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Say NO to Boring

Say NO to Boring

by Linda Ratcliff

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. 

 

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Top 10 Tips for Jam Sessions

Top 10 Tips for Jam Sessions

by Linda Ratcliff

Relax and enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll
realize they were the big things. – Kurt Vonnegut

Top Ten Tips for Jam Sessions

i.e. Jam Etiquette

Going to jam sessions can be intimidating. And yet, they can also be the most fun and rewarding music experiences of your dulcimer life. So how can you move past your fears and inhibitions, and just have a great time?

  1. First of all, tell yourself it’s ok to make mistakes. This is not a performance. You’re just there to socialize with other friends who enjoy playing acoustic instruments. Don’t worry about ruining the tune for others with a mistake. Most of the time, no one will notice you’ve messed up, unless you stop playing.
  2. Be sure your instrument is “in tune”. If you’ve taken your instrument from the house to the car, and then into the jammin’ hall, it will probably be out of tune due to temperature changes. Don’t forget to bring along your electronic tuner.

3. It’s okay to play the parts you know and skip the parts you don’t know yet. Or, if you are a total newbie, keep an eye on the tabs and just play the first note of every measure.

4. If you don’t know a tune, try to play backup chords instead. Most jammin’ tunes only have 3 chords. If you know how to play the D, G, and A chords on your dulcimer, and you can hear chord changes, you’ll still be in business.

5. Don’t try to be the loudest instrument in the “band.” Listen to others, and focus on blending in, rather than standing out.

6. Do your best to keep in time with the other musicians. If you lose your place in a tune, just hang back and wait until they get to a place where you can jump back in.

7. Practice, and be prepared. Have a few songs in mind that are simple and everyone knows. That way, when it’s your turn to call a tune, you’ll be ready.

8. Don’t be a diva. Jamming isn’t about showing off. If you’re a more advanced player, when it’s your turn to lead, keep it simple. Don’t play it like a solo with pauses, tempo changes, or extra embellishments that would throw others off. 

9. The person who starts a tune is also responsible for ending it. There are many ways to signal to the other musicians that you’re ready for the tune to end. You can raise one foot in the air as you get towards the end, or you can call out something like “one more time,” “last time,” or “going out.”

10. Finally, after a jam session, it’s a good idea to start preparing for your next one. Write down the names of tunes everyone seemed to know but you. Then you’ll know what to practice before the next time.


Matthew Dickerson jamming out a tune with the Squirrel’s Nest!

One more point I’d like to add is that you should ask before video taping or taking photos at a jam session. With the current obsession with social media, we all seem to think everyone is fair game for a photo shoot. But you might inadvertently make others feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.

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

Happy dulcimering,
Linda

 

See also:  Steve’s Jam Session Strategy

 

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Free Lesson: Jam Session Strategy

Free Lesson:  Jam Session Strategy

by Steve Eulberg

My mother was right.  Boredom is a choice.

If I am bored in a Jam Session because the other players are playing the tune too fast, or too slow, or too many times (is that even POSSible?) do you know whose job it is to fix that?

MINE.

In this free lesson, Steve offers a suggestion about what do to participate, support the other players AND keep yourself awake and interested in a jam session.

Try it and let us know how it goes for you!

 

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Tips for Jam Survival

Tips for Jam Survival

by Steve Eulberg

The Summer Festival season is fast approaching (can you feel the buzz of excitement in the air?)  Many of us set aside our winter rhythms and venture out to play music with others in new settings: out of doors, at picnics and cookouts, at public parks, at the beach, at festivals, at week-long learning opportunities.

Some of us are also a little anxious about these meetings because we’re not quite certain how we will survive when jamming with other people whom we don’t know!

So here is your opportunity to help!  Send us your best JAM SURVIVAL tips or stories and we’ll publish them on this blog, and/or use them in lessons on DulcimerCrossing.com

Do you have little things you do that help you enjoy a jam?  Learn as much as you can about a new tune?  What are the best tools and tricks that you know of?

You can write me here in the comments or send them to:  steve@owlmountainmusic.com.

Or you can make a video of your tip and upload it to youtube or vimeo and send us the link.

Or you can make an audio recording and upload it to soundcloud and send us the link.

 

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