Friday, October 31, 2014

CTO … Ken & Brad Kolodner in NC Next Weekend!

You may have heard that Ken & Brad Kolodner will be performing a house concert here in central NC on November 9. Perhaps you relegated that bit of information to the back of your mind thinking that November is in the future. Well, my friend, November is here and there's no more time to procrastinate. There are still a few seats available. Reserve your spot today! Don't miss this opportunity to enjoy some fine toe-tappin' music!

Check This Out 

Sun, Nov 9, 2014: Hillsborough, NC
Ken and Brad in a house concert at ThreeSpokes, the home of Doug Joyce and Colleen Zinn. Suggested donation of $20. Show starts at 3:00 p.m. Jam to follow!! Finger foods and iced tea will be provided. Bring your beverage of choice if you would like. Please get your reservations early as seating is limited to 50. For reservations or more information, contact Colleen at or call 919-732-7570 

In the mood for a little road trip and want to make it a weekend?
Here's the rest of the story:

Fri, Nov 7, 2014: Charleston, SC
Ken and Brad join Bart Saylor to play for the Charleston Contra Dance at 8:00 p.m.  Felix Davis Community Center, 4800 Park Place East, North Charleston, SC 29405

Sat, Nov 8, 2014: Charleston, SC
Old-time banjo workshops with Brad Kolodner
Old-time fiddle workshops with Ken Kolodner
Fiddle and banjo workshops will run at the same time
10:00-12:00 - Cost: $35
Location: Hungry Monk Music, 1948 Belgrade Ave., Charleston, SC
To register & learn more, contact Bart Saylor at & 843-270-6234

Sat, Nov 8, 2014: Charleston, SC
Ken and Brad in concert at The Circular Congregational Church, at 150 Meeting St. Charleston, SC. Tickets at $20.00. 7pm-9pmMore info: Bart Saylor at and 843-270-6234

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday's Muse

I love music. For me, music is like morning coffee. It's mood medicine. It's pure magic. A good song is like a good meal - I just want to inhale it and then share a bite with someone else.  ~ Hoda Kotbe

Friday, October 24, 2014

CTO … Chatham J.A.M. offering their next series of classes in Pittsboro

JAM stands for Junior Appalachian Musicians. This posting is not specific to hammered dulcimers, but it IS relevant to the continuation of traditional music into the next generation!

Do you know a budding musician who would enjoy learning to play acoustic instruments that are common to the Appalachian and Piedmont regions of NC? Here's a great opportunity for getting them started out right!

On Thursday, October 30 the Chatham County JAM will be starting a new 6 week session. We are happy to announce that Pittsboro Presbyterian Church will be hosting our new session. Registration and warm up will start at 6:30 with classes starting at 6:45. We offer Fiddle, Banjo, Mandolin, Dulcimer and Guitar lessons – beginner through advanced. Our second hour offers, String Band, Singing, and Dance lessons. Lessons are $5.00 each. For more information visit us at or call Denise at 919-548-3458.

Fall 2014 Schedule in a nutshell
Thursdays, October 30 - December 11, 6:30pm
Pittsboro Presbyterian Church, Pittsboro, NC
$5 per lesson
Register today!

Please do pass this info on to anyone who might be interested.

Here's Chatham JAM's mission (from their website):
Chatham County JAM education program introduces children (from 3rd to 8th grade) to the music of their heritage through small group instruction in instruments common to the Appalachian and Piedmont regions of North Carolina.  Instrument, dance and vocal instruction are augmented by stringband classes providing children opportunities to play and perform in small and large groups. Chatham County JAM strives to make the program accessible to all students by providing free or low cost instrument loans and free or highly subsidized tuition.  Field trips, visiting artists and an introduction to the rich history of music unique to local communities help complete our program offerings.

Follow these links to learn more:
Chatham County JAM Education Program
Chatham J.A.M. Website

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Decorate! Ideas for Every Tune in Your Repertoire

In the past couple of weeks I've been practicing bounced triplets and 5-note tremolos. It's made me think about the many embellishments that are available to hammered dulcimer players. As you might expect, these ornamentations require practice to master. They do feel awkward and difficult at first but it does get better! Because they're challenging, these ideas often get left out of the mix of arrangement possibilities.

I have to admit that my practice goes in fits and starts when it comes to practicing hammer strokes and applying them to interesting techniques in my arrangements. I am currently in a "do it" mode and it's making a difference! I encourage everyone to incorporate … at your particular level … single strokes, double strokes, and combinations of the two ... into your regular practice. Hammer control is important to mastery of the instrument - duh! There's an amazing amount of variety that can be accomplished with two hammers.

What are all those bouncy things hammered dulcimer players play? Different names, different techniques. Here's a primer:

  • Tremolo - a rapid repetition of a single note, alternating hammers, done to sustain a note for a prolonged period of time. It may be executed using two notes (any interval, but usually not a 2nd - see "trill"). A tremolo may also be produced by using one hammer (a strike plus bounces). 
  • Trill - a rapid alternation of two tones a tone apart. A trill is executed like a tremolo. Played for the full time value of the note being trilled, ending on the melody note.
  • Turn - a rapid four-note passage in which the 2nd and 4th notes are the embellished (melody) note, the 1st and 3rd notes are the scale tones immediately above and below (or vice versa, below and above) the melody note. It can be used as a quick twist for ornamentation or to link one note to the next melody note.
  • Mordent - similar to a turn, a rapid 3-note passage which includes the melody note, the note above (or below) and back to the melody note.
  • Triplet - three notes that fit into the time value expected to be taken up by two of the notes. In written music the notes are grouped by a tie line that's marked with the number 3.
  • Grace note - This embellishment has no time value. In written music, it's a tiny note linked to the melody note. It's played quickly, right before the melody note. The melody note then gets its full time value.
  • Roll - In written music a roll is indicated by a slash or two or more through the stem of the note that is to be rolled. The value of the note is cut in half for each slash that is present. Single strokes or bounces may be used.

I don't know about you, but I feel better now, having figured out the difference between all these techniques! Did I get it right? Did I miss anything?

Remember, these are ornaments, not the focus of the tune. Learn the basic melody before embellishing. And here are a few more things to keep in mind:

Rhythm is all important. Be sure to give embellishments the proper amount of time, with appropriate accents. Start slowly. Use a metronome, gradually increasing the speed. Focus on technique first. Be assured that the speed will come.

Use a light touch. There should be no forearm motion and limited movement in the wrist. Aim for control in the fingertips. Listen for a crisp attack with clear separation between the tones. Watch for tension moving up the arms and into the shoulders. Think "burst". Remember to practice from both hands, starting with the left hand AND starting with the right hand.

It's never too early to think about dynamics! Think about phrasing. What shape does each embellishment take? Where do the accents fall? Include this in your practice from the beginning.

Bounced vs Hammered embellishments? Practice both, but keep in mind that bouncing must be under control at all times.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday's Muse

Music to me is like breathing ... I don't get tired of breathing, I don't get tired of music.
~ Ray Charles

Friday, October 17, 2014

CTO … Organizing Sheets of Music

I get this question quite frequently … How do you keep all your music organized?

Ask ten musicians and you'll get ten different answers on this one, but here's a modern way to approach the problem of sheet of music spilling out all over the place. Load it onto your favorite device. You'll have music at your fingertips, organized alphabetically, by set list, by rehearsal list, by any name you want to call it. Searchable. Transposable. The ability to add notes and highlights. More features than you might need.

Check This Out … Look for apps designed for your device. I'm currently trying iGigBook. The iPad is certainly a lot less bulky than a huge 3-ring binder and fits on a music stand!

Let us know what is working for you.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

After the Bliss, the Laundry

Wow, it's been a busy week! It's true … there's no place like home. Returning after a week away at the Sandbridge Dulcimer Retreat is always a sweet thing, but accompanied by definite symptoms of withdrawal. Bonding with 18 other people over a shared interest in a supportive environment ... at the beach, with plenty of good food to eat, and limited responsibilities ... is a pretty awesome experience! Real life is full of laundry, bills, cooking, cleaning. And, of course, I must hold the grand baby :-)

Two full days of teaching, though, did give me reason to stay immersed in the music. You might guess that the soundtrack running through my mind this week has been comprised of the tunes we hammered out last week.

I've been organizing and reviewing music from the week. I've written out specific goals.

Goal #1:  Practice more

Following through on this goal will make all the others easier to accomplish!

My biggest challenge is finding time to practice in an already crowded schedule. It's so easy to fill up excess minutes with mundane tasks. So part of my plan is to schedule regular practice sessions with "practice partners". That way, there's a specific time set aside AND somebody who will hold me accountable. Plus, it's BIG FUN to play music with a friend!

What strategies do YOU use to fit playing music into your life?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday's Muse

“To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?” ~ Michael Jackson

Saturday, October 11, 2014

CTO … 10 years of Sandbridge Dulcimer Workshops

Artwork by Abigail Wilson West
Check This Out … I'm just home from a week of study with my long-time teacher and mentor Ken Kolodner at week three of his 10th Annual Sandbridge Dulcimer Workshops. Just imagine an entire week of incredible instruction, spiced up with informal teaching moments, energetic jamming, sharing, feasting, playing, laughing  … with friends, at the beach. I am one of the three "charter" members. What a decade it's been!

See you next year!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Have you gotten yourself into a JAM lately?

What IS a jam?

From Wikipedia:
"A jam session is a musical event, process, or activity where musicians play (i.e. "jam") by improvising without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements. Jam sessions are often used by musicians to develop new material (music), find suitable arrangements, or simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. Jam sessions may be based upon existing songs or forms, may be loosely based on an agreed chord progression or chart suggested by one participant, or may be wholly improvisational. Jam sessions can range from very loose gatherings of amateurs to evenings where a jam session coordinator acts as a "gatekeeper" to ensure that only appropriate-level performers take the stage, to sophisticated improvised recording sessions by professionals which are intended to be edited and released to the public."

The fact that is missing here? Jams are FUN!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday's Muse

 … It goes like this: the 4th, the 5th, the minor fall, the major lift …  ~ Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

She's ba-a-ack!

It's October 1.

I've been on a blogging break since June 19th … 3 days before the birth of our first grandchild. It's been quite a summer! In addition to the sweet baby girl who is now a part of our routine life, I had the best yield ever in my garden. It's amazing what a little extra sunshine (we felled a few trees last fall) and Mother Nature's well-timed sprinkler system can do. The results? Lots of good eating … and plenty of hours toiling over a hot stove as I "put up" the extra. We had a memorable vacation in August (my first extended backpacking trip) in the Maroon Bells / Snowmass Wilderness area near Aspen, CO. The wildflower display was impressive! and so was I, climbing over four mountain passes in as many days … each at least 12,000 feet in elevation. Whew!

But vacation is over. The summer garden has been put to rest. Students have been scheduled, and most have completed a couple of lessons since Labor Day. I have 5 new students … I mean brand new to the instrument. Three of my regular students gave up their rentals this summer and are now playing their own instruments. That's a new adventure in itself!

I appreciate all who have patiently awaited my return … perhaps feigning satisfaction with the muses of Monday and the random items of interest that I deem worthy of being checked out on Fridays. This has been a rambling missive, but the mid-week posting is back!