Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Marya Katz to offer her annual MLK Day hammered dulcimer workshop in Winston Salem

Now here's something to look forward to in the bleak mid-winter ...

Marya Katz will be teaching her annual hd workshop in Winston Salem on the Martin Luther King birthday holiday.

Monday, January 18, 2016
Registration and setup: 8:30am
Workshop: 9:00am - 3:30pm
Location:  College Park Baptist Ch, 1701 Polo Rd, Winston Salem
Fee: $60, includes lunch and all materials

The Plan ... a kind of "Master Class" focusing on:
- Dynamics, specifically volume and tempo control
- and Chords, including the use of chord substitutions
- resulting in the Creation of interesting, expressive arrangements

Tunes used will be a couple of Moravian hymns and a simple German round.

Marya hopes to include a flute or recorder in the arrangements. If you play flute or recorder and would be willing to play that part please contact Marya so she can send music to practice.

No need to pre-pay for the workshop, but please do RSVP to Marya Katz and Terry Lefler so that the proper amount of lunch and materials may be prepared.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday's Muse

I wanted an electric train for Christmas but I got the saxophone instead. ~ Clarence Clemons

You can't always get what you want;
You can't always get what you want;
You can't always get what you want;
But if you try sometimes, you just might find,
You get what you need.  ~ The Rolling Stones

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday's Muse

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.  ~ Albert Einstein

Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday's Muse

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.  ~ C.S. Lewis

Monday, December 7, 2015

Monday's Muse

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

In search of ...

I have been way long gone touring India, with a side trip to Kathmandu, Nepal. We spent three incredible weeks in the land of kings, and temples, and 330 million deities. (Yes, indeed, as claimed by the Hindu scriptures!)

I had two musically related items on my list of things to see while in India. The first, of course, was a santoor, ancient relative to our modern day hammered dulcimer. Second, just for fun, I decided to seek out one of those many deities ... Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of music. Now there's a goddess that speaks my language!

It turns out that Saraswati was easy to find. She is actually the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, and arts, as well as music. Her likeness is found wherever teachers and those seeking wisdom and knowledge gather, e.g. in schools and universities.

The santoor, on the other hand, proved to be a bit more elusive. Like our hammered dulcimer, the santoor is a trapezoid-shaped musical instrument. It is native to Jammu and Kashmir, and commonly used in the playing of classical Indian music. Perhaps commonly is an overly confident phrase.

Asking the average person in India where one might find a santoor elicited a similar response to to asking the average American where one might find a hammered dulcimer. “A what?” We had the opportunity to hear some traditional music, but the most common musical ensemble we witnessed was harmonium with tabla and the occasional set of finger cymbals.

We heard temple bells, and various drums. We even saw an impromptu jam session at the Pushkar Camel Fair. These guys were having fun! But, alas, no santoor.

I had high hopes of finding a santoor player in the holy city of Varanasi, a place known for its classical music schools and performers. I have no doubt I would have been successful if I had had more time. As it was, I never did actually see a santoor. But above the din of Dev Dewali, Festival of Lights, we detected the unmistakable sound of the santoor coming through the sound system of one of the many stages set up along the banks of the Ganges River. We searched, but in the mass of humanity and festival d├ęcor we never could find the musician. That's India!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday's Muse

May all that has been reduced to noise in you become music again.  ~ Anonymous

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fr. Michael Shields ... Resolutions and Learnings for Life from the Hammer Dulcimer

Originally posted to this blog on November 26, 2014Worth sharing again!

Thank you for your words of wisdom, Fr. Mike.

Applied Theology of the Hammer Dulcimer
Resolutions & Learnings for Life from the Hammer Dulcimer
by Fr. Mike
  • You can with great patience actually tune to the beautiful green light. The temptation is to settle too easy for the slide to the right of left into the red. The idea of living with less compromises and seeking the center where it all vibrates so beautifully can be a real goal. Not perfection just less compromises.
  • In practicing it is not important how many times you repeat as much as how many times you repeat it correctly. It is not how many mistakes you make but the willingness to correct them that is important. Not perfection just a willingness to change.
  • Each note is there for a reason. Alone they might at times seem dissonant or unnecessary but placed in the whole movement of the song and played together they are necessary. The willingness to find meaning in the dissonant times and see them played out in the whole of life patterns softens them and gives them meaning.
  • Look for patterns. Life has a way of repeating itself in surprising ways. It may look to you upside down but it is the same notes just played differently.
  • Look for the chords. If you can see the chords you will be more confident in your hammering. The key is why that note is found in the patterns of chords. Confidence in making good choices is found in following good patterns.
  • Play the basic song first in a simple pattern and know that pattern. Often we make things so complicated that we forget how beautiful one well played note is following another. Enjoy the simplicity of a tune and of life.
  • Play with expression which means the space between the notes actually is the music. Let silence and pauses enrich the song and your life.
  • See the pattern in the music. There are questions and there are answers. Let the questions come and seek the answers that follow. Much of life is a question being answered over time.
  • The hammer dulcimer is in itself a large, cumbersome, and difficult to keep in tune instrument. Those who play know the trouble it brings from carrying to setting up to tuning and tuning again and again. The struggle is worth the sweet sound. Sacrifice and struggle - at the time difficult - makes for deeper faith, more humility, great patience and a greater compassion for others who struggle. So it is with all hammer dulcimer players.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday's Muse

Talking about our problems is our biggest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.
 ~ Rita Schiano

Friday, November 20, 2015

CTO ... Venn diagram charts what makes a good person / good musician

Good people. Good musicians. In the hammer dulcimer world, the two do seem to go together!

