Forum Activity for @dusty-turtle

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/19/21 12:08:38PM
1,417 posts

Warren May Maple Dulcimer


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

I've heard some professional players suggest that maple instruments have more sustain than other common woods.  I can't vouch for that myself.  To be honest, I can't even be sure I hear the difference between woods.  Different luthiers make instruments that sound different, but I've never been confident that I could identify the wood as the reason for a specific dulcimer's sound.  I like the look of maple, though, for what that's worth.

That looks like a fine instrument.  And remember that things like string spacing can be adjusted with altered or new bridges and nuts later one, so that's not a feature that should influence whether you buy an instrument or not.  Scale length is different, though, so you might want to ask about that.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/18/21 01:27:04PM
1,417 posts

New McSpadden Flatwater Dulcimers


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

My understanding is that the Flatwater models are indeed made from fine tonewoods, but you can't specify the wood when you order one.  They put the instruments together with wood leftover from their other builds.  In terms of the visuals, my guess is that they will vary a bit.  But the quality of McSpadden builds is unquestioned, so they should all play and sound very nice.

I've seen a YouTube video by FOTMD member @belinda playing one that both looks and sounds great.


updated by @dusty-turtle: 04/18/21 01:38:28PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/17/21 03:59:33PM
1,417 posts

How is the COVID-19 coronavirus affecting you?


OFF TOPIC discussions


Congratulations to all those folks getting vaccinated.  By early May everyone in my household will have gotten their second dose, and my folks are already making noise about some kind of family reunion since they haven't seen their children or grandchildren in about 18 months. I'm sure other families and friends are planning similar gatherings.

Strumelia, one day the complicated history of the fight against COVID will be told, and I'm sure we'll learn of an army of people all doing their small part to bring about vaccines and a better understanding of how the virus works.  That will be an interesting story.


updated by @dusty-turtle: 04/17/21 07:52:09PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/12/21 02:33:48PM
1,417 posts

Mountain Dulcimer Repertoire Class - Apr20-May25 2021/online


Single-Instructor workshops, band & house concerts, Club activities, monthly Jams

Steve, your Hal Leonard project looks wonderful and is long overdue.  Some folks might not be moved learning Bile Dem Cabbage, so including pop tunes in a book of first tunes is a great idea.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/09/21 10:55:31PM
1,417 posts

DulciBro Playing Resonator Dulcimer (6-Week OnLineClass)


Single-Instructor workshops, band & house concerts, Club activities, monthly Jams

Steve, could someone with only a standard dulcimer take this class or would they need a resonator dulcimer?

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/07/21 11:55:30PM
1,417 posts

Indoor House Plants


OFF TOPIC discussions

Strumelia, your house plants all look interesting and beautiful, but I also know you to be a superb photographer, so it could all be illusion. I am convinced you could take a picture of your dirty dishes stacked in the sink and it would like like a baroque sculpture.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/07/21 10:15:26PM
1,417 posts

How is the COVID-19 coronavirus affecting you?


OFF TOPIC discussions

@venni, I hope you are getting professional medical care and that you recover fully.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/02/21 05:50:07PM
1,417 posts

Bonnie Carol


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Thanks for sharing that, Ken.  Unfortunately, the last line reiterates something Bonnie has posted on her website: when their current supply of wood is used up, they will cease building dulcimers.  That will be a loss for all of us. sadsmile

In case anyone interested is not already aware, Bonnie and Max were also the subject of The Hearts of the Dulcimer Podcast #042 by @wayne-jiang and @patricia-delich.


updated by @dusty-turtle: 04/02/21 06:04:53PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
04/01/21 07:24:45PM
1,417 posts

Lego Microtonal Guitar


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


I don't know what's best about this, that it was a kid who came up with the idea or that it can be created with a 3-D printer.  I immediately started thinking about a dulcimer fretboard, though, and the debate about just intonation vs equal temperament, or diatonic vs chromatic fretboards.  This idea would put an end to those debates forever since every instrument would be infinitely adjustable. 


updated by @dusty-turtle: 04/01/21 07:25:39PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/30/21 05:43:44PM
1,417 posts

The Positive Thread...


