April 26, 2017

Tuning Hack for Scroll-Headed Dulcimer

by Steve Eulberg

The Snark™ tuner is very popular with mountain dulcimer players, for good reason.  It is quick, accessible, accurate and it’s display is very readable.

(This is not an insignificant feature as those of us who continue gathering service stripes in the playing of our dulcimers experience with eyesight that gets weary over time!)

IMG_2445And the handy clip-on feature works very well with flathead mountain dulcimers.

However, players of instruments with the traditional scroll have sometimes struggled with how to attach the tuning clip to the dulcimer so that it can “read” the vibrations and convert them into electricity which then displays how close our vibrating strings are to the desired pitch.

Therefore, when one of my students whose dulcimer has a beautiful, traditional scrollhead showed up for her lesson displaying the tuning hack here, I was delighted and decided I needed to share it right away!

IMG_2444By using her capo on the scroll, she had a location on which to clip her tuner that picked up the vibrations directly and accurately!

She clipped on tuned up and was ready for her lesson in no time!

(This is all the more important, because dulcimers players have taken and adhere to the dulcimer pledge which commits them to the joys of playing their instruments in many different tunings!)


Wendy Songe Premium Concert Highlight

We are so excited to Wendy Songe was able to play a Concert Window show for our Premium DulcimerCrossing Members in February!

Erin Mae Lewis, one of our instructors, is in the process of scheduling the Live Events Calendar for the remainder of the year.

Basic Members have access to Live Events once a quarter and Premium Members have access once a month!


Not My Monkey New Recording by Fiddle Whamdiddle

 
PRE-ORDER TODAY Vi and I have been hard at work and have finally sent our newest recording off to the manufacturer this week! Not My Monkey features our original tune (by the same name), John Denver's Matthew, Aura Lea (written in 1861 by a relative of Vi's Grandmother, George R. Poulton) and several other old-time favorites. Recorded over 3 years, by two very gifted engineers (Latin-Grammy-winning Oscar Autie, of El Cerrito Studio, in El Cerrito, California) and Darren Radach, of Stout Studios in Fort Collins, Colorado. Darren also served as the mixing engineer and the recording was mastered by Randy LeRoy of Airshow Mastering, Tacoma Park, Maryland. Cover art was photographed and designed by Christina Gressianu, Loveland, Colorado. We expect delivery by the first of February with a projected release date of May 28, 2017. Pre-Order today and get your copy as soon as it arrives...with free postage!  (use the code: iwantmymonkey at checkout)

My Grass Is Blue

by Linda Ratcliff
Steve is introducing a new series of lessons at Dulcimer Crossing –
I’ve gone camping to attend bluegrass festivals, and in the evening – all the musicians like to gather around the campfire and jam.  
But, I have to be honest, my hammered dulcimer has been less than welcome at jams.  
People look at me with suspicion until they’ve heard my backup style.  In this series of lessons,
Steve demonstrates how dulcimer players can fit right in with bluegrass jammers – by learning to play chop chords like a mandolin player.

My favorite part of this lesson comes when Steve teaches  (Read More)

Join DulcimerCrossing today and have access to the 20 video lessons in the first part of this ongoing series!


“Prepared to be Lucky”

luckyjoesinteriorby Steve Eulberg

Lucky Joe’s Sidewalk Saloon, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is one of the places I began honing my craft of performing in live venues at the end of the last century.

As soon as church was over in the morning, I would phone in to get my name put on the Open Mic list for what I hoped would be the prime time after the weekly Acoustic Open Mic began at 9 pm every Sunday Night.

Sometimes I was “lucky” and my name was earlier on the list, so I could listen to a few of the other players, play my set and get home to take my shower (this was before the local Clean Air Act banned smoking in bars in 2003).  If I didn’t take that shower, my sensible wife would not let my smoky-smelling self sleep in the same bed!  (I guess, twice lucky–the couch was none-too-comfortable for a night’s sleep.)

Other nights, the list was nearly full when I called in and I got to play much closer to closing time….which made the required shower much e-e-e-arlier in the morning.

Many of the performers were guitarists and singer-songwriters, although I do recall a stride pianist coming in and playing some mean Jelly Roll Morton, too.  Sometimes I would bring my guitar and try out some new songs, to test them in front of a rather discerning audience.

Many other times, I brought my mountain or hammered dulcimer up on that little stage (which provided the host and sound guy the opportunity to learn how to amplify these feedback boxes on the fly!) to introduce their delicate and lively sounds to the beer-sipping audience.  (To their intrigue and delight.)

I don’t know how the other performers used the time they were not performing, but this was a laboratory for me.

I studied them, their material, how they presented it, how the audience did (or didn’t) respond.  I prepared my nervous heart to calm itself as my time slot neared and I tried to make my set up time be efficient.  I listened to (and made internal comments on) everyone’s stage patter, and tried to edit my own in light of my quick reflections on theirs.

