Posted on Leave a comment

Learning Chords in DAD Tuning (Part 3)

In Part 2 we covered some ways of moving through the D-G-D-A7-D progression that were mostly ascending chord forms. This time we will descend with the chord forms:

And since we also suggested applying these same chord forms to the “Cabbage Chords,” Here you go with the first four measures of the above TAB applied to the Cabbage Chord progression:

Just in case you were wondering, the 4th measure A is really A7, and the A in measure 7 is really an A7sus4.

Thanks for giving these a try!! Let me know what you think.

Posted on Leave a comment

Learning Chords in DAD Tuning (Part 2)

In the first installment of our D Major chord exercises, we took a look at some of the most basic ways to play the D-G-D-A-D sequence of chords. This time we’ll try some ascending chord forms to give a little variety and movement to the progression.

Now you might be wondering what else you can do with these chords once you try these specific forms. I think one of the first ideas that comes to mind is the universal “Cabbage Chords” progression. Many beginning students of the dulcimer learn the chorus part to the folk song “Bile Dem Cabbage Down” before they learn any other chords:

Now these chords go by pretty quickly, and one way to make them last longer is to “stretch-out” the progression so there is twice as much time on each of the chords. (I have always called this the “Stretched Cabbage Progression”). You can also try the progression in 3/4 time as a waltz……it makes a great Country Waltz!!

Posted on Leave a comment

Learning Chords on Your Dulcimer

There are many approaches to learning chords on your dulcimer. I like to group the main chords in the key of D together in the lower frets, then the middle frets, and then finally in the higher frets up towards the 7th fret. By playing the D, G, and A chords in this sequence:

D – G – D – A – D

…we can make a nice, musical exercise that has good voice-leading (there aren’t any awkward leaps from one chord to the next), and allows you to work on getting your left-hand fingering smooth and consistent.

So here are six different ways you can smoothly change chords through this progression:

  1. Close Voicings in the first three frets
  2. Open voicings in the first three frets
  3. Close Voicings in frets 1 –> 4
  4. Open Voicings in frets 1 –> 4
  5. Close Voicings in frets 4 –> 7
  6. Open Voicings in frets 4 –> 7

NOTE: Close voicings are the most-closely-spaced form of the chords. I really like these a lot!! They sound so subtle and graceful. Open voicings are when you have larger intervals between the chord members. When you take a glance at the interval spacing in the standard music notation above the TAB, you’ll see what I mean. The open voicings have a big, almost orchestral sound. They are what most dulcimer players grab by default….especially those who use their left-hand thumb on the melody string. With some careful arranging and efficient fingering — you can move from the close voicings gradually to the open, and then on back. Not so easy, but well worth it if you like challenges!!

Posted on Leave a comment

Ideas, Tips, and Devices You Can Use Right Now – Dulcimer Workshop by Jerry Rockwell

This post is designed to be a listening resource for my new workshop on how you can make your dulcimer playing more interesting and varied by using some common musical devices and tips. These tracks are all on Spotify, though you can find them on Apple Music and other streaming platforms if you wish. This workshop is being given at the amazing North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association Virtual Fest.

Pentatonic Tunes

New Release!!

Chord Substitution Ideas on Skip’s Jam-A-Round (Lullaby for a Starry Night)

This part of the workshop deals with easy chord substitution ideas: D to Bm, G to Em, and A to F#m. We’ll use my Lullaby for a Starry Night to illustrate this principle.

Riffs and Sequences

This topic is best illustrated by some tablature and music: an excerpt from my first book of Patreon lessons.

Bm-G-D-A (Lazzy’s Old Brown Cow)

Kate’s Tune, Kate’s Waltz, and Blue Ridge Dream

These tracks are all based upon the same Mixolydian chords, they just have different time signatures and different approaches to the melody lines.

Posted on Leave a comment

2021 NGFDA Virtual Dulcimer Fest Registration!

Registration for this wonderful online dulcimer festival is coming up today, Friday September 3rd, 2021. This event is put on by the hard-working and dedicated folks at The North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association. The festival itself will be held November 18, 19, and 20 of this year. So there’s plenty of lead time to make your plans, but classes tend to fill up FAST in the early hours of registration.

I will be teaching some of my favorite topics this time: Working with the Modes and Modal Harmony, Ideas and Tips You can Use Right Now, Chord Progressions and 4-Chord Loops, and Improvising and Composing With Pentatonic Scales. Here are some free handouts from the last few times I taught some of these workshops:

I will include a link to the festival web site below for complete info and details, but first I wanted to offer a chronological flow of my workshops day by day, complete with workshop descriptions:

Thursday, November 18th

Session 2 (10:15 – 11:15 ET) Dorian, Aeolian, and Mixolydian Modes

These are the three modes used most often for Celtic music. Here you will have a deep dive into the character and feeling of each of these. You’ll learn some traditional tunes in each mode, as well as some originals in the spirit of the folk melodies. This is not a theory workshop, but there will be some online resources for you to explore for more understanding. Tuning DAD.

