Location: Germantown, NY
Country: US

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sparrowbirdy Dan Goad Strumelia


POLL: Do you play alone, or with others?

Voting has Ended

Curious about how many folks tend to play alone at home or at dulcimer club meeting, or at jams and festivals?  Choose the selection that best describes how you tend to play, and VOTE in this poll!  Remember, the poll is just for fun.  violin  

I ONLY play solo by myself at home. I don't feel my playing is good enough to be able to play with anyone else yet. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to attend a dulcimer group or workshop near me.
I ONLY play by myself at home. I'd LIKE TO play with others, but I either don't know anyone near me, or I can't get to a location where I can play with others.
I always play with just a few of my close friends or family who play instruments. I never travel to festivals or clubs to play with others.
I do play with others- but usually only other dulcimer players: in club meetings, dulcimer club performances or workshops, and by myself at home. I tend to avoid playing with musicians of other instruments- it's a little beyond my abilities.
I often play my dulcimer with others- at dulcimer club meetings, at dulcimer festivals, or in a group that meets up regularly. Sometimes I travel to music events to play with others. I try to join in jams or groups with people who play various instruments, whenever I find such groups.
I'm a skilled musician and I frequently play the dulcimer AND/OR other instruments with other musicians in various situations, and in gigs. I can adapt to various musical jam situations.
09/28/18 01:09:25PM @strumelia:

Well said, @black-dog-bess and Dusty !  dancetomato

My mother used to fondly tell me a story about before I was born, when she would play harpsichord and my father would play along on flute (he was teaching himself slowly). This was back in the 1940s in their apartment- neither of them were professional musicians.  My mother hated when she made mistakes, she would stop and say "..wait!.." and start the phrase over if she tripped up. Finally, my father lost his patience with having to stop the tune so often. He emphatically said: "No. No more 'wait' . Just keep playing!".  That cured my mother of the annoying habit, and she was glad. smile  

Dusty Turtle
09/28/18 12:15:19PM @dusty-turtle:

Black Dog Bess:  in the average jam, you can't hear yourself

That's so true, @Black-Dog-Bess.  The whole point of a jam is to fit in, not stand out.  I find it easier to play with other people because you can always skip a measure or only play the parts that you know, or only play the melody on a single string, or whatever.  The rest of the group carries the tune collectively.

Black Dog Bess: if you only play by yourself, it is easy to never finish a song. Playing with others helps you learn to keep going and not focus on your last mistake. 

I sometimes say a song is supposed to be like a river; it just keeps moving, whether you're ready or not.  When you play by yourself it's too easy to slow down for the hard parts and speed up for the easy parts or to stop and start a difficult measure over and so forth.  But when you play with a group, the music--like a river--just keeps moving. If you mess up you have to learn to ignore your mistakes and just keep going.  But that should be empowering and take the scariness out of group play.

Making mistakes in group play is really not a problem.  If you play by yourself, a mistake can completely interrupt a song. Not so in group play.  The mistake just evaporates into the ether and the music keeps rolling downstream . . . into the delta . . . on its way to the ocean.

Black Dog Bess
09/28/18 10:43:09AM @black-dog-bess:

Dusty is so right, sometimes it does take dedication to find a jamming group. But for me, the biggest barrier is my perfectionism and fear of revealing my lack of musical skill that keep me from just going for it. One of the best things I learned is that in the average jam, you can't hear yourself and unless you are with a very high level group, many of the other participants are too busy trying to figure out what they are doing to listen very critically to you!

FOTMD was my way into jamming. I found Wartz and All in WV and arrived not knowing anyone and with a dulcimer I did not know how to play. I knew they were beginner friendly and they got me started. I later learned of regular jams an hour away (through 3 states!) from me and started going regularly. They also were beginner friendly using tab and kindly overlooking beginners' mistakes. When you are considering starting to play out, accept that it may take a few tries to find a good fit. If you need tab and the group doesn't accept that, Oh well, play air dulcimer for one night, watch and learn, and keep looking. Although it is scary initially, the best way to improve your skills is to play with other people. I know from experience that if you only play by yourself, it is easy to never finish a song. Playing with others helps you learn to keep going and not focus on your last mistake. If you can't get to a physical group, try some of the internet sites with back up tracks to get the feel of playing with others.

