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.