First Bluegrass Jam.....Help !

Scott Allen
Scott Allen
@scott-allen
8 years ago
24 posts

Cindi, I've been playing at Bluegrass jams for a few years now and am actually in a BG band with my dulcimer. I usually use the capo and if I have to play a song in a different key than I'm used to, say from D to A, I try to just move the tab up the keyboard so to speak. I noodle around until it's right in that key. If you know the song well, it's not so hard to do. Good luck!

Scott

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,859 posts

Cindi -- don't let they fact that they have to read tab bother you. There's nmo law sez you hafta read tab! Memorize the songs, if that works for you, and blow them away. i don't read tab or SMN. I learn by ear and play from memory - couple of hundred songs at last count. IMHO a club is not the place to learn new music. It's a place to practice music, and practice playing, together, which should be fun.

For a nursing home "concert" you only need maybe a dozen songs total -- 3-4 that everybody plays together; 2-3 some by this duet, 2-3 by that trio and at least one solo each. BTDT many times over the years.

Cindi Zechman
Cindi Zechman
@cindi-zechman
8 years ago
13 posts

I'm going to try that, Robin. Poor old Bess always feels neglected when the others get to go out & play & she stays home......the old "I used to be good enough before those new kids showed up" syndrome. I'll have to write myself cheat notes to remember all the capo placements, though. Thanks again

Cindi Zechman
Cindi Zechman
@cindi-zechman
8 years ago
13 posts


Cindi Zechman said:

You're right Ken, I found that out this past Sunday....While the DAd & DAA helped a little, there were MANY songs I couldn't play along with. It was fun just to be surrounded by good music, though. I'm sure with all this helpful info. by next month's jam I should be able to do a little better. None of the songs were familiar (well, actually I did know 2-3 of them) but it's always fun to learn new music.

Our little group is just under a year old, with anywhere from 4-6 attending. most are relatively new to this instrument with some having played longer but not with a group to challenge them to learn new music. My problem is that I really struggle with reading tab (all my self discipline went down the toilet when I retired, it seems) and they say they can't play without it. We continue to challenge each other and have been able to bring our songs up to speed gradually. The important thing is that we have fun and are growing musically. We try to attend most of the nearby workshops and have learned so much by doing that. One of the girls is a former church organist/choir director, another is a cellist with the local orchestra so at least they have a good feel for timing and keep things on track.

Our goal is to learn enough songs (and learn them well) to be able to play at some of the local nursing homes.

Cindi Zechman
Cindi Zechman
@cindi-zechman
8 years ago
13 posts

You're right Ken, I found that out this past Sunday....While the DAd & DAA helped a little, there were MANY songs I couldn't play along with. It was fun just to be surrounded by good music, though. I'm sure with all this helpful info. by next month's jam I should be able to do a little better. None of the songs were familiar (well, actually I did know 2-3 of them) but it's always fun to learn new music.

Our little group is just under a year old, with anywhere from 4-6 attending. most are relatively new to this instrument with some having played longer but not with a group to challenge them to learn new music. My problem is that I really struggle with reading tab (all my self discipline went down the toilet when I retired, it seems) and they say they can't play without it. We continue to challenge each other and have been able to bring our songs up to speed gradually. The important thing is that we have fun and are growing musically. We try to attend most of the nearby workshops and have learned so much by doing that. One of the girls is a former church organist/choir director, another is a cellist with the local orchestra so at least they have a good feel for timing and keep things on track.

Our goal is to learn enough songs (and learn them well) to be able to play at some of the local nursing homes.

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
8 years ago
237 posts

Here is a bit of a radical idea for your 3rd old dulcimer Cindi. How about stringing it up with 4 melody strings (4 x 0.010) and tuning them all to 'd' so you have a dulcimer in d,d,dd like a Galax dulcimer is tuned. It may sound crazy but for sessions you won't miss the bass strings as the other instruments (like guitar) will over power your bass string anyway. In d,d,dd your dulcimer will 'froth' along at the top of mix providing a very audible rhythm. If you listen to some of the tunes played by Phyllis Gaskins with her string band you'll hear how this tuning works when played with others.

The tuning d,d,dd means that you can play in the key of D with a noter or by fingerdancing starting the scale at the nut or play in the key of G starting at the 3rd fret (over d,d drones) - without retuning. If you put a capo on the first fret you can play in the key of A, both major and minor depending on your use or not of the 6+, starting the scale at the 4th fret and playing over e,e drones.

