Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!
JUL
29

Practicing then taking a joy break

Practice makes perfect!  Well, at least, practicing something over and over for a long time will make it possible for you to play it better.  Of course!  And the more familiar you are with a piece from much practicing, the more likely you will have a marvelous command of its structure and expressive details when the time comes to perform or record.

But sometimes you find yourself banging against a wall.  If you’re playing hammered dulcimer (or any instrument) for enjoyment, learning a tune or arrangement can sometimes become a terrific burden, and you may be tempted to forget the whole music thing and just go play a video game or watch a reality TV show or something….

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SEP
28

Wide-open spaces

Wide-open spaces

[New Mexico wilderness, 1971]

I’m a mild claustrophobe.

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121542 Hits
JUN
03

We hear music differently! Some observations

We hear music differently! Some observations

As I play music, or as people listen to my recordings, I am continually startled by the vast range of comments I get.  Disregard the negative ones --- let’s even just consider the spectrum of compliments!

I’ll be pounding my hammers on the dulcimer in a dark minor key using dramatic chord changes and then I shift to a jarringly different key and an even more passionate and animated progression of what I consider to be compelling and powerful musical expressions and ideas.  Often at a time like this someone will come up and say, “This beautiful music is so soothing and relaxing, I could just fall asleep to it.”

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MAY
29

EXCELSIOR! Ideas concerning the concept of “Up” in music arranging

EXCELSIOR!  Ideas concerning the concept of “Up” in music arranging

“Excelsior” is a Latin word meaning “ever upward.” Aspiration is an important part of every aspect of our lives!  We need a sense of hope for better things, more noble things, more joy and adventure and ultimate fulfillment.  Certainly our music arranging can reflect this.  I have compiled ideas here that I employ to give a sense of “excelsior” in my arranging and playing music, and I often experience a new elation as I perform, no matter what the form of the music is.  Some of this concept is already built into the source melody or chords --- perhaps that’s why I choose to use them in the first place --- but I can consciously incorporate many other techniques as well to flesh out the progressive joy or drama.  I do hope that you too can find your own elation through using some of these!

(A couple of references in the text are for players of hammered dulcimer --- but all of these thoughts can be used by any musicians.)

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APR
23

Lessons learned from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass!

Lessons learned from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass!

In 2011, when I was considering tunes for the Civil War album Tenting on the Old Camp Ground, I thought of the spiritual “Wade in the Water” (and ended up doing it in a lively duet form with Bill Gurley, in an arrangement Bill originated).  I remembered that I’d first heard the marvelous melody on a record by the Tijuana Brass in the 1960s --- so I went looking for the track and ended up re-collecting in digital form all of their albums!  I began to realize that these, and especially the two records I owned at that time, What Now My Love and The Brass Are Coming, had had a profound influence on my musical sense and styling ever since.  I play different instruments and genres than Herbie and his group of first-rate session men, but the approach I use to production, arranging, and playing is definitely similar!

To convince myself that I wasn’t  just imagining this influence, and to perhaps share the ideas with others, I started a brainstorming list --- and it quickly became a large set of both general concepts and specific applications.

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