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Category Archives: mountain dulcimer

posts that are designed specifically for mountain dulcimer players

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!

 

The Finish Line

The Finish Line

by Linda Ratcliff

Don’t be so focused on the finish line that you fail to enjoy the journey.
– David Weekly


The Finish Line

I started a new diet about two months ago.  And so far, all I have lost is 2 months and 8 pounds.  Now you may want to pat me on the back and say, “Way to go! You didn’t put it on in a day, and if you take it off slowly – it will stay off. But that’s discouraging for me.  I want to git’er done.  I want to reach the finish line, and I want to reach it TODAY.

That’s not going to happen but I have grit, and I plan to watch what I eat until the day I reach my finish line. But then what happens?  Can I go back to eating the way I used to?  Can I put aside everything I learned about good eating habits and just go back to “normal”?

 

The truth is … I will never actually reach the finish line with regard to watching my weight, because this is a life commitment.  The magic number can’t be the only goal for me.  I have to resolve to maintain that weight.  I will need to eat right from now on (for the most part).  AAAARRRGH!!!

Now let’s apply this to your music.

Can you make a play list of songs you want to be able to play for others or with others at jams, and then stop there?  

Is there a finish line for your dulcimer playing?

I say, “NO, you will never reach the finish line with your music.”

If you know your playlist, learn some new tunes.  
Review old tunes.  
Make up a new arrangement for a tune you already know and add it as one more verse.  
There will ALWAYS be something else to do, something new to practice on your dulcimer.  

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!

 

Beginner to Expert

Beginner to Expert

by Linda Ratcliff

The expert in anything was once a beginner.
– Helen Hayes


Beginner to Expert

The opening quote for this page, “Every expert was once beginner,” is attributed to Helen Hayes (1900-1993). She was an actress who is one of the few in her career to win an Emmy, a Grammy, and an Oscar and a Tony. If anyone became an expert in her craft, it was Helen Hayes.

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author born in 1949 who writes novels and short stories. He said, “If everyone waited to become an expert before starting, no one would become an expert. To become an EXPERT, you must have EXPERIENCE. To get EXPERIENCE, you must EXPERIMENT! Stop waiting. Start stuff.”

 

Lailah Gifty Akita is from Ghana and the founder of Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation. She said, “Every beginner possesses a great potential to be an expert in his or her chosen field.” And, “All great men had simple beginnings.”

Are you a beginner, just now learning to play the dulcimer?  Do you wonder how you’ll ever be able to keep up in a jam session? I remember the first day I picked up the hammers to play my hammered dulcimer. I’ve got to admit – all those strings … it was intimidating. But I’ve been hammering ever since.

It’s up to you … practice consistently and you’ll soon keep up with the best! “Stop waiting. Start stuff!”


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!