Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!
OCT
27

Hammered dulcimer hovering

There are a lot of stances for playing the hammered dulcimer: Some folks prefer to sit down behind a very vertical instrument (easy to reach all the strings); some like to stand and reach down to a level dulcimer (great efficiency because of gravity’s help); some stand and use the typical moderately slanted setup (a compromise between the two above), reaching from a stationary position to use mostly shoulders and elbows for aiming the hammers.

I am, though, a hoverer. I prefer to stand for that reason, though it’s possible to hover while sitting. (When seated, however, my way of playing requires some strenuous action at the small of my back.) Rather than stand upright and let my hands and arms do all the work, I love to use my whole body, transferring energy from even as far as my calves and thighs to swing force into the hammers, sort of dancing the vector forces at all sorts of angles into the vibration of the strings. For my temperament, at least, this seems to create the greatest possibility of expressive range and emotional coloring.

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177 Hits
JUL
25

Arrangement ideas from favorite sources

Arrangement ideas from favorite sources

There are certain musical pieces that we personally love, and that our whole culture seems to love.  Sometimes I like to consider what it is that is so lovable, then make my own arrangements with ideas from what I find.

Here’s a really clear one as an example!  Today I was talking with a student about how to arrange the old Shaker tune ‘Simple Gifts,’ and I mentioned how Aaron Copland had made a theme and variations from it in section seven of his very popular orchestral Appalachian Spring Suite.  (Many folks from my generation and older remember one part of it as the theme music for the weekly TV news show The Twentieth Century with Walter Cronkite.)

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1306 Hits
JUL
20

July 20, 1969!

July 20, 1969!

On this very date in 1969 I was seventeen years old and several days into a backpacking trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in the Rocky Mountains of northern New Mexico with friends from Virginia.  We’d hiked several days from Lover’s Leap to Lower Bonito to Crater Lake to Fish Camp, and now to Beaubien Camp, a beautiful mountain meadow among spruce, fir, and aspen in the classically wondrous Rockies ecosystem.  As a young Eagle Scout who was a backpacker at heart, this whole experience was utterly thrilling!

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1100 Hits
JUN
08

Using body language for expression

Using body language for expression

Musical phrasing and interpretation are affected by the way the instrumentalist moves.  It often marks the difference between cold, dead music-making and compelling, electrifying results.

A lot of dynamic effect can be achieved with a very efficient and slight movement, as when a hammered dulcimer player uses mostly his fingers to flip the hammers in just the right way, with shoulders and elbows moving the hammers to the note locations.

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1623 Hits
JUN
06

Maturing wood

Maturing wood

Wooden instruments gain new sonorities as they’re played over the years!

My performance hammered dulcimer was made in 1999 by Dusty Strings, the eighth one released of the new design, the D600; they sent it to co-designer Sam Rizzetta for approval of the new model, and he recorded it on three tracks of the album Dulcimer Boogie with it. (That’s my D600 in the photos!  He played a new D550 on one other track, and his own Rizzetta Extended Range on the rest.)

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1513 Hits
OCT
20

Pachelbel's Canon in D Fantasia for hammered dulcimer

Pachelbel's Canon in D Fantasia for hammered dulcimer
 

One of the most popular and beloved pieces in all of Classical music is the beautiful Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel, made famous in our time by its use in a recording in 1969 and a film in the 1970s.

With its repeating chords, diatonic (do-re-mi scale) nature, and interesting lyrical melody, it seems like a perfect candidate for a hammered dulcimer arrangement.

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7943 Hits
JAN
13

Product review: the Dusty Strings Dulci-Tune

Product review: the Dusty Strings Dulci-Tune

Over the past twenty-seven years I’ve used a number of electronic tuners to get my hammered dulcimer and other instruments in tune before a gig or a recording session, and I’ve hoped for quickness and exactness.  Now, the most recently purchased tuner really stands out.  I’ll tell you why after a brief history:

First, starting in 1988, I had a Sabine.  There were just three little lights showing ‘flat, in tune, sharp’ and the note was sensed by a microphone or a jack for an extension cable with an alligator clamp at the other end.  It did a decent job. 

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4474 Hits

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