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