Guidance with fingerpicking.

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Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby macaulj » Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:09 am

I wanna learn how to become a little more advanced with the dulcimer. I could use some advice from some of the more advanced players on how to get good at fingerpicking and mastering the dulcimer. A lot of the stuff I see on the internet, videos or in books is all focused on the mountain dulcimer being played with one string and the other two as drones. Noters and other stuff is used. However, I see advanced people like Jerry Rockwell playing in a fingerpicking style. Actually it seems a lot of the advanced people play the dulcimer in a finger-picking style and almost all Celtic, Scottish or traditional folk music tunes are played in a fingerpicking style. How can I learn this. I know very little music theory and I have no idea how this relates to the dulcimer. Like what strings relate to what in music score and so on. I could appreciate some guidance because I am pretty lost.

Also I have looked everywhere for info and it is very scarce, what there is available costs money.
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby KenH » Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:57 am

"Advanced" dulcimer playing is a misnomer. Each style requires significant effort to master. There's more to Fingerdancing and Noter&Drone than meets the eye, and Chord-Melody is extremely complicated. Strumming with a pick or plectrum is an art. Ask masters such as Robert Force, Don Pedi, Lois Hornbostle, the late Jean Ritchie and many more. Fingerpicking is just one of many dulcimer playing techniques. It's not "advanced", just different.

Although I don't fingerpick, I know there is a wealth of fingerpicking information out there, including numerous books and videos on technique and tab. Check Mel Bay's list of books. David Schnaufer's teaching video. Janita Baker's fingerpicking book. Stephen Seifert and Peggy Carter's video lessons. Google "dulcimer fingerpicking" and you'll find a ton of video lessons and more. Friends Of The Mountain Dulcimer has a Group dedicated to the subject: http://fotmd.com/guy-babusek/group/22/fingerpicking

Yes people charge for teaching materials including books, videos, and private lessons. Nothing in life is free, and they deserve to be rewarded for their efforts in creating and assembling information others want to learn.

FWIW -- you said "...almost all Celtic, Scottish or traditional folk music tunes are played in a fingerpicking style."
That's simply not true. Celtic music, including Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton sounds best when played with the drones of Noter & Drone or Fingerdance styles mimicing the drones common in the various bagpipes used with that kind of music, and the crisp notes of the fiddle also used for much Celtic music.
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby dholeton » Wed Feb 17, 2016 10:22 am

The method I use is simple in concept but takes the time a player needs to get the fingers to cooperate. I start with
the thumb on the melody string (T),
the index finger on the middle string (I),
and the middle finger on the bass string (M)

I use T, I, and M on a 3 string instrument and double strings count as 1 string. If I'm playing an instrument with more than 3 strings, the ring finger (R) and little finger (P) might be used in a given pattern.

On a 3 string dulcimer some fingerpicking patterns might be T-I-M, T-I-M-I, and T-I-M-I-M. I usually have the thumb play the melody note and the index and middle finger fill in the gap until the next melody note is to be played. This method can be used where the middle and bass strings are used as drones (melody drone playing) or if the middle and bass strings are fretted for chords (chord melody playing).

To try to "teach" the fingers the pattern, start with playing the T-I-M pattern with no strings fretted very slowly. Once you're comfortable with playing all of the strings open, start fretting just the melody string to play the Do Re Mi scale. Once you're comfortable that your thumb is playing at the proper time for the scale (and you can play the scale without errors), you can try fretting chords.

Next try the same technique with the T-I-M-I pattern. It might take a little longer to get the fingers to cooperate. You might master this in minutes or it may take longer.

Next try the same technique with the T-I-M-I-M pattern. Playing the pattern once might be easy, playing it consistently for a period of time during a song is a little more difficult.

Using one of these patterns to play a song, you might also need an interval where just T-I is used.

There are tablature files for Hush Little Baby in the tablature section of this site by Ken and Steve with DAA tuning.
Taking a simple song like Hush Little Baby with DAA tuning, the patterns used for the first phrase might be

T-I-M-I ... T-I ... T-I ... T-I-M-I ... T-I-M-I ... T-I-M-I ... T-I ... T-I ... T-I-M-I
Hush ..... Lit ... tle .... Ba ....... by .......... don't .... say ... a .... word

The thumb will play the melody notes and the index and middle fingers will play fill notes between the melody notes.
Play the phrase above until you're comfortable that you are playing the melody string in the right places. Once you have learned the first phrase, maybe you can learn the second phrase on your own. It will be combinations of T-I-M-I and T-I.

So this is just a start on a very simple song. There are many other patterns to be learned and many other approaches to learning to fingerpick. I hope this information is useful and gives you a starting point.

Dave
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby Jono » Wed Feb 17, 2016 11:34 am

KenH---no need for the aggressive, lecturing post.

Macaulj---ignore the criticisms and bias of KenH. Most people here are far better mannered. Fingerstyle is a very advanced playing technique and offers many challenges for the advanced musician. Good on you for trying. I understand that money is scarce for you and you'll find some free lessons on You Tube, just type in 'fingerpicking dulcimer lesson' in the You Tube search box. Also, if you type in just 'fingerpicking dulcimer' you'll see lots of free videos of people playing fingerstyle (though most of them are not at a very advanced level). Celtic tunes and songs sound wonderful played fingerstyle. The best way to learn though is face to face with someone, maybe you could join a dulcimer club but that may not be possible depending on where you live.

