April 30, 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!)


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!


Take More Risks

by Linda Ratcliff

The biggest risk a person can take is to not take one at all.


Take More Risks

The great thing about New Year’s resolutions is that you can set new goals to improve yourself. That being said – this year, why don’t you take more risks with your dulcimer playing. Here are just a few ideas.
  • Learn to play new tunes.
  • Try picking out a tune by ear, instead of relying on your tablature.
  • Take a song you already know, and make it your own with a new arrangement.
  • Practice with a different tuning on your mountain dulcimer.
  • Better yet, buy a second mountain dulcimer, so you can keep one in each tuning.
  • Learn a new style of music on your dulcimer, like the “Blues” or “Bluegrass.”
  • Play your first solo in front of friends.
  • Play your first solo in front of strangers.
  • Go to an out-of-town weekend dulcimer festival, and meet other dulcimer players.
  • Sign up for private dulcimer lessons. If there’s not a teacher in your area, you can always Skype with one of our instructors.
  • Most important of all … have fun with your dulcimer.

You have an entire year – go for it!

If you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.

Happy dulcimering,
Linda

Bridging the Gap Between What You Know … And Where You Want Your Music to Go

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Advent Dulcimer Devotions return…

by Steve Eulberg

Imagine this:  A weekly email playing gentle music of instrumental ensembles featuring dulcimers, with a message of preparation that is serene, clear-sighted and hope-filled–an anti-dote to the crazed, blurry-eyed busyness of Christmas preparations (that began in some locations back in October.)

Advent is the 4-week season in the Christian tradition that marks the beginning of a new year in the life of the “called-out” people of God known as the church.  While we gather and prepare to celebrate the birth of a savior, we also gather and prepare for the return of the savior in the days when the light from the sun is shortest each day.  (In the northern hemisphere, that is.)

This is free and available to you and anyone with whom you share this

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.”

 

 


“Music Confounds the Machines”

tboneburnettby Steve Eulberg

Focusing on the challenges that artists face in the current digital and mechanistic day and age, T Bone Burnett gave the keynote address at the AmericanFest in September of this year.

I found these words echoing in my soul:

“Music is to the United States as wine is to France. We have spread our culture all over the world with the soft power of American music.  We both have regions- France has Champagne, we have the Mississippi Delta.  France has Bordeaux, we have the Appalachian Mountains. France has Epernay, we have Nashville. Recorded music has been our best good will ambassador. The actual reason the Iron Curtain fell, is because the Russian kids wanted Beatles records. Louis Armstrong did more to spread our message of freedom and innovation than any single person in the last hundred years.  Our history, our language, and our soul are recorded in our music. There is no deeper expression of the soul of this country than the profound archive of music we have recorded over the last century.”

This is my experience of the power of music to bring people together across the divides of background, experience, age, culture, gender.

I see it six days a week in my Music Together classes with preschool children and families who speak languages from Korea, Russia, Greece, China, Serbian, Japan, Israel, India, Pakistan, Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, Germany, Australia, England, Canada and the USA (and probably several more that I can’t even identify!)

But what confounds the machines and the census takers is what T Bone said, which is the reason for what we pursue in music:

“Art is a holy pursuit.

Beneath the subatomic particle level, there are fibers that vibrate at different intensities. Different frequencies. Like violin strings. The physicists say that the particles we are able to see are the notes of the strings vibrating beneath them.

If string theory is correct, then music is not only the way our brains work, as the neuroscientists have shown, but also, it is what we are made of, what everything is made of. These are the stakes musicians are playing for.”  (read the entire address here: keynote address)

These are certainly the stakes that I am playing for.

What experiences do you have to share which relate to these descriptions?

 


“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)

What is Your Method of Exercise?

swimmingimageby Steve Eulberg

I remember the question from the cardiologist I visited on my 33rd birthday.

I was there because my heart was skipping beats periodically and heart disease runs in my family.

After the stress test failed to produce any abnormalities they concluded that the source of this anomaly may be just day-to-day stress, rather than being physical activity-induced.

So their strategy was to be certain that I was building a strong physical system that could withstand the mental, social and emotional stressors of an inner-city pastor.

But still the question made me pause….

“In what forms of exercise do you regularly participate?”

“Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I remember how to spell that word: e-x-e-r-c-i-s-e.”

(There were NO forms of exercise in which I was regularly engaged.)

The following week I began a program of swimming, which has always been my preferred method of exercise:  low-to-no impact, aerobic and using many muscles groups, in addition to focusing on breathing.  That program has continued to this day. Everywhere I have lived and travel, I do my best to find a swimming pool and make being there regularly and often a priority in my schedule

So, by now you might be wondering what this has to do with music?

Usually when we speak of exercises in music, we are playing a fingering pattern, or developing a hammering pattern, or becoming more dextrous with hammer-ons or pull-offs, or learning bends and releases, not something aerobic like, well, swimming!

Patrick Gannon, PhD, in an article written for the International Musician (journal of the American Federation of Musicians), borrows from the world of sports psychology to help the kinds of mental training needed to deal with performance anxiety.

He begins with Exercise As Medicine for Your Music.  (This short article is full of tips for how exercise can help you relax and learn more effectively!)

Just this week, as I began to feel the weight and pressure of decisions and preparations and deadlines and schedules that I face, I decided to take his advice and increase the length of time I was swimming in my daily swim sessions.

Wow, the sense of calm and centeredness, the depth of sleep without anxiety of dreams, were very noticeable.

So now, my question is for you:

In what regular exercise do you participate?

 

 


Performance Anxiety

visualize.pngby Linda Ratcliff

Stage fright is experiencing intense feelings of nervousness before or while you’re playing your instrument in front of people. In fact, it is also called performance anxiety.

But the truth is, when we feel this way, we are determining the outcome in our imagination before it actually happens. We are visualizing a complete mess-up, and we expect to either strike or strum the wrong strings at any moment.

You’re not alone.

When I used to perform on the piano, I remember standing back stage waiting to go on, desperately trying to remember even the first note.

Jim Carrey almost put off performing for life, after a bad experience as a stand up comic when he was 15.

After forgetting the lyrics to a song during a concert in Central Park, Barbra Streisand stopped performing live for 27 years – out of fear she’d repeat the incident.

Carly Simon once fainted on the stage, right in front of her audience – from stage fright.

One way to overcome this is by visualization.  Now, you’ve probably heard it said that all you have to do is imagine that everyone listening to you is sitting there in their underwear.

But I recommend that you visualize a successful performance – playing every note perfectly and with expression.

Be fully prepared before you plan to play for someone, and then shift your negative thoughts into positive thoughts.