Monday, December 31, 2018

Monday's Muse

And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.  ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, December 3, 2018

Monday's Muse

When you play, never  mind who listens to you.  ~ Robert Schumann

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday's Muse

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best.  ~ Frank Zappa

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday's Muse

Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.  ~ Brian Tracy

Friday, November 16, 2018

CTO ... Marya Katz Planning 2019 MLK Day Workshop

 Check This Out ... Marya Katz will be back, teaching her annual MLK Day hammered dulcimer workshop in Winston-Salem, NC on January 21, 2019 at College Park Baptist Church.

This year's topic:  Exploring the unique sounds of the music of Wales -- Celtic, but NOT Irish or Scottish.

More information to come... Save the date!!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday's Muse

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.  ~ Leonard Bernstein

Friday, November 9, 2018

CTO ... Big Porch House Concert w/ Helen Wolfson & Eric Thomas, November 17

Check This Out ... Helen Wolfson and Eric Thomas will be performing at a Big Porch Concert in Durham, NC, on Saturday, November 17, 7:30 - 9:30pm.

Helen Wolfson is the "trapezoid" in this duo, but don't expect stereotypical dulcimer music. She and Eric are known for their eclectic repertoire. Be ready for a varied and fun program, including everything from Blues, to unusual takes on standards, to moving vocals and lyrical melodies.

Never heard of Big Porch Concerts? They sponsor house concerts that take place in somebody's living room ... a great way to hear music up close and personal!

For details and reservations, contact or call (919) 286-7963. Once you have secured your space, the full address of the venue will be revealed. Go ahead ... check it out!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday's Muse

There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen.  ~ Arthur Conan Doyle

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday's Muse

You have to take a deep breath and allow the music to flow through you. Revel in it, allow yourself to awe. When you play, allow the music to break your heart with its beauty.  ~ Kelly White

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday's Muse

Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.  ~ Steve Maraboli

Monday, October 15, 2018

Monday's Muse

I love the relationship that anyone has with music... because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us probably.  ~ Nick Hornby

Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday's Muse

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.  ~ Bob Dylan

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

DPN - A Message from Dan and Angie Landrum

Attention dulcimer community friends: Please help me spread the word that Dulcimer Players News magazine has a new owner/editor. Angie and I are stepping down and have passed the keys to Ashley Ernst.

Ashley is a former journalist, editor, and middle school English teacher. She and her husband live on a farm in central Missouri, surrounded by pastures and woods, and bordered by Perche Creek. They raise beef cattle and keep a dairy cow, sheep, and chickens. Ashley plays hammered and mountain dulcimer with two groups: Show MeDulcimer Club in Fulton, Missouri, and CoMo Dulcimers in Columbia, Missouri. Like many of the dulcimer players she has met, she discovered the instruments later in life.

When Madeline MacNeil passed the reins to Angie and me 12 years ago, she took great care in assuring we were a good fit to carry on the tradition. We feel the same about Ashley. She's all about building community and reminds me why I love the people I've gotten to know in this role. Ashley's excited to get to know you all, too. We're working together to produce the holiday issue that will arrive in your homes in early November. After that, I'll be doing what Maddie did when she handed us the keys; playing more music and tackling a stack of music-related projects.

Angie and I have been working on finding a new editor for well over a year. I was hesitant during this time to push marketing campaigns for new subscribers. A magazine's new owner inherits the responsibility of fulfilling existing subscriptions, so it is better for the buyer if the numbers are down a bit. It's time to push them back up. Please join me in showing Ashley this community's love and support by renewing or starting a subscription right now. It's quick and easy at Let's flood her with new subscribers and advertisers.

I'll be promoting DPN more visibly than ever, and I hope you will, too. The updated DPN contact information is below. Ashley might be outside milking a cow or helping birth a calf (I've witnessed a bit of this process myself), so leave her a message if she can't pick up, or drop her an email. Please share this message far and wide.  ~ Dan Landrum

Dulcimer Players News
Ashley Ernst
PO Box 94
Harrisburg, MO 65256

Monday, October 1, 2018

Friday, September 28, 2018

CTO ... Call for Holiday Arrangements

Check This Out ... The next Dulcimer Players News  magazine will have a holiday theme. Material is needed! Submit audio recordings, sheet music, tablature, instructional pieces, anything that is appropriate for the winter holidays. Don't forget to include the story behind the tune, how it fits into your tradition, your interpretation, etc. Deadline early October, so hurry! Sorry, no copyrighted music.

Find all the details about submitting your ideas here:
Dulcimer Players News call for holiday arrangements
Check it out!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

BIG NEWS about Dulcimer Players News

Dan Landrum, owner / editor of the Dulcimer Players News magazine, passes the mantle to Ashley Ernst!

Angie and Dan Landrum purchased DPN from Madeline MacNeil in 2007. Together, they have worked to deliver all the news that is news in both the fretted and hammered dulcimer worlds.

Now, they have announced the sale / transition of the publication to Ashley Ernst, of Columbia, Missouri. Meet Ashley and learn more about the publication of DPN magazine by listening to the September 22, 2018 version of the Dulcimer Geek podcast #86 Ewe Knew This Day Would Come .

For those not familiar with Dulcimer Players News, it is a quarterly published magazine and CD (what a deal!) jam-packed with music, instructional information, interviews, and stories for and about dulcimer enthusiasts. It's an important connection to tradition and community. Many players report that they can't wait to sit down and flip through the magazine as soon as it lands in their mailbox. If you don't already subscribe, I encourage you to do so!

Subscribe now!
Dulcimer Players News

Congratulations to all on this momentous occasion, and best wishes to Ashley Ernst going forward!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday's Muse

Summer's lease hath all too short a date.  ~ William Shakespeare

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Think chords! Think chords!

I am talking about paying attention to the chord progression of a tune as you learn it. Most of my students resist this advice because there is just so much darn work behind the comprehension and application of chord theory. I'm here to say, begin the work and keep it up. It's worth the effort.

Need a place to start? Check out Ken Kolodner's Chord Theory and Mapping for the Hammered Dulcimer ... everything you need to know to master the hammered dulcimer!

After 20+ years I still must work diligently to get the chord work down in a tune. Today, as I review and revive old tunes in preparation for an upcoming intensive week-long Sandbridge workshop with Ken Kolodner, I am finding that those pieces learned with focus on chord progression are coming back much more quickly those learned more by rote memorization. I'm having to relearn those early tunes the RIGHT way!

So ... take note of the way the chord progression is reflected in the melody line - learn how decisions about harmony are made - work on back-up arrangements even if you never play with others! The tunes you work so hard to acquire will stick better in the end.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday's Muse

How NOT to Respond to the Flood

Don’t respond with theology.
God isn’t angry, and God doesn’t want devastation.
Your sin didn’t cause the flood
that swept away your home, your town.
God doesn’t punish Houston, and
didn’t punish Miami or San Francisco, or New Orleans,
because God isn’t in the storm.
God weeps at our suffering. God loves.

Don’t respond with politics.
Hate government assistance later;
dismantle welfare tomorrow.
This is a time for us all to unite
to offer assistance,
to protect the weak and endangered.
Remember to feed the hungry
and clothe the naked.
The Bible and the government both agree on that.

Don’t respond with greed.
Raise prices later,
on something else.

Not on housing or food, or medicine.
Not when people are soaked, tired, and terrified.
Do you rob the poor to line your pockets?
God cherishes the poor and the needy.

Don’t close your doors.
The point of your great big building is the people it can shelter.
You can always redo the floors
or get another carpet.
The time to shelter the homeless is now.
God wants to send an Ark.
Be that Ark.

As you treat the least of them …

Respond with compassion,
Respond with deeds of kindness,
Respond with open hands,
Respond with love,

… so shall you be treated.    
~ Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday's Muse

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.  ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, September 7, 2018

CTO ... my go-to video when the string pops ... Thanks, Dan Landrum!

It's Murphy's Law* in action. And it happened to me this week.

Check This Out ... I'm getting ready to play a gig. Moving along, right on schedule. Plenty of time to tune. POW! A string breaks. What to do??

  • Check your instrument's tuning / string size chart (you have that in a handy place, right?)
  • Dig through the musical accessories drawer, hoping you have the correct size string on hand (make note to self to replenish the supply)
  • Pull up Dan Landrum's youtube video demonstration on replacing a hammered dulcimer string
  • Replace the string with confidence
  • Be thankful it happened while at home, not in the middle of performance :-)

Dan's video is my go-to instructional resource whenever a string must be changed / replaced. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I broke a string, but when I had a full teaching schedule, I was frequently called upon to assist students replace their broken / missing strings. It can be an intimidating task, but actually, not that difficult.

The first thing I always do is refresh my string-changing memories by watching Dan's video. In it, he offers detailed instruction to give you confidence to do exactly the right thing AND he offers emotional support / encouragement to give you the courage to do it!

Check it out! Truly, there's never a good time for a string to break, but we can prepare ourselves for the moment when Murphy's Law strikes again!

* Murphy's Law - an adage that refers to the general truth that "anything that can go wrong will go wrong".

Monday, September 3, 2018

Monday's Muse

Summer-induced stupidity. That was the diagnosis...   ~ Aimee Friedman, Sea Change

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monday's Muse

Some people have lives; some people have music.  ~ John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Monday, August 20, 2018

Monday's Muse

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.  ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, August 16, 2018

routine practice

Wouldn't it be nice if intellectual understanding alone was enough to master a musical instrument? A little bit of study and we could be such experts! We players of the hammered dulcimer would hammer away with passion and freedom! After all, the patterns and set-up of the hammered dulcimer are fixed, and music theory is a finite body of information. Right?

Of course, it is not that simple.

First, the physical act of playing requires training of our muscles and our brains. Muscle memory is real, and it helps! Then, music theory must be applied. Simply understanding how a chord is constructed is not the same as being able to play the chord.

The word “rote” has a bad rap in modern-day learning. But in reality rote practice, i.e. routine practice that focuses on specific challenging skills... plays an important role. The path to success and creativity at the hammered dulcimer is to practice until the foundational patterns are deeply ingrained. Mastering the fundamentals is why we must practice scales and chord patterns when learning to play (as well as hammering skills, embellishments, complex rhythms, etc, etc, etc)

But I just want to have fun! 

Learning isn’t always “fun.” Sometimes it involves hard work. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it feels downright impossible. But life is short! Our music practice should give us pleasure. And guess what? You can't spell "fundamental" without F-U-N!

Practicing fundamentals within the context of a tune is helpful. Practicing a back-up arrangement 
within the structure of a given chord progression, even if you think you'll never play with another musician, results in better understanding of the tune, better understanding of chord patterns and rhythms, and may lead to some good arrangement ideas. Making up your own exercises based on music you want to play makes the practice more enjoyable and more meaningful.

I encourage you to routinely set aside some practice time to focus on the fundamentals. I guarantee the payoff will be fun!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday's Muse

Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.  ~ Maya Angelou

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

What's your skill level?

In recent weeks I have publicized a Dan Duggan workshop (planned for September 22, 2018) and the Black Mountain Music Festival (scheduled for October 21-26, 2018), both excellent opportunities to see professional musicians at work and to acquire some top-notch instruction on the hammered dulcimer. But these opportunities bring up questions. I've had inquiries. People want to know...
  • "Am I good enough?"
  • "What exactly is an 'intermediate' player?"
  • "What skill level do you think I am?"
It's not unusual to wonder, "Where do I fit in? How do I stack up?"
  • compared to other players of this instrument
  • compared to other musicians
  • compared to one's own personal goals
Compared to your own personal goals is a topic that is a bit lofty for this space. But I do encourage you to monitor your own progress and goals in a manner that is fitting for you. What I know for sure, is that as individuals, we are always raising the bar. There is always so much more to learn. There is always so much music, so little time. Just keep at it!
Compared to other musicians is certainly, a question of interest, but for many of us playing for our own enjoyment, not the biggest concern.
Compared to other players of this instrument... Now, this could be useful information, especially when signing up for classes at a festival or workshop.

I was going to attempt to write out a description of the various skill levels, from beginner to advanced, but you know it's already been done. That's what google has done for us. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I thought I would link you to a few good resources.

Take a look. Think about your own skills. Perhaps you'll find some affirmation in these descriptions. Perhaps you'll recognize some holes in your own skill set. Maybe you'll get a better feel for the process of mastering the instrument. Maybe it will help you envision where you want to be in the process. And hopefully, you will gain confidence to participate in activities that are perfect for your skill level!

Links to information worth reading below:

Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
Hammered Dulcimer Curriculum

From a satellite of the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association
General Playing Level Descriptions
(scroll down to find hammered dulcimer information)

From Steve Eulberg, at Owl Mountain Music
Skill Levels? How do I compare?
(scroll down to find hammered dulcimer information)

Monday, August 6, 2018

Monday's Muse

Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair.  ~ Susan Polis Schutz

Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday's Muse

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.  ~ Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Friday, July 27, 2018

CTO... Black Mountain Music Festival

Registration is underway for the 3rd annual Black Mountain Music Festival held at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly October 21 - 26, 2018 in Black Mountain, NC.

Check This Out ... Top-notch teacher / performers for all levels of both hammered dulcimer and mountain dulcimer, with bonus classes in ukulele, autoharp, guitar, and banjo. Offering quite a line-up of classes, concerts, and jam sessions, in the company of old and new friends, smack-dab in the middle of the blazing autumn beauty of the mountains of western North Carolina.

Trapezoids of the Triangle -- This fantastic festival is in our own backyard. Don't miss it. Make plans now!

Pictures and memories from the 2017 festival ... check it out!
Black Mountain Music Festival 2017 blogpost
Bing Futch's youtube video

Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday's Muse

Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. ~ Issac Bashevis Singer

Friday, July 20, 2018

CTO... Dan Duggan Teaching / Performing in Cary

The Triangle Hammered Dulcimer Slow Jam will sponsor an all-day workshop and associated weekend concerts featuring Dan Duggan of Red Creek, New York in September.

Check This Out...

Dan Duggan - hammered dulcimer teacher, performer, instrument builder and National Hammered Dulcimer champion - will be visiting the Triangle during the weekend of Sep 22-23. He will conduct a workshop for intermediate hammered dulcimer players at the Kirk of Kildaire, 200 High Meadow Lane, Cary, NC 27511 from 9 AM - 4 PM on Saturday, the 22nd. The next day, Sunday, Sep 23rd, he will play at morning church services, then perform a concert for the Kirk's "Concert for a Cause" program from 3 - 4 PM.

Dan conducted a highly touted workshop in North Raleigh several years ago. He taught "Waiting for Sophie" and "Buckeye Rag". He will be teaching new material this time - tunes to be determined. Read more on Dan's bio at

The workshop will be held in the large room downstairs, just outside the choir room entrance in the front where the Triangle HD Slow Jam typically meets. The workshop will be divided into two sessions, morning and afternoon, with a lunch break in between. Dan will teach different tunes in each session... a plus for those who can attend only the morning or afternoon session... but hopefully you can attend both. The schedule is:

- 9:00-9:30 registration and coffee/tea/donuts
- 9:30-11:45 morning session (with short stretch break)
-11:45-1:00 lunch (IHOP restaurant across the street in a private room, for all workshop attendees)
- 1:15-3:30 afternoon session (with short stretch break)
- 3:30-4:00 mini-concert by Dan

Cost: $35 per session or $60 for both sessions (lunch NOT included)

Please make your checks payable to Mark Rose and send to:

Mark Rose
4000 Winston Hill Drive
Apt 101
Cary, NC 27513

Questions? email Mark Rose 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Still Going Strong

I have been taking this week's Monday's Muse seriously. It's go, go, go around this household!

So much has happened in the last few months. Miles have been traveled. Milestones have been reached. Friends and family have come and gone... some never to be seen again on this earthly plane. It's life lived to the max in all its sweet and melancholy glory, and I'm grateful for it.

But, still, there is music to be played! ... and news to share, goals to accomplish, friends to meet, plans to make, blogs to update.

