Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Talk about what great instruments dulcimers are for young musicians

Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Postby Dusty Turtle » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:48 pm

Howdy folks. Some time ago I posted a question here about whether my now 6-year-old daughter, who is taking and enjoying piano lessons, would be confused by a diatonic fretboard. Your advice was taken and we forged ahead with a diatonic Eedy Beede. Within a few moments of being shown where to find do re and mi on the fretboard, she began playing basic melodies (Mary Had a Little Lamb, Hot Cross Buns, etc.) and now she has also begun to follow my fingers for songs she didn't already know, such as Mississippi Sawyer. Our next venture will be Little Liza Jane.

Just wait, here comes the question:

Since my daughter is learning to read standard music notation in her study of the piano, should I have her learn to play the dulcimer through SMN? Personally, I play by ear and sometimes seek help from tablature, so I would be of limited help to her (though that help would probably be good for both of us). It appears very few dulcimer players actually play from SMN, but since she is learning it anyway for the piano, shouldn't we start there rather than confuse her with tablature?

Any thoughts?
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Re: Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Postby Skip » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:35 am

Staying with SMN only would be in her best interest IMHO. She will never need TAB then. It's just a useful intermediate/translation tool (read crutch) for us that don't read SMN.
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Re: Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Postby Shape note singer » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:53 am

I'm not a credentialed music educator, so perhaps I have little to stand on when it comes to this question.
But here goes.... Stick with SMN. It opens every door. The more she uses it, the greater ease she will have in making music, wherever her future interests may take her!

As a shape note singer, I find that anyone who knows SMN can sing shape note with relative ease, but not the other way around. As an 'aspiring' HD player, I find that nearly every book I buy has a different individualized method of notation.
MD tab is at least a standardized and widely used system., but there are others, too. For example, there's the abc system that fiddlers often prefer.

Any or all of these are things she can (and will) figure out on her own.... Translating them in her head into SMN!!!!! :D
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Re: Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Postby kwl » Fri Jan 27, 2012 2:06 pm

I also offer the advice that you stick with SMN for your daughter. My son teaches guitar to slightly older children beginning in the sixth grade. He uses SMN exclusively; no guitar tab. He feels that gives them the ability to play any type of music they want to on the guitar. The only complexity to the diatonic fretboard is that your daughter will have to learn where the notes are in every tuning she uses. This is not difficult. It just requires remembering what tuning you are in. If your daughter sticks with it, she will be one awesome dulcimer player.

Best wishes,
Ken
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
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Re: Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Postby dulciken » Fri Jan 27, 2012 3:17 pm

I will join the chorus for SMN, but I do want to put in a word for TAB as well. I play 2 or 3 times a month in church, usually from the melody (or soprano) line and the guitar chords. If it is a key that I can deal with I can work up a chord melody arrangement of most any tune real quick. But I still will use tab to record some of my choices for how to finger things. SMN alone can not tell you all you need to know if you are playing notes across multiple strings. Even on guitar you have to use finger numbers to indicate which string is playing which note to fully indicate how to play it and that only works if there is a strict and universal assingment of picking finger to string. So while I support SMN as much as anyone, do not completely eliminate TAB.
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Re: Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Postby Dusty Turtle » Sun Jan 29, 2012 11:57 am

Thanks for your advice, everyone. It's pretty much unanimous, I guess. The fact is that my daughter is already learning SMN for the piano, so the first step will be simply to demonstrate where each string of the dulcimer is on the musical staff.

Thanks again for your advice.
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Re: Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Postby rendesvous1840 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 2:07 pm

Where each note of the dulcimer is on the staff in which tuning? Tab is much more concise for diatonic instruments that are commonly re tuned for different purposes. Using sheet music leaves her trying to recall what notes are lost and gained in each tuning. For a young beginner, tab is much simpler to use. The 1 on the line is always the first fret, no matter what note we choose to tune that string to. For keyboards, and wind instruments, sheet music is the way to go. For some string instruments, it's a toss up. For diatonic instruments, tab is easier. I don't see why she shouldn't use both. I never threw away my pliers when I bought a hammer, use what tools are available. Just don't let her be a slave to either or both visual forms exclusively. I have seen too many people who couldn't join in the fun of a jam because they didn't have a tab or a sheet for the songs. Consider this: If you only knew how to play from SMN, what do you do with your dulcimer when the sheet is in a different key, or uses accidentals that aren't available in your current tuning? I change tunings. But now all the same notes have moved, one or more former notes are gone,and one or more new ones have arrived. It's like learning a new instrument, something a lot of beginning dulcimer players are nervous about. Beginners make such statements often. But counting is something we learned early, and tab takes the scary unknown out of the new concept.
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Re: Kids, SMN, and the Dulcimer

Postby bradleyi » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:56 pm

I'll add another voice to the SMN chorus, but letting her work out things by ear as well will also be invaluable to her in the future. I've been lucky in that I can't remember a time when I wasn't learning music by ear and then I joined the band in school, requiring that I learn to read SMN as well. I find that the combination of the two has enhanced my enjoyment of music immensely.

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