pocket tunes and maintaining the backpack

Skip
@skip
last year
219 posts

I've finally graduated to Planxty Eleanor Plunket, Steel Guitar Rag, Country Garden, and playing around with blues scales/riffs, or pieces of these.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
last year
1,460 posts

You know me, Dusty -- although I play a few Common Ground tunes, to another dulcimer player I'd play something that shows off noter & drone at its best -- long ringing slides; crisp notes; a fast dance tune -- something like that.  Maybe Maire's Wedding or Jock O Hazeldean.


updated by @ken-hulme: 03/03/16 03:34:04PM
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
886 posts

Thanks, Dana.  "Lee's Waltz" is a pretty special tune. 

Actually, Bing Futch's "Rosin the Beau," which he says he learned from Stephen Seifert's CD, was the first tune I learned on the dulcimer.  Even before I had my own dulcimer, I watched Bing's video so much that when I first got a dulcimer I was able to play the tune almost right away.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
last year
140 posts

Dusty, you're such an amazing player, anything you choose will be a gift to the audience. As for your questions, my answer would still be Lee's Waltz. It's what makes my heart happy and I played it a gazillion times just to smile so naturally it stays in my fingertips.

When I hear songs that I play or those which I'm familiar with the tune, I still thoroughly enjoy hearing the player's take on the song. Bing Futch playing Rosin the Bow isn't the same as another's and so on. I actually really like hearing various ways to showcase a tune so if you played Lee's waltz and I heard it, I'd be listening (and picturing tab in my head) to each familiar note, listening for any nuances that made it your own.  Then I'd go home and try to copy you. :-) 

Let us know what you ended up choosing and if there's a video, then that too! 

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
886 posts

It's great to hear of the "go-to" songs people rely on.  Many of them are standard fare for dulcimer players, meaning songs that would be commonly heard at dulcimer jams. Others are more idiosyncratic.  Several are on my "to learn" list.

 

Maybe I could change the original question a bit?  Originally I asked what your "pocket tune" was, meaning the song you play when someone asks, "Oh, you play the dulcimer?  Play a song for us!"  What if the person asking the question is her or himself a dulcimer player?  Does that change your choice of song? I mean, if another dulcimer player requests a song you don't play Bile Dem Cabbage, do you?

 

The reason for my question is that I will be playing a very short set at a dulcimer festival later this spring, so the audience will be other dulcimer players.  While I want to stay within my "comfort zone" to reduce performance anxiety, I also want to play something other than the same tunes everyone else plays.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Terry Wilson
@terry-wilson
last year
207 posts

Wildwood Flower, is my #1 go to song.  Southwind;  Cripple Creek;  June Apple. 

D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
last year
140 posts

What a great thread topic!  My pocket tune is most definitely Lee's Waltz. I was blessed to finally meet Lee at Unicoi this year. She was a dear! I shared how much I love 'her' song.

The one other song I can play without half a thought is Nothing but the Blood. 

I want to learn many more but I find memorization a challenge. Right now working on Celtic Air.

Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
last year
449 posts

Ken. I sometimes play regional variations. There's a lot of them when it comes to old tunes.

David Pedersen
@david-pedersen
last year
32 posts

When Sandy and I get together weekly, our first tune is Boonie Doon. She plays harmony and I melody.  Then Softly and Tenderly followed by 5 Tull Glazner Gospel songs we play w/o tab. We are working it.

Jan Potts
@jan-potts
last year
416 posts

For some reason, if I pick up a dulcimer to just "noodle around", I seem to fall right into "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".  That morphs into "Smiling", "Acres of Clams" (aka "Rosin the Beau") and always has some variations of "Cabbage" thrown into the mix. To change it up, "Spotted Pony" and/or "John Stinson #2"!

I always encourage dulcimer players to keep a list of every song they can play "on the spot" without looking it up, rehearsing, or asking someone, "How does that start?"  There might be only one or two songs on the list at the beginning, but it will grow with some effort.  And it's great to have some songs to pull out at any time.




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Kusani
@kusani
last year
156 posts

As a 'beginner' I like your perspective Ken. thumbsup

Dan Goad
@dan-goad
last year
164 posts

Right on, what K n said.  LOL

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
last year
1,460 posts

There are no missed notes... there are improvizations, or 'making the tune my own'. 

Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
last year
75 posts

Dusty, that's a brilliant goal to give beginners.  I think a lot of us shortchange ourselves, thinking it'll take forever until we're good enough to have a song ready to play in front of others.  It's a great confidence-booster to know you've got something ready to go.

Simple Gifts was the first song I played on MD.  It's still my pocket song for drone-style.  That or The Cherry Tree Carol depending on the season. 

Southwind is my pocket tune for chord/melody, but when I'm feeling competent I play Si Beag Si Mor (just don't ask me to spell it).

Beulah Land Mississippi John Hurt style is my pocket tune for singing.  Except when it's Slip Sliding Away.  Oh, and April, Come She Will.  I've been playing that one so long, I forget to mention it.

If I need to fill time and have nothing in particular in mind, I can improvise all day in Dorian mode.  I'll noodle around on 12-bar blues until somebody distracts me by offering food... or threatening to kick me out.  The great thing about improv is, there are no wrong notes!

Susie, Rosin the Beau is my pocket tune on recorder!

And I have to say, a little whiskey before breakfast is a sure guarantee I'll be missing notes ;-) Not like I needed the help.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
886 posts

Just last night I gave a private lesson to a brand new player, and towards the end I explained what a "pocket tune" is.  I then gave her some tablature for a version of Beech Spring that I worked up for my dulcimer group. I explained that it stresses certain left-hand techniques such as hammer-ons, but otherwise is pretty accessible, and sounds better the slower it is played. I played it for her and she got really excited. So we have our first goal: to learn Beech Spring as her first pocket tune.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Sean Ruprecht-Belt
@sean-belt
last year
31 posts

For me, the tune I play most/first when I pull out the dulcimer is either "Old Dubuque" or "West Fork Girls". They're both a lot of fun to play. 

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
886 posts

I think we overcome a major hurdle and reach a new, more proficient place in our abilities as a musician when we can make a mistake and keep playing.  I know I saw something similar with my daughter, who used to just stop playing the piano when she made a mistake. But now she has learned how to keep playing--even making something up--until she gets back on course.  It can be a great confidence boost to know we can make a mistake and not fall flat on our face but keep the music moving along. I was recently asked to play something on the dulcimer at the end of a ukulele workshop that I attended, and afterwards a woman commented that it was nice to see someone really enjoy playing.  What she was referring to was the fact that I smiled and even chuckled at one point. But I did that in reaction to a mistake I had made!  Happily, she misinterpreted my amusement entirely, so a liability became an asset.

 

I now have a list of about 30 "backpack" tunes. I consider these the tunes from which I would choose to put together a set of music.  I am going to make an effort to play through the whole list on a regular basis to keep rust from accumulating.  




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Susie
@susie
last year
258 posts

My pocket tune is Rosin the Beau. Love the song, and it's a great tune for playing the melody on the bass string, chord/melody style. So, you can switch it up.

Dan Goad
@dan-goad
last year
164 posts

Old Joe Clark is my pocket tune and in the backpack are Mississippi Sawyer, Hangedman's Reel, Grey Cat on a Tennessee Farm, Bile Dem Cabbage (of course) and when I feel adventurous I slap on the capo for Huntin' for the Buffalo.  The 'wanna learn' list, still written on stone tablets, is Mes Parents, Going to Boston, June Apple and Ragtime Annie.

Bob Reinsel
@bob-reinsel
last year
102 posts

Dry and Dusty, and Elk River Blues seem to be on the top of the list right now.  My pocket song seems to shift around some.  In fact, about a week ago I was playing for a friend, and for the life of me I could not remember where I was going in the middle of a song I play nearly every day.  Right now I can't even remember which song it was.  I just remember the feeling of having a total brain cramp.




--
Bob
Site Moderator

The greatest music is made for love, not for money -- Greg Lake
Strumelia
@strumelia
last year
1,763 posts

Even after many years, I still cling to Shady Grove.  It just gets me.....plus it's easy enough that it's hard to become rusty.  




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
last year
113 posts

I definitely should be better about keeping a rep going, but my problem is there are only so many hours in the day! I try to keep about 3 or 4 tunes "performance ready" if I can unless I'm too busy working on something new.

Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
last year
508 posts

I usually do Cripple Creek for finger dancing, Skip to My Lou for noter/drone, and Going Fishin' for flat picking. I mess up the latter sometimes. I like to do Old Joe Clark, but often mess up when switching to a harmony accompaniment. Still working on that transition. I do mess up less when I'm truly concentrating on my playing

Ken

"The dulcimer sing a sweet song."

Sheryl St. Clare
@sheryl-st-clare
last year
334 posts

[quote="Dusty Turtle"]
... I seem to concentrate on a few at any given time and play those pretty often, but not playing the others  just means I get a bit rusty when I do play them.  I've already forgotten songs that I once played well and want to avoid that in the future. /quote]

Mine is Harvest Home, but I completely agree with Dusty, I have to remember to play it or I get rusty. I think I know it, then I get in the middle of it and forget something, and add lib. I know, that's okay, that's Folk, but I'm not where I can do that smoothly yet. 

Glad to know you experienced players mess up. I thought it was just me. surprised

 

Dan
@dan
last year
74 posts

A simplified version of Pretty Betty Martin, finger dance and thumb strummed. (Messing up only adds to the folk experience!)

 


updated by @dan: 02/03/16 08:43:22AM
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
last year
872 posts

Randy Adams:
Robin Thompson:I neglected to mention I always mess-up on WBB at some point.  :)
I mess up on every tune at some point Robin!

I also neglected to mention what you mentioned, Randy.  F'real.  

I tell a friend of mine who is learning dulcimer that I mess-up and it's good she hears me mess-up!  I also tell her the difference between her and me is I have more experience.  




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
last year
123 posts

Robin Thompson:
I neglected to mention I always mess-up on WBB at some point.  :)

I mess up on every tune at some point Robin!

Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
last year
872 posts

I neglected to mention I always mess-up on WBB at some point.  :)




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Steven Berger
@steven-berger
last year
73 posts

My list of tunes is still fairly small, but I always start my playing sessions with a Scottish bagpipe lament that I don't know the name of (I heard it on an LP of bagpipe music many years ago). I know the tune well, but I still tend to goof it up!doh  

Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
last year
872 posts

Whiskey Before Breakfast has been the tune in my hip pocket for some years now.  Due to life circumstances, I don't practice it nor play it regularly.  It's always been a good jam tune when I've been in multi-instrument jams. :)




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
last year
1,460 posts

My pocket tune changes pretty regularly -- several times a year at least.

I also keep a backpack list -- about two hundred tunes with melody line tab for the opening (or memorable) measure(s).  Six point type in two columns on a single sheet of paper.   I haul out the list on those 'dark and stormy nights' at the boat when I'm entertaining myself because the wifi link is snafu.

I've also got an open mic book of around 40 or so songs that I play regularly at the Monday night open mic at a restaurant near the marina. New tunes added when I work them up.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
886 posts

How many of you have a "pocket" tune?  You known, the one song you know well that you can pull out whenever someone says, "Oh, you play the dulcimer?  Well let's hear a song!"

When I was a kid playing guitar, my uncle asked me to play him something, and when he saw that I only had pieces of tunes he taught me the four chords to "Rocky Raccoon," which is something you can sing even if you can't sing, if you know what I mean.  That was my pocket tune for years until I was a bit older and more proficient and that tune got replaced with a Cat Stevens tune.

On the dulcimer, the first song I learned was "Rosin the Bow."  Even before I laid my hands on my first dulcimer I had watched Bing Futch's video demo of that song so much that I pretty much knew how to play the song already.  For a long time that was my "pocket song," the song I would play when someone asked for something and eventually the first song I would play if I had to play several, since I knew it well and it put me at ease.

Do any of you have a pocket tune?  What is it?

 

As my dulcimer repertoire has grown, I now have not only a pocket tune, but a long list of tunes that I supposedly know.  I am calling these my backpack tunes, songs that I supposedly know and should be able to perform at any given moment.  However, I seem to concentrate on a few at any given time and play those pretty often, but not playing the others  just means I get a bit rusty when I do play them.  I've already forgotten songs that I once played well and want to avoid that in the future.  

Do any of you keep lists of songs that you know?  Do you practice them regularly? How do you keep up-to-speed on all of them?




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger

updated by @dusty-turtle: 02/03/16 08:31:06AM