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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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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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