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Category Archives: dulci-bro

“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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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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Top 10 Tips for Jam Sessions

Top 10 Tips for Jam Sessions

by Linda Ratcliff

Relax and enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll
realize they were the big things. – Kurt Vonnegut

Top Ten Tips for Jam Sessions

i.e. Jam Etiquette

Going to jam sessions can be intimidating. And yet, they can also be the most fun and rewarding music experiences of your dulcimer life. So how can you move past your fears and inhibitions, and just have a great time?

  1. First of all, tell yourself it’s ok to make mistakes. This is not a performance. You’re just there to socialize with other friends who enjoy playing acoustic instruments. Don’t worry about ruining the tune for others with a mistake. Most of the time, no one will notice you’ve messed up, unless you stop playing.
  2. Be sure your instrument is “in tune”. If you’ve taken your instrument from the house to the car, and then into the jammin’ hall, it will probably be out of tune due to temperature changes. Don’t forget to bring along your electronic tuner.

3. It’s okay to play the parts you know and skip the parts you don’t know yet. Or, if you are a total newbie, keep an eye on the tabs and just play the first note of every measure.

4. If you don’t know a tune, try to play backup chords instead. Most jammin’ tunes only have 3 chords. If you know how to play the D, G, and A chords on your dulcimer, and you can hear chord changes, you’ll still be in business.

5. Don’t try to be the loudest instrument in the “band.” Listen to others, and focus on blending in, rather than standing out.

6. Do your best to keep in time with the other musicians. If you lose your place in a tune, just hang back and wait until they get to a place where you can jump back in.

7. Practice, and be prepared. Have a few songs in mind that are simple and everyone knows. That way, when it’s your turn to call a tune, you’ll be ready.

8. Don’t be a diva. Jamming isn’t about showing off. If you’re a more advanced player, when it’s your turn to lead, keep it simple. Don’t play it like a solo with pauses, tempo changes, or extra embellishments that would throw others off. 

9. The person who starts a tune is also responsible for ending it. There are many ways to signal to the other musicians that you’re ready for the tune to end. You can raise one foot in the air as you get towards the end, or you can call out something like “one more time,” “last time,” or “going out.”

10. Finally, after a jam session, it’s a good idea to start preparing for your next one. Write down the names of tunes everyone seemed to know but you. Then you’ll know what to practice before the next time.


Matthew Dickerson jamming out a tune with the Squirrel’s Nest!

One more point I’d like to add is that you should ask before video taping or taking photos at a jam session. With the current obsession with social media, we all seem to think everyone is fair game for a photo shoot. But you might inadvertently make others feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda

 

See also:  Steve’s Jam Session Strategy

 

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More Backing Tracks for Premium Members!

More Backing Tracks for Premium Members!

by Steve Eulberg

We continue to add to the Backing Tracks Library on DulcimerCrossing.com.  We now have 60 special tracks in this collection.

BacktrackingTracksP2

This library is sortable by all of the categories at the top of the list and all of the blue text are links to support using each track.

Not familiar with Backing Tracks and how to use them?  Here is an introduction I filmed:

Premium Members have access to all the Backing Tracks all the time!  Sign up or Upgrade today!

 

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How Long Does it Take?

How Long Does it Take?

by Linda Ratcliff

Playing your dulcimer with confidence is evidence of time well spent.
– Linda Ratcliff  

 

How Long Does It Take?

How long does it take to learn to play the dulcimer if you have no musical experience?  Well, I’d like to give you a definite answer like … “By three months, you should be able to jam with the best.”  And that is true for many people.

But there are others who still aren’t able to play “Boil Dem Cabbage” without their tabs after six months.  It’s totally an individual thing.  I could say that people who sign up for lessons with Dulcimer Crossing or attend jam sessions, and folks who go to the festivals may progress more quickly than those who don’t – but again, it’s an individual thing.


Colorado Dulcimer Festival

Here’s what some have may have noticed.  They buy their new dulcimer and, within a week or two, they can play a few tunes with relative ease.  They’re walking tall, telling everyone about what a fun instrument the dulcimer is, and how easy it is to learn.  But then, a funny thing happens … their ears become more discriminating. They hear the little technical things that don’t sound so good, and they want to learn to play better.  So they go back home and practice some more.

That’s how it was for me.  Someone heard I could play the hammered dulcimer, and she invited me to play for the historical society’s banquet while they were eating. Well, by then my ear was hearing every little nuance of things that I could do better. Preparing for that banquet took quite an investment of time!

Now, as a seasoned player and sometime performer, some days my hammers fly and I strike every string correctly. Other days, it can be a struggle, and my confidence slips. Sometimes I seem to advance by leaps and bounds, and other times I reach plateaus that may last a few months.

So here is my conclusion – you may agree or not. It takes a lifetime to learn to play the dulcimer. I will never reach a level of perfection that I can say, “I’m done – I don’t need to practice any more.”  I plan to practice as for long as I am able to hang on to my hammers.

What about you? 

Keep in mind – you’re never too young and you’re never too old to begin! 

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

 

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