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: http://www.wired.com/2015/08/rhythm-suck-addictive-game-can-help/?mbid=social_fb 

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:  https://www.riseupandsing.org/welcome 

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