OFF TOPIC discussions

Beautiful (but windy) day in northern California as well. Took the dog on an early morning walk dog1 , which meant I got to practice maintaining my dignity while carrying a little bag of poop. 

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/30/21 02:20:24PM
1,417 posts

music and the pleasure center of the brain


OFF TOPIC discussions


Here's an interesting online article about research being done at McGill University that has found that music we like stimulates the same part of the brain that responds to certain pleasure signals, especially pleasure related to survival, such as eating food when you're really hungry.  

https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/why-music-makes-us-happy-survival-science

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/27/21 11:58:56AM
1,417 posts

How is the COVID-19 coronavirus affecting you?


OFF TOPIC discussions

I went to Home Depot the other day, and as I was walking towards the entrance, I saw another gentleman walking up as well.  We both saw each other and said "Oh, crap" (or something similar) at the same time.  Neither of us were wearing our masks, and seeing the other guy reminded us of that. So we both turned around and got our masks out of the car.

The CDC is saying that vaccinated people can gather unmasked in small groups with other vaccinated people. But since my wife and daughter have not been vaccinated yet, I'm not risking anything.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/26/21 03:08:57AM
1,417 posts

How is the COVID-19 coronavirus affecting you?


OFF TOPIC discussions

I got my second vaccine shot this morning.  I then ordered  lunch for the family from my favorite sandwich spot (actually called The Sandwich Spot).  The joint sits across the street from a small park near a small complex for "active seniors."  In the park there were three or four groups of people without masks, all "of a certain age" as they say, picnicking together.  It occurred to me that they had probably all been vaccinated, and it was the first sign I've seen in a long time of social life getting back to normal.

Here in California, the vaccines will be available to anyone over 50 as of April 1 and anyone over 16 after April 15.  That means my wife and daughter can get vaccinated, too, so long as vaccine supplies don't run out.  Once the whole family is covered I'll feel a lot more comfortable meeting with friends I haven't seen in a long time.  

Someday we'll all be interviewed by young students doing oral histories of the "Great Pandemic of 2020" (hopefully not the "First COVID Pandemic") and they won't believe how our social lives were shut down. I never used to go to the movies too often, or go bowling, or hang out in cafes, or that kind of thing. But now I miss those experiences.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/26/21 02:48:05AM
1,417 posts

Ron Ewing dulcimer thoughts?


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Wendell, you're right both that Ron Ewing is known for his baritones and his dulcimettes and also that you rarely see his instruments hit the used dulcimer market.  That alone tells you something about how people like them.  I know of at least one professional dulcimer player who has been playing a Ron Ewing standard dulcimer for decades.  She loves it.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/24/21 04:47:57PM
1,417 posts

Show us your sound holes!


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

No need to apologize, @rojo.  There are lots of nooks and crannies here at FOTMD and it might not be obvious which is the best one. The overall goal is for our conversations to be usable and searchable months and years from now.  So you might imagine someone joining in a year with a question such as yours. Where would they look for information?

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/24/21 01:44:10PM
1,417 posts

Show us your sound holes!


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

@rojo, you might want to pose these kinds of questions in the Dulcimer Making Group , where builders discuss their work.  Here in this more general forum there are lots of folks like me for whom instrument construction is no more familiar than ancient Greek.  Make sure you "join" the group first so you can see all the conversations already there, but then feel free to start a conversation specific to your question.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/24/21 11:44:16AM
1,417 posts

How many tunings


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Each tuning needs its own tab, marg, but a small adjustment may be all that's needed.

However, there are obvious limitations.  In a 1-5-7 tuning in D, meaning DAC, there is no F# on the melody string. So you cannot play a D major chord as you would in DAA or DAd.  But that's the point. It's a tuning for minor-sounding melodies.

