Impressionist and Romantic era classical music

Shawn McCurdy
09/17/14 07:28:44AM

Most of the discussion of classical thus far has been Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque. While I do love the music from those periods, my personal favorites are the Romantic and Impressionist eras - Chopin, Ravel, Debussey, Faure, and Satie among others.

I am a pianist without a piano and picked up the dulcimer a couple of years ago because I wanted something portable on which to make music. My first dulcimer was/is diatonic and I still play diatonic with the group I joined, but early on I started looking for ways to reproduce the music that I had played on the piano many years back.

The lush harmonies of the Romantic and Impressionist composers are not easy to reproduce on a dulcimer, much less on a diatonic one. So I purchased a second dulcimer, fully chromatic. It has made my learning curve steeper because I've essentially been learning two instruments, but is exactly what I needed to enable the kind of music I want to play.

Of course there's no tab for classical music on a chromatic dulcimer. So I bought Tabledit and have learned enough to produce my own arrangements. A lot of simplification goes on to get from what is sometimes a 7- or 8-note two-handed chord down to 3 notes on a DAD dulcimer. The process usually goes like this:

1. Find piano music for the piece

2. Do a "rough draft" in tab, preserving the melody and most important harmony notes

3. Try to play and find the bits that are impossible

4. Modify/simplify

5. Repeat until I get something playable - this usually takes multiple passes

Part of the process is learning how to judge whether a piece of music will distill down into something acceptable.In some cases, the tab ends up being very difficult but if I simplify further, I will lose the essence of the music. Some pieces pare down more readily than others.

Anyway, I'm having fun with this whole process and wondered if anyone else has explored in this direction.