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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Keep your instrument out!

Keep your instrument out!

If you have a musical instrument, don’t pack it away --- it ought to be out!

If you don’t play it, it still should be there to see, like hanging on the wall or such.  What an addition to your house’s décor!

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The great value of 'Repeat One'

The great value of 'Repeat One'

One of the great advantages of digital recordings --- CDs, .mp3s, etc. --- is that you can set up playback for shuffle/random, for repeating an album or playlist, or for repeating one track.

That last one, repeating a single track, is wonderful for getting your fill of a favorite piece without having to hit the ‘return’ button each time (or in the case of magnetic tapes of all kinds, setting zero and rewinding to it); but I also find tremendous value in the ‘repeat one’ feature of any playback system: for learning something new!

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Isolating a musical passage for practice

Isolating a musical passage for practice

If you’ve practiced music for a performance or audition or jurying, you’ve probably run across a passage that’s especially hard to get just right; in Classical music in particular there are lots of downright ‘virtuoso’ spots that need to have every note in place, or else they’re just wrong….

So it’s commonly known that you need to isolate a tough passage and play it over and over till it’s ready to be joined with the easier phrases.

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Midwinter Etude for hammered dulcimer

Visually on the hammered dulcimer the "shape" of a three-note chord (a triad) is often a triangle, with the "vertices" the places where the hammers strike.

Around 1990, as a relatively new player, I wanted to practice playing triangles in a repeating right-left-right-left pattern, so one evening I started near the top of the dulcimer and played the E minor chord then moved down to the next position (G major) and continued downward in this way till an even number of measures seemed to call for a change. I inserted a few other figures as part of this for interest (moving up a note for a moment, etc.), but the pattern was basically straightforward as a triangle study.

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