There are two main reasons why people who fret across all the strings and play chords change tunings a lot less than drone style players.  One is that we don't need to since we have access to notes not available on the melody string.  But the second is that a new tuning requires learning new chords shapes. 

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/24/21 12:50:57AM
1,417 posts

How many tunings


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

You're getting it. Marg.  Remember in my first post when I mentioned that if you are tuned to D, you can probably go down to C or up to E, but going lower or higher than those keys would require different strings?  One reason to use a "reverse" tuning like DGd would be to play in the key of G while still using the same set of strings.

Another thing: the drones can only be the 1 and the 5, but you don't necessarily have to have both.  For example, a "unison" tuning of ddd is quite common. In that case you only have the 1 drone and there is no 5.

And yes, you can theoretically invent any number of tunings.  The Canadian dulcimer player Rick Scott uses all kinds of bizarre tunings.  Some of them, he admits, he arrived at because his old wooden peg tuners slipped, but he just left them and wrote a new song!  

However, if you only fret on the melody string, then you are limited because the drones should only be the 1 and/or 5, and you also have to have the right fret spacing for the melody you want to play.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/24/21 12:16:13AM
1,417 posts

How many tunings


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


marg:

Dusty, thanks the numbers make sense this way.

So, if DAd is 158, any combination of 158 I could play a DAd tab - like your EBe, CGc, Bfb it would just be in a different key but I could play a DAd tab

or DAA 155, again any combination of 155 I could play a DAA tab like FCC, EBB, CGG

Yes.  You got it!

marg: what would DGd be 148 but all your numbers are 15 something or GGd ( or is it 115)

I meant 1-1-5 for GGD.  Sorry about that. I just changed it in the original to avoid any confusion.

Technically, the only possible drones are the 1 and the 5. That is why in most tunings, the bass and middle strings are 1 and 5 and the only string that changes is the melody string.

DGd is a little different, but you could just count the same way we did before to find other tunings in that pattern.  It is a little different because DGd is considered a "reverse" tuning where the root (or the 1, that is the note that tells us the key) is on the middle string.  DGd is used in the same way as GDd, so it is an Ionian or 1-5-5 tuning, but technically it would be 5-1-5. What is reversed is simply the order of the 1 and the 5 notes on the drones.

marg: 154 & 157 have their own tabs? Can they be played on just the melody line with any of the other tabs?

Of the four main tunings I referred to earlier, 1-5-5 (Ionian) and 1-5-8 (Mixolydian) sound major, and 1-5-4 (Dorian) and 1-5-7 (Aeolian) sound minor. There is separate tab for those tunings.  If you play in a drone style where you only fret the melody string, you have to use those tunings for certain tunes.  For example, to play Shady Grove you will tune to a  1-5-7 tuning and your root or resting place will be on the first fret.  

Because a lot of tab is now written for people (like myself) who fret across all the strings and make use of other tools (some would say "crutches") such as capos and extra frets, many tunes that were once only played in 1-5-7 or 1-5-4 tunings can be written in 1-5-8 or 1-5-5 tunings.  To use that same example, if you tune 1-5-8 and use a capo at the first fret, you can play Shady Grove, but you will have to make use of the middle string for some of the melody. Similarly, if you have a 1+ fret you can also play the tune without a capo in DAd, again sometimes using the middle string. These methods are not traditional, though.


updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/24/21 12:18:51AM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/23/21 11:16:24PM
1,417 posts

How many tunings


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


Marg, the short answer is that there are 12 possible keys to tune to for any specific tuning.

The important information in your question is the numbers to which you refer.  Those refer to scale positions of the notes.

Let's start with D and count the letters until we come back to D.

D = 1

E = 2

F# = 3

G = 4

A = 5

B= 6

C = 7

D = 8

So DAA is 1-5-5, DAC is 1-5-7, DAG is 1-5-4, and DAd is 1-5-8.  Those are the 4 main tunings we use. (Although I find the use of modal names for tunings to be confusing, in case you are wondering, 1-5-5 is Ionian, 1-5-8 is mixolydian, 1-5-4 is Dorian, and 1-5-7 is Aeolian.)

