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Category Archives: chromatic mountain dulcimer

Busted & Rusted

Busted & Rusted

by Linda Ratcliff

Practice will clean up the rust and put the shine back in your playing.
– Linda Ratcliff


Busted & Rusted

Call me old-fashioned, but I love old things with a bit of rust on them. Sometimes we wander into antique stores, and I always gravitate to the instrument section. I wonder about who owned the instruments, how they ended up in the store in such bad condition, and whether or not I could restore one of them.

Some of you may recognize the guitar below – its name is Trigger and it belongs to Willie Nelson. The frets are so worn it’s a wonder any tone emerges at all. The face is covered in scars, cuts, and autographs scraped into the wood. Next to the bridge is a giant hole that looks like someone took a hammer to it.

 

Is restoration possible? I don’t think Willie would want to. When asked about his guitar, Willie said, “Trigger’s like me, old and beat-up.” Willie knows every square centimeter of Trigger, and even though Willie has had carpal tunnel surgery on his left hand, a torn rotator cuff, and a ruptured bicep – he still plays like a pro. Trigger may be old and busted, but Willie’s musical skills have not rusted.

What about yours? Have you set your dulcimer aside, to grow old all by itself in the corner? Instead of giving it the cold shoulder, you should pick up your instrument and start practicing again. I think about 90% of playing an instrument is mental – you just need to get your fingers moving again. You will be able work the rust out and put the shine back in your playing – sooner than you imagine.


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

Subscribe to DulcimerCrossing.com to get access to all of the lessons, from the convenience of your own computer or tablet in the comfort of your own home at the time of your choosing!

 

The Finish Line

The Finish Line

by Linda Ratcliff

Don’t be so focused on the finish line that you fail to enjoy the journey.
– David Weekly


The Finish Line

I started a new diet about two months ago.  And so far, all I have lost is 2 months and 8 pounds.  Now you may want to pat me on the back and say, “Way to go! You didn’t put it on in a day, and if you take it off slowly – it will stay off. But that’s discouraging for me.  I want to git’er done.  I want to reach the finish line, and I want to reach it TODAY.

That’s not going to happen but I have grit, and I plan to watch what I eat until the day I reach my finish line. But then what happens?  Can I go back to eating the way I used to?  Can I put aside everything I learned about good eating habits and just go back to “normal”?

 

The truth is … I will never actually reach the finish line with regard to watching my weight, because this is a life commitment.  The magic number can’t be the only goal for me.  I have to resolve to maintain that weight.  I will need to eat right from now on (for the most part).  AAAARRRGH!!!

Now let’s apply this to your music.

Can you make a play list of songs you want to be able to play for others or with others at jams, and then stop there?  

Is there a finish line for your dulcimer playing?

I say, “NO, you will never reach the finish line with your music.”

If you know your playlist, learn some new tunes.  
Review old tunes.  
Make up a new arrangement for a tune you already know and add it as one more verse.  
There will ALWAYS be something else to do, something new to practice on your dulcimer.  

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

Subscribe to DulcimerCrossing.com to get access to all of the lessons, from the convenience of your own computer or tablet in the comfort of your own home at the time of your choosing!

 

Beginner to Expert

Beginner to Expert

by Linda Ratcliff

The expert in anything was once a beginner.
– Helen Hayes


Beginner to Expert

The opening quote for this page, “Every expert was once beginner,” is attributed to Helen Hayes (1900-1993). She was an actress who is one of the few in her career to win an Emmy, a Grammy, and an Oscar and a Tony. If anyone became an expert in her craft, it was Helen Hayes.

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author born in 1949 who writes novels and short stories. He said, “If everyone waited to become an expert before starting, no one would become an expert. To become an EXPERT, you must have EXPERIENCE. To get EXPERIENCE, you must EXPERIMENT! Stop waiting. Start stuff.”

 

Lailah Gifty Akita is from Ghana and the founder of Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation. She said, “Every beginner possesses a great potential to be an expert in his or her chosen field.” And, “All great men had simple beginnings.”

Are you a beginner, just now learning to play the dulcimer?  Do you wonder how you’ll ever be able to keep up in a jam session? I remember the first day I picked up the hammers to play my hammered dulcimer. I’ve got to admit – all those strings … it was intimidating. But I’ve been hammering ever since.

It’s up to you … practice consistently and you’ll soon keep up with the best! “Stop waiting. Start stuff!”


If you have any questions, always feel free to ask
Steve or myself.
Happy dulcimering,
Linda
Subscribe to DulcimerCrossing.com to get access to all of the lessons, from the convenience of your own computer or tablet in the comfort of your own home at the time of your choosing!
 

