Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!
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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SEP
16

'Wondrous Love' on the hammered dulcimer with drones

Some Appalachian folk hymns have a powerful, stark, droning nature; perhaps the most well-known and effective of these is ‘Wondrous Love’, and it’s included in many modern hymnals with hollow harmonies reminiscent of the old shape-note books.

How does one arrange for this strong Dorian-mode melody when playing it solo on the hammered dulcimer?  I’ve always loved the shifting minor and major chords in some versions of it (see one possible set of modern chording in the lead sheet I’ve included here: Wondrous-Love-in-Edor-F.pdf), and it certainly is compelling when played as a melody only, solo a capella --- but I’ve opted to do only the stark, harmonized sound when I play it solo, and usually I play only one verse, letting the hymn be an introduction to another, contrasting, piece in a medley.

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SEP
04

Playing in an ensemble

Playing in an ensemble

Although nowadays I play solo most of the time, I love to join with other musicians in ensembles when I can, and have a series of different groups planned throughout the rest of this year: church worship team, acoustic duets, trios, quartets, even an Old-Time/Celtic sextet!  If you play with other musicians, you need to make many decisions about how each player’s role fits into the overall picture.

I as an improviser tend to look for ways I can come up with special countermelodies and textural enhancements --- as well as creative, meaningful interpretations of the melody when it’s my turn to play lead, or improvisational breaks when called for.

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JUN
18

Three kinds of tempo flow

Three kinds of tempo flow

The Italian word “tempo” means “time” --- music moving through time at a certain speed, as we generally think of it.  But it also involves how we progress through time.  Offhand, I can immediately think of three different ways in which the tempo moves.  Let’s line them out:

1)    Steadily:  Like a metronome that ticks away every beat, or, with the human element, moving along pretty nearly like a metronome but with more life to it --- this is the most common tempo motion.  In fact, Pop music recordings often utilize a studio “click track” metronome that serves as a reference during the recording process so all the instruments and voices move along together and the song can be set up to be good for dancing. Then in the final mixdown the metronome track is removed.  We all need to be able to keep this kind of flow (click track or not) and to keep it consistent, no matter what genre of music we play!  Old-Time and Bluegrass music, for example, tend to keep this consistent rhythm.  It's the easiest "groove" for an ensemble's members to keep their timing precise.

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