Timothy's Blog

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

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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A few quotes from great musicians about the performer's relationship with the music

A few quotes from great musicians about the performer's relationship with the music

Although these three quotes are all from Classical performers, I think they apply to any genre of music and indeed to many roles in life!

This is an element of my own view of musicianship, as articulated by three of my favorite players. By the way, it's an honor to the Jewish people that all four of these guys are of that lineage (as are many other great musicians).

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The overall arch of a musical piece

The overall arch of a musical piece

 If you’re a musician, do you keep in mind the whole length of the piece you’re playing?  At the beginning, do you see ahead to the end and work with every phrase as a part of the journey toward that ending?

When I listen to a symphony or a piano concerto, my subconscious mind seeks to follow along on that trip, and the performers who speak to me the most are the ones who seem to be tapping into that overall arch. 

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You can compose music from special groups of notes!

You can compose music from special groups of notes!

In music the French word motif’ simply means a group of notes that you use to start a musical composition and to refer to throughout the composition for unity.  That’s all!

Maybe the most famous example of a motif is the set of theme notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony:  ‘Di-di-di-dah’ (used in the Second World War as Morse Code for ‘V’ for victory) --- and if you listen to that matchless symphony you can hear Beethoven developing an entire movement --- with references throughout the rest of the whole work --- from that simple set of three notes, G-G-G-Eb (in the key of C minor).

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'Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming' for hammered dulcimer

 Here is a fairly simple arrangement of the great Christmas carol ‘Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming’ ('Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen') that I’ve played on hammered dulcimer (and sometimes bowed psaltery --- it's in the key of C, so it's all on one side of the psaltery!) for a quarter of a century and recorded on my album Incarnation.  If you’re a hammered dulcimer player, perhaps this can be something you develop for your own playing during this wonderful season!

When I made the video today, I decided to use the bright-toned wooden side of my hammers, and it sounded pretty nice --- but then when I recorded it again with the suede sides, it more fluently spoke the language I was looking for.  So what you hear here is the suede, piano-like sound.

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