I’ve also seen people sitting on the floor cross-legged while playing. Now I can already feel my back aching, thinking about that idea – but look at Steve enjoying nature on the beach, and how his knee keeps the dulcimer in place.

If you’re having this problem … choose a solution. But whatever you do, don’t give up and put your dulcimer back in the case … just because it won’t stay put.

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

 

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 

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Learn Something New

Learn Something New

by Linda Ratcliff

You will learn something new everyday if you pay attention.
– Ray LeBlond

Learn Something New

 

Sometimes the process of learning a new tune is sabotaged before you even begin. You allow a spirit of doom to hang over your head, because you think the piece is too difficult. You might say …

  • Part B seems complicated, and I’m looking for something easier to learn.
  • This piece is in an odd tuning (like D-G-d), and it’s a nightmare to retune.
  • This tune has hammer-ons and hammer-offs. I never did get those.
  • This song goes too fast. I’d rather learn one that’s nice and slow.
  • The rhythm is really tricky. I’ll just keep practicing songs I already know.

If you recognize any of these thinking patterns, we need to clean up your stinkin’ thinkin’.

Preconceptions can make you or break you when learning a new tune.
What if, instead of thinking the new tune is too hard, tricky, difficult, or a total nightmare … you saw the new tune as easy or a breeze to learn, and you said to yourself, “No problem!”
Learn Something New

Here are some new and TRUE preconceptions to get in your head whenever you begin a new piece.

    • All tunes are riddled with what I call “Easy Bits,” no matter how tough they might appear at first glance. Go find all the easy bits right away. Maybe even highlight them on your tablature, and see how much “yellow” paper there is.
    • Find melody or chord patterns you’ve played before, and say, “Oh, I’ve seen this before!” Call on your experience, and build on what you already know.
  • Play to your strengths. I love to learn slow tunes with long arpeggios, so I find myself choosing old-time hymns or love songs to learn. Identify your strengths and choose music that will highlight that.

Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

And to keep progressing musically, you must keep moving forward as well.
Be intentional in choosing music with a tricky section.
Don’t just stick with the easy tunes. 
Challenge yourself. 
One day you’ll look back and say, “I can’t believe how far I’ve come in such a short time.” 

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 

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Dulcified & Amplified

Dulcified & Amplified

by Linda Ratcliff

Your success in learning to play the dulcimer is not something new.
It merely amplifies what was already inside you.
– Linda Ratcliff

Dulcified & Amplified
You’ve been playing your dulcimer for a while now, and you’ve learned how to play several tunes. Your friends have told you that you sound pretty good. So you decided to play at the local nursing home. Afterwards, you thought the mini concert went very well until the seniors gathered around. They thanked you for coming, but they also asked if you could play a little louder next time because they couldn’t hear a thing.

Oops. With a gentle-sounding instrument like the mountain dulcimer, being heard is sometimes a challenge. Unplugged mountain dulcimers don’t put out a lot of volume and seniors are often hard of hearing. That’s not a good combination for the first time you dipped your toe in the performance arena.

But there’s a solution. You just need some kind of input device to capture the sound, as well as an output device to amplify that sound … make it louder.

Input Devices

    • Microphones are by far the most common input device. They work by sensing the vibrations of the air around your instrument and turning that into an electrical signal that an amplifier can use.
    • Pickups work by directly sensing the vibrations in the instrument itself, and converting those vibrations into electricity. An “under-bridge pickup” is built directly into the bridge of your instrument. A “surface mounted pickup,” can be attached to the wood quite easily with a bit of removable adhesive, and can be moved from instrument to instrument.
  • The Direct Box is a device used to send the instrument’s signal through long lengths of cable. This device has many additional features, but can be confusing for a newbie.

Output Devices

    • The Electric Guitar Amp might be your easiest option if you know someone who already has one that you can borrow. You simply plug in and start playing. The biggest problem is that these amps are designed to also modify the sound of the instrument as well as make it louder. If you want a more natural sound, this won’t be your best choice.
    • The Acoustic Amplifier gives a very realistic sound, and there are even battery-powered models that are very handy for playing outdoors.
  • The Public Address System is recommended for a musician who plays in many different locations and needs to amplify a number of instruments. Most dulcimer players won’t need to go this route.

But that’s not all – you will also need cable, and plan to bring a little more cable than you think you’ll need. Cheap cables are a short path to disaster, so take the plunge and buy a better quality of cable right from the start. In addition, purchase a high quality extension cord to reach the power outlet.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for a public appearance is to practice at home with the sound system you have selected before going public with it. Don’t expect to be an expert right away. Ask someone to listen to you from different places in the room, to find out if you are getting static feedback or if you’ve turned up the system too high. Don’t be surprised if you have to move your mic around to get the best result. Many like the sound of their mic best somewhere in the middle of the instrument.

At DulcimerCrossing.com, Steve Eulberg offers a number of videos on the issue of sound reinforcement in a series called “So You Want to Be Heard.” He examines and demonstrates specific products and models of input devices that he has personally used. Sign up here to become a member and have access to this series and many others.  

 

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 

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