Timothy's Blog

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

I am a musician playing primarily hammered dulcimer and flute, and have produced 15 instrumental albums on Virginia, Nature, History, Celtic, Christmas, and other themes; self-styled and original in approach, with a strong respect for sources and meanings.


Born Fighting: Our Scots-Irish heritage

Born Fighting: Our Scots-Irish heritage

I love the diversity of people groups we have here in America: Each heritage has various special approaches to life that it can contribute to the society in general.

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Practice scales with four Christmas carols!

Practice scales with four Christmas carols!

As I play Christmas carols, I find that some of the most beloved ones are constructed out of large segments of the diatonic scale, and perhaps that contributes to people’s love for them!

At any rate, if you play a musical instrument and want to practice your scales while making festive holiday melody, here are the ones I’ve noticed are like that:

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Three chords for every scale step!

Three chords for every scale step!

When you need to choose a chord to play with a certain melody note, it doesn’t have to be guesswork! There is a very clear and simple structure to music that we can refer to when choosing chords.

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Hammered dulcimer steepness and the gravity effect!

Hammered dulcimer steepness and the gravity effect!

Hammered dulcimer players often discuss the best steepness of angle the instrument needs to be for playing. There are some interesting factors that figure into this equation!

  1. How big is your dulcimer? If it’s big, like 3 ½ to 5 octaves in range, you might want to lean it pretty steeply so you can easily reach the high notes.
  2. Do you play standing up or sitting down? If you stand, it’s easier to have a flatter angle, since you can move on your feet to get the reach; if you sit, you have to move around from the small of your back and use your arms more than the rest of your body, and can reach more easily with a steep angle.
  3. Do you hover over your hammers, or do you stand up straight and reach from your elbows and shoulders mostly? Hoverers like me tend to need a bit steeper of an angle to easily lean over the notes --- but height helps too: I prefer for the whole dulcimer to be pretty high off the ground so my face can get close to my playing (and since I have relatively short arms), and so I don’t have to crouch to get the bridges’ lowest notes or hurt my elbows because of the funny playing position. Other players may see it just the opposite, though. What’s your approach?


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Important information for ukulele players

Important information for ukulele players

Everything on this list for beginning players is essential to be able to play the ukulele! These aren’t just tips, but they make it possible to play, and to play well.

  • Playing a fretted fingerboard instrument takes muscular effort and focus!
  • Curve your left hand into a circle so that your thumb can clamp against the back of the neck to help the other fingers press down on the strings.
  • Your thumb must be at or near the center of the back of the neck so it can help the other fingers.
  • Press your right forearm against the front of the uke, pushing it against your body to create a lever that helps your left hand press down on the strings.
  • Swivel your left hand to find the best position to play the chord you need; this is especially important for the chord G: swivel your hand toward the head of the uke to get a natural triangular shape for your fingers.
  • When pressing down a string, put your finger just behind the fret on the fingerboard (closer to the head), so it has good leverage to hold the string down onto the fret.
  • Always keep the front (soundboard) of the uke completely vertical (perpendicular to the floor). If you need to look at the frets and strings, lean your head forward to do that. (If it’s not vertical, you can’t reach the notes well enough with your left hand.)
  • There are three different numbering systems operating at once:

         1) Fingers: 1st (index), 2nd (middle), 3rd (ring), 4th (pinky)

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