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How are you able to play songs without tab in front of you?

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How are you able to play songs without tab in front of you?  When I want to play outside I take sheet music/tablature and a stand and if it is windy the pages flip and i am lost etc.


Is playing from tablature causing just playing the right notes without any awareness of the sound? For example, a person named Dorothy needs to have a letter typed but Dorothy does not have a typewriter. Dorothy knows the content of the letter. She has a friend named Mary who has a typewriter and she asks Mary to type the letter for her. Mary begins typing the letter and she can type the letter without knowing the content of the letter. As Mary types, words in the letter are recognized and maybe Mary goes a little faster on some of the words. After typing the letter, Mary might proof read the letter to make sure all of the words are spelled correctly and the spaces, commas, and other punctuation are correct. Maybe Mary compares the typed letter to the original for accuracy. During the proof reading, the typist learns the content and meaning of the letter. While typing the letter, the typist is just like a machine looking at the letters and words and punctuation and reacting with the correct fingers on the keyboard. So, something to consider is if you know the melody of a song in your head, you can try finding the notes on the melody or middle strings without tablature. You've started to write the letter. Listen for the sound of the song, maybe even hum along. Once you've found the melody of the song, maybe you can start playing chords at times. If your dulcimer is tuned DAD and the melody lands on the melody string 4th fret, the song likely will need one of three chords, a D (432), an F#m (422), or an A (401 or 421 or 444). Find the chord that sounds correct for the song and for you. Learning what the song should sound like has helped me play many songs without tablature.




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What has helped me to learn a song is that if I am unfamiliar with the melody, I try to find a MIDI, WAV, MP3, etc. file and listen to it until it stays in my head. Yes, it is difficult to look at a page of tab and then to your dulcimer and back again. It is easy to get lost. Might I suggest that you read my two articles on how to become a better dulcimer player. They might help. Be patient with yourself. One does not master the dulcimer overnight.

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  • 2 months later...

Sheer memorization, Dave.  I listen to a song 50, 100, 200, or more times, until I can sing/hum or whistle it; on demand.  At that point I sit down and pick out the melody tab for it, and play it regularly for about a week in between other tunes.  By that time it's imbedded in my long term memory along with a couple hundred other tunes.  When I perform I have a Cheat Sheet which has the opening measures of either the tunes in the set I'm going to play, or a general page of maybe a hundred tunes with opening measures (thank Murphy for adjustable lettering in word processors!) printed two columns about 50 lines each.  I have my cheat sheets in a sheet protector that I can clip to a music stand.


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