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Category Archives: chromatic mountain dulcimer

Blue Water Thinking

Blue Water Thinking

by Linda Ratcliff

Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.
– Dorothy Parker


My husband and I moved this week, and we now live in our RV on Watts Bar Lake in Tennessee. We have a beautiful view of the lake, right out our back window. Actually, we’re parked on a peninsula, so we can see water from every window in the RV.

I began to wonder if the change in scenery would have any impact on my creativity, so I did some research. I found an article about how our surroundings impact creative thinking by Professor Juliet Zhu. She says that environmental factors such as color, lighting, and noise can trigger our creative thinking processes and productivity.

 

With regard to color, after in-depth research, Prof. Zhue determined that if a task is detailed and accuracy-orientated, red is more helpful. But when the main task is more creative in nature, blue is better. Her suggestion for sparking creativity is, when there is a creative task to do in your computer, change the background image on your desktop to blue skies. She calls this “Blue Sky Thinking.”

And so … I’m wondering if I apply a “Blue WATER Thinking” approach to my practicing, would there be a similar effect? I’m going to stand in front of the dulcimer with my hammers at attention, look outside at our beautiful view of the blue water, and see what happens. Anyone want to make a prediction?

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

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Find Somewhere Quiet

Find Somewhere Quiet

by Linda Ratcliff

It is in that quiet place at our center that we hear the whispers of our soul.
– Sue Krebs


Find somewhere quiet. This almost seems too obvious to really need to say. But it’s important.  Many of you probably have a special room, or your own corner of the living room for practicing your dulcimer. When you have a designated quiet place to practice, you will be less likely to cave in to distractions.

In addition, going to your special practice area helps prepare you mentally for getting something accomplished on your dulcimer. When preparing to perform, mindful intention at practice time is paramount, and having the ritual of going to the same place every time can help set that intention.

This is my quiet place in the RV.  Right now I’m facing a forest owned by the Corps of Engineers, and it is refreshing to look out at the beauty.  But soon my view will change, when we move to Tennessee.  I’ve Photoshopped what my view will be out the same window at sunset.  Either view is peaceful and inspiring.

Notice, my dog is always with me when I practice.  But I would rather be “home alone” without any humans around when I practice. This probably goes back to my childhood, because my father always asked me to hold off on practicing until he got out of the house. He would find something to do in his workshop when I wanted to practice the piano. Understanding this, my husband is very good about finding something to do outside when I practice.

Do you have a quiet place to practice? Is it a space where you can keep your instruments and all your accessories within easy reach?  If not, look over your home and carve one out.  If I can make a space for music in an RV that has less than 400 square feet, you can find a place too.

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

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Trust Your Practice

Trust Your Practice

by Steve Eulberg

While at Camp Kiya at Tehachapi Mountain Park, Steve records the following tip for Habits for Your Healthy Music Habitat.

This is part of a weekly email video benefit that our Premium Members at DulcimerCrossing receive.  Subscribe and you can receive it, too!

 

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You Need New Input!

You Need New Input!

by Linda Ratcliff

You don’t have to wait for inspiration to hit.  It’s easier to be inspired when you’re hanging out with other musicians and playing along with them.
– Linda Ratcliff


We go to Nashville a couple of times a year, and one of our favorite things to do in Nashville is to visit the Bluebird Cafe.  We’ve stood outside under their blue canopy in the rain for as long as two hours, waiting without a reservation, hoping to get inside.
Over 70,000 people visit the Bluebird annually, many of them as a result of seeing the Bluebird Cafe in the TV series “Nashville”. Or they may have read about the club in publications such as Southwest Spirit, National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times. Some heard it mentioned by artists such as Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Kathy Mattea, Trisha Yearwood, Kim Richey, Faith Hill, Amy Grant and Vince Gill – all of whom have played there over the past 31 years – at this tiny, legendary club.

Every show features four songwriters.  Some are already famous, and some are still hoping to be noticed by a talent scout. On our last visit, we were seated at a table with two successful songwriters who were friends. I was curious about why they were attending the show, rather than being IN the show.  So I asked, and this is what they told me.