You can start on any note, not just D.  As you know, EBe and CGc are other 1-5-8 tunings.  But you could start on any note you want and arrange the strings in the same pattern.  Let's try F.

F = 1

G= 2

A = 3

Bb = 4

C = 5

D = 6

Eb = 7

F = 8

So a 1-5-8 tuning would be FCf.   A 1-5-5 tuning would be FCC.  A 1-5-4 tuning would be FCBb.  A 1-5-7 tuning would be FCEb.

There are twelve notes in the chromatic scale, and we could start this pattern on any of them, so each tuning can be used for any of the 12 keys.

However, in practice, folk, old-timey, bluegrass, or Celtic sessions usually stick to 4 main keys: C, D, G, and A.  So you might want to just ensure you know how to play in each of those keys rather than worry about the oddballs like Eb or F or Ab or whatever.

And remember that if you are tuned to the key of D, you can probably tune down to C or up to E, but any more than that you will probably need to change strings.

To your question about GGD, a "normal" 1-1-5 or Ionian tuning in G would be GDD.  So your GGD just uses two G drones instead.  But to figure out how to use that tuning in other keys, just count.

G = 1

A = 2

B= 3

C#= 4

D = 5

And we don't even have to go any higher.  Tune your bass and middle strings to whatever note you want, start on that letter as number 1 and count to 5.  That 5 will be the note you want for the melody string.

C, D, E, F, G, so in C, it would be CCG.  ABC#DE, so in A it would be AAE.

Again, if you know the alphabet and can count to 8, you can do this yourself.


updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/23/21 11:57:23PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/20/21 11:51:54AM
1,417 posts

What Are You Working On?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Tom, since I'm not a beekeeper, I can't help you if you want a whole tune on that topic. 

My approach would be different and treat beekeeping as a metaphor. Maybe have the first verse about looking forward to springtime only to see that half your bees are gone.  Then the other verses would be about other things or people that have left.  One verse on bees, one on age taking about your athletic ability, one on your fruit tree drying up, on one a woman leaving. You get the point.

OR . . . instead of the theme being loss, it could be lots of work with no reward, so you put in all this work to keep bees and end up with no honey.  You lavish love and presents on your woman, and she leaves you.  You spend weeks building a garden, and the plants bear no fruit.  You spend weeks crushing grapes but they go straight to vinegar and you get no wine.  You spend a year of weekends rebuilding that '68 Mustang and someone steels it before you ever take it for a ride. That sort of thing.  The bee hive would still be the first verse and give the tune it's title: "Big Hive, No Honey."

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/19/21 03:11:26PM
1,417 posts

Virtual Festivals--what's your experience, or your thoughts?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

A link to a time conversion site is probably safer and more practical than demanding that festival organizers list every possible time.  After all, even in the U.S. things are pretty complicated with some states not doing daylight savings time and other states being split between time zones. I was once an hour early for an online dulcimer concert from British Columbia because the time listed was Pacific Daylight Time when they meant Pacific Standard Time.  I think it best if organizers just list the local times and then suggest that everyone to use the link to a time conversion site to determine their own times.

But I do hope organizers of online festivals realize that people outside their time zone might be interested in attending.  When a festival on the east coast runs workshops on Fridays and Saturdays, those of us who work are already unable to attend half the workshops.  Then if things run from 9:00 to 5:00 local time, many of us are unable to attend half the Saturday workshops because they start too early (I don't mind playing the dulcimer at 6:00 AM, but I don't think my family appreciates it!).  So what is advertised as a 2-day festival is really a half-day festival for many of us.  There is no reason folks in New York or West Virginia can't have some workshops as late as 8:00 PM, and they'd get more folks from the west coast that way.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/18/21 09:13:57PM
1,417 posts

Indoor House Plants


OFF TOPIC discussions

Thanks for sharing that, Lois.  I pointed out to my daughter that the title refers to "a" plant, not 15 of them.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/16/21 05:35:46PM
1,417 posts

Indoor House Plants


OFF TOPIC discussions

Bubbles already had two sections of a friend's monstera rooting in water, which is how we knew she wanted one.  Her bedroom is looking more and more like a rainforest cafe.