So if you are on the edge about playing out, give yourself a gentle nudge and try it. It will improve your playing and you will probably meet some interesting people (who else can you babble to about dulcimers?)


Dusty Turtle
09/27/18 01:54:44PM @dusty-turtle:

Sometimes it takes dedication. I lead a dulcimer group that meets monthly here in Sacramento.  We have one regular member who travels 140 miles from San Jose, another 110 miles from Santa Rosa, and another 115 miles from Reno. NV. Different directions, but they all have to travel over two hours each way to join us. Not everyone has the time and ability to travel like that, but unfortunately, in areas where dulcimer players are spread pretty thin, it takes some dedication to make the musical gatherings happen. 

In the winter, the woman from Reno can't always make it because of the deep snow over the Sierra Nevada. I'm very fearful that one day she'll make the trip down the mountains and then get caught in a major storm on her way back.  But she risks it, because, well, playing the dulcimer is so darn fun! dulcimer  Interestingly, she also refuses to play by herself.  So she only plays the one day per month that she joins us. 

Terry Wilson
09/26/18 05:10:32PM @terry-wilson:

I only play with my son, he on guitar, and wife on piano.   The nearest dulcimer club is around 100 mi away.  Would love to make the drive one day.


Byron Kinnaman
09/26/18 04:03:15PM @byron-kinnaman:

I've tried for few years to find a Mt. Dulcimer group to play with and learn from.   I gave up a couple years ago and now play a Ukulele with several groups.

Dieter Moeckel
09/24/18 10:12:05PM @dieter-moeckel:

In Australia it's pretty rare to find other dulcimer players. I do play with my wife who pays dulcimer just as badly as myself but has the voice of an angel. (a 70 year old angel) I build dulcimers in all kinds of styles (I experiment) but have settled mainly on either trapezoids or Tennessee styles and give them away to people who might learn to play them. I've built over 200 of them.

I started with olive oilcan and biscuit tin sound boxes and found them to be relatively popular but I prefer the Tennessee music box style and the courting dulcimer style.

We live in Wonbah 100km wow of Bundaberg, Queensland Australia. Our nearest town Mount Perry Pop: 400; nearest metropolis Gin Gin pop: 1 000 mostly old people who love Slim Dusty and are musically retarded (I should say challenged)

But I keep at it love my dulcimers and try to spread the word and the music. Most folk music has all but died in Australia - festivals now attract high level groups and admission fees start at $600.00 for 4 days, with no audience participation allowed. I remember 1970s when I was treasurer for the Central Australian Folk Society in Alice Springs and the Top End Folk Club in Darwin when all the gigs were audience participation and that was the festival.

Any how will keep going for a few more years yet I'm 71 and headed toward the great Dulcimer gig in the sky.What the dulcimer has done for me that I will always treasure is an interest in all that's music. I'm learning not only to play but the decipher music theory and history which gives me a thrill each time I learn something new. Thanks to the dulcimer and the Appalachian ancients I have found a new and rewarding hobby to fill my time and quench my thirst and enthusiasm.

Now for the real reason I wrote: I play alone and with my wife (who sings and also plays the autoharp). We have a friend who play the guitar and occasionally jam with him. But mostly we play alone with great gusto and enthusiasm. Love the Dulcimer. Samuel Taylor Coleridge mentions a maid withe a dulcimer in his epic Kubla Khan.

Cindy Stammich
09/23/18 10:26:02PM @cindy-stammich:

Most of the time I play by myself nowadays.  I did have the opportunity to play with old friends at the local bluegrass festival in August.  But the best thing that happened recently was my mini-vacation with my brother and sister.  While neither of them play, they humored me by taking turns playing a lap harp with me.  Absolutely made my heart sing!

09/21/18 10:56:31AM @strumelia:

When i set up this poll, when I put "play alone or with others" I meant play in person, not via online or videos.  The whole idea of the poll was to find out how much people do or don't actually physically get together and play with others.  Just being here and posting assumes that we all interact and enjoy each others playing in 'virtual reality' online to one extent or another.

Lois Sprengnether Keel
09/21/18 10:14:58AM @lois-sprengnether-keel:

I sometimes use it in my storytelling programs (although when I make a mistake I can always say "Now you know why I'm a storyteller and not a musician!"  My local folklore group is a workshop where I force myself to keep growing by playing a song related to the monthly theme.

I sometimes think my Kindergarten report card must have said "Does not play well with others!"