Check This Out ... This Venn diagram has been shared / viewed countless times on the web. Trapezoids may as well get in on the action! Check it out, including responses to the original on .

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Music Stands

If you read music - or aspire to do so - you need to have a decent music stand. Of course, you could always set up your instrument facing a wall, then tape your music to it! But if you're looking for something a little more substantial ...

Small stands (aka lyre) may be attached to the instrument itself:

Music stand with acrylic desk has nice support
for music and a ledge for pencil or hammers.
This stand comes apart for easy storage / transport,
but needs a little help to support the music.

An alligator clip attached to rigid, plastic-coated wire holds the music right in front of your face. One end is coiled to fit onto the shaft of your tuning wrench, which in turn is fitted onto one of the tuning pegs. It's an extremely portable music holder. Fits in the pocket of a dulcimer case. Easy DIY project.

These stands found at 

Adjustable, collapsable metal music stands, are easy to transport and very affordable. These folding stands range from inexpensive, lightweight models (fine for a few sheets of paper) to stronger, heavy-duty folding models (better for books).

If you have music stored in digital form, the more sturdy, solid metal versions work great holding magnetic device cases.
Perhaps you'd like a more permanent, piece of furniture to beautify the music room?

Do you have your music stored in a digital app? Adjustable iPad tripod stands are available, with a tilting and rotating bracket. Digital music stands with automated page turning also exist. The digital pages can be turned by pressing a foot pedal!

PS ... I'm not endorsing any of these products. Just putting forth examples of what's out there. Don't see the music stand that you love here? Tell us all about it!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday's Muse

Music is the universal language of mankind. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, November 13, 2015

CTO ... Leap, Circle, and Yearn

What is it about certain tunes that elicit an emotional response no matter how many times we hear them?

Check This Out ... Composer Rob Kapilow developed a program called "What Makes It Great," which explains why musical pieces effect the responses they do. In this article, Jeffrey Brown, of PBS's Newshour, interviews Kapilow regarding the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Why does this piece tug at our heartstrings?

Follow the link to check out Angie Aker's Upworthy article.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Traveling with the Hammered Dulcimer

What's a dulcimer player to do when her daughter gets married and moves to New Zealand? Guest blogger, Bess Crider, shares her story of transporting an instrument to the "land down under".

Getting my Dulcimer to the Other Side of the World
by Bess Crider

Dan Landrum inspired me to try and take a hammered dulcimer on an international flight when he described his trip to Africa with a dulcimer in tow on his Dulcimer Geek Podcast. He indicated that there are new rules on US flights that allow musical instruments if they can fit in the overhead bins or the steward's closet. This website had a lot of information that gave me confidence: 

So, with my sweet Jim Trantham 15/15, which had a custom made plywood case, I decided to take the plunge and carry a dulcimer to New Zealand to leave at my daughter's house for all the anticipated extended visits. The rules allow odd sizes, and weight is not an issue with instruments (not true on Air New Zealand, but we'll get to that later). I jury-rigged a way to strap a scissor stand on the outside of the case and attached some castors on the bottom. 30 lbs! Ugh for the long walk down the concourse, but do-able.  

Not a single eyebrow was raised on any of the Delta flights. The dulcimer easily fit into the overhead luggage bin on one flight, and the steward's closet on the other. 

In the airport, it was quite a slog to carry the dulcimer between connections, even with the casters on the bottom of the case. Once I got to LA, however, I was able to get a luggage trolley. It was nice to have something to do between the long layovers, by the way.

Air New Zealand planes could not accommodate the instrument in their luggage bins, but allowed me to "gate check" the instrument.  This meant it would be hand carried onto the plane and not have to go on the conveyor belt. This happened in both LA and Auckland, where they actually have a special place for oversized luggage. I had to wait in line in Auckland, as evidently there are lots and lots of oversized pieces from all the sporting activities there (golf bags, surf boards, bikes, and many strollers and car seats). Because NZ has different rules for luggage allowances, I had to get a waiver for the extra weight, but since it had been allowed as carry on from the US, I was not charged for excess baggage or weight.  

The final leg of my journey included both car and boat to get out to the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. The instrument made it just fine, and I will soon forget how heavy it was between connections. 

I am glad to have the heavy wooden case here in NZ, since I am storing it under a bed when I leave. I think a soft case would have worked fine, however, as it was hand carried as fragile luggage. A soft case certainly would have been lighter! Most important to the successful trip, though, was the smaller sized instrument, which fit into the overhead luggage bins. 

Thank you, Bess Crider, for contributing this interesting piece to the Trapezoid blog! ~ Sue

Monday, November 9, 2015

Monday's Muse

My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition. ~ Indira Gandhi

Friday, November 6, 2015

CTO ... How a Fiddle Tune Can Change the World

Classical violinist catches the fiddle bug!
No longer worries about being fired for tapping his foot!

Check This Out ...   In an environment of beauty and generosity, Jamie Laval changes the world with his fiddle playing. Witness the passion he has for Celtic music on this TED talk.

Jamie Laval is considered to be one of the top performers of Celtic music on the international music scene today. He currently resides in Asheville, NC. Check out his performance schedule. Coming to a venue near you, soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

She taps her toe ... hits 10,000 steps on her pedometer!

In the world of classical music, foot-tapping is officially frowned upon. But in the world of traditional music, foot tapping seems to be an integral part of the music itself. Why do we tap our foot?

When playing music, rhythm is everything. For some players, toe tapping actually helps them internalize the beat, feel the groove, and maintain the tempo. Tapping might be seen as an outward expression of one's inner awareness of the pulse of the music. Foot tapping can help us play well with others!

Foot tapping reflects dance beats. Think about it. Many of the tunes we play are dance tunes - jigs, reels, hornpipes. Tapping is sort of like dancing to your own music. Whether toe tapping or swaying to the music, allowing your body to move in response to the music is a good way to feel the pulse. It's fun!

Plus, it's good exercise. My pedometer gives me credit for steps when I tap my foot!

How 'bout it? Are you a toe tapper?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Monday's Muse

 “I'm frightened all the time. But I never let it stop me. Never!” ~ Georgia O'Keeffe

Friday, October 30, 2015

CTO ... What time is it??

Jack-o-lantern shenanigans, Sandbridge 2011

Happy Halloween!

The end of daylight savings time is near. Don't forget to FALL BACK Sunday morning.

Check This Out ... Watch this hilarious daylight savings time "movie trailer". You aren't afraid of the dark, are you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

That's the question asked of participants in a collaborative project between Facebook Analog Research Lab and Project M.

It's fun to read all the responses, but here are a few of that caught my eye:

  • Travel around the world
  • Explore the world of possibilities
  • Be creative
  • Become an artist
  • Go back to school to become a music teacher
  • Trust my talent
  • Believe in myself 
  • Amaze myself
  • Let loose
  • Go for it
  • Sing out loud
  • Fail harder
  • Feel more, think less
  • Eat all the chocolate chip cookies
So, how about you? What would you do if you weren't afraid? Start by leaving a comment here!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday's Muse

Listen to them - the children of the night. What music they make! ~ Bram Stoker

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Music is Process AND Product

No product can come into being without the processes that create it. Certainly, in music the process becomes the product. One cannot exist without the other. Effective instruction in music maintains a balanced representation of both product and process.

I, for one, was glad to get some good chord work done at my annual week-long group-lesson with my teacher, Ken Kolodner (Sandbridge Dulcimer Retreats). We spent a significant amount of time working on chords ... reviewing the map of the dulcimer and working through chord progressions, both listening for chord changes in real tunes AND intellectually analyzing where more interesting chord substitutions come from. Definitely my working edge.

Now, like most people, I love learning interesting new tunes and getting creative arranging ideas from players I admire, including my teacher. Copying the ideas of someone else is a good way to improve ones own playing. But sometimes you have to do the hard work that leads to true understanding of the music and your instrument. How does one approach the deep work?

Well, it's always good to go back to basics. Proficiency in playing scales and arpeggios is essential to mastery of the instrument. I've been pushing my students to pay attention to these things, giving them exercises that get them playing lots of different patterns all over the instrument. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. These exercises will make them apparent!

So, we work through the processes in a thorough and thoughtful way. We come to understand our instrument and the structure of music. We are enlightened and free to create our own music. It takes only about 10,000 hours!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday's Muse

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; 
teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. ~ Maimonides

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thursday, October 15, 2015

5 things I'm grateful for after my week at Sandbridge

Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot. ~ Hausa Proverb

Just returned from the 11th annual Sandbridge Dulcimer Retreat put on by Ken Kolodner. Feeling inspired and strong at the instrument. I have attended every year! These things ... for which I am most grateful ... keep me coming back:

