Practice advice.

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Practice advice.

Postby DulciBob81 » Thu May 03, 2018 7:55 am

This coming July will make 2 years since I first picked up a dulcimer, and I'm not entirely satisfied with my progress. I know getting really good takes time and practice. But my problem for the past several months, my work load has been so hectic that I just don't ever have time to practice. I go for days or even weeks at a time without even picking it up. It frustrates me because there are so many things I want to try, songs I want to learn, methods and techniques I want to experiment with.
Now, I know there are know magic tricks to make me an instant virtuoso. I am realistic. But what are some ways I can get the absolute most out of my limited availability of practice time?
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Re: Practice advice.

Postby Ken Bloom » Thu May 03, 2018 8:11 am

Hi Dulcibob, This is a pretty common situation that we all find ourselves in. My simple suggestion to you is to make an effort to play at least a tiny bit, every day, even if it's just five minutes. Playing an instrument is like mini-athletics. The muscles love to forget about the movements. Even a little bit of playing everyday will remind those reluctant muscles that "we're still doing this". I think if you can do this, you will find that your progress will be better. Pereverance furthers.
Ken Bloom
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Re: Practice advice.

Postby Banjimer » Thu May 03, 2018 8:09 pm

Following up on Ken's suggestion, you should have your dulcimer out in the open and within easy reach. Keep it in a dulcimer stand or somewhere that it can be picked up quickly to play for five or ten minutes. If it's in the case or stored in a closet, you are less likely to pick it up for these short daily practice times. Out of sight out of mind. You want it in sight where it can say "Pick me up and play."
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Re: Practice advice.

Postby Notsothoreau » Thu May 03, 2018 8:32 pm

I think it also helps to have an idea of where you are and where you want to be. it helps you focus on the areas where you need to build skills. It's important to play, but I think it's hard to maintain enthusiasm if you are just playing the same things over and over.
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Re: Practice advice.

Postby jakstall » Fri May 04, 2018 9:59 am

Notsothoreau wrote:I think it also helps to have an idea of where you are and where you want to be. it helps you focus on the areas where you need to build skills. It's important to play, but I think it's hard to maintain enthusiasm if you are just playing the same things over and over.


You should listen to music, too. Listen to different styles and techniques. Listen to some dulcimer music, but don't limit it to that. If you hear a tune that says, "I'll sound good on that dulcimer" get it in your head and see if you can pick it out or get a musical friend to help you do that.

Listening to music can give you an unending supply of ideas for new tunes to learn as well as give you a feel for how to play music from different genres, developing your style and technique.
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Re: Practice advice.

Postby Notsothoreau » Wed May 09, 2018 3:39 pm

That's an excellent idea and one I've been trying. There's a lot of dulcimer music available through Amazon music. (It's a good way to check it out, since you have unlimited streaming. I buy the albums I like.) I've also been trying to listen to Richard Farina and the Joni Mitchell Blue album, to get an idea of what the instrument is capable of. You Tube is an excellent resource too.

The problem that I had, after listening to all those different styles, was that I didn't know what I wanted to play. I've had to just push all that back for now and focus on using D-A-d, learning how to strum and start to work in some chords. The main thing is to have fun and feel like I'm making a little progress.
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Re: Practice advice.

Postby asterhunter » Thu May 10, 2018 1:01 pm

K.I.S. (Keep it simple). Look for simple or beginner arrangements of the music you want to play. In other words, with a limited amount of practice time available go for quantity, rather than quality in your music. My reasoning is thus. First, with a very limited time allotted for practice (maybe fifteen minutes several times a week), simple tunes can be learned quickly, you'll learn more of them, and you won't be struggling with technique. Don't try to pick off more than you can chew, only work on two or three tunes at at time until you learn them. Second, as you learn the tunes, get more experience in playing, and maybe at some point you're able to budget more practice time, you can always add your own embellishments to these simple tunes, making them more fun to play and personalizing them as your own versions.

Next, once you have learned a tune, jot it down in a notebook. First, this will keep a quick and easy record of your progress. Second, you'll realize that once you learn a tune you don't have to play it every day to keep it in memory. You can rotate tunes around, playing them once every week or two, to keep them in your head. At some point you can even organize them, tunes for week one, tunes for week two, etc. Another advantage of keeping a simple log: at some point you can combine two or three tunes into a "set", that is, chose two or three short tunes to play together without interruption. This will actually let you play more tunes in a shorter period of time, as you are not taking breaks between those tunes to catch your breath or think to figure out what you want to do next. My wife and I practice about an hour at a stretch, but we have much more than one hour's worth of music to play! Using the techniques I mentioned above keeps everything reasonably fresh in our heads.

Oh and one more thing. Always begin your practice session with one minute or two of simple strumming/picking/fingering/playing chords exercises. This will get your body and mind in the dulcimer framework and make the rest of the 10 or 15 minutes of playing time a bit more meaningful.

I hope some of this will help you out.

David Elosser
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Re: Practice advice.

Postby Dusty Turtle » Sun May 20, 2018 11:36 pm

My response to this question will probably not be a popular one. I also go substantial periods when work requires so much of my time that I can't play much. When that happens, I try to play exercises, scales and arpeggios mainly. In general I like working on exercises because whereas playing a song makes you better at playing that song, playing scales and other exercises makes you better at every song you play. But I figure if I can keep my technique up, then when I do have more time to devote to learning a tune I'll be able to progress faster since my technique will still be in shape. And it doesn't take much; playing scales for 5 minutes a day is A LOT! I also keep a list of tunes I want to learn so that when those opportunities arise with a free hour or more, I don't waste time looking around but just take a look at my list and choose one.
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