Beginner? Intermediate? Expert?

Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
4 years ago
97 posts

Karen YES. We all know musicians who are more adept in some areas than others and that does nothing to reduce respect for them. I guess the worst "sin" I see is people who rest on their laurels and do not share their beginner to expert skills. The greatest musicians I have met are never too proud or stuffed up to share what they know and love.If they don't care about labels, why should we? So yes, it helps to have class expectations listed. But if someone learns one thing which helps them, I find it difficult to care where they acquired that info.

Karen Keane
@karen-keane
4 years ago
26 posts
Labels, Shmabels. I don't like them. You can be many different kinds of players. Advanced at one skill and intermediate or beginning at another skill. You are what you think you are. If you think you're advanced, then you are, if you think that you're intermediate, then you are, if you think you're a beginner, then you are. The key words here are YOU THINK! I think that it's important to use your best judgement when choosing classes and skills that are best for you. I take classes that interest me regardless of the class description. Sometimes they are a bit too easy, but as Rob pointed out, these are always good to review fundamentals. Sometimes, they are too hard, but I have noticed that you always improve your playing, when you are around players that play better than you. If you pay attention, you can always learn something new at any level class. Sometimes, just the way someone says something different, will gets those brain dendrites circulating and make connections in a new direction. Anyway, that's my take on this discussion.
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
4 years ago
97 posts

Folkfan, I believe you just gave the explanation of classes as offered at Kentucky Music Week. Nancy has a basic breakdown of definitions but the class instructors write about what is offered as well as equipment needed.

I took a class with Dave Haas which I knew would be over my head but from which I could take material for home. Dave saw my difficulties and offered extra help - now that is what you can get from a true Amateur (someone who does something for the love of it).

The dulcimer world is exploding with change in our instruments and that opens our challenges for playing anything we want - in any style or tuning. Yippee.

folkfan
@folkfan
4 years ago
456 posts

Patty, I really think you've hit the nail on the head. Having an accurate and detailed description of what a workshop entails is infinitely more valuable to deciding on whether to take a class than a simple general labeling of classes as beginner, intermediate or advanced students. Especially since it's difficult to really decide what those labels should encompass.
My preference for a workshop description is one that gives details as to playing style that the class will use as to both left and right hand, the tuning that the class will start out in, if a capo will be needed, what tunes will be used and if tab will be available or is the class a strictly "play by ear". Having such information gives the individual enough knowledge to decide whether the workshop will be at his or her level of performance, an interesting challenge, or way over head (as in sinking from the moment the instructor starts speaking.) Personally, I've been in the way over my head type of situation43.gif and spent sometime figuring out how to apologize to the instructor and get out of the room with as much dignity as I could. 9.gif

Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
4 years ago
273 posts

Having descriptions for workshop classes is helpful especially if classes that you want to take are at the same time. It helps with making decisions. When I attended Shenandoah U. I took the beginner classes. I did know some of the basics already but it doesn't hurt to review them. I agree Rob!!! Anne Lough encouraged me to challenge myself and take a class that is above my level. I had trouble with some elements but I learned a lot and enjoyed it. As always, I'm learning a lot from members here. Thank you John Keane and Robin Clark for your how to videos!Smile.gifI guess I'll always be a beginner for some aspect of the MD. It is such a versatile instrument. Thank you Lisa for this web site. It's the best!!!Smile.gifWayne, I didn't realize you no longer have pennies. When you come to my neck of the woods I'll give you some, LOL,Grin.gif

Carrie Barnes
@carrie-barnes
4 years ago
125 posts

John, LOL!24.gif

Strumelia
@strumelia
4 years ago
1,763 posts

John, that's funny.




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
john p
@john-p
4 years ago
212 posts

Beginner - someone who needs help learning a tune.

Intermediate - someone who doesn't need help learning a tune.

Advanced - someone who needs help finding tunes to play.

Expert - guitar boy.

john

Sylvia Moore
@sylvia-moore
4 years ago
2 posts

I'm barely starting and hoping to make it to intermediate. However, I hope I never get to the point that I would consider myself an expert. There should always be more to learn, more to look forward to. Aw heck, no one has reached perfection yet so I guess there are no experts. 3.gif

Babs Greene
@babs-greene
4 years ago
130 posts

Sorry...but what's a dulcimer? beginner room, okey, dokey...on my way 35.gif

folkfan
@folkfan
4 years ago
456 posts

Thanks, Robin, but if you noticed Dusty said we were both nuts.3.gif

And thanks, Dusty, for your assessment of my real level. I do think though that I would rank as a beginner when it comes to playing ability. Realistically, on a good day, I can only manage to play in the most basic manner with either right or left hand. On bad days, now, I don't play at all. 46.gif

Lisa, Have you ever heard the Oysterband's version of the False Knight On The Road? The knight was a nut for thinking he could get around the child. That little boy knew to stand fast and face evil.

