Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!
NOV
03

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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SEP
30

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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SEP
18

Slash chords!

Slash chords!

Lots of sheet music has chords written over the top of the staff. For example, if the key signature of the notation has one sharp, you might see chords that start and end with ‘G’, in which case the tune is most likely in the key of G Major. It may start and end with ‘Em’, meaning probably that the key is E Minor, which has the same notes and chords as G Major, except that the scale starts on a different note.

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1099 Hits
SEP
10

Three ways of naming and playing musical notes!

Three ways of naming and playing musical notes!

 

Please don’t be dismayed by the possibility that this blog post is going to get too technical! The concepts are simple, and I think they are incredibly useful!

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747 Hits
JAN
12

Music sounds better in the winter!

Music sounds better in the winter!

You’ve read that right: apparently everything sounds better in the winter, especially in more humid climates (like Virginia, USA, where we live), and here’s why:

When it gets colder, the heating unit in a building turns on or is turned on, like a furnace or a wood stove.  Because of that, the humidity in the indoors drops to a pretty low level, like fifteen to twenty-five percent relative humidity.

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AUG
15

Three features of Beatles ballads

When in 1995 I composed ‘Sky Through the Pines’ (originally ‘Such a Gift’) I envisioned it as a sung song with guitar or as an instrumental ensemble piece with guitar, hammered dulcimer, flute, and other instruments; both versions were recorded, in 1996 and then 2002, and the latter was released on the album Sycamore Rapids.  But I never imagined playing it as a solo --- and was frustrated that I couldn’t play it again except on a CD player!

In 2000 I began developing my new stylized method of separated-hand solo hammered dulcimer playing, and at first limited it to quite simple tunes to keep it manageable.  Then the occasion came, for a couple of weddings, to arrange Beatles pop ballads in such a manner.  Many of us agree, I think, that some of the finest of the pop ballads are by those guys, and they have a sort of pure simplicity that ought to go well with my separated-hand technique!

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APR
04

How I arranged 'There Is a Fountain (Cleansing Fountain)'

How I arranged 'There Is a Fountain (Cleansing Fountain)'

It seems as if everyone who knows the old Appalachian folk hymn ‘There Is a Fountain’ loves it, with its Civil War manner of simplicity and sentimentality.  The refrain that repeats the last line of each verse for a lingering contemplative moment is a dear American musical statement.

I certainly join with the throngs who are endeared to this piece.  And all my life I’ve heard it performed, at times as a beautifully quaint folksy instrumental, or as a formal congregational hymn, or a sweeping operatic showpiece, or a Bluegrass gospel number, or a jazz improv, or an Indie acoustic pop song, or a fundamentalist inspirational solo…

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