  1. Good food to sustain us - From the Italian-made coffee machine that kept the caffeine flowing day and night to the well-stocked 'fridge and cabinets to the crabs prepared every which way to the daily dose of chocolate chip cookies to the .... well ... the list just goes on and on! Lori Theriault provided gustatory delights that kept our tummies happy. What a treat to eat delicious food that was planned, acquired, and prepared by someone else! In her life outside of Sandbridge, she's a potter in Asheville. Find her at Crazy Green Studios.
  2. Time to devote to this passion - There's always some frantic time before Sandbridge spent getting work and chores done up ahead of time in order to clear the week. Then the week after is spent catching up! I'm thankful to my family for putting up with my absence as I pursue my dulcimer passion.
  3. An unparalleled instructor - Ken Kolodner has been my main dulcimer teacher and mentor for the past 17 years. (How can that be??) He plays beautifully and knows how to convey what he's doing in the classroom. The bottom line, I want to play like Ken, so I study with him. 
  4. Plenty to work on in the coming year - Wow! As always, so much material presented in one week! It will take awhile to process. I'm sure I will not complete the list in one year, but it sure will be fun trying. Ken always chooses interesting and fun repertoire in which to practice skills, techniques, and theory. Every year we come back for more ... we just keep raising the bar.
  5. Fun and supportive community of friends - Sandbridge is like a family reunion, except everyone is on the same page, enjoying a shared passion for music! Aren't we the lucky ones?
Several trapezoids of the triangle have attended the Sandbridge retreat over the years. Perhaps you're ready for one of Ken's intensive week-long workshops, or would like to work up to it. Three weeks offered in the fall, and ... NEW in 2016 ... one week in April! Read more about Ken Kolodner's Sandbridge Dulcimer Workshops.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Monday's Muse

A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything. ~ Irish Proverb

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday's Muse

words make you think a thought
music makes you feel a feeling
a song makes you feel a thought  ~ E. Y. Harburg

Friday, October 2, 2015

CTO ... Go ahead! Sing 'Happy Birthday' with abandon!

This news is a bit old, but in case you missed it ...

Check This Out ... Last week, on September 22, federal judge George H. King ruled that Warner / Chappell Music does not own the rights to the lyrics of the "Happy Birthday" song  ... one of the most well-known and oft-sung songs of all time. The ruling confirmed that the song is now in the public domain and the music company can no longer charge for public performances.

It was determined that composers of the tune, sisters Mildred and Patty Hill, gave away the rights to the original melody, "Good Morning to All", and to arrangements based on the melody ... but never any rights to the lyrics. There's more to the story. Check it out here: Happy Birthday Song

Oh, boy!
Just in time for my birthday.
No need to hold back.
Please sing with gusto!

Uh one ... and uh two .... and uh three ...
Happy Birthday to you ...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It's not the heat ... it's the humidity!

looking through condensation & rain

Well, sometimes it is the heat. But when a hammered dulcimer goes significantly out of tune, chances are, a change in humidity is the reason.

Anybody else on the east coast feeling a bit damp? and decidedly out of tune?

It has been raining here for a week, with no sign of letting up in the next few days. Don't get me wrong. It has been a lovely soaking rain ... just what my garden and the local water table need. It feels sort of like a rain forest ... hot and humid.

Actually, temperatures have not been that extreme, but the air conditioning has been running hard to keep the 100% humidity under control. Using my hammered dulcimer as an indicator, I would say the AC is falling behind.

You might have guessed. The dulcimer is uncomfortably out of tune, i.e. I must tune before I play. Don't you hate when that happens!

So what IS happening?

As you know, we have a lot of strings. Those strings stretched across the sound board create a lot of tension. Changes in humidity and temperature effect the tension, and in turn, effect tuning. A good dulcimer will hold its pitch fairly reliably ... until something causes it to go sharp or flat. Extreme temperatures (hot or cold) or sudden changes in temperature (more than 10 degrees) will certainly cause expansion and contraction of the wood with expected results, but temperature is typically less bothersome to our instruments than humidity.

How does humidity effect tuning? As Rouse the Spouse would say, "It's all physics."

Many dulcimers are built from solid wood. Real wood naturally absorbs and expels moisture:

  • swelling as it becomes more wet. The strings tighten. The pitch goes sharp.
  • contracting as it dries out. The strings become more slack. The pitch goes flat.

I am careful to keep my dulcimer safe from temperature extremes. I never leave it in the car for extended periods of time. I don't set it up it in direct sunlight. The temperature inside our house is maintained within a predictable range. Yet, twice a year I witness big seasonal adjustments in my dulcimer:

  • in the spring, the relative humidity goes up, the instrument goes SHARP!
  • in the fall, the relative humidity goes down, the instrument goes FLAT!
While it is true that we have officially entered the autumn season -- in central North Carolina we have not dried out yet. Once the cool, dry air of the late fall / winter season settles in and our heating systems are up and running (drying the air even more) we will be cranking those tuning pegs again!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015

CTO ... Can't hold a beat?

There's an app for that!

Check This Out ... An app called Steve Reich's Clapping Music might be able to help. It's a game, rumored to be difficult and addictive. Dare we try it? Read about it here: 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Top 10 Things to Pack for Sandbridge

Forgive me ... it's Sandbridge Season!

That's right. Each fall, Ken Kolodner offers a series of intensive hammered dulcimer workshops at the beach in Sandbridge, VA. The 11th annual Sandbridge Dulcimer Retreat is currently underway. From his website:

"This is an intensive hammered dulcimer workshop in a wonderfully relaxing and supportive environment. Workshop topics and daily schedule will be determined through discussions of participants with Ken prior to the workshop. Likely topics include arranging, accompaniment, application of chord theory, improvisation and much more. " 

This fall, there are three weeks of instruction scheduled. Each week is geared to students of a specific skill / experience level. Several trapezoids from the triangle area will be attending one of the three weeks. Week #1 is in progress NOW! I'll be heading that way for Week #3.

Here's the list of must haves at Sandbridge. Everything else is superfluous!

  1. Dulcimer
  2. Dulcimer stand
  3. Hammers
  4. Tuner & tuning wrench
  5. Personal stool / chair
  6. Music stand
  7. Recording Device
  8. An appetite for crab
  9. A thirst for knowledge
  10. An attitude for fun

PS ... New for 2016 ... Sandbridge in the Spring! April 2 - 9

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday's Muse

You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has tried.  ~ Spirit Science

Friday, September 18, 2015

CTO ... Rise Again

Hey! All you folks who love to sing ... Check This Out ... Annie Patterson and Peter Blood, the creators of Rise Up Singing, are still at it, empowering people to change the world while singing together. They have recently released their new book, Rise Again, lyrics and chords for 1200 songs. The format is the same as Rise Up Singing, but different songs.

Here's their official website: 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday's Muse

The arts and humanities aren't just there to be consumed when we have a free moment. We need them like medicine. They help us live. ~ President Barack Obama

Friday, September 11, 2015

CTO ... A Way to Think of Rhythms

Check This Out ... Words to match notated rhythms. Does it work for you?

Here's the link: Rhythm Demo

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hello, Students!

School is in session.
The garden is looking tired.
Labor Day has come and gone.
The music room is open once again!

It's been fun seeing students after a three month hiatus.

So much news! Travel experiences, family reunions, retirement ... new babies, new instruments, new homes. True confessions of some practice, some play, some disappointments ... some accomplishments, some rest, some relaxation. Then we settle in to some music.

This year I plan to include more of what I'm calling "essential exercises" into lesson time. I'm pushing everybody to go back to basics. Hey, I know it's good for me. I'm sure it'll be good for you!

We're getting warmed up on major scales. Like everything we do on this instrument, we must be able to play scales from left and right hands. Do you know the 4-4 pattern? the 5-3 pattern? the 6-2 pattern? Can you combine those patterns to play two-octave scales ... four different ways?! If not, better come see me. But not today ... I'm pooped!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mondays Muse

No great achievement is possible without persistent work.  ~ Bertrand Russell

Friday, September 4, 2015

CTO ... #PlayMusicOnThePorchDay

Just a little follow up to National Play Music on the Porch Day ...

Check This Out ... a "good news" read! Musicians from all over the world participated. Photos and videos lit up Instagram. Why wait for a special day? Get out and play!!

Music on the Porch Day jams up Instagram

Playing on the "porch" outside room #6 at the Sunset Motel, Brevard, NC
on National Play Music on the Porch Day

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday's Muse

Never practice more than three or four hours a day. No one can concentrate longer than that, and you must spend the rest of your time learning about life and love and art and all the other wonderful things in the world. If a young person sits in the practice room all day, what can he possibly have to express in his music?  ~ Arthur Rubinstein

Friday, August 28, 2015

CTO ... Play Music on the Porch Day

Doesn't matter where you are ... Saturday, August 29, 8am - 10pm ... get out and play!

Check This Out ... "Play Music on the Porch Day" invites people to revive the tradition of gathering, singing, and playing music outside with friends and family. Music is meant to be shared! Share your talent, share your passion, share the experience. Have fun, Everybody!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday's Muse

Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless.  ~ Mary Kay Ash

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday's Muse

Perfect is the enemy of good. ~ aphorism attributed to Voltaire

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday's Muse

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks and then starting on the first one. ~ Mark Twain

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday's Muse

The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.  ~Duke Ellington

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday's Muse

It is proportion that beautifies everything. The whole universe consists of it, and music is measured by it.  ~ Orlando Gibbons

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday's Muse

Perfect song on the radio. Sing along 'cuz it's one we know.
It's a smile. It's a kiss. It's a sip of wine.
It's summertime ... sweet summertime.  ~ Kenny Chesney

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday's Muse

Go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.  ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday's Muse

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me   ~ Woody Guthrie

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday's Muse

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.
~ Leonard Bernstein

Monday, June 22, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

CTO ... Ruth Smith Releases New Tune Book

Fans of Ruth Smith, rejoice!

Check This Out ... Ruth Smith, author of "From Heart to Hands", has recently released her second book, "Touch of Grace", an ambitious collection of Christmas music and hymns arranged for the hammered dulcimer. Mine came in the mail this week!

  • 24 hymns and Christmas tunes
  • 3 versions of each tune: basic melody & chords, beginning arrangement, Ruth's full arrangement
  • 1 big book full of tunes you want to play!

Plus, tips on learning new music and an illustrated concise description of the layout of the dulcimer and vintage photos of Ruth and Steve in their early days of performing.

More info, including how to order, can be found by clicking the links above. Check it out !!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer's in Session

I was in the garden early this morning trying to beat the heat, following my nose from one chore to another ... pick the berries, sucker the tomatoes, mulch the herb bed, water everything. My brain kept interrupting. What time is it? I better get back in the house. How long before my student arrives?

How long before my student arrives? How about 12 weeks?!

That's right, I'm taking the summer off. I'm making time to enjoy the garden, be with family and friends, soak in the hot and humid summer air, watch the grand-baby take her first steps, complete some projects ... begin a few others, create music in one form or another, create space to allow my brain to idle. Now, that's a to-do list!

One of the first things I intend to do is de-clutter physical space. Sheets of music, piles of books,  ideas and notes jotted down on random pieces of paper, do-dads and what-nots ... the music room (and other living space) has become a bit untidy. Generating some order is sure to get the creative juices flowing.

Next, I will be doing some mindless activities in order to free up space in the brain for daydreaming. It's the best way to encourage ideas to flow! I expect to find inspiration and energy to grow new ideas and to flesh out old ones.

Finally, I'll find time to take action on a few of those great ideas. We'll see what comes to fruition between now and Labor Day!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday's Muse

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes ... including you. ~ Anne Lamott

Friday, June 12, 2015

CTO ... Dulcimers in the Blogosphere

Doug Berch is a mountain dulcimer builder who teaches and plays many instruments, including the hammered dulcimer. He also blogs.

Check This Out ... He has a category on his blog designated "hammered dulcimer". Check it out for old-timey photos and random thoughts about the instrument.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Monday's Muse

You have to take a deep breath and allow the music to flow through you. Revel in it, allow yourself to awe. When you play, allow the music to break your heart with its beauty.
~ Kelly White

Friday, June 5, 2015

CTO ... Tuning the Treble Bridge

Check This Out ... This article appeared last month on the Dusty Strings blog. Good information about tuning both sides of the treble bridge. (You know you must tune both sides, right?)

Here's the link:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Summer Reading List

Looking for inspiration? Curious about the science behind the music? Need to get out of a practice rut? Want to find deeper meaning in your musical journey? There's something here for everyone!

I've compiled a list of "suggested readings" for the summer (in alphabetical order by author's last name). Click on the link. Read the review. Pick one or two that appeal to your interests and needs. Read and report back in the fall! Or leave your comments here as soon as you finish the read.

Have you read a book that made a difference to you in your practice of music? Please share in the comments below.

The Art of Practicing: a Guide to Making Music from the Heart
by Madeline Bruser

Making Music for the Joy of It
by Stephanie Judy

The Musician's Way: a Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness
by Gerald Klickstein

This is Your Brain on Music: the Science of a Human Obsession 
by Daniel J. Levitin

Guitar Zero
by Gary Marcus

Free Play: Liberation in Life and Art
by Stephen Nachmanovitch

A Soprano on her Head: Right-Side-Up Reflections on Life and Other Performances
by Eloise Ristad

Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within
by Kenny Werner

The Music Lesson: a Spiritual Search for Growth through Music
by Victor L. Wooten

Monday, June 1, 2015

Monday's Muse

If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out.  ~ Levon Helm

Friday, May 29, 2015

CTO ... Dulcimer Geek Podcast

Check This Out ... Stephen Seifert and Dan Landrum have been recording a podcast, and it was recently approved for iTunes!

Click on this link:  Dulcimer Geek Podcast 
Then click on the "View in iTunes" button
Then subscribe!  

"We'd be really happy if you'd subscribe and rate the show. There are 4 ready to go, though they're showing in reverse order. The one titled, "Beginnings", should be first.

We have more in the can, so if you subscribe, you can look for new releases every Monday. Please check it out and we hope you'll take a moment to rate the show. Good ratings are very important to a new podcast. Thanks, and enjoy."  ~ Dan Landrum

Monday, May 25, 2015

Monday's Muse

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Monday, May 18, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

Monday's Muse

"A day out-of-doors, someone I love to talk with, a good book and some simple food and music -- that would be a rest."  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, May 8, 2015

CTO ... What's the most popular key in western music?

Analysis of every track on Spotify shows some interesting results.

Check This Out ... Most popular western contemporary music instruments are biased towards certain keys. We hammered dulcimer players certainly know all about that kind of bias! But guess what the top key for all of Spotify is? G major! Check out the entire story here ... Most Popular Keys

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Triangles of the Trapezoid - It really IS all about the chords!

It certainly has been all about the chords this week in the music room ... which thrills my heart!

It was great to see a crowd of my "advancing beginner" students at the Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival last weekend. They were meeting and greeting, soaking it all in, and striking out to find the meaning of life in the dulcimer world. I think they found it!

The topic of each of the three novice classes scheduled on Saturday was CHORDS. Three different teachers, three different approaches to the subject, and lots of questions afterwards. My students are on a quest to find the triangles of the trapezoid!

So, between now and summer break we will be tackling questions with gusto and thinking we should have paid more attention during geometry class ... just look at all those different triangle shapes!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Monday's Muse

 "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."
~ Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, May 2, 2015

CTO ... Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival

It's happening!Started last night with socializing around supper, fun "enrichment" classes, and student open mic. Today, classes 9am - 4pm, jamming before and after dinner, plus a concert at 7pm featuring the stellar line-up of instructors. Come on and check out all or part of the festivities!

Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival

Check This Out: A few familiar faces from Friday night's fun!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival - THIS WEEKEND!

Yes! It really is going to be May 1 on Friday!

The Winston-Salem Dulcimer Festival takes place annually on the first full weekend of May. It's a great place to meet up with old and new dulcimer buddies. Expect top-notch instruction, inspiring and entertaining concerts, jam sessions, dulcimer related cd's, books, and accessories for sale ... and a whole lot of fun ... right here in central NC.

ATTENTION: Triangle Trapezoids

This is a great event, held in our own "back yard." Classes offered for all levels ... from the most inexperienced beginner to advanced players. It's not too late to participate. Registration is accepted at the door. Fees are ala carte, so you can pick and choose what works for you. Sign up for as many classes as you like. Come for the full weekend, or just go for the day on Saturday. Can't commit to the day? Grab a friend and come to the evening concert. Whatever, I encourage you to check it out.

Hope to see you all there.
Come find me in a jam!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday's Muse

Providence has hidden a charm in difficult undertakings, which is appreciated only by those who dare to grapple with them.  ~ Anne Sophie Swetchine

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday's Muse

It isn't what you play, it's how you play it.  ~ Josef Hofmann

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday's Muse

To play a wrong note is insignificant;
To play without passion is inexcusable.  ~ Beethoven

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday's Muse

Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.  ~ Robert Fripp 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

9th Annual Trapezoid Retreat at Glade Valley

Front: Martha, Connie, Ben, Sarah
Back: Carol, MaryLynn, Bess, Betsy, Sue
Not pictured: Ruth

Last weekend a group of 9 trapezoids (plus a concertina player) gathered for our 9th annual mountaintop hammered dulcimer retreat. Martha and Richard were the consummate hosts, opening their home to our musical passion. Everyone pitched in to prepare food, set up, clean up, do what needed to be done. We had so much fun sharing meals, ideas, tunes, and precious time together. In addition to more "structured" sessions during the weekend, we simply played a lot of music!

Friday night, Connie Woolard taught a couple of fun tunes: Andy Caught the Big One and Laurel Run. Connie is a founding member of the Mountain Laurels, an all women band out of Boone, NC. She brought one of her best students, Ben, only 13 years old and showing much promise as a budding musician.

We started the day on Saturday with John Ryan's Polka, a common jam session tune taught by Sue Wilson. We learned the basic tune by ear, then added a backup. We had fun playing the first two notes of that tune with emphasis!

At the mid-morning break everyone had the chance to add their favorites to the Jam Gems list. Don't you hate to be in a jam session where folks can't think of a tune when put on the spot?? Making a list saves a lot of time. We went around the circle giving each person a chance to choose a tune with the list as a reference.

After a fabulous lunch of Bess's homemade minestrone soup we reconvened for a Sandbridge Tunes session. Many of us have a shared repertoire from attending Ken Kolodner's Sandbridge Dulcimer Workshops held annually in the fall of the year. We played a bunch of favorites. The hot tunes that folks are working to master this year (and were played a LOT throughout the weekend): Done Gone, Valse Nadine, McDonald's Reel

During the second half of the afternoon we prepared for the evening's entertainment … a house concert put on by US for Martha's neighborhood friends! In the midst of all this, Ruth Smith snuck in!! We had quite a nice program:

  • Martha / Carol ... Washington's Hornpipe
  • MaryLynn / Bess … Gentle Eily O'Carol
  • Sue / Betsy (concertina) ... 3 Irish polkas: As I Went Out Upon the Ice / Ballydesmond #1 and #2
  • Connie / Ben (dulcimer & banjo) / Sarah (guitar) …  I'll Fly Away
  • Sarah / Connie …  Lover's Waltz
  • Ruth … debut of her new composition: A Life Well Lived
  • MaryLynn / Bess /  Sue ... McDonald's Reel
  • The grand finale: MaryLynn ... Walking Stones (solo), into Caspian Lake w/ Betsy on concertina, Connie on whistle, and the rest of us on dulcimers

Here's a list of everything we played throughout the weekend:

Andy Caught the Big One
Billy in the Lowground
Blacktail Canyon
Bonnie at Morn
Cam Ye to Atholl
Caspian Lake
Coleman's March
Come Before Winter
Done Gone
Fanny Poer
Frenchie's Reel
Gentle Eily O'Carol
Hangman's Reel
I'll Fly Away
John Ryan's Polka
Lady of the Lake
Laurel Run
McDonald's Reel
Midnight on the Water
Nail that Catfish to then Tree
Oklahoma Rooster
Over the Waterfall
Rakes of Mallow
Rock the Cradle, Joe
Saudade de Uberaba
Shenandoah Falls
Shove that Pig's Foot Closer to the Fire
Si Bheag Si Mhor
Tom Biggbee's Waltz
Valse Nadine
Winter is Past

See you next year!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday's Muse

Spring is the time of plans and projects.  ~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 

Friday, March 20, 2015

CTO ... This side UP?!?

Oh, my goodness! We've all been playing from the wrong side!

Check This Out ... Queen Marie Antoinette "playing" the hammered dulcimer  ... a very complex music box.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday's Muse

St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time - a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic.  ~ Adrienne Cook

Friday, March 13, 2015

CTO … Many Mallets

No hammered dulcimers here, but plenty of other percussionists!

Check This Out … Led Zeppelin on xylophone and marimba. You see any future hammered dulcimer players in this bunch? These youngsters are having FUN!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday's Muse

Whoever has skill in music is of good temperament and fitted for all things. We must teach music in our schools. ~ Martin Luther

Friday, March 6, 2015

CTO … Face the Music

Piggy-backing on my post of February 11, The Face of a Hammered Dulcimer Player , here's your laugh for the day.

Check This Out … Hammered Dulcimer players are not the only musicians who make funny faces while in the midst of playing. TheCrispyDuck had some creative photo-shopping fun, declaring that guitar solo faces make a lot more sense when the guitar is replaced with a giant slug. Some of the comments are a bit crude, but the pictures are hilarious!

One thing's for sure, a hammered dulcimer player would never close eyes while playing! Guitar Solo Faces

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday's Muse

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~ Anne Bradstreet

Friday, February 27, 2015

CTO … A Little Ice Music

It's been that kind of week … or two. Ice and snow have disrupted work schedules, school days, lesson plans. Hang in there … first day of spring only three weeks away! Hope you're staying safe and warm, and finding lots of extra practice time.

In case you need a distraction, Check This Out … a little winter entertainment!

Ice Chimes & Pancake Ice on Lake Superior

Norway Musicians Play Instruments Made of Ice

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday's Muse

Despite the forecast, live like it's spring.  ~ Lilly Pulitzer

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Get Me There … FAST!

A fellow Trapezoid (thanks Phill!) has recommended a video by Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything … Fast!

I like this guy's attitude.

Maybe you've heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. This idea was put forth in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, and is often quoted in guidelines for "practice".

But who has 10,000 hours and 10 years to spare?? That's a little overwhelming, isn't it? And maybe we don't expect to be "experts" in our chosen field, anyway. Maybe we just want to be good enough to have fun.

Kaufman suggests that a person can go from zero to reasonably skilled in a shorter amount of time. How does 20 hours sound? That's 40 minutes per day over one month. You think you can do that?

Based on research regarding how we learn, Kaufman says (and this is key) if we systematically increase deliberate practice, we can increase skills in any given area. His outline for success:

  1. Set a goal. Clearly define what your end result will be.
  2. Deconstruct the goal into its most essential component parts.
  3. Research. Skim your resources. Learn just enough information to identify what's really important in order to self-correct. Don't use this step to procrastinate!
  4. Remove barriers that will interfere with practice time. Turn off the TV, the computer, the phone. Keep things set up and handy. Make practice convenient.
  5. Pre-commit to at least 20 hours of practice. It's reasonable. It's do-able!
After 20 hours, re-evaluate:
  • Are you having fun? Is this something you want to continue? What's your next goal? Go for another 20 hours!
  • Having more frustration than fun? Thinking this particular skill may be not for you at this time? Be grateful for the experience. Adjust your goal. Move on to something else.
Here's the link to the video:

Sometimes the hardest part is identifying goals. I challenge each of you to set a goal for your next 20 hours of practice. If you're one of my students I would be happy to help you identify the sub-skills required to meet your goal. Imagine what you might accomplish in 20 hours over the next month or so! Share your results here, if you like. Let's do it!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday's Muse

Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.  ~ Haruki Murakami

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Face of a Hammered Dulcimer Player

I hate to see pictures of myself playing the hammered dulcimer. The look of concentration on my face might suggest that I am certainly "in the throes" of playing.

Definition of THROE
plural, a hard or painful struggle

Truly, if I'm concentrating very hard the look on my face can be pretty harsh. I've tried to train myself to go for at least a neutral look, not so frown-y. The hilarious thing is, my best smiley faces occur immediately after messing up!

So, if you see me playing out there in the world, rest assured … I'm having more fun than it looks!