Strumelia
@strumelia
4 years ago
1,763 posts

Ed, I like that ! And, there is always someone who plays worse then us, and someone who plays better than us.

Ken, you make some great points. But one problem I have with your definitions criteria is that it calls for everyone to be able to play in more than one style in order to be classified as an intermediate or advanced player. Some folks are very advanced players in their chosen style of playing, -why should they have to be able to play in multiple styles in order to be considered anything other than a beginner? This is definitely not true in the banjo community for example- imagine if all clawhammer players were classified as beginners unless they could play banjo in bluegrass style as well...!

I also feel that 'performing' should not necessarily be a requirement for evaluating players. Some folks don't want to perform for one reason or another, but I feel some of them are highly skilled players regardless of that.

P.S. Dusty, Robin, FF,.... isn't there an old Anglo ballad by the name of "False Nut on the Road"...?




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ed Day
@ed-day
4 years ago
13 posts

I'll always be a beginnerat the next level whatever that may be.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 years ago
1,460 posts

Dan said "I met with one of the members of a local dulcimer society, he began with telling me all the things I have to have. My noter and quill was not mentioned. No way I can play chords with first string staple frets....I imagine I too am destined to always being a beginner."

Dan, I know exactly how you feel. For more years than I want to count, every time I met a dulcimer player or group that was the same reaction I received --- you can't do that, you have to play this way, we only play DAd, et cetera ad nauseum.

There is still far too much of that sort of prejudice going on in the dulcimer world today. Unfortunately most of those folks don't read FOTMD or ED, either, to see how the wider world works.

After being insulted, put down and shunned by people and groups like that, I wasn't about to cower in the corner and shut my trap. That's just not meGrin.gif Is it any wonder that I have become such a vocal champion of "playing your way" as well as preserving the more traditional styles -- in particular Noter & Drone. My mission, as such, is to prove to those blatantly wrong self-righteous folks that the dulcimer does not have to be, and never was intended to be, played only DAd tuning and chords and fingerpicking and all that other modern nonsense.

The good thing that's happened over the past few years, and in particular here at FOTMD, is what I've taken to calling the Second Dulcimer Revival -- a.k.a. Dulcimer Revival Part Deux, the Return of Traditional Playing

Dan, you're welcome to share my semi-official moniker: Uncontrite Modal Folker.

Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
4 years ago
872 posts
Dusty, who you calling nuts? Folkfan is perfectly sane! :)

Dusty Turtle said:

Robin, your noter technique is definitely advanced. And hey, no beginner could use a false nut so effectively.

Folkfan, no beginner could talk modes and tunings as clearly and confidently as you do.

I love you both, but y'all are nuts.




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
4 years ago
449 posts

I think almost everyone in the dulcimer community is humble about their playing abilities. I take a lot of beginner's workshops for several different reasons. 1) Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. In music, like in sports, having the best grasp possible of the fundamentals of technique is necessitous. 2) How material is presented. If, someday, I ever teach a workshop or two, I like to see how players/instructors I respect present their material to get ideas I can borrow for myself. 3) Learn a new tune, simply, so I can add my own "take" to it later.

Intermediate workshops are for the challenge. I took one last year just for that reason. Wasn't sure about the tune, but I wanted to push the envelope a little (maybe a lot) and get out of my "comfort zone."

An "expert/advanced" workshop, to me, would be a master class where the student and instructor (usually a pro) work on one piece to make it the "best it can be." These are quite common in the classical music world and I've been pleased to see them starting to catch on in our musical world as well.

So, if there's a problem, it could be with people's perceptions of their own abilities and their desire to stay in their comfort zones rather than the terminology regarding the workshop.

