Saturday, December 22, 2007


David Beede's home page - more quasi esoteric folk stuff on assorted semi-obscure instruments...

Man - it's good to get caught up, sort of.

In a nutshell, I had that Mac meltdown and had to scramble to get everything back and operating so I could continue my video biz, which makes the money (as much as I'd like to suggest that being a musician has led to a life of ease, it still only butters one side o' the bread.) To complicate matters, while all this is going on, we've been adding a room onto the house here at Casa de Milagro; a new studio for me. Something a little larger than the broom closet I've been working in since Jae and I married almost four years ago. Now, that room is finished and I've moved in, so life has gotten a little less hectic, thankfully, even in the midst of Christmas craziness.

I've been enjoying "Helen", my new Mike Clemmer double-neck dulcimer - she's something else. Great tone - LOVE the 1+ and 8+ frets - so much has opened up because of them and, I know, I'm skirting dangerously close to chromaticism - but as Butch Ross says, "I can quit anytime."

The Ken Light flute has been extremely soul-opening. I've taken to playing it whenever the mood strikes me, which is often. Walking through the house, standing in the backyard. I even take it with me wherever we go, just in case I'll have a moment to play a little bit - it's become that much a part of my day to day life. Well, when it rains, it pours. At the gig this past weekend, Roger's friend Tom brought along a bunch of his NA flutes for me to try, and I played one during my set. The very next day, Jae surprised me with an Island Flute by Ray Wood. Now, I'm sort of spoiled on the plastic flute, but I'll take that one traveling with me, since it's pretty much indestructible.

Today, I began working on my first structured piece for Native American flute. The chord changes are:

Bm/Em/D/F#m repeated

then G/Bm/D/F#m as a bridge.

At least that's how it's going now. These changes all mesh well with the flute, which is in F# - and I'm bouncing in and out of major and minor modes. I couldn't have picked something simple to start with, could I?

On the dulcimer front, thanks to the new fret additions, I've been noodling with quite a few tunes. Seems like I'm doing a lot more arranging than learning tab these days. And some pretty odd stuff is floating into my brain to try. I have a list here on the desk with titles like:

"Drowsy Maggie"
"Fun, Fun, Fun"
"Moon River"
"Whiskey In The Jar"
"Dead Man's Party"
"Every Breath You Take"

and a tune I'd pledged never to learn, "Margaritaville." Why? I don't know why. But there it is.

Check out this instrumental version of "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree." Jae's going to lay vocals on it tomorrow morning - she's so stoked! It's like her inner Lucy finally came to the surface and she wants to be in the band.

The next big event is The Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat, January 11 and 12th at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Florida. There's a link to organizer David Beede's home page above and here is a direct quote blurb thingy about the event isself:

Date: Friday & Saturday, January 11 & 12, 2008.
Description: Come enjoy a weekend of music and fun at the Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat on January 11 & 12, 2008 at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in historic White Springs, Florida. The weekend offers workshop sessions taught by foremost mountain & hammer dulcimer and autoharp players from throughout the United States. In addition, there will be concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:00 pm that will feature your favorite musicians. This year’s Mountain Dulcimer instructors include: Karen Mueller, Steve Eulburg, Bing Futch, Joel Paul, Mary Z. Cox, Susan Boyer Haley, Jan Milner, Aaron O’Rourke, Doug Felt, and David Beede. Hammered Dulcimer instructors include Steve Eulburg and Ray Belanger. Our autoharp instructors are Karen Mueller and Cheryl Belanger. The entire retreat costs $85.00, which includes entrance to both Friday and Saturday concerts and workshops.

I'm stoked to be a part of this event and really looking forward to it!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gig This Saturday, December 15th

That's Walt Disney's birthday - come out and celebrate The Man (or whatever else you might be celebrating this month - at
The New Day Cafe.

