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Category Archives: hammered dulcimer

posts that are designed specifically for hammered dulcimer players

Say NO to Boring

Say NO to Boring

by Linda Ratcliff

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. 

 

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Something Else New! Sarah Armstrong

Something Else New! Sarah Armstrong

by Linda Ratcliff

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.

Subscribe to DulcimerCrossing and you’ll have access to the whole series!

 

How Many Dulcimers?

How Many Dulcimers?

by Linda Ratcliff

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).
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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? 

 

New Lesson-Cold Frosty Morning

New Lesson-Cold Frosty Morning
Steve & Vi Wickam play Cold Frosty Morning

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.

Subscribe to DulcimerCrossing to have complete access to this and all of our lessons!

 
 

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The Iceberg Illusion

The Iceberg Illusion

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.

DulcimerCrossing Teachers in performance: Erin Mae, Vi, Steve

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.

Now, enjoy this video with some of our dulcimer Dulcimer Crossing teachers jammin’ on stage at the Colorado Dulcimer Festival this month. 

As always, we invite you to subscribe to DulcimerCrossing.com to take advantage of all of our lessons. And if you have a question, just ask!

 

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New Dulcimer Club Listing

New Dulcimer Club Listing

by Linda Racliff & Steve Eulberg

Dulcimer Club Listing: https://www.dulcimercrossing.com/dc_clubs.html
on DulcimerCrossing.com

As we’ve been watching all the dulcimer groups on Facebook, we have noticed the same question keeps popping up everywhere.  

People who are new to playing the dulcimer, and those who have just moved to a new community, are looking for a dulcimer club to join.  Since EverythingDulcimer.com is no longer active, our handy list for finding clubs has gone away.  

And so we have made it our personal mission to create a complete and up-to-date list of all the dulcimer clubs in existence – not only in the United States, but also worldwide.

As a beginning, we purchased the domain name www.dulcimerclubs.com, and that domain is linked to our Dulcimer Crossing website.  

You will see that we have listed as many clubs as we know about so far, but hesitate to also post the contact details as the information we have may not be current.

To publish accurate contact information, we have included a form on the Dulcimer Clubs page so you can send us the correct information for your group. 

It is best if you have a public “face” to which we can link.  If you could provide the link to your webpage or Facebook page, that would most suitable.  However, if you don’t currently have this set up for your club, we are requesting your permission to upload an updated name, phone number, and email address as the contact information for your club.  

We have already made great progress with the page for Texas (since Linda lives there), so you could click on that state to see our vision for how the finished pages will look.

Any help you can give us with getting this worthwhile project off the ground surely will be appreciated.

 

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Concise Guide to Chord Symbols

Concise Guide to Chord Symbols

by Steve Eulberg

These questions get asked frequently so here is a guide to help you decode the chord symbols that you may often see above the musical notation:

A Chord (by definition a triad) is made up of 3 specific pitches (1-3-5 steps of the scale.)

A Chord Symbol is short hand for which steps are intended.

1. When a Single Capital letter is used, it indicates a Major chord (no alterations in the 1-3-5 plan)

e.g. C = C-E-G

2. If there is a lower case “m” next to the Capital letter, that indicates a minor chord (1-b3-5) with the 3rdstep of the scale lowered a half step.

e.g. Cm = C-Eb-G

Any combination of these notes, grouped as close together as possible (close voicing) or as far apart as possible (dispersed voicing) still produce these chords.

3. If there is a number added to the chord symbol it indicates an additional note added to the triad:

The most common is the dominant 7(b7 step of the scale) which is so dominant we don’t even call it dominant. The next most common is 6.

e.g. C7 = C-E-G-Bb (1-3-5-b7)

e.g. C6 = C-E-G-A (1-3-5-6)

Amajor 7 chord has the regular 7thstep of the scale (also called a “leading tone”) added to the triad:

e.g. CMaj7 or CM7 or C∆7 = C-E-G-B (1-3-5-7)

4. These numbers can also be added to the minor chords as well to indicate minor 7chords:

e.g. Cm7= C-Eb-G-Bb (1-b3-5-b7)

e.g. Cm6= C-Eb-G-A (1-b3-5-6)

e.g. Cm∆7 or CmMaj7= C-Eb-G-B (1-b3-5-7)

5. Sometimes a 2 is added:

e.g. C2 = C-D-E-G (1-2-3-5)

6. Sometimes a 9 is added:

e.g. Cadd9 = C-E-G-D (1-3-5-9)

7. A ninth chord builds on the Dominant 7thChord:

e.g. C9 = C-E-G-Bb-D (1-3-5-b7-9)

8. Suspended Chords means that the 3rd step has been replaced either by a 4 or a 2:

e.g. Csus4 = C-F-G (1-4-5)

e.g. Csus2 = C-D-G (1-2-5)

9. Diminished Chords means that the 5th step of a minor chord has been lowered a half step:

e.g. C° or Cdim= C-Eb-Gb (1-b3-b5)

10. Augmented Chords mean that the 5th step has been raised a half step:

e.g. C+ or Caug= C-E-G# (1-3-#5)

11. Slash Chords indicate a different bass note than expected. This is particularly important for Bass Players (instrument) or players of Bass parts in an ensemble:

e.g. C/D = C Chord with a D in the Bass (non-chord tone)

e.g. C/E = C Chord with an E in the Bass (chord tone, but not the tonic)

e.g. C/G= C Chord with a G in the Bass (chord tone, but not the tonic)

(This is also available on the Free Page at dulcimercrossing.com if you misplace this one.)

Questions? Write me at steve@dulcimercrossing.com

 

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