My 2 centavos

Bill Hall
@bill-hall
4 years ago
21 posts
Ken, thanks for breaking this down. It is good to hear from someone with your experience as to the level of players you may expect to find in the different classifications. John, thanks for the Pep talk giving us the courage to push the envelope and ignore the classifications. Knowing what you may be getting yourself into makes exploring new horizons less daunting.
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 years ago
886 posts

Robin, your noter technique is definitely advanced. And hey, no beginner could use a false nut so effectively.

Folkfan, no beginner could talk modes and tunings as clearly and confidently as you do.

I love you both, but y'all are nuts.




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Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
folkfan
@folkfan
4 years ago
456 posts

Sooooooo sad. I'm always a beginner. But I enjoy playing the dang thing my way and for me, myself and I so I guess it doesn't really matter. heheheheee

Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
4 years ago
872 posts
I'm happy being, in many ways, an advanced beginner so am too lazy to learn enough to be able to write/speak knowledgeably using music terminology. :)


--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
John Keane
@john-keane
4 years ago
255 posts

I dunno...I'm not much for labels. If there's a class with a subject matter of interest to the participant, then take it. Even if it is above or below a particular perceived ability level, there is valuable information to be gained when there is a genuine interest in the material covered. I also feel that personal improvement can be delayed if one consistently stays with classes within their "comfort zone" so to speak. It's refreshing to see folks just step through the door in search of a new challenge. The journey becomes much less mysterious if there is a knowledge of the road ahead. For me personally, I'm too dumb to realize that there is stuff out there that I can't eventually do with a reasonable amount of practice and desire. I say keep it fun, keep it forward, but don't keep it a secret! Share this wonderful instrument with others! Smile.gif

Strumelia
@strumelia
4 years ago
1,763 posts

Brian and I host an old-time music camp-out every year, and we get about 250 fiddlers, banjo players, etc.

We host workshops in Fiddle, Guitar, and Banjo, with different respected players teaching every year.

One thing I notice is that the workshops are always full of beginner and intermediate players. But all the 'advanced' players are seldom there- they are out in the campgrounds, just playing music, not taking workshops.

So I too would be interested in seeing who goes to a class aimed at advanced/expert players. Wouldn't they all just be the teachers, playing together?




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 years ago
886 posts

Most often when a workshop is listed as beginner/intermediate or intermediate/advanced the idea is not that a new, in-between category is created but that the workshop would be appropriate for players of both levels.

Yes, Ken, it appears people don't like the word "expert." But if you change the name to "advanced" we'll find something else to complain about. Grin.gifTongue.gif




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Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 years ago
1,460 posts

So what I'm hearing here is that more people are objecting to my use of the word Expert rather than something else... And not objecting so much to the actual definitions??

Helen - I think if you break things down too far the distinctions begin to blur too much. What distinguishes Beginner from Advanced Beginner? Knowing what VSL stand for? Being able to play two tunes but not three? See what I mean?

Helen Seiler
@helen-seiler
4 years ago
157 posts
I think Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced Intermediate and then Semi Pro and Pro. I think if I were going to a festival (a bit of a hike from here), those gradings would give me a better idea of which lesson group to go to but then again personal confidence and general fear might muck that up for some folk. A tricky thing to define I guess. I know I find some intermediate pieces do-able and others may as well be written by a Martian, hence I am not an intermediate player.
Carrie Barnes
@carrie-barnes
4 years ago
125 posts

Terms and definitions sometimes carry a "Oh my goodness, I don't qualify for this" type feeling. As a niche instrument, those that play (regardless of their capability) have a joyous need to share/help/teach as much as they know about it. I believe "basic" classifications help define a class that is being offered, and depending on the person, help them decide if they want to jump in with both feet and "stretch" their capabilities. After all, life is a learning process, and in my life, I've yet to be called "expert" on anything, ROFL! Same applies to my playing, but oh how fun the journey is!Smile.gif

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 years ago
1,460 posts

Ex = former

Spurt = a drip under pressure

OK... Novice, Intermediate, Advanced then...

Lisa: I know that you know at least 6 tunes from memory! And, except for maybe not up to leaping tall buildings, you surely do meet Expert, not just Intermediate.

I see what you mean, Dusty. But an expert blues or classical guitarist doesn't normally start out studying strictly blues or classical guitar, either. They get a firm foundation in general guitar playing before they start specializing in blues or whatever. I guess my point is that most dulcimer players do not get a firm foundation in the totality that is the dulcimer. And more's the pity...