Roger Zimish is hosting the event, which will feature a variety of music from acoustic to full-on rock and roll! I'll be playing a 30-minute acoustic set on mountain dulcimer and then a pick-up band will join me for some more rockin' tunes, which is just one little slice of the enormous pie being laid out over the course of four hours. Lots of musicians, lots of jams, art and good food. Just add good people and you've got a can't-miss holiday event. 6-10 pm on Saturday in downtown St. Cloud. Join us!

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TDVP Back in Play


Our Mac Meltdown is over and we're bouncing back with a veritable marathon of The Dulcimerica Video Podcast!

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Friday, November 30, 2007

God Just Announced... Blogs - SPARKS LIVE! SPECTACULAR – 21 ALBUMS IN 21 NIGHTS - SPARKS MySpace Blog

If there ever was a time when I really needed to be someplace, I'm thinking this would be the time. Holy Crap!

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Native Radio Rocks!

So Alike

I called up Ken Light today and ordered a Native American flute. Ruth Rhandle let me play a couple of hers at Nutmeg Dulcimer Festival and it was quite a revelation; it was like opening up a channel inside of my core. Of course, I'm just starting off with a plastic one - because it won't break the bank. I didn't realize just how much mountain dulcimers and NAFs had in common until reading this article:

Pentatonic Myth -
There are some who take a nearly religious stance on tuning, spacing, thumb holes, keys, the warble and such. The history of the NAF is long. The plains flute that we all love appears to be a recent invention, maybe 170 years ago. When one go back to the earlier NAFs, one can see many innovations or revolutions in their design. I can say I'm glad for those innovations, because they appear to have eventually led to the plains flute. But I wouldn’t want to see it evolve into the ultimately optimized silver flute. We know where that path leads.

Ain't that something? It's two co-existing pockets of folk culture, both relatively young and highly protective of the simplicity and beauty that each instrument brings.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fest Press

West Volusia -
Faye Henderson couldn't stop smiling, even as she belted out sad, sultry tunes Saturday afternoon. On stage, Henderson's songs with Ed McCurdy & The Intruders were full of the blues -- the hopelessness, the sadness. They talked about bill collectors banging down doors, boyfriends leaving and hearts being broken.

"Chain, chain, chain. Chain of fools," she crooned in gospel style as the audience swayed, nodded and then erupted into cheers.

But even with those serious tones, Henderson, a day care director, couldn't help break through the melancholy with her 10,000-watt smile.

This was, after all, her day on stage.

Henderson was just a small part of the DeLand Original Music Festival -- a 12-hour event on Saturday that had musicians from across Central Florida showing off their talents. But for Henderson, she may as well have been headlining in Hollywood.

Rock on, Faye! What a sweet spirit and what a voice! Nice to see the fest getting some press!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Unicoi Bound

North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association Fall Festival. That's a mouthful, isn't it? This is such a huge festival, yet I wasn't aware of how huge until it came time to prepare for it. By "preparation", I mean the printing out of worksheets that I use during my three classes. Additional to those workshops is a Saturday "core" class featuring five instructors (the others are no small potatoes; Stephen Seifert, Tull Glazener, Susan Trump and Larry Conger - wow!) that rotate among five different groups of students in skill levels ranging from novice to advanced. In this arrangement, I'll be teaching "Adventures in Ionian" (playing in DAA tuning) while my other three workshops are "Dark Side of the Dulcimer", "Songwriting Crash Course II" and, what's becoming quite the popular little course, "Primal Dulcimer."

I'm really looking forward to this, for a number of different reasons. One, it's just going to be awesome to be around this many great players of the instrument. The staff list is a who's-who of musicians, including Janita Baker, Sarah Elisabeth, Ken Bloom, Jeff Hames, Guy George, Ron Ewing, Karen Mueller and the list just goes on. Mike Clemmer will also be there - and I'm really stoked to meet him, especially because he's got a little double-necked goody that he built for me. We may get to know each other before my concert slot on Friday night (right after Stephen, talk about a tough act to follow!)

