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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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Pentatonic Scales on the Mountain Dulcimer

Pentatonic just means “5 tones” !! The Major Pentatonic is a great one to get started with: it is FUN, it is HAPPY, and there’s no way of getting into trouble with “wrong notes!”

For me, pentatonics have always meant FREEDOM:

  • Freedom to Explore
  • Freedom to Improvise
  • Freedom to Try Something!

On the DAD dulcimer the five notes in the D Major Pentatonic Scale (D, E, F#, A, B) are laid out very nicely on the bass and melody strings:

fret: 0 – 1 – 2 – 4 – 5 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 11

On the middle string we have:

fret: 0 – 1 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 7 – 8 – 10 – 11 – 12

Here are some easy fingerpicking exercises to get you started going up and down the major pentatonic. If you are a flatpicker, make sure your pick direction is always alternating, even when crossing strings! Once you get the hang of it, you should make up your own exercises–these are just to get you started:

jpeg of D Major Pentatonic TAB exercisesThe first four 4-measure sections should each be played as many times as you can stand it. Take the tempo as slow as you need, making sure that the quarter-note and half-note sections breathe some and don’t feel too anxious (I always have to remind myself to take a conscious breath!)