My definition of a 'professional' dulcimer player is one who makes significant or primary income from teaching, performing, making & selling CDs/DVDs, etc. When I said an expert 'regularly plays solo in public', I didn't mean to imply stage performances, but rather a level of comfort playing in front of others (besides your immediate family and pets). I mean being comfortable enough with one's skills to play for strangers - not in a jam setting, but in a park, at a nursing home, farmer's market, etc. - and not be scared witless.

Strumelia
@strumelia
4 years ago
1,763 posts

Well that certainly lets me out...I'll never be an expert!

Heck, I honestly don't even think I meet all the criteria to be an Intermediate!

Hey, I thought an expert was "Someone who knows more and more about less and less until finally they know everything about nothing".




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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 years ago
886 posts

Ken, it would indeed be nice if everyone could adopt a common set of definitions of these terms. If this discussion begins the process whereby such an agreement could be made, you have done the dulcimer world a great service.

Let me complicate things a bit.

There are at least two other terms commonly used in this context: novice and advanced. In fact, I think "advanced" is much more commonly used than "expert." One might still be a student and be "advanced," but your definition of "expert" is what most of us would call a professional. I doubt you will see a workshop advertised for the "expert" level,but you might see it for the "advanced" level.

One reason this issue is complicated and confusing is that although some people come to the dulcimer with no prior experience on any musical instrument, others come as advanced players on other instruments. I was able to tune and change strings before ever holding a dulcimer because I had beenplaying guitars, mandolins,ukuleles and the like for decades. And I could probably play six tunes from memory within a couple of hours of getting my first dulcimer. That ability was not due to some natural gift I have, for believe me, I am not naturally gifted, but simply that I had been playing so many other stringed instruments that I was already familiar with how to play. And the fact that I had read (perhaps a dozen times) your essay"I Just got a Mountain Dulcimer, Now What?" over on ED meant that I was familiar with MD terminology even though I had never held one before. About a month after getting my first dulcimer I attended a festival thinking I was a beginner but was told by people at my first workshop that I was at least intermediate and perhaps even advanced. They were wrong, of course. My knowledge of the fretboard was still in its infancy, for example. But they based that opinion on my comfort fretting, strumming and picking notes and chords. I guess my only point is that any serious definition of these terms for "levels" of playing has to account for those whose technique might be advanced but whose understanding of the instrument is still at a beginner level. In fact, after almost four years I probablystill fit that description. (Maybe the term "novice" could be defined in such a way as to include those new to the dulcimer but familiar with other fretted instruments.)

My only real quarrel with your definition of terms, though, is the insistence that one must be equally familiar with all styles of dulcimer play. Is it not possible for someone to be an expert noter/drone player who knows nothing about chords? Is it not possible to be an expert modern chord player who knows nothing about noter technique? One would not demand that an expert blues guitarist also know how to play classical guitar or that the double bass player in an orchestra also know how to play bluegrass bass.




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Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 years ago
1,460 posts

In various times and places (noticeably when reading festival class descriptions) we have all pondered the meaning of the words Beginner, Intermediate and Expert. In the interest of developing and promoting a Fabianist discussion of the topic, I thought I would post here my own descriptions of those playing distinctions.

Beginner

Someone who cannot tune and re-tune their dulcimer in less than five minutes. Someone who has never changed a string, does not know what kinds and gauges of strings are on their dulcimer, and does not know how to determine what kinds and gauges are necessary. Someone who does not understand common dulcimer terminology. Someone who has begun learning one style of left-hand and right-hand play in one tuning. Someone who cannot play at least three tunes completely through from memory.

Intermediate

Completely at home changing both keys and tunings (DAd to CGG for example) in less than five minutes, and understands the nomenclature of tunings (1-5-8 vs Dorian vs DAC). Can change strings quickly and correctly, and has changed all the strings on their instrument at least twice. Understands and uses common dulcimer terminology. Can demonstrate at least two styles of left-hand and right-hand play, and play at least one tune completely through in each style. Can read tab or SMN, or learn by ear, and plays at least 6 tunes completely through from memory using at least one style of play.

Expert

Someone who has experienced all three major styles of left-hand play, at least two styles of right-hand play, and regularly uses elements of those in his/her personal style and repertoire. Changes and re-tunes naturally. Regularly (at least 6 times a year) performs solo in public. Can play at least twelve tunes completely through from memory using at least two styles of play. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound.

Let the fur fly!


updated by @ken-hulme: 06/11/15 07:35:20AM