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Posts about dulcimercrossing lessons, free stuff, learning mountain and hammered dulcimers

Training Your Auto-Pilot

Training Your Auto-Pilot

by Linda Ratcliff

Don’t practice until you get it right!
Practice until your auto-pilot takes over and you can’t get it wrong.
– Linda Ratcliff

Training Your Auto-Pilot

 

There is something we all have in common.

Once we were ALL beginners. And do you remember when you went to a jam session for the very first time? You might have purchased a brand new dulcimer, or maybe you were given a hand-me-down that you cleaned up and polished. Maybe you had a teacher that guided you through some basics and taught you a few tunes. Or maybe you simply watched YouTube or DulcimerCrossing.com videos, and learned a few things.

You thought you were ready for the jam. You sat down, made sure you were in tune, and met some other duci-fanatics. But then, the leader started off with “Boil Dem Cabbage”, and the entire group took off like a bunch of race horses bursting out of the starting gate.

You didn’t know they were going to play THAT fast! Worse yet, the harder you tried to play faster, the more your arms and hands seemed to stiffen up. You gripped your pick, you clenched your teeth, you tightened your arm muscles … and you tried to hammer faster or push your pointer finger up and down that fretboard faster. But you actually began to get farther and farther behind.

AAAARRRRGH! What just happened?

What just happened?

Physically, what happened is, the more you stiffened up, the more mistakes you made and the slower you actually played. The faster you want to play, the more relaxed you need to be. And to be relaxed when you play with or for others, you need to train your “Auto-Pilot.”

    1. First choose a passage to practice where you find yourself slowing down EVERY time.
    1. Play that passage in slow motion, taking the time to press or hammer the string for each note in exactly the right place. Relax as much as you can … both mentally and physically. Think of it as a slow-motion replay (but in advance!) of the beautiful performance you would love to give. When you practice in slow motion like this, you won’t trip over notes, or deliver badly-controlled rhythms.
    1. Auto-Pilot ButtonNow close your eyes or turn off the lights, and see if you can play the correct strings by feel, still in slow motion, using MUSCLE MEMORY. Try that until the passage almost floats from your arms. This is training your auto-pilot, teaching your muscles the way to go without intense focus and physical effort.
  1. Next begin to gradually speed up the passage. Picking up the tempo, just a little at a time, will work better because you aren’t trying to closely supervise every single note.

Your conscious mind may be telling you, “Yeah, this is all fine and good, playing at half speed in the sanctuary of my home.” But your auto-pilot doesn’t work as analytically as your mind does. When you join others (back in the real world), muscle memory will kick in and the notes will flow. Tapping into your auto-pilot, you will be able to deliver every note – smoothly, effortlessly, and accurately.

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 
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Posted by on June 25, 2018 in lessons, subscriber news

 

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Are You Listening?

Are You Listening?

by Linda Ratcliff

Listening = Learning.

Are You Listening?

 

Listening to music is one of the most important parts of being a musician. 

Listening to dulcimer music can keep us motivated day to day – between jam sessions, festival, or lessons. Without that boost, practicing can become a chore – easily left for another day, and then another, and then another … until we begin to completely lose interest.

Now you don’t have to set aside a special time of day to listen to your dulcimer music, the way you schedule your time to practice. But get a nice collection of dulcimer CDs and put them in different places … in your car, in your family or media room, even at the office. Then, when you have the time to listen, they will be easily accessible. We have several teachers who offer their own CDs.

In addition to listening to others play, it’s important to listen to yourself.

Our own teacher, Nina Zanetti, explains it best. 

“I think that first and foremost, it’s important to listen. By listening carefully, we can identify passages that would sound better if they were played more smoothly, or more cleanly, or more expressively. Once we’ve identified passages that don’t feel quite “right,” then we can go back to them, experiment with different approaches, and find ways to play them to achieve a sound that we like.”

Nina also emphasizes the importance of bringing out the melody, so it can be heard over the drone or chords you may be playing. You won’t know for sure if you are doing this … unless you listen.
Nina Zanetti
In this video, observe how Nina is practicing what she preaches about listening to herself while she is playing this beautiful tune “Bridget Cruise, Third Air”, by Turlough O’Carolan.

 

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 
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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in lessons, subscriber news

 

DulcimerCrossing at Summer Festivals

DulcimerCrossing at Summer Festivals

by Steve Eulberg

You can find DulcimerCrossing Faculty teaching at several Dulcimer Festivals this summer!

Erin Mae Lewis (Mountain) will be teaching at Kentucky Music Week (June 24-29) in Bardstown, Kentucky and at Camp Kiya (July 22-26) in Tehachapi, California.

Don Pedi & Steve Eulberg (Mountain) will be teaching at Dulcimer U (July 22-27) at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

Don Pedi (Mountain) will be teaching at the Swannanoa Old-Time Week (July 15-21) Swannanoa, North Carolina, and the Homer Ledford Dulcimer Festival (Aug 31-Sept 1) Winchester, Kentucky.

Neal Hellman & Deborah Hamouris (Mountain) will be teaching at Redwood Dulcimer Day (Aug 19) in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz), California.

Matthew Dickerson (Hammered) will be teaching at Kentucky Music Week (June 24-29) in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Matthew and Bill Robinson (Hammered) will be teaching at the Evart FunFest (July 19-22) in Evart, Michigan.

Larry & Elaine Conger,(Mountain) are the Directors of Dulcimer U (July 22-27) at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

Linda Thomas (Hammered) will be teaching at the Ozark Heritage Festival (July 17-21) Mountain View, Arkansas.