When I go to sessions (quite regularly!) I always carry a Galax tuned dulcimer, and it is the tuning I use the most as the sound carries really well because your dulcimer is sitting in a unique part of the sound spectrum. You need a quick right hand to whip up a rhythm - my preference is to use a quill and whip it across the strings.

It is just an idea - but if you do have an old dulcimer doing nothing at present then it could be fun to set it up in Galax tuning and have a go with noter and quill. Grin.gif

Robin

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,859 posts

Having one dulcimer in DAd and one in DAA won't really help cover themultitude of key used at a bluegrass jam. Robin's link above to his discussion of tuning and playing in the various session keys will give you lots of good ideas for tuning two dulcimers to cover the common keys used in bluegrass.

You've run into the problem I have with most dulcimer clubs -- they seldom play tunes up to speed, feeling that they should "play down" for beginners/slower/older players not play up to speed and stretch those players to improve. The result is that no one improves, everyone becomes equally mediocre, and everything from Amazing Grace to Camptown Races is played at the same glacial pace....

Cindi Zechman
Cindi Zechman
@cindi-zechman
8 years ago
13 posts

Wow guys, thanks for all the helpful information. John, I did look up Home-Middle-Outside. Since I play mostly by ear this will be a good exercise for me in the discipline of reading music/tab. Ken, I will read Robin's posts & Robin, I don't usually play noter/drone but found that it was easier, using my finger as an emergency noter, to follow along that way rather than picking individual notes & chords. And, Paul, I totally agree with the "never too many toys" theory so I did take my other dulcimer tuned DAA and was sort of able to keep up with some of the songs that way. I will definitely have to work on my speed though. The little dulcimer group I belong to plays much slower so I am spoiled. I do have a 3rd old dulcimer....any hints on a tuning till I learn all this other great stuff ?

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
8 years ago
237 posts

Hi Cindy,

I tend to use noter drone for bluegrass and old time sessions. It would take a while to get the hang of it if noter drone is not your style of playing at present but it does givesome significant advantages -tuning flexibility andmore volume being two. There's a fair bit of evidence of pre-revival dulcimer players in some communities playing is string bands using noter drone, and the style fits nicely with old time and bluegrass.

Instrument set-up . You can do a couple of things to make life easier for yourself. I tend to go a little lighter on the bass string so it will tune up to E (a 0.022w works fine on a 28.5" McSpadden) and run the middle and melody strings at the same gauge - normally 0.012 on a 28.5" scale. Also, I only use a single melody string at sessions as this speeds up re-tuning and gives a nice clarity to the melody line. Go a little stiffer on your pick to add volume too. A strap and possum board is a good idea.

Tunings . There's a page on how to get into the standard session keys here:

http://mountaindulcimer.ning.com/group/oldstyledronenoterplayers/page/tunings-for-noter-drone-beginner-intermediate

If you usually play out of DAd in chord melody style it is quite a mental shift to move to noter drone, and perhaps not as easy as it sounds. But with a bit of practice you'll soon be whistling along with a noter at sessions. Personally, I play both styles and enjoy chord melody from DAd as much as anyone. All I'm saying is that I've found noter drone a better playing style for me when sitting in at bluegrass and old time jams.

Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
8 years ago
242 posts

You can play a fair number of A songs on the middle string, particularly if you have the 6+ fret. You will want to either raise the D strings to E, or avoid playing them when they clash. A reverse capo is probably a good thing to use for raising them for an occasional song to avoid a lot of extra tuning. Some players keep a second dulcimer in a second tuning.Seems like a double fretboard model would work well, too. You can't have too many toys!

Paul

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 years ago
1,859 posts

Read Robin Clark's posts here about playing bluegrass and other session type music in multiple keys from one or two tunings.

Cindi Zechman
Cindi Zechman
@cindi-zechman
8 years ago
13 posts

I finally got up the nerve to show up at a local monthly bluegrass jam. Being relatively new to this I chose to sit in the back where hopefully any mistakes would be less noticeable. I was doing fine when everyone was in the key of D and then switched to G (remembering what I learned in a workshop about capo on the 3rd fret) but some of the other keys......needless to say, I sat out those songs. Any advice ?Tongue.gif


updated by @cindi-zechman: 10/28/20 06:05:48PM