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!