Robert Force (Mountain)  is hosting the 44th Kindred Gathering (Aug 3-5) in Port Ludlow, Washington.

Aubrey Atwater (Mountain) will be teaching at the Dutchland Dulcimer Gathering (July 13-14) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Vi Wickam (Fiddle) will be teaching workshops at the National Old-Time Fiddler’s Contest & Festival (June 18-22) in Weiser, Idaho and the El Sistema Fiddle Camp (July 23-27) in Denver, Colorado.

Steve Eulberg (Hammered) will be teaching at Dulcimer U Hammered Dulcimer Weekend (July 27-30) at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Mountain Dulcimer Instructor

New Mountain Dulcimer Instructor

by Steve Eulberg

We are pleased to welcome Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering Director and Freight and Salvage Dulcimer Teacher, Deborah (DJ) Hamouris, to our roster of instructors at DulcimerCrossing.

Deborah introduces herself here:

Deborah joins our faculty of 15 respected and gifted instructors of mountain and hammered dulcimer and fiddle.

We are filming and editing his lessons and they will be available for all subscribers on dulcimercrossing.com.

Subscribe and you’ll have unlimited access to all of her lessons, and those of all of our instructors!

 

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New Hammered Dulcimer Teacher

New Hammered Dulcimer Teacher

by Steve Eulberg

We are pleased to welcome 2012 National Hammered Dulcimer Champion, Matthew Dickerson, to our roster of instructors at DulcimerCrossing.

Matthew introduces himself here:

Matthew joins our faculty of 15 respected and gifted instructors of mountain and hammered dulcimer and fiddle.

We are filming and editing his lessons and they will be available for all subscribers on dulcimercrossing.com.

Subscribe and you’ll have unlimited access to all of his lessons, and those of all of our instructors!

 

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Make a Goal

Make a Goal

by Linda Ratcliff

Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines.
– Unknown

Make a Goal List in Your Journal … Every Week

My husband and I recently moved in with my daughter and her family about 4 weeks ago (there are now 7 of us at the dinner table), and she donated her formal dining room for me to set up as my music room.  I LOVE it.  I have all my instruments set up within easy reach.   And as soon as everyone is out of the house, I usually pick up my hammers and practice for a while.

 

But I just noticed something today about the way I have been practicing lately. I am simply playing whatever comes to my mind, rather than selecting tunes with a particular goal or result in mind.

I know better. When I took piano lessons, I had a spiral steno pad (how many of you remember those?).  My goals (aka assignments) were written down for the week, for the month, for the end-of-the-year recital.  I knew what I needed to practice for the next lesson, for the next month, and when I needed to have a piece ready to play in public.  
 

The Bible says, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2).  So I have turned over a new leaf.  I pulled out a new journal, and dedicated it to my music practice time. I drew lines horizontally across the page, dividing it into these five sections.

  • Warm-up Exercises:  Even though I am an experienced player, I need to consistently review the hammering drills in our Hammering Skills section, so I don’t get rusty.
  • Old-Time Jammin’ Tunes:  I find I like old-time hymns the best, and tend to play something like “It Is Well With My Soul,” or “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” when I have a moment to practice. But I have neglected to practice the old-time jammin’ tunes like “Old Joe Clark” and “Golden Slippers” regularly.  I scheduled 2 of those for review this week. 
  • Something New: I noticed I haven’t challenged myself with a new genre lately. So I decided to work on expanding my Celtic tunes repertoire. This week, I assigned myself Caledonian Club and Dorsett’s 4-Hand Reel.
  • Free Exploration: This is something we don’t do often enough.  This is how you will expand your musical vocabulary and see greater potential with your instrument.  Take something familiar and try new rhythms, new chord progressions, or add new embellishments to the melody.
  • A Good ‘Ole Favorite:  To close your practice, you should randomly play something you really enjoy.  Have fun with your instrument, and end your practice time on a positive note.

A good work-out like this would take me an hour, because I entered TWO things in my journal for each category. I think I might have been overly optimistic. I don’t usually have an hour, and you probably don’t either.  Next week I may just give myself just one assignment per category and see how that goes. 

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

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New Lessons for MD & HD Players

New Lessons for MD & HD Players

by Linda Ratcliff

I am still learning.
– Michelangelo at age 87

New Lessons for MD & HD Players

We have two new lessons at Dulcimer Crossing to offer our hammered dulcimer and mountain dulcimer players.

Peek-A-Boo Waltz for HD, taught by Steve Eulberg

The Peek-A-Boo Waltz is a tune that traveled with the pioneers taking the westward trails going through Kansas City toward the new world. In this video, Steve demonstrates the embellished version of the melody. 

Peek-A-Boo Waltz

Asika Thali for MD, taught by Neal Hellman
Asika Thali is a song of freedom from South Africa, taught by Neal Hellman. Neal likes to play this tune on a dulcimer with 4 equi-distant strings tuned to D-A-dd, but it can also be played on a dulcimer with 3 strings in the D-A-d tuning.

Neal Hellman
BUT … is it time to learn something new???

New or old?

This is what many of us wonder about.  You’ve been working hard on a new tune, and you’re fairly far along with it. But it’s not perfect yet.  You still get hung up on Part B, the second line. You’re tired of working on it, but you hate to move on until you’ve mastered it.So how do you know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em? Well, I believe that even if you feel completely confident with a piece, it doesn’t mean you should just set it aside. As soon as you’ve mastered a good part of a tune, feel free to go ahead and start another. You’ll still be practicing the old one because, when you practice, you always dedicate some time to warm-up, some time to reviewing old tunes, and some time to practicing new tunes.  It’s a balancing act, and I know you can do it.

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda