Thursday, February 11, 2021

It's a Question of Quality

Ready to take your playing to another level? Do you even know what's stopping you?
Take a look at your practice habits. Ask yourself two questions:
Am I practicing enough?
Am I intentional about my practice?

Consistent and deliberate practice is crucial to mastering the hammered dulcimer. It's no secret. We all know that in order to improve we must practice ... a lot. It's pretty easy to track how much we practice, e.g. count minutes practiced, count practice sessions completed, check off old and new tunes as you play them. But what about the deliberate part? How do we track how well we practice?

Well, that requires getting serious about identifying strengths and weaknesses. It requires focusing on tasks that improve the weaknesses, possibly finding a mentor who has already lived it... somebody who will stand by your side and point out what you need to do to improve. 

While there is some gain to be made simply by playing tunes and maintaining play lists, if we are to truly master the hammered dulcimer we must understand the patterns unique to its spatial layout and understand the theory behind those patterns. There IS a method to the madness!

On May 4, 2018 I wrote about my teacher / mentor, Ken Kolodner, and his book, Chord Theory and Mapping for the Hammered Dulcimer. At the time, he had just released Edition #3. From that blog post:

"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!"

Since then, the content in that book has been extensively tested in the field. Armed with lots of student feedback, Ken collaborated with Mary Lynn Michal to make significant revisions to the book. The new iteration, released last fall, has a new name: The Complete Guide to Theory and Mapping for the Hammered  Dulcimer, and what started as a nine-page flip-chart has morphed into 100+ pages!

But don't let that scare you off. The book is very usable and approachable. Ken and Mary Lynn, with the help of tech guru Laurie McCarriar, have added more content and new graphics to clarify music theory as it relates to the hammered dulcimer. Included are practical examples and exercises to get the ideas out of your head, into your hands, and onto the instrument. It's a great tool to help identify what you do and do not know and guide you to increased knowledge, leading to improved performance at the instrument.

Of course, self-motivated players can work through this book on their own, but there's help available! If we've learned anything during this past "covid year" it's that technology is our friend... making it possible to join, learn, share, get feedback, and ask questions from a real person - all from the comfort of home.

Here's your online connection to mentorship: Mary Lynn Michal is currently teaching a 40-week "live" video class through 2021, working through the entire hd theory book in bite-sized portions. I'm sorry to report that the "live" class is full and already underway... BUT all classes have been recorded and are now available for on-demand viewing! And participation gets you access to online discussion boards with Mary Lynn and other students.

On-demand works just fine for me and my unpredictable schedule. Mary Lynn is an experienced and talented teacher. This series of video lessons gives me the structure I need to really put in the work. How about you? Are you ready to DO IT?

Join Mary Lynn Michal and Laurie McCarriar on their new site, HD Homeland .... and take it from there!

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