Friday, March 29, 2013

The view from where I sit ...

This is what I see from my perch in the music room when I look up and out the window ...
The camellias remind me that spring has indeed arrived, despite recent unseasonably cold temperatures. Those lovely blooms help me to remember to BREATHE during intense practice sessions.

CTO ... Don't You Love These Old Cartoons?

They just don't make 'em like they used to!

Check This Out ... I have to admit, I saw it on FaceBook - The Blue Danube, Warner Bros - style. Gremlins in the music notation software. Now I know where those "mistakes" come from!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What's Your Angle?

People who know me might be surprised to see the angle at which I'm practicing this week.

Nobody told me how to set up my dulcimer when I started playing back in 1995. A Goldilocks approach seemed to make sense ... not too steep, not too flat ... just right! Then I began to experience neck and shoulder pain. I met Tina Gugeler at the Swannanoa Gathering in 1998. She was playing at an extremely steep angle. She suggested I give it a try. It didn't adversely affect my playing and it helped relax the tight muscles, so I continued in that style for many years.

The extreme angle was a topic of conversation. Some of you may remember the SG year that Wes Chappell, of No Strings Attached, grabbed a handful of Skittles (or was it cherry pits) and turned my strings and sound board into a game board! No damage done.

Fast forward to 2008. I met Dan Landrum, also at the Swannanoa Gathering. He was my teacher there for three years. He convinced me to try a more flat angle. It felt weird at first, but I continued to experiment back and forth over the years. Now I prefer a more moderate to flat angle, and as a result of all that mixing it up I find that I have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the position of the instrument.

For some pictured examples of extreme angles (including pics of Tina Gugeler and Dan Landrum) and more on the subject, read this blog post by Steve Eulberg:   Angle of Attack?

There's no right or wrong way. It's personal preference. I agree with Steve ... experiment!  Try different positions in different situations. Find out what works best for you. Let us know what you discover!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday's Muse

"I would practice while listening to records or learn from musicians who were better than I was." ~ Rick Springfield

Friday, March 22, 2013

CTO ... Get Organized with this Special Offer from ArtistGeek: NEW Evernote Guide

Just in time for that spring cleaning I was talking about the other day, ArtistGeek offers a solution to getting organized! Evernote is a free online service that will keep your random notes backed up and easy to find from anywhere. ArtistGeek's guide to Evernote is geared toward running and marketing the artist's business. Her motto:  "Less Time at the Computer = More Time in Your Studio"

Check This Out ... Read more about the guidebook, Successful Artists Use Evernote , to determine if it could be helpful to you in your music business. Special offer in place through the month of April. I ordered my copy today!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is Your Music a Mess?

Remember old 'nomes?

Here we are, the first day of spring, and thoughts turn to ....
... spring cleaning?

I've been straightening up and dusting the music room, trying to de-clutter as I go. I think I'm finally ready to give up that old mechanical metronome! I've brought in a couple of baskets to contain small frequently used items, such as the digital metronome, tuners, tuning wrenches, etc, and larger items such as headphones and recording devices. The thing that always slows me down is the mess of sheet music ... and I'm talking multiple piles. What to do with it all?

It's not that I don't try to keep it all organized. At my house, sheets of music notation are organized in a number of different places:

Multiple, thick, three-ring binders full of pages of music slipped into plastic sheet protectors and arranged (mostly) in alphabetical order. Each contains a particular category of music:
  • my arrangements
  • tunes I've gotten from my teacher, Ken Kolodner
  • tunes / arrangements I play with my music partner, Betsy
  • special collections, such as Christmas tunes, or Hymnody of Earth, by Malcolm Dalglish
Plastic containers and expanding files that mimic file drawers
  • music printed out for workshops that I teach
  • music that I commonly give to private students
  • music that I've acquired from other teachers' workshops
Bookcases for actual books full of tunes

Baskets for holding (hiding) loose piles of mostly uncategorized music in no particular order

My dining room table for stuff I'm currently using with my students or in my own practice

My computer - the neatest and easiest to search option!
  • music notation software containing all my arrangements, written out
  • tunes and arrangements scanned into the computer for reference
It's a common problem. My friends and students ask me, "What's the best way to store sheets of music?" There must be as many answers to that question as there are musicians shuffling all that paper. What is your solution to this problem? One master file drawer? Multiple systems like mine? Any words of wisdom out there?

One thing's for sure:
You must find a system that works for YOU.

Then comes the tricky part:
You must USE it!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday's Muse

Oh, the music in the air!
An' the joy that's ivrywhere -
Shure, the whole blue vault of heaven

is wan grand triumphal arch,
An' the earth below is gay
Wid its tender green th'-day,
Fur the whole world is Irish

on the Seventeenth o' March!
~Thomas Augustin Daly

Friday, March 15, 2013

CTO ... Bob Bedard Makes Dulcimer Hammers

Bob Bedard makes hammers that are aesthetically beautiful as well as beautifully functional. Choosing hammers is a very personal thing, but many players do declare that Bedard hammers are their favorites, citing weight and balance as critical features.

