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.
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.
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.
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 WizardThis 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!
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.