Session 4 (12:45 – 1:45) Freeing Up Your Playing With Pentatonics

We’ll show you how to flatpick your way through some easy pentatonic scales, using alternating pick strokes, and then we’ll apply these to the main chords you use every day. You’ll see that there aren’t any “wrong notes” when you play the pentatonics over some simple chord progressions. Finally – using the examples of some recent original pentatonic tunes of mine, we will give you some insights into how to build your own pentatonic tunes. Tuning DAD

Session 6 (3:15 – 4:15) Simple Chord Progressions and 4-Chord Loops

In this workshop, you’ll learn some new and magical chord progressions that are easy to play and fun. You already know most of these chords, so the challenge lies in learning the sequence of changes. You’ll also learn a few of my original melodies that go with each of these unique progressions. Tuning DAD.

Friday, November 19th

Session 3 (11:30 – 12:30) Ideas, Tips, and Devices You Can Use Right Away

In this session, you’ll make some interesting and unique music using only 5 tones. You’ll try some easy chord substitutions, and learn some of my favorite 4-chord loops to jam around. You’ll discover the power in changing up the time signature, tempo, and groove of a familiar folk tune. And you’ll try some “riffs” that you can move around to any chord you want. Tuning DAD.

Session 5 (2 – 3PM) Freeing Up Your Playing With Pentatonics

We’ll show you how to flatpick your way through some easy pentatonic scales, using alternating pick strokes, and then we’ll apply these to the main chords you use every day. You’ll see that there aren’t any “wrong notes” when you play the pentatonics over some simple chord progressions. Finally – using the examples of some recent original pentatonic tunes of mine, we will give you some insights into how to build your own pentatonic tunes. Tuning DAD

Saturday, November 20th

Session 3 (11:30 – 12:30) Longer Chord Progressions and Harmonized Scales and Modes

In this workshop, you’ll learn some longer chord progressions that can be the basis for jams and your own compositions and improvisations. You already know many of these chords, so we’ll dive right in to some creative music!. Harmonizing descending scales and modes will offer some new vistas. Tuning DAD.

Session 6 (3:15 – 4:15) Dorian, Aeolian, and Mixolydian Modes

These are the three modes used most often for Celtic music. Here you will have a deep dive into the character and feeling of each of these. You’ll learn some traditional tunes in each mode, as well as some originals in the spirit of the folk melodies. This is not a theory workshop, but there will be some online resources for you to explore for more understanding. Tuning DAD.

Here is a link to the NGFDA web site where you can dig into all the details:

https://www.ngfda.com/register-for-2021-fall-festival

Posted on Leave a comment

New EP on Bandcamp!

Here is a brand new EP for you at Bandcamp, where I have finally recorded some of my best takes of two pentatonic originals that go back a few years: Five Tones of Wonder, and Koehler’s Pond Meditation. There’s also some brand-new recordings of a few Celtic traditional tunes that have been great fun. These recordings have a bit more color and harmony than usual, and in the case of Ballinderry, I have revamped the tune into a kind of minimalistic, but jazzy round (even though it does not work as a traditional round in its original form). Another Irish tune in this collection is the ever-popular waltz South Wind. Red Is The Rose is a Scots melody attributed to Robert Burns.

Five Restful Tunes for Dulcimer EP

And here is a free pdf tablature download for 4 out of 5 of the tunes here (I don’t have anything in tablature yet on this new South Wind):

Posted on Leave a comment

Magical, Peaceful Instrumentals Playlist

This is one of my favorite playlists of the ones I curate myself on Spotify. It has a wide variety of instruments and genres, but the common theme is a simple, folk-oriented approach to melody and harmony. You’ll hear some minimal pieces on piano by some of my favorite players, some great accordion work by the amazing Maria Kalaniemi, or some mesmerizing modal compositions by Whalebone (UK-based ensemble).

Posted on Leave a comment

New Release on Spotify!

I have just released a dulcimer instrumental track on Spotify!! It is a great Irish traditional waltz that is very mesmerizing and circular. I learned it many years ago from a recording by the English guitarist John Martyn. He played his guitar through a Leslie tone cabinet to get the swirling, almost psychedelic effect. My take is a little more meditative and is probably more relaxing: