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Category Archives: hammered dulcimer

posts that are designed specifically for hammered dulcimer players

Barlow Knife (New Lesson)

Barlow Knife (New Lesson)

By Linda Ratcliff

The Barlow knife design dates back 400 years, and is a type of folding pocket knife that features double or single blades that open at one end only. The knife-style bears the name of a man named Barlow of Sheffield, England, one of the earliest and most famous makers. This knife has been in the back pocket of Americans since the beginning, and its dependable design and minimalistic features make it a classic to own. Fifty years ago, you could buy one for $2.00, but they cost quite a bit more today.

The song about the Barlow knife is an old-time southern Appalachian tune that is credited to the music of Henry Reed (Glen Lyn, VA), who called the tune “Cabin Creek,” and Franklin George (Bluefield, WV), who knew it as Barlow Knife. The tune is usually played as an instrumental, with perhaps one verse only sung.

Steve & Vi playing Barlow Knife on the streets of Fort Collins

 

In this lesson, Steve Eulberg teaches hammered dulcimer players how to play the melody, backup, and harmony for Barlow Knife. Enjoy this video with Vi “The Fiddler” Wickam and Steve Eulberg playing Barlow Knife together. You can clearly hear the twin harmony in the arrangement. Barlow Knife is included on their Fiddle Whamdiddle CD.
BarlowKnifeDemoCover 
As always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.
Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 
 

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Quirky Preferences

by Linda Ratcliff

I’m not weird . . . I’m a limited edition musician!

When you finally pack your new dulcimer in the bag, load it in the car, and find your way to your first jam session, you’re going to find out that not everyone plays the same way you do. As a matter of fact, some musicians’ styles aren’t even going to sound good to you. And if you’re going to a jam or workshop to learn, not everything you see and hear is going to make sense to you.Love It LOUD!

My style is to play slower tunes with a flowing backup. But others play with a hard beat – and fast. I play the melody louder than the background chords, and the total effect is a moderate level of volume. But you will encounter people who like to play really loud. And then there are those who are happiest when they can play even louder.

You will see mountain dulcimer players who play only one string at a time, and always press their strings with the same finger – some the thumb, others the pointer finger, and a few with a noter. But there are many who make use of all their fingers.  Most mountain dulcimer players sit and hold the dulcimer on their laps.  But I know people who can play standing up with a strap on their dulcimer.

On the hammered dulcimer, I tend to alternate right-left, right-left. But I see players who do much of their melody work with the left hammer, and use the right hammer to build chords between the bass bridge and the right side of the tenor bridge. And everyone seems to have a different way of holding their hammers!

I believe our dulcimer gatherings should be a “live and let live” environment. When a certain style or manner of playing works for a musician, appreciate their style. Celebrate their quirky techniques with them. Seeing others utilize unique tactics that help them play better may liberate you to discover some of your own original licks and tricks.

Above all, have fun. Dare to be different. Develop your own style. You may actually catch others imitating your quirky style! 

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda

 

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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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July 4th Special!

July 4th Special!

As we get nostalgic for the old days, here at DulcimerCrossing.com we are hosting a 4-days Special for New Members!

July 4th New Members Special! from DulcimerCrossing on Vimeo.

Click on the image below to take advantage of this offer!

July 4th Special 2017

(For New Members Only.)

 

When I am frustrated with my progress, (or lack of it)….

When I am frustrated with my progress, (or lack of it)….

…This quote from Judy Klinkhammer comes to mind:

“What a curse it is,
that the only thing you ever do
is exactly what you choose to do.”

– Judy Klinkhammer

Judy was an amazing fixture in the community of Mountain View, Arkansas, bringing and treasuring the mountain dulcimer in this northeast corner of the Ozark mountains.  She loved equipping absolute beginners AND singing harmony.  She was an indefatigable encourager, but as her wisdom shows, she knew that the impetus for playing must always come from the student.

Hearts of the Dulcimer Podcast features a two-episode series about her musical life that is very enjoyable.

—Quoted by Jonathan Dowell to Amber Rogers   2.22.17

From Habits from the Muse, a weekly resource for Inspiration and Creativity.  Subscribe here.

Watch and listen to Judy Sing:

 

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Stop Stopping

Stop Stopping

by Linda Ratcliff

To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time
itself, incredible and inconceivable.  
– Aaron Copeland


How to Stop Stopping

I think the main reason people don’t get what they want in life is because they give up too soon. You may have given up on something before, but let’s just apply this to your dulcimer playing..

  • You didn’t understand what those tabs meant – so you gave up.
  • You can’t figure out how to tune your dulcimer – so you gave up.
  • Your hammered dulcimer goes out of tune too often – so you gave up.
  • You went to a jam session but couldn’t keep up – so you gave up.
  • You tried to play a solo for your friends but froze – so you gave up.

If at least one of these “excuses” struck a chord in your heart, you gave up too soon. You may have called it in, packed it up and headed home – but it doesn’t have to be the end.

 

Here’s my suggestion. STOP STOPPING and start playing. Just decide that you’re not going to quit. This is so simple, you’re probably wondering why you didn’t think of that yourself. Tell yourself, “Quitting is NOT an option. No excuses … no matter what. Period. End of Story.”

  • If you get laughed at  – join everyone in laughing too.
  • If you strum some wrong notes – shake it off and keep strumming.
  • If your instrument sounds weird – try tuning.
  • If you can’t keep up – keep playing anyway. You’ll catch up.
  • If you freeze – thaw out and try starting over again.
  • No matter what – keep on keepin’ on with your jamming.

Be relentless. Pull out all the stops. Go all out.  You can do it. I KNOW you can.

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!
 

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!