Good luck with your efforts to play fingerstyle. It's a worthwhile endeavor. Dave's advice is very good.
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby Skip » Wed Feb 17, 2016 12:19 pm

Fingerpicking, notor drone, etc are styles of playing to me and each style encompasses all levels of playing ability, beginning to really, really good. :D
The book I used is Patterns and Patchwork, by Sue Carpenter. I also have ones By Janita Baker and Linda Brockinton. P&P is very good and is my main reference. Lessons, group or private, are best if you can afford them. You may find help/used references in various places, used book stores, librarys, ebay, local groups/players, etc. I found 2 local groups via our local senior citizens center, I took mine there to practice and one of the ladies there was a player.
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby Banjimer » Wed Feb 17, 2016 10:45 pm

There is no standard method for fingerpicking a mountain dulcimer. The mountain dulcimer is, after all, a folk instrument. Someone has already suggested T-I-M (Thumb-Index-Middle) as one alternative. I'll offer another: I-M-R (Index-Middle-Ring) with the thumb braced against the inside edge of the fingerboard to keep the instrument steady on your lap. Using this second method all three fingers are plucking toward your body, and the thumb is holding the dulcimer steady. No matter what fingering you choose, it will sometimes be necessary to pluck the same string two or more times in succession. This will be smoother if you alternate the fingers used to pluck the string instead of using the same finger for each successive pluck. Fingerpicking also makes use of extensive left hand finger techniques, especially hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. Hammer-ons allow you to get two or more ascending notes on the same string with only one right hand pluck. Pull-offs allow you to do the same thing with descending notes on a single string. Slides allow you to pluck one note and ascend or descend to a second or even a third note.

And finally, KenH is correct in pointing out that all methods can move from the simple to the advanced. He is not implying the superiority of one method over another. He is simply stating that each method has its proponents, and each method is a viable alternative that should be respected in its own right.
Last edited by Banjimer on Mon Feb 22, 2016 1:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby strumelia » Thu Feb 18, 2016 12:24 am

Banjimer wrote:And finally, KenH is correct in pointing out that all methods can move from the simple to the advanced. He is not implying the superiority of one method over another. He is simply stating that each method has its proponents, and each method is a viable alternative that should be respected in its own right.


I agree. While it's wonderful to want to learn a new playing style, and to want to get good at it, all style methods of playing the dulcimer can be as skilled as you want to reach for, or as simple as you like to keep it.

Also I have looked everywhere for info and it is very scarce, what there is available costs money

Macaul, info is not scarce, and there are LOTS of wonderful free online resources for learning mountain dulcimer playing of all kinds, ....as many of us have already pointed you to in your other threads asking for playing resources that cost nothing. Various great links and suggestions have been made. I hope you will explore and enjoy them!
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby Jono » Thu Feb 18, 2016 8:31 am

strumelia wrote:I agree. While it's wonderful to want to learn a new playing style, and to want to get good at it, all style methods of playing the dulcimer can be as skilled as you want to reach for, or as simple as you like to keep it.


The thing is nobody has said otherwise, and Macaulj was innocently emphasizing that some advanced players play fingerstyle, and in NO way did he demonize noter drone . Yet KenH immediately started preaching to Macaulj who only sought help for **fingerstyle**. KenH was clearly offended that Macaulj displayed a love for fingerstyle, without at the same time displaying a love for noter drone. So KenH then proceeded to lecture, and lecture and lecture Macaulj, he even called him a liar with "that's simply not true". KenH doesn't seem to realize that people are allowed to like one style more than another style, and in a free society they have the right to express that preference. I also remember that KenH also behaved like this in another topic a while back.
Last edited by Jono on Thu Feb 18, 2016 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby GrantOlson » Thu Feb 18, 2016 9:51 am

The post by dholeton has some good advice about basic fingerpicking where you are sort of using it to fill in the melody. It is a consistent pattern that only has to be adjusted a little for different parts of the melody. Then there is the kind of things you might find in a book by Janita Baker. I would start out with Fingerpicking Dulcimer, because it has some simpler things and might be found at a library. It goes from easy to hard, and at about halfway transitions into her 4 string tunings, which she uses as an alternative to a chromatic dulcimer. If you are good about practicing and take it slow at first, you should enjoy the songs that are in the book.

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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby Jono » Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:18 am

GrantOlson wrote: Janita Baker. I would start out with Fingerpicking Dulcimer


A friend of mine has that book, and it comes with a CD. I highly recommend it. Janita also has a book dedicated to more advanced 4 string fingerpicking called, you guessed it---"Four String Fingerpicking".
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby strumelia » Thu Feb 18, 2016 3:48 pm

When I was learning fingerpicking dulcimer about 19 years ago, I fould Sue Carpenter's "Patchwork..." book to be just awesome.
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Re: Guidance with fingerpicking.

Postby GrantOlson » Thu Feb 18, 2016 3:56 pm

When I first learned to play the mountain dulcimer I learned mostly from books but I didn't know what to get so I found every book I could from the library. They have more than you would think and some of them have stuff about fingerpicking in them. I also found a Jean Ritchie book once which was cool to see now that they're so expensive. :)
One of my favorite books I used to learn the dulcimer is Larkin's Dulcimer Book. It is a beginner book, but it has a nice overview of things like chords, harmony, fingerpicking, etc, and how to apply them as well.
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