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Carolina Rockman

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  1. How to Become A Better Dulcimer Player 15 Adding Variety To Your Playing There are a number of ways to add variety to your solo and/or group dulcimer playing. i.e. playing a harmony; playing backup chords; playing a counter melody; playing a bass part. For this article we will concentrate on playing our melody on a combination of the melody and bass strings. As you know, the notes are the same on both your melody and bass strings when you are tuned to DAD, CGC, GDG, etc. They are one octave apart. When playing songs that you already know, trying mixing up the song by playing part of the melody on the melody string and part of the melody on the bass string. This works best on those songs where you can use drone notes. One method that I like to use is playing the song, as written, all the way through. The second time you play it, try playing one or more measures within the song by flipping the melody notes to the bass string. I have posted one of my arrangements of “Shortnin’ Bread” on this Everything Dulcimer as an example of how you can mix up your melody. Another way of adding variety to your playing is not to play the song the same way each time you play it through. Twenty years ago, Steve Seifert introduced me to “up neighbors” and “down neighbors”. These are notes that are usually one note higher or lower than your melody note. Within a song if you have a quarter note, you can play it twice as an eighth note or play the first eighth note as written and play the next note, one note higher or lower. ie. In your song with quarter notes you have these notes: 1-2-3-4. Try mixing it up by playing 1-1, 2-3, 3-2, 4-5, etc. There are no correct combinations. Same thing with eighth notes. i.e. 4-4, 5-5, 3-3. Try changing to 4-3, 5-4, 3-4, etc. What you are achieving is a variety in your playing by not playing the song the same way each time that you play it. Additionally, if you have a single note within your tab, try adding some drone notes to it. This article is but the “tip of the iceberg” when adding variety to your playing. Perhaps my thoughts will help you to become a better dulcimer player. The bottom line is: If it sounds good, play it! Shortnin' Bread2.pdf
  2. Key of D version easier to play. Key of G version easier to sing. In the Good Old Summer Time - D.pdf In the Good Old Summer Time - D.mid In the Good Old Summer Time.pdf In the Good Old Summer Time mid.mid
  3. How To Become A Better Dulcimer Player - 12 Bending Notes The majority of the songs that we dulcimer players play are usually straight forward and do not require, either a 1½ fret or the bending of one or more notes to achieve a sharp or a flat note. In order to play most contemporary music and some hymns, there are two things that you will need to have. The first is a 1½ fret. The second is the ability to be able to bend notes. Most dulcimer players are uncomfortable when they see a + sign following a note. It is really no big deal. I will tell you how I bend notes. It may or may not work for you. If the note to be bent is on the melody string, I usually use my thumb on the required fret and push inwards. If the note to be bent is on the middle or bass strings, I use my middle or index finger to pull the string(s) towards me. Pushing/pulling should be done as close to and next to the fret wire. You will find that when we have to bend notes, the most common are: D# on the melody string. It is difficult to bend the string that low on the fret board so we bend the string at the third fret, middle string, which gives us our D# G# on the melody string. You can bend the string at the third fret, melody string or go up to the 6½ fret on the middle string for a G#, no bend involved. A# on the melody string. You bend the note at the fourth fret, melody string. If it is an A# on the middle string, you go to the bass string, fourth fret and bend the note there. You can see the value of knowing your fret board. Each note that we play can be played on any of our three strings Go to the tab section of this website to find my arrangement of “The Old Rugged Cross” There are two sharped notes in the song that are normally not seen in the Key of D. That is a G# and an A#. The use of a 1½ fret is not required for this song. To play the G#, you can bend the melody string at the third fret or go to the middle string 6½ fret with no bend involved. To play the A# you will bend the fourth fret on the melody string. Hopefully these techniques will help you in How To Become A Better Dulcimer Player.
  4. The Old Rugged Cross.mid The Old Rugged Cross.pdf
  5. What I did not include in the article is that in group play, intros are very important, not so much for an audience(if there is one), but to have all people in the group know when to join in and at what tempo.Outros are more for solo play than group play. The bottom line is whatever works.
  6. The G as well as all pentatonic scales are the same no matter what the tuning. If one is tuned to other than DAD, i.e. DGD, CGC, etc. the scale notes are the same; however, they will be on different frets than those in DAD tuning.
  7. Not having an introduction is really no problem. "4 potatoes" and "1-2-3-4" work well. The beauty of our dulcimer world is that nothing is written in stone. Our fellow players are generous with their knowledge and time. My philosophy has always been, "If it works, use it!"
  8. How To Become A Better Dulcimer Player - 11 Backup Chords In The Key of G Have you ever noticed that during group play that everything starts to sound the same? That is easily remedied by one or more people playing a harmony, bass part, counter-melody or backup chords. With the exception of backup chords, it is necessary to have all the above written out so that you can play your part. The backup chords are normally on your written tab sheet and are a part of the melody. That is what we are going to address in this article. For most people, singing in the key of G is the easiest. That said, most of the songs that we play and sing are in the key of D. That is because of our DAD tuning. Yes, you can play and sing songs in the key of G on our dulcimers tuned to DAD. You could also capo your instrument at the third fret in DAD tuning to be in the key of G or retune to GDG. The most efficient way to solve this problem follows. Some of the chords that we need in G require a 1½ fret, which most players do not have. In the key of G, our three major chords are G-C-D. No problem playing the G and D chords. What do we do about playing C chords? There are a number of ways to finger a C chord without having a 1½ fret. All of the following chords can be flipped (bass to melody - melody to bass). C Chords: 3-4-6, 6-6-6, 8-6-6, 13-13-13 We are talking about playing backup chords that you might see on your tab sheet. You can usually substitute one chord for another. Remember your major chords in the key of G are G-C-D. Your minor chords are Am, Bm, Em, D7. The following usually works: Am - substitute a C Bm - substitute a D Em - substitute a G D7 - substitute a D Your ability to play backup chords will add much to each song. Even if you do not know the song, you can play the backup chords. Hopefully this article will help you to become a better dulcimer player.
  9. How To Become A Better Dulcimer Player - 10 Intros and Outros There are many ways to start and to end a song. We will discuss a few of them in order for you to become a better dulcimer player. How many times have you been at a practice or jam and the person calling the songs says one of the following: “Go” - “And” - “1-2-3-4”. Is there anything wrong with this? Not really; however, there are better and more efficient ways to begin your play and to end it. With the above “Intros” each player will usually start and continue at a different place and tempo. Not good! Introductions: The purpose of an introduction is not only for your audience, but also for your fellow players to know when to start the song and what the tempo will be. It may also give your audience (if you have one) a teaser of what is to follow. At our local club meetings and jams, each player on rotation, names the song title and he/she calls out the number of measures they will play to introduce the song and to set the tempo. All other players can visually/orally follow along and then begin playing at the proper place. How many measures are necessary to introduce the song? There are no set number of measures; however, a recognizable phrase from the song usually works well and gets everyone, players and audience ready for what follows. What is a recognizable phrase? If you have words to your song, the words should determine your recognizable phrase. i.e In the song “Amazing Grace” a good recognizable phrase would be: “Was blind, but now I see”. Another method of introduction is to play the major chords of the song’s key before all others begin to play. If your song is in the Key of D, playing a D chord followed by an G chord followed by an A chord usually works well. If you song is in the Key of G, playing a G-C-D series of chords is a nice introduction. How many of each chord should you play? That depends upon the song itself. Is it a slow song? A fast song? Should a chord be held for an entire measure or played multiple times within a measure? Each song will require a different set of chords and note values. Your ear will be the best judge of that. Outros: Is there any way to properly end a song? The short answer is “No”. The long answer is “It depends”. Most players/groups end a song by playing the last note or chord in the last measure. There is nothing wrong in that. If you would like to add a little bit of finesse and/or variety to a song, you may do as above in the Introduction section of this article with some modification. As in the example above, you can end as song by playing a series of chords from the song’s key. In this instance, I like to use a modified series of chords. Instead of playing (in the Key of D) a D-G-A, you can play a D-G-D. If in the Key of G, you can play a G-C-G. This works for all the keys by playing the I-IV-I chords. another way to end is a song is to repeat the recognizable phrase that you used as an introduction. As in the above example, for the song, "Amazing Grace", repeating the notes that comprise, "Was blind, but now I see", will end the song nicely. My methods, in this article, and others are not the final word on “How To Do It”. They are only presented in the hope to help you to become a better dulcimer player.  
  10. Just A Closer Walk With Thee.pdf Just A Closer Walk With Thee.mid
  11. This is a gospel song written for children in 1920. This Little Light of Mine2.pdf
  12. How To Become A Better Dulcimer Player - 9 The Pentatonic Scale The majority of dulcimer jams that I have attended are usually fast and furious. There are a lot of songs played that you may not be familiar with. Someone calls a song and they start playing immediately Either you know the song by heart or don’t. For the most part, written tab is usually not used at a jam. So what is a person to do? 1. If there is a guitar player at the jam and you can visually recognize the chord changes, you can play backup chords. 2. You can try playing the melody by ear (if the song is played often enough). For whatever reason, songs are usually played three times. OR 3. You might try playing within a pentatonic scale. What is a pentatonic scale? A pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five notes per octave, in contrast to the heptatonic scale, which has seven notes per octave (such as the major scale and minor scale). For our purposes we will use the key of D and the key of G. D Pentatonic Scale: D-E-F#-A-B On the melody and bass string of our dulcimers this equates to the following frets: 0-1-2-4-5 On the middle string of our dulcimers, this equates to the following frets: 0-1-3-4-5 What do these number have to do with playing at a jam? I am glad that you asked. If you don’t know the melody or don’t know the chords, you can play any of the notes within the pentatonic scale for that key and it will usually sound OK. You won’t be playing the melody; however, it will let you participate in the jam. The song itself does not have to be within the pentatonic scale; however, many songs have been written that fall within that category. The following list contains some songs that are pentatonic: A La Claire Fontaine (French Canadian ) Amazing Grace Auld Lang Syne (Scottish) Cotton-eyed Joe Derby Ram, The Git along little dogies (trad cowboy) Go Tell It On the Mountain How Can I Keep From Singing Land of the silver birch (Canadian) Loch Lomond Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen (spiritual) “Old Chinese Song” by Marcel Grandjany (based on Chinese trad. tune) Old gray mare, The Old MacDonald Rain, Rain, Go A Way Ring-A-Round The Rosie Sakura (Cherry Blooms, Japanese) Skye Boat Song Sukiyaki Swing Low, Sweet Chariot The Cherry Tree Carol They Stole My Wife Last Night (Scottish pipe tune) Wha wadna fight for Charlie? Wayfaring Stranger Ye Banks and Braes …. plus numerous other spirituals, Scottish pipe tunes, Japanese and Chinese songs, etc. Give it a try! It will let you participate in a jam and will help you become a better dulcimer player.
  13. How to Become A Better Dulcimer Player - 8 Harmony   What is harmony? According to a dictionary definition it is, for music: Any simultaneous combination of tones. The simultaneous combination of tones, especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear; chordal structure, as distinguished from melody and rhythm. The science of the structure, relations, and practical combination of chords. Say what? For us dulcimer players, it is the combination of melody and/or chord notes that sound good when played together. Have you noticed that when playing at your club or at a jam, very few, people (if any) are playing harmony? I am not speaking about backup chords. It is my belief that in order to be a well rounded dulcimer player, you have to be able to and be willing to play harmony. Playing harmony is more difficult than playing melody. Unless you have a good memory for all the harmony notes and chords in a song, you will have to rely upon the written harmony tab for that particular song. This requires the ability to look at the harmony tab and play the notes with or without looking at your dulcimer fret board. It is easy to get lost. There are few hard and fast rules governing harmony. I believe that harmony played lower than the melody sounds really good. That is not always possible. Harmony can overpower the melody if there are more people playing the harmony than the melody. Or, let us say, that those playing the harmony are playing louder than those playing the melody; or that two people are playing the song; one melody and one harmony. The harmony should be played softer than the melody. Playing a harmony part when there are two or more players present will enrich your musical presentation. Harmony is not an exact science. It all boils down to what sounds good to the ear. I have attached examples of playing harmony for the song “Amazing Grace” A PDF file for the melody and harmony. A PDF file for the harmony only. A MIDI file for the melody and harmony. A MIDI file for the harmony. Amazing Grace - Melody and Harmony.pdf Amazing Grace - Harmony2.pdf Amazing Grace - Melody and Harmony.mid Amazing Grace - Harmony2.mid
  14. An easy to play classical piece. The Four Seasons - Spring.pdf The Four Seasons - Spring.mid
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