You can’t expect new output if you don’t get new input.  In other words, you can’t sit in your living room, music studio, or outside with the birds for hours on end and expect inspiration to strike. You’ve got to get out in the music world, listen to other groups playing, interact with other musicians. Then you will find motivation and inspiration.

I have the signature of every musician who played that night, plus the signatures of the two songwriters. I can’t remember their names and I sure can’t read their writing. But I will never forget their advice and will continue to seek new input.  How about you?

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

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How to Practice Smarter, Not Longer

How to Practice Smarter, Not Longer

Seek to accomplish more in less time – and have fun doing it.
– Linda Ratcliff


We’ve all heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder.” Actually, I’ve been trying to do that all my life – succeeding and making good money with some ideas and losing money in others. But I have never given up. I keep on trying to think up new ways to work smarter.

Work smarter, not harder!

Could we apply this mantra to our music. Most of us don’t need to practice harder – we are already practicing hard enough. But are we making any progress? Learning an instrument isn’t easy. If we don’t feel like we’re gaining ground, maybe we need to examine ways to practice smarter. Here are a few that came to my mind.

    • Get a teacher, or sign up for lessons with Dulcimer Crossing. Three months with a good teacher (or our good teachers at Dulcimer Crossing) is worth a year of fumbling on your own and creating bad habits.

 

    • Practice consistently. Practicing music is like going to the gym. When you skip a day at the gym, you don’t feel it so much. But skip a week, or even a month, and your muscles are trembling – it feels like you’ve backtracked a year. It’s the same with playing your instrument. When you skip a week or two or three, you have to catch up again.

 

    • Be patient. Most of us have been older when we first picked up the dulcimer. And a major difference between older beginners compared to children is that the older beginner is impatient. We want to learn reading tabs overnight. We want faster fingers (when some of us already have arthritis!). We want a magic formula to learn those songs they play at jam sessions in short order. But like good cooking, good playing takes time.

 

  • Practice playing by ear. Try playing melodies from the songs you sing at church. Many church tunes have simple melodies that repeat several times, and are relatively easy to recreate. You’ll be able to transition this skill over to a jam session, when they start playing a tune you don’t know.

Did I miss any ideas. Let’s open up the floor to the dulcimer community. What is your secret for practicing smarter? And, as always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 

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Live Concert/Workshop This Saturday

Live Concert/Workshop This Saturday

by Linda Ratcliff

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
– Albert Einstein


Erin Mae Lewis, who teaches Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Lessons on DulcimerCrosing is giving a special Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Workshop!

(Erin holding her NEW Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Chord Encyclopedia)

Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Chord Workshop with Erin Mae
Saturday, November 18th
8:00 am PST | 9:00 am MST | 10:00 am CST | 11:00 am EST
For Everyone – Click Here to Enjoy

 

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The Perfect Wrong Note

The Perfect Wrong Note

by Linda Ratcliff

If you ever strum the wrong note, or strike the wrong string with your
hammers …  just tell them you were playing the jazz version.
– Linda Ratcliff


The Perfect Wrong Note

My 16-year-old grandson plays the saxophone in his band at school, and he was telling me about trying out last week for the school jazz band. All the kids waiting for their turn were troubled by one note in the arrangement – an Eb. They thought if they could just play that note 1/2 step higher, it would sound perfect. But it was the wrong note.  

I could relate. I’ve been working on a new arrangement for “God Bless the USA” on my hammered dulcimer, to share around the 4th of July. I usually work out my arrangements by ear, rather than reading printed material, and there have been times that I had to test several different chords in a measure before I found the right one.

But now and then, the wrong chord actually sounds pretty good. If possible, I’ll include it in the arrangement, and play that chord as an arpeggio (with a series of “wrong notes”) before progressing to the chord with the notes you expected to hear. It makes a beautiful variation, and the audience enjoys hearing a familiar tune with a new slant.

If you’re playing with a group, or with others at a jam session, you’ll need to stick with the correct notes. But when you’re playing by yourself, be adventuresome. Learn to trust your musical side, and test alternate notes, chords, and rhythms for the old familiar tunes. Sometimes the wrong note can be just perfect.


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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda

 

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