Friday, November 30, 2012

CTO ... Music Theory in a Holiday Mode

Check This Out ... for a chuckle.  MaryLynn shared this gem.  Extra credit if you understand the meaning of the lyrics!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

I love the Thanksgiving holiday. The main event is all about gathering with family and friends and sharing good food ... two of my favorite things! Around our house, the extra long weekend tends to be relaxed, with plenty of time to indulge oneself in projects, games, long walks ... and, of course, playing lots of music.

This year we were on the road for Thanksgiving, but I toted an instrument along, just in case. With 28 folks expected for the "big" dinner celebrating Thanksgiving AND my mother's 72nd birthday there wasn't much time or space for the dulcimer. But in between the ample appetizers and the fantastic feast I did manage to get in a few familiar tunes, including these Thanksgiving classics ... Over the River and Through the Woods, We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing,  and of course, Turkey in the Straw.

So, here come the holidays ... and the tone is about to be amped up, thanks to the associated hype that surrounds us. No matter how you and your loved ones participate in the holiday season, the cultural environment in which we live can get pretty intense this time of year. Set your intention now - while "giving thanks" is still on your mind - to approach it all with an attitude of gratitude.

Between now and the end of the year, start each day by acknowledging one thing for which you are thankful. Think of something different every day. Write it down, if you want. Or say a little prayer. Make up a mantra. Reward yourself with a chocolate kiss. Whatever! Have fun with it.

I'll get you started. Today, I'm thankful for the gift of music. As I practice and prepare for holiday gigs, my intention for my music is to start at the beginning, to play through to the end, and to play with joy and gratitude for the gift of music and the opportunity to share it.

I wish you joy in the coming weeks ... along with a heaping helping of sanity!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday's Muse

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'thank you', that would suffice."
~ Meister Eckhart

Friday, November 23, 2012

CTO ... Free Christmas Music

Thanks to Carol L who found this link to FREE Christmas carol sheet music:

Search by title, first line, composer, or arranger. Listen to the tune in four parts, or just the basic tune.  Find who has recorded the tune and on what cd. Choose sheet music written to include the basic melody plus chords ... all you need to create your own arrangement. Sorry, no guarantee that you'll find every tune in a "dulcimer friendly" key, but that just forces you into the netherlands of your instrument.  Or ... you can always transpose, right?

Check This Out ... while you're digesting that Thanksgiving feast. The day after Thanksgiving may be the biggest shopping day of the year for some, but I'd rather stay home and play music. In my book, it's the official start to the  holiday music season!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ted Yoder Visits the Triangle

I met a new-to-me hammered dulcimer player the other night.  Ted Yoder, of Indiana, performed a house concert in Durham on Sunday evening.  He presented an informal program of original and familiar tunes, including such crowd-pleasers as Chocolate Skies (the title track of his new cd), Bach's Cello Suite, Carol of the Bells, and Eleanor Rigby. Now that's diversity!

On top of that, he accompanied himself on a few vocal pieces.  I'm not talking about striking little chords here and there in between phrases.  He was playing full out arpeggiated chords throughout the entire song!  A member of the audience asked if singing and playing at the same time is difficult.  He said no, that his experience singing with the piano helped. Impressive!  I would have given a different answer to that question.

Ted's background in piano is evident in his varied repertoire and his use of interesting chord progressions.  He plays with the deftness of a drummer ... hand separation, stick control, rhythmic variety ... but denies having previous percussion experience.  I consider Ted to be a member of the "new generation" of hammered dulcimer players.  His percussive style breaks away from the more traditional manner of play.  Yet, with that full wall of sound he has enough control of the dynamic range to allow the melody to stand out.

I'm inspired to incorporate some of this type of play into my own practice ... better hammer control and better execution of complex rhythms seem like good goals.  And I have to admit - I do have damper lust!

Click here for more info:  Ted Yoder's Music

PS  It was great seeing some of my students and dulcimer buddies at the concert, too!  I'm curious ...  Are you ready to "yoderize" some of your arrangements?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday's Muse

"I was obliged to work hard. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed just as well."
~ Johann Sebastian Bach

Friday, November 16, 2012

CTO ... iPad Apps

Thanks to Lynn Hayes who found this great link:

iPad apps for musicians

James Jones, builder of fine custom-made musical instruments since 1978, has published a list of musically relevant apps for the iPad on his blog.  I know many of my students are having fun with music on their iPads.  Tuners, metronomes, digital dulcimers, recording devices, slow-downers, ear training ... it's all out there.

Check This Out ...
Which apps do you find most useful?  Tell us about the great ones and the not-so-great ones.  Any real stinkers?  We want to know!

And for all of you who don't (yet) own an iPad?  Holiday wish list??

Monday, November 12, 2012

How to Practice

You have a nice list of tunes.  You have some good arrangement ideas. You've set goals for yourself.  Now comes practice time.  But what is the best way to practice?

Many of us have heard that old axiom, "Practice makes perfect."  Turns out, that's not exactly true.  But practice does make permanent!  Be sure you're practicing in an effective and efficient manner so that skill development is accentuated and the "perfect" is what becomes permanent.

Here's a great article written by Noa Kogeyama about the art of practice.  I couldn't have said it better myself!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Time to dust off those holiday tunes!

Ready or not, November is here.  It's time to get serious about compiling this year's holiday play list and getting those "once-a-year" tunes back into shape.

The hammered dulcimer is in high demand this time of year, and for good reason.  The sweet sound of the dulcimer just seems to suit the soundtrack of the season.  Whether you're playing for your own family or church, providing a program at the local nursing home or civics club, or creating ambiance at a private holiday party, you'll want to be ready to say 'yes' when the opportunity arises.

  • Start by dusting off your favorites from years past.
  • Choose one or two new tunes to learn and/or arrange this year, always building your repertoire.
  • Mix in some tunes that aren't necessarily holiday tunes. Possible candidates:  classical pieces, O'Carolan tunes, hymns, celtic beauties that aren't commonly recognized
  • Write out your play list in an order that pleases you, taking into account such things as tempo, key, and mood changes.
  • Practice!
  • Play for somebody ... your spouse, your neighbor, your church family ... your cat!

At the end of the season, record yourself.  It'll help you remember your good ideas and might give you a head start next November!