Self-learning from nothing

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Self-learning from nothing

Postby mdrinan » Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:46 pm

Hi all; I am 69 years old, retired, and have decided to learn the hammered dulcimer. I cannot read music and have never played another instrument. There is so much information on line it's hard to know where to start. I have just purchased a Phoebe Songbird 16/15 and have been at it for about a month now. For me, the best way to learn is just to pick a favorite song and play it over and over until I get it. I printed off sheet music for "Morning Has Broken", one of my favorite songs. In looking at the sheet music, at the end of line 2: "like the first bird", the notes read: A, F#, D, A. It just doesn't sound right to me. When I play it as: A, F#, D, E, it sounds better. Should one stick to the sheet music or go by what sounds better? Also, there are 2 A notes on each side of the treble bridge. How does one know which one to play? Any helpful hints would be most appreciated. Thanks,

Mike Drinan
Brandon, MS
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby dholeton » Tue Oct 17, 2017 6:15 pm

Hello Mike and Welcome to Everything Dulcimer
I'm not a hammer dulcimer player, so I'll need some one of the hammer persuasion to answer your hammer questions.

For Morning Has Broken in the interval "like the first bird", I play it A F# D E also. A F# D A (the second A is the A below the first A) kind of ends the phrase where as going to an E tends to leave a different feeling. Both are okay, the E version might be better known in some circles than the A version.

Dave
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby mdrinan » Tue Oct 17, 2017 7:47 pm

Dave, thanks so much for your reply. It's reassuring to know that my assumption was OK. I'll continue to play it with the "E" note at the end, as it just sounds better to me. Thanks again!

Regards,
Mike
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby GrantOlson » Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:29 am

I think the best way to learn is a combination of written music and by ear. It it sounds good, go for it!
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby mdrinan » Tue Oct 24, 2017 3:45 pm

Thanks, Grant.

At this point, the only way I can learn a song is to memorize the order in which the notes are played. So I'm thinking, how in the world will I ever learn a lot of songs? It seems pretty tedious. Will I ever get to the point where I'll know what sound I need and just go to that note? It seems to me the really good players know this intuitively, and don't have to rely on memorization. That's probably a dumb question at this point, but if anyone can shed some light on their own progression, it would be most encouraging. Thanks!
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby dholeton » Tue Oct 24, 2017 4:21 pm

Mike
Your question probably hits a stress point for many of us who might play a song in a public venue. For mountain dulcimer, I know a given melody and since I have less choices for notes to play, I am often playing the right note in a song. But I still miss hitting the right note at times.

I also play bowed psaltery, which might be similar to the hammer dulcimer in that there are more notes from which to choose in playing the right notes. When playing the psaltery, I know a song through and through but it's not unusual for me to play the wrong note at times.

Playing a given song more often reduces the mistakes.

We will always make a mistake here or there and in a live performance, the mistake already went by and hopefully we'll get it right on the next verse! Keep on playing!
Dave
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby mdrinan » Tue Oct 24, 2017 4:33 pm

Thanks, Dave, I will! I am hoping that through repetition, my ear will get better trained at anticipating what notes I need to play as I go along.

Mike
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby GrantOlson » Tue Oct 24, 2017 4:55 pm

I think after practice it becomes natural. I've found that if I have a song or note in my head, and if I'm in a tuning I'm used to on the dulcimer, I can find the note I want pretty quickly.
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby spineloccio » Wed Oct 25, 2017 1:03 pm

Mike,

I started out as a singer, so I read music (both bass and treble clef), and I've been playing the Hammered Dulcimer for about 2.5 years now. I use sheet music to help me learn the arrangement or refresh what I had memorized at an earlier point. But I can't look at music and hit the right strings and get anywhere near the right speed at the same time. So I am memorizing anything I play all the way through. I'm certainly memorizing anything I play in public. I think it's the same as any other instrument...the key is practice. And practice is more than just playing through the notes of a song. It has intentionality and repetition. The nice thing, though, is even when I hit the wrong note, it still sounds beautiful! There are a good many online places that will help you learn without having to look at sheet music. You might look at Jess Dickinson's website (www.dickinsondulcimer.com) as a good place to get started with instructional videos that will help you learn the instrument, some technique, and even some songs. Welcome to the dulcimer world! I hope you get as much joy out of playing yours as I do playing my HD!

Steve
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby mdrinan » Wed Oct 25, 2017 6:43 pm

Thanks, Steve, and to everyone for your words of encouragement. I have looked at some of Jess's videos and have some more saved to look at. You are right, consistent playing every day is the key.

Best regards,
Mike
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Re: Self-learning from nothing

Postby JanisL » Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:45 pm

You mentioned hitting the wrong note. If you are playing for others, hit that wrong note again and they may think it is just your arrangement. Worst thing to do is grimace or make a comment that gives it away...don't do that! Congrats on your new venture in life. You'll meet the nicest people. I am still learning but won't give up. It's been a sanity saver for me. Yes, Jess' videos are excellent, but there are also others helping the cause. And consider subscribing to Dulcimer Player News if you haven't already done so.
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