Are you bored of being bored, because being bored is BORING?
Say NO To Boring
Have you ever been to a jam session and wondered how many times they’re going to repeat the same tune?
Have you ever gone to the nursing home to share your music, and watched your audience nodding off to sleep – bored by your performance?
Just as “gorgeous” is the ultimate compliment for a woman, “boring” is the most dreaded description of a performance a musician can hear.
So let’s say “NO” to boring, and spice up our playing with variations and ornamentations.
When playing a tune, try to think outside the box to create something that’s all yours and totally fresh. As a matter of fact, why don’t you just throw away the box? Keep your audience (and yourself) on their toes. If you’re playing through the tune three times, don’t feed them the same arrangement each time.
Here’s some suggestions on how to do this.
Play the melody an octave higher.
Play the melody an octave lower.
Change up the rhythm. Add syncopation.
For one verse, change the melody to a minor key if it was written in a major key. Or turn the minor key melody into a major key melody.
Add chords, instead of just playing the melody line alone.
Add a drone. On the hammered dulcimer, this can be a high octave drone, a low octave drone, or a 5th drone.
Play chords as arpeggios, especially where there is a half or whole note.
Listen to fiddlers playing the tune on YouTube. Note how they go over-under-and around the melody line. See if you can duplicate that sound.
If you know it, use it. Take a trick you learned for another tune and apply it to the song you’re arranging.
Challenge yourself to turn a well-known song into something completely different that represents your own musical influences and tastes better. At Dulcimer Crossing, we offer two lessons for our hammered dulcimer players on how to arrange and embellish a tune.
Keep in mind, if you’re playing with others … play WITH the others. Don’t use any variations you created that might clash with what the group is doing. Save those ideas for when you’re playing solo.
And here’s one final piece of advice. Arranging should be fun, so don’t get bogged down with trying to make your arrangement too difficult. Stretch your abilities so you will grow technically, but also know your limits and play within them.
The key to success is so simple … just practice and then practice some more.
We have another new lesson ready for you this week – this time for our hammered dulcimer players. The tune is known by the name of the person who played it, Sarah Armstrong.
Sarah Gray Armstrong (3/18/1883 – 8/12/1957) was a well-known fiddle player in Pennsylvania. She began playing the fiddle when she was five, and learned most of her tunes from her uncle and father who were also accomplished musicians.
Here is the last video in this lesson series, with Steve Eulberg playing it up to speed with ornamentations.
If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.
How Many Dulcimers is TOO Many Dulcimers? I recently watched a video in which Vince Gill talked about his collection of antique Martin guitars. He has still quite an impressive array of guitars, although he lost 50 in the Nashville flood of 2010. But, of all the rare and valuable guitars in his collection, he said the guitar he treasures the most is his father’s guitar (shown in the photo). >
Watching the video reminded me of my own obsession with instruments. It’s an addiction … I’m always wanting one more. It’s difficult to look at the posts put up on the dulcimer groups’ FB pages that show photos of another dulcimer up for sale, or one that someone just finished building. They just fan that flame of desire and I find myself mentally checking my finances and the space left in my home.
But how many dulcimers is too many dulcimers? I already own a 1995 Master Works hammered dulcimer, a beautiful mountain dulcimer and picking stick – both built byJerry Wright, a Yamaha guitar, two harmonicas, and a ukulele. What more could a girl want?
Well, I think I really need a resonator dulcimer (dulci-bro) and a baritone mountain dulcimer. We offer lessons at DulcimerCrossing for both of these, so I could learn to play them! I would like to have a backpack hammered dulcimer that would be easier to carry around. And I’ve been without a keyboard for 10 years now, ever since we started living full-time in an RV. We’re back in a home finally, so there’s space for one now.
Here’s what I think.
If I’m content to just mess around with a variety of instruments for fun, the only limit I might have would be my finances. But I need to be careful that I don’t personify that old phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Now you won’t ever hear me say, “I’ve mastered the hammered dulcimer.” I can always see where I need to work more on certain techniques. But the spirit behind the words holds true. If I have too many things on my plate, i.e. too many instruments hanging on my wall, then I might not actually get anywhere with any of them.
I’d love to hear from you! What do you think? How many dulcimers or instruments do you own? Do you actually play them, or are they just a good conversation starter when folks come over to visit?
Vi Wickam has provided us with a new lesson on DulcimerCrossing.com for the Fiddle Series. He and Steve play the tune at the Swingfingers studio above while recording for their duo, Fiddle Whamdiddle’s debut CD Old School Old-Time
Cold Frosty Morning is a wonderful old tune in a minor mode. Take a look at Vi’s Demonstration here.
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We see the trophies, not the sweat. We see the diplomas, not the years of study and homework. We see outstanding performances, not the hours and hours of practice.
by Linda Ratcliff
The Iceberg Illusion I came across this illustration and it really resonated in my heart. There is this glamour around success that seems to appear when you have “made it.” Although I work behind the scenes – writing newsletters, uploading lessons, and answering student inquiries, the rest of our Dulcimer Crossing teachers are “out there” in the public eye – teaching workshops, leading jams at festivals, or performing in concerts. We all look up to them, admire their skill, and dream of the day we can play as well as they do.
Our teachers performing at the Colorado Dulcimer Festival The iceberg illusion would have you believe our teachers never went through failure, never struggled, never felt discouraged. They seem to play with ease, flying through sections of tunes we STILL haven’t mastered at top speed. And they appear to be totally relaxed, not at all nervous, actually very comfortable when playing in front of a crowd.
How do they do that???
The truth is, their success has probably only come after challenges, days of discouragement, and even failures. They have learned the hard way that there are no short cuts, and there is no such thing as an overnight success. Our teachers have spent years developing their skills, practicing for hours, staying up nights developing material for workshops or private lessons. They have put in a lot of time and hard work, with dedication and self-discipline. This is the glue that holds it all together.
If you’re struggling, feeling discouraged, perhaps thinking you’re never going to succeed in playing through a tune without mistakes, don’t give up. Think of the iceberg! And keep building your repertoire – one tune at a time.