Ask Questions

Ask Questions

by Linda Ratcliff

A truly wise man always has more questions than answers.
– Wilson from Home Improvements


Ask Questions

Your sub-conscious works day and night to answer any questions you ask. So asking yourself open-ended questions puts the sub-conscious to work. Answers often come “out of the blue”, as ideas or notions that you might not have had otherwise. When practicing, why don’t you put your subconscious mind to work by asking questions about your progress?  

 

Below is a series of questions you could ask yourself when practicing. You don’t need to ask them all. Just pick a few that seem relevant to you. Listen to yourself closely – maybe even record yourself – and see what answers you get.

1. How steady and even can I make my tempo?
2. Am I playing this up to speed yet?
3. Can I connect my notes better, make it smoother?
4. Can I play all the way through without any mistakes?
5. Do I find the suggested fingering easy or is there a better way for me?
6. Am I standing or sitting correctly when I play? Is my posture correct?
7. Do I know the background for this tune so I can tell the story?
8. Am I enjoying myself?

Which question do you think is the most important?

As for me, “Am I having fun? Am I enjoying myself?” is the deal-breaker.

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
Subscribe to DulcimerCrossing.com to get access to all of the lessons, from the convenience of your own computer or tablet in the comfort of your own home at the time of your choosing!
 

Natural Talent vs. Hard Work

Natural Talent vs. Hard Work

by Linda Ratcliff

Hard work beats talent … when talent doesn’t work hard.


Natural Talent vs. Hard Work

Is it possible for a person without any inherent musical talent to become skilled at playing their dulcimer? Now to clarify … a person who lacks musical talent will usually manifest the following characteristics:
  • Lacks a sense of rhythm – plays on the wrong beats.
  • Tone deaf – doesn’t notice when he/she strums or hammers the wrong notes or chords.
  • Finds it difficult to keep in step with other players.
Is that YOU?  

Talent may be overrated – especially if a person doesn’t put in sweat equity as well. I believe a person who doesn’t possess a natural instinct for music can still learn to play the dulcimer if he/she possess the following attributes:

Dedication: This person is willing to make a larger investment of time into their practice than the natural musician.

Determination: This person doesn’t let the skepticism of family members or friends stop him. He won’t let anything or anyone discourage him from learning to play the dulcimer.

Passion: This person loves music and has a great love for the sweet sound of the dulcimer.

Practice will not make you a natural musician, but it will definitely bridge the gap between the musician for whom playing comes easily and the one who has to work at it. With practice, a fumbling musician can become a skilled instrumentalist.

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

Happy dulcimering,

Linda

Bridging the Gap Between What You Know … And Where You Want Your Music to Go

Subscribe to DulcimerCrossing.com to get access to all of the lessons, from the convenience of your own computer or tablet in the comfort of your own home at the time of your choosing!

 

Tuning Hack for Scroll-Headed Dulcimer

Tuning Hack for Scroll-Headed Dulcimer

by Steve Eulberg

The Snark™ tuner is very popular with mountain dulcimer players, for good reason.  It is quick, accessible, accurate and it’s display is very readable.

(This is not an insignificant feature as those of us who continue gathering service stripes in the playing of our dulcimers experience with eyesight that gets weary over time!)

IMG_2445And the handy clip-on feature works very well with flathead mountain dulcimers.

However, players of instruments with the traditional scroll have sometimes struggled with how to attach the tuning clip to the dulcimer so that it can “read” the vibrations and convert them into electricity which then displays how close our vibrating strings are to the desired pitch.

Therefore, when one of my students whose dulcimer has a beautiful, traditional scrollhead showed up for her lesson displaying the tuning hack here, I was delighted and decided I needed to share it right away!

IMG_2444By using her capo on the scroll, she had a location on which to clip her tuner that picked up the vibrations directly and accurately!

She clipped on tuned up and was ready for her lesson in no time!

(This is all the more important, because dulcimers players have taken and adhere to the dulcimer pledge which commits them to the joys of playing their instruments in many different tunings!)

 

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Backing Tracks Library is growing!

Backing Tracks Library is growing!

We keep adding to our Library of Backing Tracks which are available to our Premium Members.

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The two newest are the chord progressions in the Keys of D and G which match the Albert Brumley tune:  I’ll Fly Away.  These were created for the new Bluegrass Dulcimer series taught by Steve Eulberg.

We are continuing to produce these and other resources to assist you in your goals to “Bridge the Gap Between What You Know and Where You Want Your Music to Grow.”