Beyond the Blog

Here are some more playing ideas, vestiges of my original site launched in 2001, that offer a little more depth than what’s in the blog.  Some of the vestiges appear under the heading “How do I…?”, which you can click on at left.

Contest Preparation TipsWhenever you read this, I’'m sure there are many autoharp and hammered dulcimer players (among others) who are already planning and practicing for their respective contests at the Walnut Valley Festival and other contests around the world. It therefore seems fitting, then, as 1997 National Hammered Dulcimer Champion, 1995, 2003 and 2010 International Autoharp Championship and 1995 and 2010 Mountain Laurel Autoharp Champion, that I share some strategies and tips to help each contestant remain calm and at the same time play his or her best....(read more)
A Memorable Hammered Dulcimer WorkshopOne of the things I love about teaching is revealing the gems of musical playing to those who attend my classes. Those dulcimer players (and autoharpists, for that matter) who have studied with me privately or attended any of my many workshops know that I tend to introduce "out-of-the-box" ideas, like...(read more)
Playing the Hammered Dulcimer BackwardsI wish I could say this article is about standing at the narrow end of the dulcimer and playing upside-down and left-handed (something I frequently do when teaching private lessons). Instead, this article addresses a situation running rampant within the hammered dulcimer community: Playing in ways that work against both gravity and human anatomy....(read more)
The "Rules" of JammingThe jam session always seems to present a "special" set of circumstances for autoharp and hammered dulcimer players. Unlike fiddlers, guitarists and yes, even banjo players, we seem to go through an unexpected "initiation" process, especially with jammers who see us for the first time.

I have endured my share of initiations, including everything from...(read more)
So Take It Easy, Already!As I consider all the hammered dulcimer and autoharp players I've worked with, it's my observation that most of them share one thing in common: excess physical tension that gets in the way of their ability to play with the ease they'd like. (In my over 25 years of teaching the dulcimer, only one student started out with "easy" playing: a 73-year-old violinist who also happened to be one of my college professors. Talk about a role switch!)

Excess tension makes muscles (both large and small) work harder than they need to. When applied to music-making,...(read more)
The Sounds of "Silence"Sustain: That long, luscious, lingering sound that attracted us to playing the dulcimer. Just about everyone who plays the dulcimer tells me it's the sound that lures them toward playing, and I assume they're referring to sustain more than anything else. But once we begin playing, all of a sudden the very thing that appeals becomes...(read more)
True Confessions of a Process JunkieThe day after Christmas 2004, a new student, who I'll call Jan, showed up at 10am for her first lesson, with a brand new linear chromatic dulcimer in hand. (The vertical tuning of strings on a linear chromatic dulcimer is in half steps, just like going from the white to black keys on the piano. On "normal" dulcimers, the vertical tuning is whole step-whole step-half step several times over.)

Early in the lesson, I asked Jan why she bought a linear chromatic dulcimer. It turns out that she is more than a casual pianist; she felt like she needed all the notes she could get her hands on. OK.

That evening,...(read more)

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