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posts that relate to general music theory

Blue Water Thinking

Blue Water Thinking

by Linda Ratcliff

Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.
– Dorothy Parker


My husband and I moved this week, and we now live in our RV on Watts Bar Lake in Tennessee. We have a beautiful view of the lake, right out our back window. Actually, we’re parked on a peninsula, so we can see water from every window in the RV.

I began to wonder if the change in scenery would have any impact on my creativity, so I did some research. I found an article about how our surroundings impact creative thinking by Professor Juliet Zhu. She says that environmental factors such as color, lighting, and noise can trigger our creative thinking processes and productivity.

 

With regard to color, after in-depth research, Prof. Zhue determined that if a task is detailed and accuracy-orientated, red is more helpful. But when the main task is more creative in nature, blue is better. Her suggestion for sparking creativity is, when there is a creative task to do in your computer, change the background image on your desktop to blue skies. She calls this “Blue Sky Thinking.”

And so … I’m wondering if I apply a “Blue WATER Thinking” approach to my practicing, would there be a similar effect? I’m going to stand in front of the dulcimer with my hammers at attention, look outside at our beautiful view of the blue water, and see what happens. Anyone want to make a prediction?

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

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You Are What You Practice

You Are What You Practice

by Linda Ratcliff

The effort you put into your practice time will either
advance your skills quickly, or drag you down gradually.

– Linda Ratcliff


We’ve all heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” In other words – if you eat fat, you may become fat.  If you frequently indulge in sugar, you run the risk of becoming diabetic.  If you skip your fruit and vegetables, you could become deficient in minerals and vitamins.

In a survey taken in May of 2016, 75% of Americans claimed that they are eating properly.  But when they completed the questionnaire, the truth came out. The fact is, 80% of Americans actually fail to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, and too many Americans overeat refined grains and sugar.

Now let’s apply this to your music. Are you practicing correctly? Or do you figure as long as you are running through your jam tunes at home every now and then, you’ll be ok. I imagine a great percentage of you think your practicing is just fine as is.

But if your system of practicing is to quickly play through each jam tune a time or two, you may not improve as quickly as you would if you focused on what you want to achieve or improve in each song, one by one.

  • Do you need to pick up the tempo?
  • Are you rushing? Do you need to slow it down?
  • Are you too dependent on the tabs? Should you memorize the tune?
  • Are you making too many errors? Should you slow it down to improve accuracy?

If you’re having fun practicing, but making a lot of mistakes, you could significantly improve your playing by considering these questions. Practice intentionally, with a goal in mind for each tune you review.

As always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.
Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 
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Posted by on December 18, 2017 in music theory, subscriber news

 

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Live Concert/Workshop This Saturday

Live Concert/Workshop This Saturday

by Linda Ratcliff

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
– Albert Einstein


Erin Mae Lewis, who teaches Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Lessons on DulcimerCrosing is giving a special Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Workshop!

(Erin holding her NEW Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Chord Encyclopedia)

Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer Chord Workshop with Erin Mae
Saturday, November 18th
8:00 am PST | 9:00 am MST | 10:00 am CST | 11:00 am EST
For Everyone – Click Here to Enjoy

 

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Benefits and Limitations of Different Tunings-Mountain Dulcimer, Part 2

Benefits and Limitations of Different Tunings-Mountain Dulcimer, Part 2

by Steve Eulberg

In the first post addressing this topic, we examined the kind of instrument you have.  Now we’ll look at the second point: the kind of music you want to play.

Here are some examples that I suggested that reflect the different modes, that different tunings make possible, or easier to play.

A respondent suggested that I provide sound links for some tunes as examples.
Click on the links to hear and/or see them below:

Ionian (1-5-5, commonly DAA):  Joy to the WorldBarlow Knife

Mixolydian (1-5-8, commonly DAd):  Old Joe Clark,  Sandy Boys
Aeolian (1-5-b7, commonly DAC):  God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Dorian (1-5-4, commonly DAG):  Drunken Sailor, Scarborough Faire

(Jessica actually uses a capo on the first fret and makes use of the 6+ fret for her arrangement of Scarborough Faire…we’ll talk about that in a different post.)

 

 
 

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!

 

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!
 

Ask Questions

Ask Questions

by Linda Ratcliff

A truly wise man always has more questions than answers.
– Wilson from Home Improvements


Ask Questions

Your sub-conscious works day and night to answer any questions you ask. So asking yourself open-ended questions puts the sub-conscious to work. Answers often come “out of the blue”, as ideas or notions that you might not have had otherwise. When practicing, why don’t you put your subconscious mind to work by asking questions about your progress?  

 

Below is a series of questions you could ask yourself when practicing. You don’t need to ask them all. Just pick a few that seem relevant to you. Listen to yourself closely – maybe even record yourself – and see what answers you get.

1. How steady and even can I make my tempo?
2. Am I playing this up to speed yet?
3. Can I connect my notes better, make it smoother?
4. Can I play all the way through without any mistakes?
5. Do I find the suggested fingering easy or is there a better way for me?
6. Am I standing or sitting correctly when I play? Is my posture correct?
7. Do I know the background for this tune so I can tell the story?
8. Am I enjoying myself?

Which question do you think is the most important?

As for me, “Am I having fun? Am I enjoying myself?” is the deal-breaker.

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!