Bach practice: unison discovery

One of the things I love about the hammered dulcimer is the ethereal sound that comes from striking unison courses.  The tune “Cincinnati,” found both in Striking Out and Winning! and on Contra-Intuitive, is a fine example of unison magnification.

(My amazingly brilliant composer/pianist friend, John, plays along with “Cincinnati” on  “Contra-Intuitive,” at the same time trying to replicate my dulcimer playing on the piano.  I’m afraid he needs two pianos to produce that unison-course sound!  It is not beyond him to play two pianos side-saddle.  He will find a way, and will do it well, probably without looking at either hand!  The man boggles my mind.)

Yesterday I found a couple places where unisons would enhance Cello Suite No. 1’s Courante, so I began working it out.  It is tough right now, because the wider visual patterns are a drastic change from the easier, smaller patterns I was eyeballing before.  (Think: there must be a harder way to do this!)  But the result I’m hearing at this early stage of re-patterning makes it well worth the effort.  Striking unisons seems to better match the overall resonance in the rest of the movement, too.

It’s snowing today (yes, almost a month into spring!), so a great day to snuggle down with a cup of cocoa and the Courante score before returning to the dulcimer for another practice session.  I’m eager to see how much of the unison portion in the A section “stuck” from yesterday.  And I’d like to get going on the B section if the unisons go well.

I feel myself smile while I play this movement, even though I’m still learning it!

2 Comments

  • Charles Smith says:

    Are you striking the unison courses at the same time (in unison!) or are you striking one course as you play and then a unison course when the note appears again in the phrase?

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