Ever wonder how those hammers are made? Dan Landrum of Dulcimer Players News visited Bob Bedard in his workshop back in 2008. Dan talked to Bob about making hammers while Bob demonstrated his handiwork. It was captured on video.

Check This Out ... The video is posted on YouTube. Watch how it's done!  Making Dulcimer Hammers with Bob Bedard 

Bob Bedard suffered a mild heart attack on Sunday, March 10. A heart catheterization was performed with no stent. Docs put him on heart meds and sent him home to "take it easy." He warns that orders in the near future will be on the "slow track" with no guarantee as to delivery date. In the meantime, you can still find Bob Bedard hammers wherever fine dulcimer accessories are sold.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mark up your Music for Efficient Practice

Don't you hate it when you spend a significant amount of time on a piece of music but when you come back to it in a day or two you've forgotten how you played it? If you're reading from a sheet of music don't be afraid to mark up the page in a way that is helpful to you.

There are so many decisions to be made as we learn a new tune and lots of interesting things to notice. Once you've spent time working it all out, you really don't want to do it again the next time you practice. But how to remember it all? Develop your own personal method of short-hand ... whatever it takes to help you remember all that stuff, including such things as:

  • preferred hammer patterns
  • valley or bridge crossings
  • duplicate note placement
  • repeated phrases
  • recognizable scale and arpeggio patterns
  • chord progressions and bass lines
  • accented notes and specific phrasing ideas
  • tricky spots
  • personal reminders, such as, "don't rush" or "lighten up on the drone"

You will likely think of other things you'd like to write down. Feel free to add anything. This is for you and for your practice. Don't worry if it's "correct" or that it seems "too simple" to have to write out. There is no such thing. If it makes sense and is helpful to you, do it!

Maybe this seems like a great idea, but you don't want to mess up your music. That's OK. Make a copy or two, then mark away, keeping books and original sheets of music nice and clean. Keep the working copies in a practice folder. Eventually, you won't need to refer to the notes anymore. But if you do, you've got it!

Here's a snippet from a piece of music that I've been working on. Notice the cryptic marks:

Here's what it all means:
  • Preferred hammer pattern  LLRLRLLRLRL ...
  • Where notes will be played on the instrument: /E=right treble bridge; B/=left treble bridge; no mark(or circled)=bass bridge (Note: I'm showing this system two ways: marking actual notes on the staff as well as writing names of the notes with bridge markings below the music.) Some people like to specify the octave in which to find the note ... low, mid, high. Typically, if I'm crossing the bridge or valley in a simple run of notes I just make a slash across the staff at the point at which I'm going to cross.
  • Chord names
  • This bit comes at the end of a sequence. I've circled where the sequence ends to bring my attention to it.
  • This is a phrase that repeats. I've put brackets around it and named it repeating phrase #2.
How many of you routinely mark up your music? Tell us some of your most common markings. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday's Muse

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.”  ~ Maya Angelou

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Day at the Dulcimer with Dan Duggan

Waiting for Sophie all morning. Buckeye Rag after lunch. By the end of the day we were "swingin' like Tarzan!" Concert with Dan and wife Peggy Lynn this evening. Thanks Carol and Jerry for putting it all together. I think we have our work cut out for us!

Martha, Lee, Wendy, Rob
Diane, Mark, Janet, Dan, Bob, Phill, Angie, Meg, Carol, Carol
Sue, Joan, Susan, Viola, Mary Lynn

Thursday, March 7, 2013

CTO ... Dan Duggan Workshop - Change of Venue!!

The workshop has been moved because of unforeseen needs at Millbrook Baptist Church.

A big 'thank you' to North Ridge Church, who has generously agreed to host the workshop.

North Ridge Church
7601 Fall of the Neuse Road
Raleigh, NC 27615
Time of the workshop remains the same: 10am-4pm

Concert venue remains the same.

Millbrook Baptist Church
1519 E. Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27609

All other details remain the same. See "Schedule of Events" page for all info.

Check This Out ....
Last I heard, there were 17 people signed up for the workshop! I'll see you there!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Today's Top 20 Favorite Jam Tunes

These are my favorite jam tunes, in alphabetical order, in this moment:
  1. Bill Cheatham
  2. Coleman's March
  3. The Gale
  4. Golden Slippers
  5. Hangman's Reel
  6. Lady of the Lake
  7. Leather Britches
  8. Liberty
  9. MacDonald's Reel
  10. Midnight on the Water
  11. Missouri
  12. Oklahoma Rooster
  13. Over the Waterfall
  14. Rock the Cradle, Joe
  15. Sandy Boys
  16. Shenandoah Falls
  17. St. Anne's Reel
  18. Waynesboro
  19. Whiskey Before Breakfast
  20. Willafjord
I admit, some of these are not the most common tunes, but in the right circles there's enough critical mass to make it fun!

Here's a link to Randy Marchany's Top 40.

What do you think? Additions? Corrections? Comments?
What's on your "favorites" list?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday's Muse

"Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment."
                                                                                          ~ Oprah Winfrey