Your cat seems to enjoy the monstera and the sunlight.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/16/21 04:33:48PM
1,417 posts

Indoor House Plants


OFF TOPIC discussions

My daughter just got a very large monstera deliciosa for her birthday.  She is so excited.  It was not inexpensive.  Hopefully she can keep in alive.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/14/21 02:32:14PM
1,417 posts

Here's my problem...


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

If it sounds half as nice as it looks, you got a great deal on that dulcimer, Derik!  Michael Fluegge is a well respected luthier.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/14/21 01:55:22PM
1,417 posts

Here's my problem...


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions


Derik, this is not a problem, at least not in the sense that there is anything wrong. What you have is a traditional diatonic fretboard.  I have not seen the video by Brett Ridgway to which you refer, but he was surely playing a dulcimer to which a 6-1/2 (or 6+) fret had been added.  There is nothing wrong with your dulcimer. That is how traditional dulcimers were fretted.

To find the major scale, tune DAA and start on the third fret of the melody string.  Going up the fretboard, it will be obvious.  Don't skip any frets.

Alternatively, you could tune DAd and start on the open string (which is what I assume you were doing). But instead of playing the 6th fret, play the 9th fret on the middle string.  Then complete the scale on the 7th fret of the melody string.

The traditional method of playing the dulcimer involves leaving the bass and middle strings to drone and playing the melody on the (you guessed it!) melody string.  In that style of play, you re-tune the melody string to get the right mode for the song you are playing.  So a song that uses the major scale (ionian mode) you would tune 1-5-5 (or DAA in the key of D).  But for other songs, such as Old Joe Clark or Going to Boston, which use the lowered 7th (mixolydian mode), you would tune 1-5-8 (or DAd in the key of D), and for others that sound kind of "minor" such as Shady Grove you would tune 1-5-7 (aeolian mode or DAC in the key of D). And so forth.

A lot of modern players (such as myself) play dulcimers with the extra fret added, but many traditional players prefer the original diatonic fretboard such as the one you have.  Theoretically, you could have someone add that extra fret to your dulcimer, but please contemplate not doing that.  What you have looks to be a stunningly beautiful instrument (I love the purfling and the ebony overlay!), and you may want to keep it in its original form.

Even if you decide not to limit yourself to traditional modal music and the traditional melody/drone style of play, you do not need to add that extra fret. As I've suggested above, the note you get with the 6+ fret on the melody string is found elsewhere, so there are always workarounds.


updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/14/21 01:56:35PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/10/21 07:47:21PM
1,417 posts

Indoor House Plants


OFF TOPIC discussions

That's funny, but you have to quickly change the subject before you are asked to ID any other plants.  Many years ago I had a friend who was an expert in native Californian plants. We would go hiking and she would spend the whole time identifying plants.  Maybe in the two years we were together I learned three plants.  But there have been a few moments similar to Randy's in Mexico when in a group of people I was able to say something like "what a nice example of a zauschneria californica" to the amazement of those in attendance.  And yes, I then quickly changed the subject: "How about them Cornhuskers?"

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/10/21 02:34:42PM
1,417 posts

The Positive Thread...


OFF TOPIC discussions

Sounds like fun, @venni.  Stay safe.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/09/21 05:51:40PM
1,417 posts

Newspaper Article


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

That's a great story, Ken. Thanks for sharing it.  There was a similar program at a small town in Northern California where they also included math instruction in learning how to lay out the frets.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/07/21 05:17:39PM
1,417 posts

The Positive Thread...


OFF TOPIC discussions

Good for you, Venni!  That's awfully fast progress.  I think my first song was Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/07/21 11:13:34AM
1,417 posts

What's fer dinner?


OFF TOPIC discussions

Save me a place at the table, Strumelia. That sounds delicious.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/05/21 05:03:49PM
1,417 posts

Virtual Festivals--what's your experience, or your thoughts?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

ocean-daughter: One thing I've wanted is to develop technique--to make the notes sound connected

@ocean-daughter, I don't want to ignore this comment.  It shows what an attentive player you are that you can so easily identify an area you want to work on that is not simply about finding the "correct" notes to play.  You should also feel free to ask this question in workshops, even if the workshop is on a different theme. Once the instructor has helped people through the tab, you should feel free to say "This is a pretty arrangement, but when I play it, it is not as smooth as your rendition.  How can I get the notes to flow together better?"  Better yet, make that request about a specific phrase rather than the piece as a whole.

Third, what is my advice? Without seeing you play and knowing whether you play with a flatpick or fingertips, I can't be that specific.  But let me mention some left-hand techniques to think about.

First, work on the left-hand legato techniques of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides.  When you move from one note to another using one of those left-hand techniques rather than plucking the string again, the the notes sound more connected or tied together.

Second, keep your fingers down until they have to move.  This is important not only for playing the melody, but also any chording.  Let's say your are playing a 3-3-3 G chord in DAd, and the melody moves up the melody string from 3 to 4 and then to 5.  First, you might consider using hammer-ons or slides. Second, don't make the move to the next melody note until it is time. That is, don't let your concern about whether you can get to the next note encourage you to cut off the earlier note too early.  Give it the full duration it is due and only move to the next note when it's time for the next note.  And third, even if you pluck that melody string again, keep your fingers on the bass and middle strings.  Most of the time, you want those harmony notes to continuing ringing as long as possible, until the next chord formation is necessary.  That way the harmony creates a consistency of tone as your melody moves along.

Third, as you move from one chord position to another, try to keep at least one finger on the same string.  That way you can slide into position rather than lifting up your hand entirely and re-positioning it.  In the best of circumstances, you will have an open string that was part of the first chord position, and you can let that continue ringing as you move to the next position so there is no dead air.  And sliding your hand will facilitate its placement in the next position so you can get there quicker.

Best of luck to you, @ocean-daughter.  I'm sure just the fact that you're thinking about trying to play smoother will help you do so.


updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/05/21 05:20:50PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/05/21 04:40:15PM
1,417 posts

delicate sound hole reinforcement


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

I'm totally ignorant of instrument design, Bill, so I can't help you.  But if you don't get good answers here, you might consider joining the Dulcimer Making Group and asking your question there.


updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/05/21 04:40:32PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/05/21 02:33:25PM
1,417 posts

Show us your sound holes!


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

When I've seen Celtic knots, they are more often rosettes that are set into a large sound hole rather than carved right out of the soundboard itself.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/05/21 01:29:05PM
1,417 posts

Virtual Festivals--what's your experience, or your thoughts?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

That's a good point, @art-s.  A lot of the people who come to my online dulcimer club each month say they play more when we meet online because they know no one can hear them, so they don't fear messing up. Even advanced players often feel free to play around and improvise and stuff because they can mess up with no consequences.

However, as a teacher I will say that it's hard to teach beginner students for this reason. Intermediate students know when they're not getting something and will usually speak up and ask for help. But beginners can't always tell when they're making mistakes, and without the ability to hear them, the instructor doesn't know either.  I remember once leading my dulcimer group through my arrangement of Shall We Gather at the River.  During the A part everything was great and I could tell that most people were playing along. But during the B part, when the melody goes up an octave, suddenly I was the only one playing.  I heard immediately that there was a problem and we stopped and went slowly over that change.  If we had been online, I would not have been able to tell that no one was playing along anymore.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/05/21 12:02:51PM
1,417 posts

Virtual Festivals--what's your experience, or your thoughts?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I have so much to say about this, I'm not sure where to start.  @ocean-daughter, I will address your issue of "making the notes sound connected" in separate comments, since I have too much to say about virtual festivals.

