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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.

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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!!

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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!!

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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

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May 2020 Dulcimer!

NEW RELEASE On Bandcamp!!!

Bandcamp is forgoing their share of revenue today, May 1st, so if you decide to download some of my new music, I will get 100%. This is a very helpful and generous gesture from a GREAT company! Many of us musicians and music teachers have been hit pretty hard by this COVID-19 Quarantine: we’ve had many gigs cancelled and festivals postponed or cancelled altogether. So this income helps a LOT!

My brand-new May 2020 Dulcimer EP just went live at around 7AM this morning. There are 6 tracks here representing some of my BEST work-in-progress. It is not available anywhere else (yet, anyhow) and all my recent EPs from earlier this year are “Pay what you want” including ZERO (you just enter “0” in the pay field).

Jerry Rockwell at Bandcamp

I hope everyone is getting through this COVID-19 Quarantine OK. Not much fun for us here in Northeast Ohio, but we’ve got some acres of trees around us, and life isn’t too different in many ways.

Skip’s Round (and Jam-A-Round!!) TAB and Music Download

This original tune is part of my 2017 Patreon lessons, and it is a FUN tune I keep coming back to over and over.

1.) The first page is basically the main melody (16 bars), with an 8-bar sparse bass part at the bottom. The latter may be used as sort of a ground for the whole tune, even though the next two pages have some specific “ground” parts to be used throughout – especially for group play.

2.) These next two pages are the parts for a round or a “Jam-A-Round” as I like to call it. This basically means that you can plug in any 8-bar part anywhere you want, so you have freedom to mix-and-match.

You’ll see some very “bare-bones” parts on these pages, consisting mostly of half-notes. These represent what you might call guide-tones or structural pitches. These are really cool, as they show us the overall contour of a melodic design: kind of the essence of a melody.

For me personally, they often serve as clues for when I want to change chords or harmony. For example, if I see a continually-descending melodic line, that’s my cue to try an ascending harmony part. This often creates a workable harmony with a minimum of “thinking” !!

The other use for these bare-bones parts is that they make a GREAT group playing experience, especially for players just getting started!

3.) The last two pages were the Intermediate Level when I first published them in 2017. As I’m looking back on them, and playing through them again right now, I’m getting oodles and boatloads of ideas!! I’m even writing some brand new parts!!! These color-chord harmonies add just a touch of jazz harmony with the minor 7th chords, but I have to be careful not to use too many — and not to use any Major 7th chords at all — because the result is often way too sweet and thick. (remember that much of my current music is extremely simple and minimalist, so that I’m really a less-is-more sort of guy. You may want to try more of the “tall chords” like the seventh and ninth chords for your own arrangements).

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Descending Harmonized Scales (and Modes)

In the beginning of 2014, I was just starting my relationship with Mailchimp, one of the best email marketing companies on the planet, and I was really excited at that time with building chords off of each degree of a descending scale or mode. Here is an example of one of the pieces I recorded for my Starlight Variations EP:

Slow Descent (from Starlight Variations)

In my newsletters, which were sent twice a month in those days, I would link free downloads of some TAB and music for these studies of harmonized scales. Here is a collection of them for you (tuning is DAD throughout):

Want to hear more of these studies? Please let me know, because I have quite a few of these that haven’t been officially released on the streaming platforms. Thanks for listening and trying out the TAB!