Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ken & Brad Kolodner, CD Release Tour, Concert & Workshops in the Triangle!

'twas the 15th of December
and in this and that house...
we're practicing for a concert,
me and Betsy Kraus

I can hear the groans! Sorry for the bad poetry... but we're looking forward to performing with the Ken & Brad Kolodner Trio on January 8. They're coming to Pittsboro as part of a CD release tour. There'll be an evening concert and afternoon workshops. Wishing you had more live music in your life? Here's your chance to start the new year right!

I know it's hard to look beyond the holidays. There will be so much happening between now and January. But NOW is exactly the right time to reserve your space. Here's all the info...

Baltimore’s nationally-acclaimed father-son Old-Time roots duo Ken & Brad Kolodner perform in Pittsboro, NC as part of a CD release tour celebrating their third recording, “The Swift House." Joining Ken and Brad to round out the trio is the incredibly versatile bassist Alex Lacquement (The Bumper Jacksons, The Ken & Brad Quartet, Charm City Junction). Ken & Brad Kolodner weave together a captivating soundscape on hammered dulcimer, banjo and fiddles pushing the boundaries of the Old-Time tradition into uncharted territory.

Opening the show are local favorites Sue Wilson & Betsy Kraus. Music buddies since 1998, Sue & Betsy play an eclectic mix of acoustic, traditional dance music that will set your toes tapping. Drawing primarily from the rich traditions of Celtic and old-time music, Sue & Betsy pair two seldom seen instruments, the hammered dulcimer and the English concertina, to produce a lively and unique sound.

This intimate concert features a re-imagining of Old-Time, Celtic & World music.

Jam session to follow the concert!

CONCERT, featuring the Ken & Brad Kolodner Trio
w/Sue Wilson & Betsy Kraus

January 8, 2017 (Sunday)
7:00 - 9:00 pm

St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church
204 West Salisbury Street
Pittsboro, NC

Cost: $15 in advance, $20 at the door

There are no physical tickets. Once you pay, your name will be put on a "paid" guest list which will be at the door. Doors open at 6:15pm. First come, first seated.

Geared to advanced beginner / intermediate players, but all are welcome.

Hammered Dulcimer w/ Ken Kolodner
2:00 - 5:00pm
Pittsboro Community House
65 Thompson Street, Pittsboro, NC

Clawhammer Banjo w/ Brad Kolodner
2:00 - 4:00pm
Dr Wilson's Office
767 West Street, Pittsboro, NC

For info and to reserve space in the workshop / seats at the concert:
  • Contact Sue at (919) 542-5854 or
  • OR make checks to "Ken Kolodner" then mail to Sue Wilson, PO Box 940, Pittsboro, NC 27312
  • OR for credit card reservations go to or contact Ken at (410) 746-8387
For more about Ken and Brad and their music, follow these links:

Listen to Ken and Brad here ... 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday's Muse

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.  ~ J.R.R. Tolkein

Friday, December 9, 2016

CTO ... Triangle HD Slow Jam

Check This Out ... The next meeting of the Triangle Hammered Dulcimer Slow Jam is scheduled for this Sunday, December 11, 2:00 - 4:00pm, at St. Giles, 5101 Oak Park Road, Raleigh.

All acoustic instruments welcome!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday's Muse

Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.  ~ Martin Luther

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday's Muse

Whilst we deliberate how to begin a thing, it grows too late to begin it. ~ Quintilian

Friday, November 25, 2016

CTO... Rumble Strips on Route 66 Play 'America the Beautiful'

I want to Check This Out!

East of Albuquerque, near the village of Tijeras, NM, on the famous Route 66, there is a set of rumble strips that will play 'America the Beautiful' if you drive over them at 45 mph. Anyone traveling that way this Thanksgiving weekend?!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday's Muse

You may have heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There's another day you might want to know about: Giving Tuesday. The idea is pretty straightforward. On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, shoppers take a break from their gift-buying and donate what they can to charity. ~ Bill Gates 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Chord Inversions are Mind Blowing

"That's a D chord??" he exclaimed.

It's true. My students are often incredulous when first introduced to the idea of chord inversions.

It's easiest to study this at the instrument, but I'll try to put it down in words here. Perhaps you can follow along with a hammered dulcimer in front of you. For simplicity's sake, let's use a major chord as an example. Consider the D chord mentioned above. To create a major chord, simply play the 1 3 5 of the major scale:
  • Start with the first note of the D major scale. You should be on a marked D. This is the "1", also known as the "root". It's the note that names the chord we are creating.
  • Now skip a note of the scale and go to the third note, aka the "3". You should be on F#.
  • Now skip another note of the scale and go to the fifth note, aka the "5". You should be on A.
Play those as an arpeggio...1-3-5  [D-F#-A]  Congratulations! You just played a D chord in the root position.

Now, get this radical idea. You could play those notes in a different order.

No matter how those three notes are arranged it's still the same chord! Same notes, same chord, different order.  If the "root" is the lowest note played, the chord is said to be in the root position. If the root is NOT the lowest note played, the chord is said to be inverted.

So, [D F# A] is the root D chord. [F# A D] and [A D F#] are inversions of the D chord.

Here's the naming rule:

  • if the root is the lowest note played, it's a root position chord
  • if the third of the chord is the lowest note played, it's a 1st inversion
  • if the fifth of the chord is the lowest note, it's a 2nd inversion

There are patterns that make this easier to see and put into practice on the hammered dulcimer, but that's a big topic for another day! or maybe a lesson or three with your favorite teacher.

PS: The most important thing to consider when naming a chord inversion is the lowest note played. It doesn't really matter in what order the rest of the notes fall. Also, as you begin to add more complex chords to your musical repertoire, the more notes a chord contains the more inversions are possible!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday's Muse

If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them. ~ Luciano Pavarotti

Friday, November 11, 2016

CTO ... Biology of Music

Our brains our wired for music.

Check This Out... You may have heard that studies show music to be effective in the treatment of certain health problems. Research also suggests that harmony, melody, and rhythm invoke distinct patterns of brain activity and growth in young children. The brain actually grows in response to musical training, sort of like a muscle responding to exercise. Check out the details here:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ken Kolodner Coming to the Triangle on January 8, 2017

Here's something to look forward to after the holidays...

My long-time teacher and mentor, Ken Kolodner, along with his son, Brad Kolodner, will be doing a mini-tour of North Carolina after the first of the year. They will be landing in little ol' Pittsboro on Sunday afternoon, January 8, 2017, ready to play some music... and you're invited!

Based in Baltimore, this father-son duo combine exceptional talents to produce an innovative take on traditional and original music played in the old-time style. With Ken on hammered dulcimer and fiddle, and Brad on clawhammer banjo, banjola, gourd banjo, fiddle, and vocals, they perform tight and musical arrangements that communicate a real passion for the music. An added bonus... bassist Alex Lacquement will join them to round out the sound. It's sure to be a toe-tapping good time! Check out this youtube video for a sample of Ken and Brad's music: Skipping Rocks

And how about this? Ken and Brad are pleased to announce the release of their third CD together, The Swift House. They will be performing from the new recording! We'll be part of the cd release party!!

You don't want to miss this. The fun will begin with an afternoon of hands-on instruction. After all, music is not a spectator sport! Ken will teach a hammered dulcimer workshop while Brad teaches a clawhammer banjo workshop. Come learn a tune. Practice some embellishments. Pick up a few tips and tricks to enhance your playing. You're bound to learn something new.

That evening, Ken, Brad, and Alex will perform in concert at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, Pittsboro. Sue Wilson (That's me! local hammered dulcimer player and teacher) and Betsy Kraus (on concertina) will be the 'warm-up' band. Who knows who else will be tapped to share the stage?! It should be quite the variety show!

Be sure to bring your acoustic instruments to the concert, because afterwards there'll be a jam session. I know it's Sunday night and all, but we gotta have a little fun. Let's play some music together!

Sunday, January 8
Geared to advanced beginners and intermediate players, but all are welcome

Hammered Dulcimer w/ Ken Kolodner
2:00 - 5:00pm
Pittsboro Community House
65 Thompson Street, Pittsboro, NC
Cost: $40

Clawhammer Banjo w/ Brad Kolodner
2:00 - 4:00pm
N R Wilson's office building
767 West Street, Pittsboro, NC
Cost: $30

Sunday, January 8, 7:00 - 9:00pm
204 W. Salisbury Street, Pittsboro, NC
Jam session to follow
$15 in advance, $20 at the door

For workshop or concert reservations:
Make checks to "Ken Kolodner"
Mail to Sue Wilson at PO Box 940, Pittsboro, NC  27312

To pay by credit card, contact Ken directly by calling (410)746-8387. Small fee may apply.

After Monday, 11/14/2016, you may also purchase reservations at

For further information, write to Sue at
or telephone Sue at (919)542-5854

Be sure to visit the Ken and Brad website at , and look for them on Facebook at Ken and Brad Kolodner.

Bring your friends! Spread the word! The more folks, the more fun! 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday's Muse

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr

Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday's Muse

Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story.  ~ Mason Cooley

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday's Muse

The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.  ~ Roy Ayers

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday's Muse

I am tired of acquiring wisdom. Somebody bring me a drink and a whoopie cushion. ~ Cornelius Talbot

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday's Muse

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.  ~ Walt Disney

Friday, October 7, 2016

CTO ... Have you discovered Joshua Messick's music?

Check This Out ...  I'm a little late reporting the news, but Asheville-based National Hammered Dulcimer Champion, Joshua Messick, recently released a new album, Woodland Dance"... an acoustic instrumental collection of originals and favorites expressing the spirit of the Blue Ridge Mountains." Check out Joshua's Facebook page and his website... for all the news about Joshua's music.

Impatient? Here's the YouTube link to his channel and the studio version of "Woodland Dance" with hammered dulcimer, percussion, and cello:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday's Muse

It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows. ~ Epictetus

Friday, September 30, 2016

CTO ... Blue Man Group Invades NPR's Tiny Desk Concert

Enjoy a taste of the wacky, innovative music of the Blue Man Group. There's a hammered dulcimer in there!

Check This Out ... Blue Man Group was recently featured on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert. One of their instruments was an old cimbalom from Hungary, updated with plywood and played with drumsticks.

Check out their performance ... Blue Man Group - Tiny Desk Concert

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tuning Tips

A student was concerned about the condition of her strings. She was having trouble getting her entire instrument "in tune" and wondered if she should restring the instrument. Now, that would be a drastic move!

After asking her a few questions I realized that she was having difficulty getting the instrument tuned properly across the treble bridge.

You know... each course of strings crossing the treble bridge must be tuned on both the left and the right sides. Believe it or not, it often takes new players a while to realize this.

It's not unreasonable for a person to think that if a course of strings is tuned correctly on one side of the bridge, it should be in tune on the other side as well, right? Wrong! In a perfect world... maybe. But in the real world... it's a lucky day when the tuning comes out just right!

So, when it doesn't come out just right, what's the problem?

Sometimes, the treble bridge itself can be out of whack. The bridges on a hammered dulcimer are floating, i.e. not glued to the sound board. It doesn't happen very often, but the bridge (or a section of it) can get bumped out of place causing one half of a course of strings to be chronically sharp and the other half to be chronically flat. When that happens one must loosen the strings and gently tap the bridge back into place. It takes something like a wooden dowel, a wooden mallet, and a bit of courage to accomplish. But before you jump to conclusions ...

The more common problem, is that tension is not being distributed evenly across the bridge. The strings must slip easily over the bridge, allowing pressures to equalize. It's all physics!

What to do?

First, don't be afraid to touch your strings.

Determine which side of the bridge the string is being stubbornly sharp. Push the problem string on that side. Wiggle it. Jiggle it. Sometimes that will be enough to bring that note ever-so-slightly down in pitch (flatten)  and the other side up in pitch (sharpen).

Sometimes, if one side of the course of strings is sharp and the other side is flat, the simple act of lifting the string off the bridge will totally fix it... just a little elevation will do the trick... just like magic!

Monday, September 26, 2016

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, September 23, 2016

CTO ... iPhone dumping the headphone jack

Meanwhile, in the tech world ...

Check This Out ... There will be no head phone jack in the new iPhone! Will this significantly affect the way we use our phones? Our music apps? No matter what, it's bound to affect our pocket books. Your choice: Spend extra cash for a special adaptor to allow use of existing headsets OR spend $159 on Apple's new bluetooth, wireless, headphones, a.k.a AirPods. Better plan where you'll store those tiny ear buds if you want to prevent losing them when not using them!

Here are a couple of articles from npr:
Apple May Test iPhone Users Loyalty if it Dumps the Headphone Jack
Apple scraps headphone jack - Reveals cordless AirPods

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sandbridge South

The beginning of Sandbridge Season is upon us!

A few Triangle trapezoids got together recently to practice shared repertoire acquired through years of study with Ken Kolodner.

Most recently, instruction has come via attendance at his annual, multi-week, Sandbridge Dulcimer Workshops event, now in its 12th year!

People come from all over the country to learn, play, eat, jam. The 2016 fall sessions begin on September 25. Players are ramping up their practice schedules to get in shape for the intensive instruction and fantastic jam sessions.
There are a bunch of us players in the extended Triangle area who have attended the Sandbridge workshops at one time or another. I like to call the crowd, "Sandbridge South." Because we share the same teacher, we have an extensive list of tunes that we've worked and re-worked with interesting arrangements, harmonies, and backup. Getting together to play is the best kind of fun!

Having a recurring event (such as Sandbridge) to look forward to has its advantages:
  • Motivation to actually practice and learn new tunes and ideas
  • Reason to keep up the repertoire in order to play with others next time
  • Opportunity to measure personal progress made
  • Chance to form relationships with others who share your passion for the instrument
Some of you are regular attendees of the local Triangle HD Slow Jam. As you are well aware, those monthly get-togethers provide similar benefits!

BTW ... If you've never experienced Sandbridge, or a lesson with Ken, you will soon get your chance. He and his son, Brad Kolodner, are coming to the Triangle area! They will be passing through briefly, as part of a mini-tour of North Carolina in early 2017. ( Ken & Brad Kolodner )

Mark your calendar for Sunday, January 8.
Workshops (hammered dulcimer & banjo) followed by a concert at St. Bartholomew's Church, Pittsboro are planned for the afternoon / evening.

Watch this space for details!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Shut the door!

Look at the condensation on the windows at the front door. The air is heavy with humidity. The rain is bound to come ...
But I just tuned my instrument. Don't let all that wetness into the house!!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday's Muse

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination.  ~ Plato

Friday, September 16, 2016

CTO ... Unconditional Love for all Performances

Check This Out ... At American University's Kogod School of Business, students develop their public speaking skills in front of nonjudgmental "audience dogs." Hey! This would work for practicing musical performance skills, too!

Watch the video.

Read the article.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday's Muse

[A good teacher is] someone who not only has more knowledge but who also shows concern for the student's entire development.  ~ Dalai Lama

Friday, September 9, 2016

CTO ... Black Mountain Music Festival

Did you know? There's a week-long dulcimer event happening in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina this fall, featuring workshops and jamming for hammer and mountain dulcimers.

Check This Out ... The Black Mountain Music Festival will be held at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, NC October 23 - 28. Lots of great instructors! Beautiful setting. Make plans now!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Just like Simone Biles ...

I was really quite thankful for the summer Olympic Games this year. It provided welcome respite from the political circus otherwise known as Election 2016.

Wow. Impressive performances from such a wide variety of athletes. We could learn something from these super-humans! Right now I'm thinking about Simone Biles, remembering her strength, grace, coordination, confidence, determination, discipline, passion.

And what about that signature move? The Biles. Two laid-out back flips with a half twist before landing. That extra half twist means she can't see the floor until the very last moment. That's called a "blind landing". That's what I'm thinking about at the dulcimer today.

There are times when one must reach way outside the box to grab a note ... or play a 2-note chord in a stretched-out vertical position that causes one of your own body parts to get in the way of the visual path ... or play some other awkward combination of notes that requires a "blind landing". Sometimes it happens in the midst of a bunch of other tricky notes or a challenging rhythm. Human eyeballs are simply not made to look in two different directions at the same time. What's a person to do?

Sometimes a player can create enough time / space to catch a quick glimpse by dropping a note on either side of the challenging note. Sometimes not ...

The "easy" ones are the notes located at the extreme ends of the bridges, i.e. the very last course of strings at the top or bottom of the instrument. Simply aim high (or low). There's nothing above (or below) to get in the way of your success!

Years ago, I was interested to see Malcolm Dalglish demonstrate his version of a "shank shot." (Unlike shank shots in golf, it can be a GOOD thing at the dulcimer!) This works when striking one of the lowest courses of strings along the very bottom edge of the instrument. Again, just aim low and don't worry about hitting the string solidly with the head of the hammer. Strike with the hammer shank! Try it. What do you think?

Not an option? The weird note well embedded among many other strings? Well, you're going to have to decide where to look. And that note you've decided not to look at? That's where muscle memory comes in real handy! Just play that part a few thousand times ...

Before you know it, you'll be sticking those blind landings, just like Simone Biles!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Monday's Muse

I've never missed a gig yet. Music makes people happy, and that's why I go on doing it -- I like to see everybody smile.  ~ Buddy Guy

Friday, September 2, 2016

CTO ... Ted Yoder Takes the Internet by Storm

In case you missed it, Ted Yoder's August 24 "Live from the Orchard" performance of the Tears for Fears song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" went viral last week. I'm talking 60 million views as of today!

CheckThis Out ... The Huffington Post wrote a nice article. The internet is a-buzz over a talented musician and his hammered dulcimer. How cool is that?! Congrats to Ted! and if you did miss it, check it out. Come for the dulcimer. Stay for the raccoon. You'll see what I mean.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

See you in September

Oh, wait. It is September? Already??

It's been a fun-filled summer ... full of travel, family, gardening. Alas, the dulcimer playing has suffered. In fact, my instrument went into its case at the end of May and did not come out for two whole months! I know. Unbelievable.

And yet, I know that I'm not alone in neglecting my practice over the summer. Lessons resume mid-month. As I reconnect with students, many are singing the same old refrain, "Well ... I haven't played much."

Well ... to everything there is a time and a season. I'm glad to report that at my house, it's definitely dulcimer season once again. I've been hitting it pretty hard the last several weeks, working to get my chops and my repertoire back into shape. It helps that the pressure is on. Betsy and I have a gig scheduled next week! Great motivation. I recommend it.

And don't worry. No matter how long it's been since you picked up your hammers, it's never too late to begin again.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday's Muse

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature can not do without.  ~ Confucious

Friday, August 26, 2016

CTO ... Play Music on the Porch Day

Check This Out ...  Tomorrow, August 27, is the annual "Play Music on the Porch Day". It's a real thing! Pretty self-expanatory, but if you want to read more about it, check out the facebook page or read the GoodNewsNetwork article from last year. And check this out ... You can join the online community of talent via instagram with this tag: #PlayMusicOnThePorchDay

I plan to get out early to beat the heat. What are YOU playing on the porch this year?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday's Muse

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.  ~ Judy Garland

Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

Monday's Muse

You must take action now that will move you towards your goals. Develop a sense of urgency in your life.  ~ H Jackson Brown, Jr

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday's Muse

Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.  ~ Pablo Casals

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday's Muse

Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.  ~ Jimi Hendrix

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday's Muse

There is nothing more musical than a sunset. He who feels what he sees will find no more beautiful example of development in all that book which, alas, musicians read but too little -- the book of Nature.  ~ Claude Debussy

Monday, July 4, 2016

Monday's Muse

Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.  ~ Ronald Reagan

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday's Muse

For me, everything definitely comes from music.  ~ Mike Myers

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday's Muse

Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.  ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday's Muse

A man is not paid for having a head and hands, but for using them.  ~ Elbert Hubbard

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monday's Muse

What a fool does in the end, the wise do in the beginning.  ~ Spanish Proverb

Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday's Muse

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.  ~ John Rohn

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday's Muse

I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn't been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn't have been lucky.  ~ Oprah Winfrey

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday's Muse

"Once you stop learning, you start dying."  ~ Albert Einstein

Friday, May 6, 2016

CTO ... Better Aging Through Practice, Practice, and more Practice

Preaching to the choir, I know, when it comes to the trapezoid playing TotT blog followers, but the author of this article wants to know, "When is the last time you improved at anything?"

Check This Out ... The New York Times recently posted an article by Gerald Marzorati expressing enthusiastic encouragement for tackling new and difficult tasks as we age. His challenge: Dare to immerse yourself and improve at a new skill. Hmmm .... any of you following THAT prescription

Think back to the early days of your own hammered-dulcimer-playing obsession. Have you improved? I know you have, and I bet you're still improving! And continuing to raise the bar, because there is no end point. It's the getting there that enthralls us.

Check out the entire article here: Better Aging Through Practice, Practice, Practice 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

All's well that ends well ...

I've been thinking about reworking a tune that I learned from my teacher, Ken Kolodner, many years ago at the Swannanoa Gathering Dulcimer Week (sadly, that dulcimer event is now defunct). It's an old time rag ... the first tune that I really started to "get" the idea of shifting accents and playing syncopated rhythms. I don't know why, but at some point I dropped it from my practice list. This past week was the time to resurrect it.

All I had was a messy handwritten piece of music notated for fiddle players, with no suggested chord progression. It was more trouble than it was worth to read, so I loaded Ken's recording of the tune (from his cd Journey to the Heartland) into the Amazing Slow Downer and got to work. The tune came back to me. I slogged through every little nuance.

I got the tune. I got the variations. I got the nice chromatic runs. I even got a new syncopated rhythm trained into my brain and hands. I wrote out the music in Finale, but paused when it came to writing in the chords. Most of it was pretty straightforward, but doubt was creeping in. Could it be that simple? There's always something that I miss!

So I googled it ... searching for the standard chord progression for YZ Hamilton's Breakdown. And what do you think showed up? The third entry down the google list ... Fiddle Tunes Volume 2 - Ken Kolodner ... an instructional cd that I own!! I haven't looked at those lessons in years. Hmmm ... there's gold in them thar piles of cds!

So I pulled out the cd. Listened to the entire lesson. Was personally affirmed by the fact that I had successfully gotten it by ear. Yay!

I'm glad it turned out this way. It was much better practice relying on my own ear and skills of analysis. But, of course, I did miss something ... the darn G7 chord. And you know what? That chord makes all the difference!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

30 days hath .... APRIL!

Monthly Practice Progress by the Numbers:

ü  Number of days in April                                                30
ü  Practice sessions w/Betsy                                                4
ü  Sandbridge tunes to date                                                  5
ü  Total hours spent practicing                                           30.25
ü  The Goal: average practice hours per day                       1.25
L  Actual average practice hours per day                            1

Oh well. I'm going to push for that average of 1.25 hours per day one more month. After that, it'll be vacation / gardening season, with miscellaneous plenty to compete with my practice schedule. I’ll be doing the best I can this summer!

May Goals

·      Continue to practice regularly
·      Increase practice time to average 1.25 hours per day
·      Practice at least once per week with Betsy
·      Continue working on Sandbridge 2015 tune list

Want to read more about my 2016 Practice Project?

  • New Year's resolution? Getting back on track. - January 6 
  • Progress report for January - January 27 
  • Progress report for February - March 3 
  • Progess report for March - March 31 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday's Muse

In the under-wood and the over-wood there is a murmur and trill this day, for every bird is in lyric mood, and the wind will have its way.  ~ Clinton Scollard

Friday, April 29, 2016

CTO ... Music Trumps Reading

Jamming with toddlers is a fun thing to do! But did you know that a recent study funded by the Australian Research Council shows that regular informal music-making with very young children may even have benefits above and beyond those of reading?

Check This Out ... In an analysis of data generated from a study involving more than 3,000 children, a University of Queensland team investigated the associations between informal home music education for very young children and later cognitive and social-emotional outcomes.

The team found that informal music-making in the home from the ages of two and three can lead to better literacy, numeracy, social skills, and attention / emotion regulation by the age of five. Last month, the team was awarded the inaugural Music Trust Award for Research into the Benefits of Music Education.

It's really all about the interaction. Whether banging on pots and pan, making up silly songs, dancing to a current favorite song ... just do it. Have fun playing with music!

Read all about it here: Benefits of Jamming with your Toddler

Witness a little informal toddler jam here:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

CTO ... Hammered Dulcimer in Film Scores

Have you noticed? Apparently , the hammered dulcimer is getting more and more cameos in tv shows and films.

Check This Out ... Christy Mooers has put together a collection of examples of our favorite instrument being used in movie and tv scores, adding her commentary. Her article is posted on the Dusty Strings website blog. Read all about it and take a listen!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday's Muse

A great work of art is made out of a combination of obedience and liberty.  ~ Nadia Boulanger

Friday, April 8, 2016

CTO ... Dropping the Protective Armor of Stage Fright

Check This Out ... Miranda Wilson, cellist and writer, blogs about performance anxiety.

"Performance is one of the most vulnerable experiences known to humankind. And performance anxiety, its shadow side, is a universal experience. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or at the very top of your profession: you are up in front of others, exposing the most vulnerable part of yourself for the scrutiny of seemingly judgmental observers."

Read the entire article here: Miranda Wilson

Monday, April 4, 2016

Monday's Muse

When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had, and never will have.  ~ E. W. Howe

Friday, April 1, 2016

CTO ... 2016 Tiny Desk Concert Contest Winner

Gaelynn Lea is the 2016 winner of npr's Tiny Desk concert contest. Tiny Desk features intimate video performances, recorded live at the desk of "All Songs Considered" host, Bob Boilen.

Check This Out ... From the Tiny Desk web site: "Gaelynn Lea has been playing violin for more than 20 years. She builds on a repertoire of traditional Celtic and American fiddle music, writing original songs that incorporate folk-rock influences, looping tracks, and an inventive improvisatory style. Gaelynn performs throughout northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and has collaborated with fellow Midwestern musicians Alan Sparhawk and Charlie Parr. She's also a dedicated fiddle teachaer and an advocate for artists an other people with disabilities."

"I love performing, but the thing that I try to remember — because I believe it's true — is that any kind of performance is really valuable, because every person is valuable. So I like playing at that pizza shop — I play there every other week. I've done that for like a year and a half. And I like playing on the boardwalk, because you get to play for little kids, and they always want you to play, like, "Itsy-Bitsy Spider," but they're excited about it and that's what matters.

I just think music in general is something that can really connect people, and it's just an honor and joy to be able to tap into that." ~ Gaelynn Lea

Gaelynn Lea's performance, March 11, 2016

Audie Cornish's interview with Gaelynn Lea

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Good excuses ... should've just played!

In the month of March I logged 33.75 practice hours. That doesn't seem so bad, except for the fact that it doesn't quite meet my goal. So close, but 1.08 hours per day is just under my goal of 1.25 hours per day. Oh, brother! It's true ... I've been slacking off!!

The good news is I had plenty of time to practice a ton of Sandbridge tunes with friends at Martha's Mountaintop Music Retreat. We enjoyed a weekend full of music.

Plus, Betsy and I had plenty of practice time .... 4 regular sessions plus the weekend retreat. Isn't she the brave one to come hang out with a houseful of hammered dulcimers?!

April Goals -- Keeping it simple this month:
  • Increase practice time to average 1.25 hours per day
  • Practice at least once per week with Betsy
  • Continue working on Sandbridge 2015 tune list

Learn all tunes from Sandbridge 2015, deadline October 2016.

Want to read more about my 2016 Practice Project?
  • New Year's resolution? Getting back on track - January 6 
  • Progress report for January plus specific goals - January 27 
  • Progress report for February plus specific goals - March 3 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday's Muse

A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.  ~ Barack Obama

Friday, March 25, 2016

CTO ... Do you ever hear music in your head? Like, when there's none playing?

Aren't you just a little bit curious about what tunes we played at our mountaintop music retreat last weekend? Check This Out ... It's quite a list!

Tunes We Played throughout the weekend: 
Beaumont Rag
Black Nag
Black Tail Canyon Waltz
Blackberry Blossom
Bonnie at Morn
Caspian Lake
Cluck Old Hen
Coleman’s March
Cowboy Waltz
Cradle Song
Done Gone
Fanny Poer
Farewell Trion
For Ireland
Half Past Four
John Ryan’s Polka
Kentucky Waltz
Kevin Keegan’s
King of the Fairies
Lady of the Lake
Lay Down Your Arms
Lovers’ Waltz
MacPherson’s Lament
Midnight on the Water
Nadine’s Waltz
Nail that Catfish
NC Breakdown
OK Rooster
Over the Waterfall
Rights of Man
Rock the Cradle, Joe
Shenandoah Falls
Southern Cross
Snow Drops
Whiskey Before Breakfast

Thursday, March 24, 2016

10th Annual Mountaintop Music Retreat

Last weekend a crowd of trapezoids and other musicians gathered at our dear friend, Martha's, house for our annual mountaintop music retreat. This makes #10! What a tradition it has become ... a full weekend of learning, playing, and sharing our passion for the hammered dulcimer and the music we love to create.

There were learning sessions led by Sue Wilson and MaryLynn van Deventer. There were multiple jam sessions, full of fiddle tunes and shared repertoire from Ken Kolodner's Sandbridge Dulcimer Retreats. There were meals and chats and cups of cocoa aside butter-grilled pound cake. (Yes, you can get more than a pound of butter into one pound cake!) There were fiddles, guitars, a concertina, and a hammered mbira. There was a house concert -- planned, rehearsed, and performed within a 6 hour span. Food, fellowship, and fun. Music, music, and more music. Sounds like heaven on earth, doesn't it??

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday's Muse

Like family, we are tied to each other. This is what all good musicians understand.  ~ Billy Joel

Monday, March 14, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

CTO ... Time for Music!

What time is it? Daylight savings time! This Sunday, March 13. Spring ahead! And if you're in the market for a new whimsical clock ...

Check This Out ... The Zazzle website has all kinds of clocks with musical themes. There's even one with drum notes & rudiments for the percussionist in all of us! Check it out!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Monday's Muse

To play without passion is inexcusable!  ~ Ludwig von Beethoven.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Goal without a Plan is just a Wish

I bet many of you are not list-tickers or clock-slaves, but for me, paying attention to what I'm doing and writing it down has always been a helpful strategy ... in all sorts of endeavors. It's not surprising, then, that I would rely on some sort of record keeping to maintain focus on my music goals.

I use a spread sheet on the computer to keep my music goals in sight. I list tunes, make notes, record time spent, document who I've played with, etc. etc. True, tracking details of a practice session takes time, but once a system is in place, it's not so bad. Depending on the time available, my notes are more or less detailed but basic information is always there. Because of this habit, I'm able to report specifics about what's been going on in the practice room this past month ... 
  • In the month of February I logged 36 practice hours, beating January's time by 8 hours!
  • Thanks to Leap Day, Betsy (my music partner) and I managed to fit in five practice sessions plus a gig. Our repertoire has been reviewed and improved.
  • I'm continuing to make progress on Sandbridge 2015 tune list:  Farewell Trion is the new tune, but while I'm at it, I'm reviewing Lady of the Lake and Shenandoah Falls in order to play all in medley as found on Ken Kolodner's recording, Journey to the Heartland. I'm improving these tunes with a variety of arrangement ideas, harmonies, solid backups, and more swing. I'm having fun playing the basic tune and backup for Halfpast Four. And the classic Kentucky Waltz is in the bag, complete with backup.
March Goals:
  • Maintain current practice schedule at average of 1.25 hours per day.
  • Practice once per week with Betsy.
  • Prepare for and have fun at annual hammered dulcimer retreat with friends. Looking forward to jamming, practicing shared repertoire, and preparing for neighborhood house concert.
  • Continue working on Sandbridge 2015 tune list


Learn all tunes from Sandbridge 2015, deadline October 2016.

Want to read more about my 2016 Practice Project?
  • New Year's resolution? Getting back on track - January 6 
  • Progress report for January plus specific goals - January 27