Dan Evans, English-dulcimer.com, recently explored this question from his own experience, and posed the question to (3) other professional musicians/scholars of his acquaintance and shared their responses and his conclusions in his blog.
Dan is both a fingerstyle guitarist and a fingerstyle mountain dulcimer player.
As you can see here, this is an important question because his instruments do not have a 6+ fret. The only way for him to play the “major” (Ionian Mode) scale is to play between 3-10 on the melody string. When he starts at “0” and plays to “7”, he’ll hear the Mixolydian Mode (which has a flatted 7th step.) Sometimes this note is called the “Old Joe Clark” note because that tune requires that interval and note.
As Dan concludes, the binary, either-or, categories of Major or Minor simply are NOT descriptive enough when talking about songs, scales, modes or music. We must have (or “get to have”) a broader frame of reference in order to experience the music we love to play in its delicious complexity and beauty.
Click on the links above to read Dan’s blog post and then let us know what YOU think.
DulcimerCrossing is excited to announce a brand-new fingertyle lesson for advanced players in the DAC tuning on a standard mountain dulcimer.
“We are excited to be offering this lesson in DAC tuning, which helps people expand both their skills and their repertoire,” Eulberg said from his studio. “In addition, this arrangement requires some specific skills that put it in the advance category.”
This tune was composed by the French composer, Charles Gounod, while he was in England in 1872. He later created an orchestration for full orchestra in 1879.
The main theme from this composition became well-known to the American public in the mid-20th century because it served as the theme music for the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents which ran from 1955-1965.
Christmas is coming, and you’re probably thinking about what to buy your children for Christmas. What about a mountain dulcimer? If you’ve already gotten everyone a dulcimer, what about a 6 month membership to Dulcimer Crossing? It’s time to start thinking about these things, since it’s almost that time of year again!
We’ll begin with a 4-week special course taught by Erin Mae and Steve Eulberg on Thursdays.
These will be hour-long, live, interactive sessions beginning at 4 pm PDT | 5 pm MDT | 6 pm CDT | 7 pm EDT on January 2, 16, 30 and February 13.
Then we’re lining up other teachers to offer a once-a-month live lessons after that group of lessons ends. This will be a special benefit for our Premium Members. (Sign up for Premium Membership now and you’ll get to have all the benefits immediately!)
Start planning now to attend. You will find this to be an easy way to follow through on that New Year Commitment to practice more in a regular and scheduled way.
Across many Christian worship traditions, tunes from Welsh composers are favorites. The Ash Grove comes to mind, but from my survey, when researching and writing my book Dulcimer-Friendly Worship, Vol 1: the season of Advent, the tune that won the popularity contest of being the setting for so many hymns in so many ecumenical traditions is HYRFRYDOL by Rowland Prichard.
We are excited that our instructor, Karen Mueller, has provided us with both a strummed AND a fingerpicked lesson for our students. Watch as she introduces this tune and the lesson series:
This tune also appears on Steve’s Hark, the Glad Sound! recording which you can listen to here. (The 2nd tune in the Medley on track #12)
Members of DulcimerCrossing.com get access to ALL of the lessons ALL of the time!
If you want to play your Appalachian mountain dulcimer in the old traditional style, you will use a noter on the melody string(s), leaving the other 2 strings open to create a drone sound. We have developed several lessons that use a “noter,” so we decided to add a new separate category for these at Dulcimer Crossing: Traditional Noter Style.
If you have never used a noter, you should start with our introduction to the Traditional Noter Style here. In this series of 14 videos, Steve introduces the traditional noter/drone style of playing, shows us some of the tools (noters) that he uses, and explains how to use the noter with different tunings.
Here is the complete list of the lessons lessons we offer that use a noter.
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.
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?