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Category Archives: music theory

posts that relate to general music theory

Is the Mixolydian Mode a Major Mode?

Is the Mixolydian Mode a Major Mode?

by Steve Eulberg

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.

Dan plays a standard mountain dulcimer with no 6+ fret.

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.

 

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New Class for Premium Members in 2020

New Class for Premium Members in 2020

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!

Or you might gift yourself with a membership. 

Dulcimer Crossing will be offering something new for our Premium Members in 2020.

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. 

 

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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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Dulcimer Articles Archive

Dulcimer Articles Archive

by Steve Eulberg

Since appearing on the cover of Dulcimer Players News in 2002 (see above), Steve has been writing articles to share what he has learned with the dulcimer community.

Dulcimersessions.com was a website hosted by Mel Bay Publications and was coordinated and edited by Lois Hornbostel.  Sadly, the website is no longer hosted and all of the resources published there are lost to the bits and bytes of time in the internet age.

Dulcimer Players News is a quarterly magazine for enthusiasts of both kinds of dulcimer and has been in publication since 1975!  First under the direction of Maddie MacNeilthen Dan and Angie Landrum, it is now published by Ashley Ernst, who has recently taken the helm.

I have written several articles (15) for both outlets about a variety of topics, and because of the vagaries of the internet, I have compiled them on my website here.

  1.  The DulcimerSessions articles (Colorado Dutch Hop, ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime & Still, Still, Still) are all available as downloads to read there.

2.  The pre-2012 Dulcimer Players News articles are available in the DPN archives on issuu.com via clickable links.

The articles published since then are not yet archived, but can be found in back issues.

Topics include:

Playing a Scottish Strathspey

Jazzing it up:  Playing Jazz on dulcimers (1-3-5 tuning and the classic ii-V-I progression)

Playing Backup on Dulcimers (3-part series that features bass lines)

Creating Dulcimer-Friendly Arrangements for Dulcimer Ensembles (5-part series)

Playing Blues on Mountain Dulcimer

Improvising on the Dulcimer “Tweaking Twinkles”

If you missed an issue and can’t find the back issue but are still interested in the topic, contact me and I’ll be certain that you get what you need!

I also need to say, if you haven’t yet subscribed to the incredibly affordable and inestimably valuable resource that is Dulcimer Players News, I urge you hurry and to subscribe today!

 

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Chord Wizard Tool

Chord Wizard Tool

by Steve Eulberg

Have you ever wondered how to find a particular chord you are looking for?  You might be familiar with a couple of fingerings for your favorite chords, but then there is that “weird” one that the music calls for and your musical chord theory is a bit rusty.

This one is for you!  Tom Strothers has created this interactive webpage as tools to help mountain dulcimer players.

Diatonic Chord Wizard This page has an interactive Fret Finder Tool, below which is a tool to find the notes on the 7-note fretboard, and then once you choose the chord you are looking for and choose the Fret Finder, the possibility for finding the notes (by their fret numbers) shows up on the fret board.  (This also includes the 6+ fret.)

Chromatic Chord Wizard This page is like the Diatonic one, but assumes a Chromatic fretboard (or 12-tone scale.)  The functionality is the same.

One additional benefit for the Chromatic page is that it can be set up for 4 Equi-distant strings configuration which is popular for some players.

Well this is simply AWESOME!

Take this out for a spin and let us know what you think!

 

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“Try to Make ANYthing that happens…

“Try to Make ANYthing that happens…

by Steve Eulberg

…into something of Value.”

–Herbie Hancock

Jazz Pianist Herbie Hancock tells a story of something that happened when he played

a “wrong” chord during Miles Davis’ solo.

This video is from Herbie’s MasterClass.

This is some GOOD advice for more than just jazz music.  It is for ALL music.

And for life.

(Thanks to Lois Hornbostel for sharing this on Facebook!)

 

 

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Learn Something New

Learn Something New

by Linda Ratcliff

You will learn something new everyday if you pay attention.
– Ray LeBlond

Learn Something New

 

Sometimes the process of learning a new tune is sabotaged before you even begin. You allow a spirit of doom to hang over your head, because you think the piece is too difficult. You might say …

  • Part B seems complicated, and I’m looking for something easier to learn.
  • This piece is in an odd tuning (like D-G-d), and it’s a nightmare to retune.
  • This tune has hammer-ons and hammer-offs. I never did get those.
  • This song goes too fast. I’d rather learn one that’s nice and slow.
  • The rhythm is really tricky. I’ll just keep practicing songs I already know.

If you recognize any of these thinking patterns, we need to clean up your stinkin’ thinkin’.

Preconceptions can make you or break you when learning a new tune.
What if, instead of thinking the new tune is too hard, tricky, difficult, or a total nightmare … you saw the new tune as easy or a breeze to learn, and you said to yourself, “No problem!”
Learn Something New

Here are some new and TRUE preconceptions to get in your head whenever you begin a new piece.

    • All tunes are riddled with what I call “Easy Bits,” no matter how tough they might appear at first glance. Go find all the easy bits right away. Maybe even highlight them on your tablature, and see how much “yellow” paper there is.
    • Find melody or chord patterns you’ve played before, and say, “Oh, I’ve seen this before!” Call on your experience, and build on what you already know.
  • Play to your strengths. I love to learn slow tunes with long arpeggios, so I find myself choosing old-time hymns or love songs to learn. Identify your strengths and choose music that will highlight that.

Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

And to keep progressing musically, you must keep moving forward as well.
Be intentional in choosing music with a tricky section.
Don’t just stick with the easy tunes. 
Challenge yourself. 
One day you’ll look back and say, “I can’t believe how far I’ve come in such a short time.” 

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 

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