And so it goes. We begin again.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday's Muse

If your arteries are good, eat more ice cream. If they are bad, drink more red wine. Proceed thusly.  ~ Sandra Byrd, Bon Appetit

Monday, July 2, 2018

Monday's Muse

Music of all the arts has the most influence on the passions and the legislator should give it the greatest encouragement.  ~ Napoleon

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday's Muse

Good music is very close to primitive language. - Denis Diderot

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday's Muse

My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.  ~ Claude Monet

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday's Muse

All good music resembles something. Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it.  ~ Jean Cocteau

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monday's Muse

Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.  ~ Victor Hugo

Monday, May 28, 2018

Monday's Muse

In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.  ~ Phil Collins

Monday, May 21, 2018

Monday's Muse

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.  ~ Maya Angelou

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

CTO... John McCutcheon Performing Friday, May 18

There's still time! John McCutcheon in concert this Friday in Carrboro!

Check This Out ... Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, John McCutcheon, will perform this Friday, May 18th, 8:00pm, at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. McCutcheon is master of a dozen different traditional instruments, most notably, the hammered dulcimer! Don't miss this chance to see one of our most respected folk-musicians. Tickets are $24. Check it out!

For info or to purchase tickets: or call the Box Office at (919) 929-2787

Monday, May 14, 2018

Monday's Muse

Music can change the world because it can change people.  ~ Bono

Monday, May 7, 2018

A year from now you may wish you had started today.  ~ Karen Lamb

Friday, May 4, 2018

CTO... Finally! a "how to" dulcimer book that's really worth buying!

Since I started teaching in 2006, students have asked if there's a particular book from which I teach. The answer has been 'no'. I typically make my own handouts and information sheets based on the method from which I learned, i.e. the Ken Kolodner method. I am thrilled that Ken has recently put together a book that contains everything you need to know to master the hammered dulcimer. Those are BIG words, but seriously, there's a LOT in this book!

Check This Out ... Ken Kolodner has just released Edition #3 of his Chord Theory and Mapping for the Hammered Dulcimer book. This spiral-bound, easel-style book began as a collection of cheat sheets and charts to help students navigate the instrument. In subsequent editions, information and explanations were added to create a compact, easy-to-read summary of music theory for the hammered dulcimer. The information presented is essential to mastery of the instrument.

Self-motivated players can work through this book on their own, although it might be helpful to have an experienced teacher give some guidance. If no such teacher is available (and even if there is) or if you simply want more "foundation" information to explore all of this on your own, check into Ken's "Big Bundle" on his website. That'll keep you busy for awhile :-)

Chord Theory and Mapping for the Hammered Dulcimer is available NOW! Check it out!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday's Muse

Every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end. ~ Seneca

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday's Muse

The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday's Muse

You've got to know what you want. This is central to acting on your intentions. When you know what you want, you realize that all there is left then is time management. You'll manage your time to achieve your goals because you clearly know what you're trying to achieve in your life.  ~ Zig Ziglar

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday's Muse

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!  ~ Ella Fitzgerald

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday's Muse

You can't be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.  ~ Tina Fey, Bossypants

Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday's Muse

I believe in process. I believe in four seasons. I believe that winter's tough, but spring's coming. I believe that there's a growing season. And I think that you realize that in life, you grow. You get better.  ~ Steve Southerland

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday's Muse

I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.  ~ Albert Einstein

Monday, March 5, 2018

Monday's Muse

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.  ~ Maya Angelou

Monday, February 26, 2018

Monday's Muse

Many say that life entered the human body by the help of music, but the truth is that life itself is music.  ~ Hafez

Friday, February 23, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Sure Sign of Spring

Sure, there are daffodils and cherry blossoms and the song of the robin... but the true harbinger of spring? My dulcimer is sharp!

After a season of strings going flat, flat, flatter, and students wondering out loud, "How low can we go?" there is definitely a change in the air. We'll be experiencing the seasonal adjustment as humidity returns to our part of the world. The wood and strings will soak it up, and everything will go sharp.

I will welcome spring, along with the continued opportunity to practice the zen of tuning!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday's Muse

See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.  ~ Ray Bradbury, fahrenheit 451

Monday, February 5, 2018

Monday's Muse

A few can touch the magic string,
And noisy Fame is proud to win them;
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!  ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

It's not over 'til it's over!

There are many reasons we might mis-hit a note on the hammered dulcimer. One is simply a matter of attention. Sometimes we allow our focus to shift away from one place to another too soon.

The most frustrating examples I have encountered are those habitually missed notes that appear in a tune as part of an "easy" well-practiced pattern, such as a scale, or a root arpeggio. After identifying it as such a pattern, shouldn't it just fall into place? What is wrong with me??

Take a breath, and realize that it's probably not you... and it's probably not even that note! Often, we miss one note because the next note is tricky in some way. Maybe it's far away, or an unusual rhythm, or an awkward reach.

Take a look at this example from the tune, Frosty Morning. Here are the two opening phrases:

Check out the scale run up from A in measure two. There's an E at the top. My students mis-hit it routinely. Why?

Because the next thing we sometimes like to play are octave G's on beat 1, measure three. Now, the E is a half note. There should be plenty of time to get to the G's, but the big jump is scary, and the mental anticipation steals the player's focus away.

Typically, one would continue to practice the transition between the Am and the G phrases at a slow, comfortable speed until your brain and hands learn it well enough to play all correctly, gradually increasing to tempo. This will eventually work for many players. For others, the mental preparation of moving from that high E to the octave G's still takes up too much time. What to do?

In these situations, I have found it useful to give my brain something to think about that maintains proper attention until the last split second. In this case, shape that scale run with an accent on the top note. A nice crescendo from the A to the E, hitting that top note with intention, requires your brain to stick with it until the run is over. Plus, you've just introduced a nice dynamic element. AND there's still plenty of time to get to those octave G's!

How do YOU trick your brain into maintaining focus in a tricky spot? Share your successes with us!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday's Muse

Don't give notes. Give the meaning of the notes.  ~ Pablo Casals

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Don't Let Your Tunes Get Stuck in One Place

Want to test how well you know a tune? Move it to a different place on your instrument. Specifically, move the tune to a different octave.

Shifting octaves is one of the simplest ways to vary a tune, but it's not necessarily easy to execute! Like everything else, it must be practiced.

Select any tune you know. Play it as you learned it. Now, try playing it an octave higher. Can it actually be accomplished on your instrument? Do you have all the necessary notes? If no, well... good to know! Return to the original location of the tune. If yes, practice until the tune is as easy to play in the upper octave as it is in the original octave.

Now, return to that original location on your instrument. Ahhhh.... feeling better?

Next, play the tune an octave lower. Same question: Can it be done? If no, you're finished. If yes, practice until you can play it as smoothly as in the first setting.

Even if the entire tune can't be played in the upper or lower octave, sometimes the A part works, or the B part, or a portion of one or both parts. Try it all and take note. This is valuable information that allows you to take full advantage of the range of your instrument for any given tune.

Once you know what can be done, play around with it. Play the entire tune in one octave, then jump to a different octave. Or move by parts ... play part A in one octave, part B in another. Or A1 in one octave and A2 in another. Or move by phrases. Or whatever. Just have fun!

The real fun comes when you begin to find ways to shift from one octave to another using bits of scales and pieces of chord arpeggios. The sky's the limit!

Warning: Don't make the mistake of playing the tune in a different key! That's fun, too, but not what we're doing here.

Having trouble knowing where to start?  Identify the beginning note of the tune. What's its name? Move to the note with the same name an octave higher (an interval of 8, all inclusive). Don't forget that this is not a linear instrument. You will not be moving straight up the instrument to find your new note!

When moving to the upper octave you will cross the bridge or valley to the left, looking up the instrument for the new note in the same relative position to the mark as the original note. If the original note is on the mark, the new note should be, too. If the original note is one above the mark, the new note will be, too. If the original note is one below the mark, the new note will be one below the mark.

When moving to the lower octave, you will cross the bridge or valley to the right, looking down the instrument for the same-named note that is in the same relative position to the mark as the original note.

Sure does take a lot of words to describe this! Much easier to show it on the instrument. Good luck! and let me know how it goes :-)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday's Muse

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.  ~ Pablo Picasso

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Marya Made it a Red, White, and Bluesy Day

Two weeks ago, on a Wednesday night, we got 3 inches of sparkly snow. This morning, we woke to rain changing to heavy, wet snow, an accumulation of 2-5" expected. I must say, it's a lovely snowfall... but these snow days are wreaking havoc on my teaching schedule!

Considering the alternative, I guess I should be thankful for the sunny, albeit cold MLK holiday this past Monday. Trapezoids traveled far and wide -- from the Triangle in the east, from Asheville in the west, from points in between -- to Winston Salem, for a day of practice and play with Marya Katz of Blacksburg, VA. This mid-winter musical boost has become an annual event on MLK Monday.

Marya had pronounced a red, white, and blue theme for the day. Attendees got into the mood by dressing for the occasion. We started with some ear training. We learned Cailin Deas Rua, The Pretty Red-Haired Girl, with no paper assistance, then added embellishments to make it sound Irish.

Then, on to The White Cockade. We considered varied hammer patterns to play the basic tune - taking advantage of duplicate notes - then worked out the chord progression. I think some folks were amazed that there were so many correct chord possibilities! You mean chord progressions are not set in stone??

We ended the day improvising over the 12-bar Blues chord progression in D major, to the tune, Joe Turner Blues. Yes, we really did the dreaded "I" word... and we had fun doing it!

Nearly two dozen trapezoids filled the room. I managed to capture this shot of Marya with four of my students. Maybe I'll catch YOU there next year!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday's Muse

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr

Monday, January 8, 2018

Monday's Muse

Begin noticing and being careful about keeping your imagination free of thoughts that you do not wish to materialize. Instead, initiate a practice of filling your creative thoughts to overflow with ideas and wishes that you fully intend to manifest. Honor your imaginings regardless of others seeing them as crazy or impossible. ~ Wayne Dyer

Friday, January 5, 2018

CTO ... Marya Katz set to Teach Workshop in Winston Salem

Check This Out... Marya Katz has made a tradition of offering a hammered dulcimer workshop on MLK Monday these past several years. If you haven't met Marya yet, she's a great teacher... really knows how to make it fun! If you have the day off, and are in the mood for a little day trip, check it out!

MARYA KATZ  will teach a hammered dulcimer WORKSHOP
Monday, January 15, 2018
9:00am – 3:30pm
College Park Baptist Church
1701 Polo Road, Winson Salem
All levels welcome
Cost: $60, includes all handouts and lunch; make payment that day
Contact: BOTH Marya Katz AND Terry Lefler to reserve your spot

See additional details from Marya below:

We are ON for the annual MLK day hammered dulcimer workshop on January 15th, at College Park Baptist Church. Our theme this year will be "Red, White, and Blue" - we'll do some chord exploration and ornamentation/embellishments to provide "color" in a melody.  

The building will be open by 8:30 am for everyone to meet, greet, and tune (if you didn't arrive in tune, but of course that wouldn't happen...right?).  Coffee, tea, water,  and a few goodies will probably be available at that time.  The first session begins at 9:00, and we will break for lunch around noon.  The second session begins around 1:00 pm, going until 3:30.  $60 will cover the cost of the workshop, all handouts, AND lunch.  I'll also have a few of my books and CDs available for purchase in case your library is in need of more music!

Terry Lefler will be in charge of taking lunch orders within the next week, so if you would - please send your affirmative response to this notice to both of us ( AND ( so that he'll know to contact you with the lunch choices, and I'll know to bring enough handouts, etc.

I've already heard from several of you, so I know we'll be having a great time playing music together.  Just in case you've forgotten, our theme this year will be "Red, White, and Blue" - we are going to do some more chord exploration and ornamentation/embellishments (to provide "color" in a melody).  

Looking forward to seeing you - and of course, invite anyone else you can think of to come along (just forward this email to anyone not in the "To" list above so they'll get this message).  I try to gear my workshops for all levels of hammered dulcimer playing so everyone should feel comfortable that day.

Smiles to all,

 p.s.  A little extra gift to anyone who actually wears red, white, and blue!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Monday's Muse

And now we welcome the new year... full of things that have never been.  ~ Rainer Maria Rilke