Actually I've done some group playing at the folklore group for something we call "The Hat Band" (as the players names are pulled from a hat), where my instrument is different from the others, although that instrument I play is not usually the dulcimer.

I'd like to get able to "jam" with others, but don't really have the time to work towards that.

Charles Thomas
09/20/18 07:44:20PM @charles-thomas:

I'd like to vote " none of the above " I play alone,but I can post online and people around the world can watch and listen.

09/20/18 04:08:10PM @strumelia:

Well said LisaG... bigsmile

And lather rinse repeat is good for various things in life!

Lisa Golladay
09/20/18 03:51:57PM @lisa-golladay:


Hahahah you guys crack me up. Such modesty!  Why wouldn't anyone be considered to be a 'skilled musician' ...

But... but... my working definition for "skilled musician" is somebody who plays better than I do!  Ergo and ipso facto, it is categorically impossible for me to be a "skilled musician."  Quod erat demonstrandum.   Ha!

I will grudgingly admit that ten years ago I would have been impressed with the stuff I can do today.  That was then and this is now.  I learn to play better... I set a new goal... and I start hanging out with better musicians... lather, rinse, repeat.  I am always happiest in a group that is just slightly over my head: it sounds better and I learn more.  Maybe it's a corollary of the Groucho Marx Rule: I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. 

Mind you, I never claimed to be a model of psychological good health.  think

I am reminded of my Dad, a skilled chess player.  He and a friend played chess every week for many years.  Dad always said Al was the perfect match for him: not too easy to beat and not too hard.  They got better at chess over the years -- can't help but improve if you play that often -- but they progressed together at the same pace. 

I wish the same for everybody here: a good musical buddy (or two, or more) who can pace you on the journey.  Always challenged, always humble, always looking ahead to the next goal... but also, yes, able to look back and be impressed with the progress you've made so far.

Incidentally, I call BS on everybody else's BS because you all may be good at BS but I have clients who pay me to write marketing content, which makes me a professional BSer!  HeeHeeHee...

09/20/18 12:50:00PM @strumelia:

Hahahah you guys crack me up. Such modesty!  Why wouldn't anyone be considered to be a 'skilled musician' if they can: 

 "play instruments with other musicians in various situations, and in gigs. ...and adapt to various musical jam situations."

And Dusty- anyone watching your videos or attending your workshops or jams would argue with you not considering yourself to be a skilled musician.  I call BS!  poo  
"Skilled musician" is simply that, same as describing a skilled mechanic or skilled tennis player... I don't see it as anything precious, doesn't mean you think you're Mozart or some genius prodigy.  winky

Dusty Turtle
09/20/18 02:57:57AM @dusty-turtle:

Lisa Golladay: the phrase "I'm a skilled musician" is just too wildly inaccurate for me to click on!   Laugh

@Lisa-Golladay, I had a chuckle reading that line in the poll, too. I do play in jams, with a dulcimer and sometimes other instruments, and every now and then I play a gig, but I certainly wouldn't call myself a "skilled musician."  To be truthful, I don't think I'm skilled at anything other than BSing.  (I'm pretty good at that, though! giggle2 )

09/19/18 05:55:05PM @strumelia:

@elvensong i totally agree with the playing with friends being the best!  (though I do love playing music alone as well, and also just with my husband)  

09/18/18 05:55:46PM @elvensong:

I played by myself for years then not all for too many years. I started playing again last year and love playing at small festivals and open mics and we host JamBQs at our home. There's nothing like playing with friends!

@robin-thompson I could be a fly on the wall at your place and be happy forever


Lisa Golladay
09/18/18 03:26:03PM @lisa-golladay:

Most of the time when I'm playing dulcimer, I'm playing alone at home.  So I voted the 2nd option even though "ONLY" isn't accurate.  I considered voting the last option -- weekly uke club may only barely qualify as "music" but it certainly ain't "alone."  But the phrase "I'm a skilled musician" is just too wildly inaccurate for me to click on!   Laugh

It will be fun to see how this thread develops.

09/18/18 02:40:04PM @strumelia:

Ken, from your description, I'd say you most likely fit in with the second-to-last option.

John, does not the third option most closely reflect your typical playing situations?

Robin Thompson
09/18/18 02:36:02PM @robin-thompson:

Mostly, I play at home-- both by myself and with Mark on guitar.