This will Jae's first dulcimer festival and I'm glad she's going to this one - Helen is somewhat of a tourist town known for its beautiful countryside and Scandinavian theming. A hofbrau haus on the rim of the great Smokies? Sounds like a killer time to me.

Mountain music
Members of the Athens rock group R.E.M played one. So did Cyndi Lauper and even Joni Mitchell.

What instrument other than the guitar could these eclectic acts have in common? They all shared a desire for the simplicity of the dulcimer — a stringed harp-like instrument that is traditionally played in one’s lap.

And nearly 400 of these dulcimer players will attend the dulcimer convention at the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association Fall Festival at Unicoi State Park, taking place Thursday through Nov. 18.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Where I Been?

This trio sort of sums up the past few weeks. We've been riding the whirlwind.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Black Mountain Rag

The "Black Mountain Rag" is one of my favorite tunes to play on mountain dulcimer, so I figured it was about time to conduct a mini-workshop on the tune in DAD, key of D. This is probably the only episode that was done in one continuous take, even though I'm using two cameras. Explains some of the nuttery.

The Dulcimerica Video Podcast: TDVP Episode 37- Black Mountain Rag

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

What Did I Do?

What did I do in a former life to deserve the kind of moments that flutter by? There are times when it sure does seem like living in a movie.

So, we've just finished Mohave rehearsal and Roger says let's go down to, what sounded like "Daughtry's", to play. "They serve Guinness," and I says, "well, that's that, then, isn't it?"

The host band was rocking the blues; I was a little fried. Tired from the travel, tired from the rehearsal. I ordered a Guinness, then went outside in the humid-yet-cool night and lit up one of the cigars that Jae brought me from the Dominican Republic last month. The dulcimer case was propped against the wall. This is important.

Presently, a bright-eyed woman walked outside and went over to chat with some of the folks standing around. Some animated discussion followed with much laughter and she was about to turn around and walk back inside when she saw me sitting there. She stopped, took a look at the case and asked what I played and I told her. "You comin' inside to play?" she asked. There. Just a hint of Irish accent.

When I laid the "I'm tired" rap on her, it fired up that brogue.

"So you're not a real musician, then? You just look like one, and look suave with your cigar, but you can't play a fucking thing?" This, with a playful snarkiness - a "come on, I dare you" sort of tease. How could I back down from that? So I offered up "Rosin The Beau" and she sort of blinked, then said "alright, inside then," and into the pub, called O'Doherty's, leaving me to grab my MicroCube amp from the car and prepare to play some traditional Irish music in a traditional Irish pub.

While I'm still fiddling about, she returns and says, "I found someone to sing 'Rosin The Beau' with ye; it's up to him whether you're good or not. He'll tell ye," she said matter-of-factly. Not long after that, someone walked up and said, "wow, you're going to duet with the man himself."

That "man", as I perused the many photos and newspaper articles in glass cases along the walls, was actually Irish folk legend Cahir O'Doherty.


The enormity of what was about to go down wasn't lost at that point. This is a guy who knows weepy Irish drinking songs; and as the other cases came into view, containing CDs and signed shamrock-colored guitars, I knew the "A" game needed to be in play, no 'effin' around and, most of all, enjoy the ride.

Cahir came out and joyously exclaimed, "you play lap dulcimer!" He shook my hand and asked what key I'd play the tune, to which I replied "D." A moment's calculation and then he said, "okay - let's go outside for a bit of rehearsal."


What a voice, what passion! What a pro! We played through several verses and choruses, with him indicating for me to take a lead here and there or to "bring it home." Some of the regulars had begun gathering around when we walked outside, and after emerging from the musical bubble, saw that quite a few had been standing within feet of us, big grins on their faces. Cahir did a much longer version of the song when we performed it inside, with a nice little intro explaining what the tune was all about. I gotta say that it's been a dream of mine to play in a real Irish pub with a real Irish musician some kind of real Irish song and by golly, look at my life. It's simply amazing.

