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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APR
16

The folk hymn 'Behold the Lamb of God' for solo hammered dulcimer

The folk hymn 'Behold the Lamb of God' for solo hammered dulcimer

Back in the late 1980s when I was excitedly collecting melodies from old folk hymn books, especially George Pullen Jackson’s scholarly books and the actual shape-note hymnals such as The Original Sacred Harp and The Southern Harmony (in those the tune is in the tenor, by the way), one of the hymns that really caught my attention was ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ --- and I made a ‘lead sheet’ for it in a singable, playable key. 

But I’ve never made an arrangement of it for hammered dulcimer until now, when I turned the camera on and explored ways of making it sing on the instrument without the words but with the words in mind.

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21636 Hits
MAR
12

'Big Meadows Twilight' composed and played on the hammered dulcimer

'Big Meadows Twilight' composed and played on the hammered dulcimer

In February of 2000 I purchased my present dulcimer, a Dusty Strings D600 (the eighth one out of the shop, the one Ray Mooers sent to Sam Rizzetta to confirm the design) --- and I decided to try developing a new technique using separated hands, stylized sort of like a pianist does it, together with the rich low range of this particular dulcimer model.

So I chose the key of A, and I chose to use all of the major and minor chords from the key so I could explore the use of each of their locations on the bass bridge.

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12060 Hits
JAN
31

Some simple techniques for hammered dulcimer arranging, part 3

Some simple techniques for hammered dulcimer arranging, part 3

The third and final installment of our series of ideas for hammered dulcimer arrangement of simple tunes brings up yet more significant challenges, but all of these are extremely useful if you want to make your music really sing! 

Numbers 16 and 17 take a bit more focus and practice, but when you develop them you’ll find that in the resulting effect ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts!’

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JAN
30

Some simple techniques for hammered dulcimer arranging, part 2

Some simple techniques for hammered dulcimer arranging, part 2

Continuing the list of ideas for arranging a melody, here are six techniques you can mix and match to fill out and color and personalize a piece!  Sometimes I stick to just one technique for an entire arrangement, and sometimes I use many of them in a very complex (but fun) pattern of uses, and most are a combination somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of complexity.

7. Arpeggio chords -- chords suggested between melody notes by adding notes that complement the melody, resembling the effect of a fingerpicked guitar.

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