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How To Become A Better Dulcimer Player - 20 Embellishments and Other Tips

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How To Become A Better Dulcimer Player - 20

Embellishments and Other Tips


Embellishments should be used sparingly. To many of them will spoil your song. The following thoughts are just that - my thoughts. If they work for you, great. The following suggested thoughts will be applicable to solo play and/or group play. They are not written in stone.

1. Hammer-ons and pull-offs. To be used sparingly throughout solo play. Yes, you can use them in group play; however, they will get lost by the sound of the other players.

2. Dynamics - These are very underused techniques that will add a lot of color to either solo or group play. Do you want your audience to have to “strain’ to hear you? Play a phrase of your song softly. Do you want to emphasize a phrase or measure in your song? Play louder.

3. Note emphasis - To be consistent when playing in 4/4 time, the emphasis is on the 1st. And 3rd note. In ¾ time, the emphasis is on the 1st note. In 6/8 time the emphasis is on the 1st and 4th note.

4. Playing speed - If you are not practicing with a metronome, you should be. Can’t afford one? There are many free digital metronomes available on the Internet for your computer, tablet, or smart phone. As I see it, one of the biggest problems in group play is that when someone speeds up, the rest of the group do the same. A better solution would be to stop the play and start all over. Many players do not listen to the player on their right, left, or where ever and consequently start speeding up.

One possible solution to this problem is when in group play, the person calling the song tells the other players how many measures they are going to use as a lead-in to the song. The other players can then follow along until they are supposed to join in to the play. The caller sets the playing speed.

If you are playing a gig, your strongest player in that group should be the lead-in player and he/she will announce to the other players how many measures they will use to lead-in. This can be done verbally or by the use of raised fingers that all can see. That way, everyone will know when to join in and at what speed. Play a recognizable phrase from the song to tantalize or tease your audience.

5. If you are going to play songs that require the use of a capo, play those songs at the end of your gig. Once everyone has put on their capos and are sure of the tuning, you can finish your session without having to retune your instrument.  

6. Finger picking and flat picking - Both are best suited for solo play. Slow songs such as ballads or slow waltzes, songs that you want to be heard softly are best played with the fingers. Flat picking is done with your pick and will give more volume to your play especially when arpeggiating a chord. Finger picking is much easier than flat picking.

These thoughts are my own and they will work. If something else works for you, go for it?


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