Just last night was the inaugural event of the virtual dulcimer festival of the Dulcimer Association of Albany.  There were no workshops, performances, or jams.  Instead, it was just a kick-off Zoom session, when anyone who wanted to joined in to say "Hi." It was a two-hour event, and at its height about 40 people were in there just chatting away.  That is only a little more than 1/10 of the number of people registered for the event, but it shows, I think, one of the main reasons we go to dulcimer festivals: camaraderie.  We attend dulcimer festivals as much to meet other dulcimer players as to get formal instruction on playing. This is important to remember, especially for festival organizers.

I had the good fortune of being part of the first ever online dulcimer festival, the Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering. That event happens in May, and it was the first festival last spring to choose to go on Zoom rather than just cancel.  Although I would like to think that the workshops were successful (especially the couple that I taught! grin ) our main success, I think, was structuring in lots of time for people to just hang out.  There was a homeroom (meaning a Zoom link) where we all met in the morning just to chat and go over some festival logistics, but it was consciously treated as a social experience.  The "homeroom teacher" was Erin Mae, and two or three times she broke us into small groups of 5 or 6 and put us in little breakout rooms so we could interact in a more intimate settings. We talked about where we were from, what instruments we were using that day, and so forth.  After the morning workshops we again met in the homeroom for a lunchtime Q & A, when people could just ask questions of others.  Some asked questions specifically of certain instructors and some just posed questions to the group at large.  But some really interesting conversations ensued.  At the end of the day of workshops, we met again in the homeroom for a song circle. And throughout the day, the homeroom was open for anyone who wanted to pop in.  During one slot when I was not teaching I joined the homeroom to see how Erin Mae was doing and there were a handful of people there just chatting.  One of them asked me a question about a particular technique I used in a video I had posted, and rather than inflict our conversation on everyone else, Erin Mae put us in a breakout room where we could have a private conversation, after which we just clicked into the homeroom again.

These kinds of informal interactions are an essential part of the festival experience, and we have to work on ways to incorporate them into virtual festivals. It takes a little work, and it is not exactly the same as sitting next to someone, but if virtual festivals are going to strengthen the dulcimer community and not just help us become slightly better players, they are essential.

So that community building, that room for social interaction is, IMHO, what's missing from many dulcimer festivals, especially the biggest ones.

What do the virtual festivals do well?

First and most obviously, the virtual festivals provide support for dulcimer teachers.  How many of them freaked out a year ago when all their gigs got canceled? The online festivals have allowed dulcimer teachers and performers to continue as musicians and not take jobs driving for Grub Hub or whatever other jobs might exist in the middle of a pandemic. Many of them have adapted quite well to the virtual world and have started offering a range of different kinds of workshops and interactive concerts and stuff.  Just last night night, Aubrey Atwater, who had never used Zoom before the Dutchland DulciZoom festival last summer, proclaimed "I will never be without a gig again." When she has an open date, she can just prepare a workshop or concert or some other kind of online event, put the word out, and easily get enough people from around the world to make it worthwhile.

And that brings up a second great benefit to both teachers and players: the lack of geographical boundaries.  I have a job.  And I have a family. And I don't have a lot of time or money.  I would never have been able to drop my responsibilities and fly to Albany, NY to join the Dulcimer Association of Albany for an in-person festival. But I can click a Zoom link and join with others from around the world.  @ocean-daughter has joked that she has "been" to Florida and Georgia for virtual festivals. I, too, have "been" to Pennsylvania and New York and LA and elsewhere for virtual festivals.  I have been able to meet dulcimer players that I would never be able to meet any other way.  

My own local dulcimer club is also no longer local.  Although we started with those who had been meeting in person, more than half people of those who join my online group monthly come from some distance away, from Tennessee and Oregon, Texas and Maine, Ireland and New Zealand.  One woman told me that she lives in a pretty desolate area, is not fully mobile, and had never been able to attend a dulcimer group or festival in person.  But she joins our group every month and is having a blast.  And when the North Georgia Foothills folks asked me to teach at their next virtual festival, they explained that many of their 400+ members have "aged out" of in-person festivals, meaning they have reached an age when traveling to a state park or other location, carrying around their instruments and music stands, and so forth, is too difficult. But they can sit down in their living room and turn on their computers.  So a third benefit of virtual festivals is that they include people who could never attend in-person festivals.

