This article by Linda Ratcliff in Dulcimer Crossing is a very encouraging read for those who feel they have been left out of the talent thing. It certainly applies to many beginners on the mountain dulcimer, but it also applies to beginners on any instrument. Music did NOT come naturally to me! I had to work very, very hard and deliberately to learn rock and blues guitar when I was 13 or 14 years old. I had very little encouragement from my family and I had a very shaky sense of rhythm at the start. Playing along with some of the greats helped, but it was a long, hard struggle.
Now maybe music shouldn’t be a such a struggle, but there can be a confidence that comes from the right kind of training – and especially rhythmic training – so go ahead and read this and see if it helps:
Finding inspiration in the woods and hills around her home in Asheville, North Carolina, 12-string guitarist Sarah Louise imbues her music with a free-flowing, organic quality. Her melodies snake through tributaries and counter-tributaries before building to swirling clusters of tone.
She’s not entirely alone out there. The “solo acoustic guitar” format has been enjoying a renaissance of late, with players like Daniel Bachman and Glenn Jones releasing quietly successful albums full of robust, fingerpicked compositions. Fingerstyle troubadours like Ryley Walker and Steve Gunn have taken the form overground, writing songs that pay homage to the patron saints of the genre: Bert Jansch, purveyor of the florid, left hand-focussed British style of folk baroque, and John Fahey, pioneer of the thoroughly rhythmic, right hand-focussed American Primitive genre. And, indeed, most modern practitioners of the genre tend to oscillate, to varying degrees, between those two figureheads. But Sarah Louise, who creates her…
“The album paints a series of sound-pictures of nature in the mind’s eye. The artwork and the title are the platform from which you depart on this internal journey through the music.”—Go Kurosawa
Kikagaku Moyo—Japanese for ‘geometric patterns’—has built an international following over the last few years as part of a generation of new Japanese bands with a heavy psychedelic bent. Founded in the early 2010s by drummer Go Kurosawa and guitarist Tomo Katsurada, both of whom also sing, the quintet has issued a steady string of singles, albums and cassettes, and have also appeared stateside at events like Austin Psych Fest in 2014.
Their latest album, House in the Tall Grass, was released in May on their own Guruguru Brain label. We spoke with Kurosawa about the band’s recent activity.
These charts go along with a little composition project we’re doing currently. I asked my newsletter subscribers if anyone wanted to do their own version of my Light Into Darkness and Tapping at the Edge of Paradise compositions, and there was a very healthy response. So here are the reference charts in the order that you play the chords.
This Aussie comedy act is really amazing. Butch Ross told me about them in 2007 or 2008, when I was obsessed with my little four chord circular progression D – A – Bm – G… that I used for Light Into Darkness, Tapping at the Edge of Paradise, and Tapping Into The Light on electric dulcimer. I just found more and more melodies that went with these chords – and bass lines with chord inversions to make it WAY more interesting.
Now in 2017 it seems like new ideas are again coming forward when I mess with these chords. I even have a more detailed version now, with sub-cycles of chords on each of the four main chords.
Most of the work I’ve done directly on the mountain dulcimer, but its fun with guitar, keyboard (which I can barely play!), or whatever chording instrument is nearby.
So even if the mountain dulcimer is your main instrument, why not play around on a piano or little electronic keyboard and see what happens? I usually resort to the white keys when I work with keyboard, so in C you have: C – G – Am – F. Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!!
Ever since I first got acquainted with the mountain dulcimer in 1970, I have been fascinated by the variety of textures available when strumming across all the strings at once, or picking individual notes. The type of material that is used in a pick has a lot to do with the texture of the sound you get, and the flexibility is also an important factor.
In a general sense, I tend to use very flexible picks when strumming across all the strings (like the thin triangles above), and medium-to-thin picks when I want some individual notes and some strums here and there (like the nylon .60mm or .73mm gray picks above). If I’m playing arpeggios I tend to favor really chunky, massive picks like the black nylon or the 1.14 Ultex.
There are some radically different new materials now in picks: some of the black picks above with “COOL” written on them have a very rubbery feel and there is no click whatsoever. Sometimes this is exactly what I’m looking for. Other times I need more high end and more of the traditional dulcimer sound, and I go for the red Herdim picks or the round “pointless” picks (the red ones are the thinnest). I LOVE these round picks! Here is the link where you can order a trial pack:
Most picks aren’t expensive, and the smaller music stores do MUCH better than the big chain stores as far as selection and ability to get your hands on the picks. Go wild and buy a whole bunch of picks made out of completely different materials. Get some real soft super-thin strumming picks, get some medium nylon or tortex, and try a variety of materials in the thick chunky style.