And I was lucky.

Joe (half of Lucky Joe’s) booked me to play for a couple of St. Patrick’s Day gigs and one year I rode on the saloon’s float in the pre St. Patrick’s Day Saturday morning parade in March (this is Colorado, remember, and March is one of the big snow-dump months every year!), playing my hammered dulcimer, wearing finger-less gloves as the float bounced down College Avenue.

But mostly I was lucky because I learned that all this preparation is what made me lucky.

(with thanks to Twyla Tharp for sharing E. B. White’s quote:

“Habitually creative people are prepared to be lucky.”

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.)

 


Backing Tracks Library is growing!

We keep adding to our Library of Backing Tracks which are available to our Premium Members.

backingtracklibraryexanding

The two newest are the chord progressions in the Keys of D and G which match the Albert Brumley tune:  I’ll Fly Away.  These were created for the new Bluegrass Dulcimer series taught by Steve Eulberg.

We are continuing to produce these and other resources to assist you in your goals to “Bridge the Gap Between What You Know and Where You Want Your Music to Grow.”

 

 


“I Have to Practice every day…

by Linda Ratcliff

…to play as bad as I do.    —Woody Allen

Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg) is a passionate fan of jazz, and jazz music has often been featured prominently in the soundtracks of his movies. He started playing the clarinet when he was a teenager and actually chose his stage name, Woody, after the famous clarinet player Woody Herman.

Woody will be 81 in December, and these days he is performing with the Eddy David New Orleans Jazz Band.  They play every Monday night at the Carlyle Hotel.


What made me take a closer look at Woody was a quote by him about his own playing: “I have to practice every day to play as bad as I do.” I love his statement because it mirrors the way I feel about my own playing.We all need to practice – and not just to prepare for the next jam session or performance.

Practicing an instrument sharpens your brain, increases your eye-hand coordination, teaches you perseverance, and creates a sense of achievement when you overcome the challenge of learning a new tune.
I’ve also discovered a lot about the history of our country and its musicians by researching the stories behind those old fiddle tunes dulcimer players enjoy.
 (This post originally appeared in the DulcimerCrossing Newsletter.  You can subscribe here)

Quantity vs. Quality

by Steve Eulberg

Which is more important in art:

Quantity or Quality?

Very often in the artistic world some believe we have settled this classic debate by choosing the benefits of quality over the benefits of quantity.

ok_signWe want to have qualities of timbre and phrasing in music, quality of graceful movement in dance, qualities of taste and smell in cooking, qualities of joy and cleverness in humor, qualities of color, depth and placement in visual art.

So, choosing the end goal of this discussion as the most important can lead us into the mistaken of mixing up the ends and the means.

Because, as this story by David Bayles and Ted Orland in their book Art & Fear:  Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking illustrates, the quality of the result may rest upon the quantity of production that precedes it.

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.

All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple:  on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group:  50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.

Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one— to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged:  the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes—they “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

 

In my experience in learning, performing and teaching music, I have found the same to be true.

The only way I can perfect a phrase that I can never play perfectly once, is to try and play it 20 times….only to discover that out of twenty times I can play it perfectly three times; and then eight times, then fourteen times….all of which demonstrates the quantity needed to produce the quality I desire.

 


“Sweet Harmonies”

honeyimageby Steve Eulberg

We play dulcimers, whose name incorporates the Latin word for “sweet” (dulce).  So when I talk about sweet harmonies, in a broad sense, they are the beautiful tunes that we play on our lovely instruments.

However, in a more specific way, there are harmonies that reflect the intervals between notes that, at least to Western ears, trained to expect Western harmonies, that are “sweet.”

The space between two notes that are played simultaneously, or one after the other, is called an interval.

In the diatonic scale (the 7-step, or “white-key” scale around which both mountain and hammered dulcimers are organized) the intervals are a series of whole and half steps between each note in the scale.

The Ionian (or major) scale can be written like this:  1-2-34-5-6-78, or whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.  (See this related post or this one)

The interval between do and mi in this mode is a Major 3rd. It is composed of 2 whole steps. It is this interval which determines that the scale or mode is considered a Major scale or mode.    In the scale of D, a Major 3rd from Do=D is F#, two whole steps away.  This can be called a 3rd harmony.  And this is in close voicing.

If we play these same notes further apart from each other, for example, playing F# and then the D above that one, the interval between the two notes is a 6th and can be called a 6th harmony.  The notes have the same name and same sweet feel, but their relationship to each other is separated and so their is some more space between the notes.

If we play that first D and then skip and octave and play the F# in the next octave, then we have a 10th interval.

When I talk about “sweet harmonies” then I’m talking about harmonies that utilize this interval.

Which songs do you use that feature these sweet harmonies?  Do you tend to prefer the closer 3rds or the more distant 6ths?

Which harmony are you “sweet on?”