By the same token, they can allow workshops on pretty esoteric topics, a fourth benefit.  At a local or regional dulcimer festival, workshop teachers have to come up with topics that enough people will find interesting.  When I proposed a workshop on Songs of the American West (I thought I was clever and called it Dulci-Ki-Yi-Yo), Neal Hellman, the festival organizer, expressed skepticism that I would garner enough attendees.  But once the decision was made to go virtual, the question of popularity disappeared.  In the end, the workshop got plenty of attendees to run (although my workshop on Irish ballads had twice the enrollments).  That concern Neal expressed does not exist with large virtual festivals since the pool of potential attendees is so much larger.  I took an advanced workshop taught by Bill Collins on Icelandic tunes.  The music was pretty strange, I have to say, and I doubt that such a workshop would draw many people at a regional dulcimer festival.  But we were online, so he was able to garner enough people from around the world to make it worth it. Workshops on bizarre tunings (beyond the main 4 or 5) or specific, niche techniques, or some little known corpus of music might be hard to justify at regional, in-person festivals, but they can thrive online.

A fifth and final advantage of online festivals that I'll mention now (the list goes on, of course), is that everyone has a front-row seat.  Perhaps you've seen how Stephen Seifert teaches his online workshops.  He uses three separate cameras. One shows a line or so of tablature, and one shows a close-up of his face.  But the main part of the screen shows an overhead view of his dulcimer fretboard, so you can see exactly what his fingers are doing.  If you've taken an intermediate workshop with him live at a big even such as Kentucky Music Week, you most likely had to sit so far away from him that you could barely see his fingers. I only use two cameras when teach online, one on my face and one angled from above on my fretboard, which I also flip around so you get the "player's view."  I made that last adjustment at the request of students who love to see the dulcimer on the screen exactly the way it looks on their lap. The wonders of technology make it appear you are behind me with your head resting on my shoulder with a close-up view of the dulcimer, and yet, you might be thousands of miles away.  What a world we live in!

I'll stop now. I've outlined a major piece missing from the large festival (the social experience) and highlighted several of the obvious advantages of virtual festivals.  A big question confronting us all is what things will look like when we can gather together again.  How can we enjoy gathering in-person without excluding those unable to travel to the location? Will regional, in-person festivals disappear as they're getting used to the extra registrants and the lack of venue costs? What will hybrid dulcimer festivals look like?  Will our venues change from churches and community centers to conference settings better equipped with wifi?  Will workshops join together people live and people online or will there be separate in-person and online workshops at each festival?  


updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/05/21 01:33:28PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/05/21 01:12:00AM
1,417 posts

Discussing virtual festival experiences


Site QUESTIONS ? How do I...?

ocean-daughter: I think I'll start that thread in the General forum so we can continue the discussion there.  ;)

Good idea. I think it will be an active discussion.  I was tempted to do start one myself, but it was your idea!

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/03/21 05:31:35PM
1,417 posts

The Positive Thread...


OFF TOPIC discussions


That's great news, Ken.  We're all delighted to hear it.

So can you help me move this weekend?rofl


updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/03/21 05:32:10PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
03/03/21 03:26:57PM
1,417 posts

Feedback on new instrument


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Lisa, this YouTube video shows a Mize dulcimer purchased in 1992 that has the same tuning pegs as yours.  I think they are original. 

About twice a year I treat my dulcimers to a rub down with Howard's Feed N Wax. The stuff is inexpensive and you can get it at any hardware or home improvement store.  Here is Bing Futch demonstrating how he treats his instruments with the stuff.

If this were my instrument, I would clean it up, add the Howard's, and then put on new strings. I bet it will sing!

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