So now I'm learning "Whiskey In The Jar" and "Drowsy Maggie" - just to do that again.

Incidentally, the fiery Irish lassie with the challenge is Cahir's lovely wife Theresa, who wanted to make sure afterwards that I knew she was funning and that she enjoyed the music immensely. I thanked her for the whole experience - a very precious memory gone screaming to the archives in another reel of this celluloid life.

Nutmeg, Mohave and More

New England skies were clear and blue as I made my way up Interstate 95 towards Connecticut. The drive had been smooth and uneventful, save some traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. Nothing had quite prepared me for the sight of Manhattan island looming in the distance. I'm not terribly romantic for New York City, but it was an impressive landscape to consider, an image that no movie or television screen can ever hold. I like how crossing the George Washington Bridge just thrusts you into the guts of the Bronx. It's like shaking hands with someone and then shoving your head into their pants to see their dirty drawers. Welcome To New York. Nothing against the Bronx. Culture-shock, that's what it is. That and I-95 traffic into New Haven. The mantra for this trip was "doesn't matter where you are in the world, bumper-to-bumper traffic is pretty much the same."

Nutmeg Festival was a blast; it was too short. My hosts were David and Nancy Cross, who run a little business called Backyard Music. Flatmates were David Neiman and Gary Gallier, the former being a past Winfield champion, the latter also being a former Winfield champ and the maker of my next mountain dulcimer (I'm on the waiting list.) I arrived just in time to set up camera and get ready for the first evening's events, which featured sets by the workshops leaders and included this magical moment in time:

I've never had an audience respond that way before; it was an incredible shared experience - watching the video again gives me chills, in a good way.

Also, for the first time, my workshops spilled over into larger rooms and in one case, we ended up outside in the beautiful sunshine (temps were in the upper 70's, a rare thing in late September.) What great groups! We had such fun in the Primal Dulcimer class, I thought we were going to blow the doors off the place. Word has gotten around about that workshop. I believe someone said it best, "what happens in Primal Dulcimer stays in Primal Dulcimer."

It was a delight to meet Brenda Hunter and Mary Tulin - wow! They're both super-nice people (from Bakersfield!) and what incredible music they played. Gary was amazing as well - the Saturday night show was electrifying.

Like I said, it was too short. But a lot of love, music and pure living went on in those two full days.

Mohave Gets In Gear

The band is in the recording studio next week to cut four tracks and then our first show of the season will be November 3rd on Stage 3 at 9 pm. The event: The Deland Original Music Festival. Joining me will be Roger Zimish (guitar) and Rich Mueller (stand-up bass) from The Bad Boys of Faith along with Mohave tribal drummer Gil Oliver and special guests. It's the biggest one-day music festival in the southeast, $10 gets you in. Don't miss the fun - check out the schedule, make it a date.

In The Works

I get e-mails! Thanks for letting me know what it is that you'd like to see and hear. There is a Mountain Dulcimer Beginner's book in the works along with the "Dulcimerica: Volume 2" CD. There have been some requests for a DVD instruction video, but I'm not sure about it. I'd rather put things out there on the podcast for free - but I encourage private lessons and self-instruction because you've a better chance at developing your own style. Eh - we'll see what happens.

Sometime this month, I'm taking delivery on a Mike Clemmer MC-2 double-fretted (two necks) dulcimer. There's a little dancing going on.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Where It All Started

On this second trip to Manitou Springs, I was able to stretch time out a tad and really settle into the groove of the place for real. Storefront jams, early morning omlettes and coffee across the street from the place that is really responsible for my exposure to the dulcimer world, hill climbs, safety meetings, local beer on tap, in a word: Moroccan food - Manitou Springs rocks - and this is just a little love note to the place, along with a look at The Dulcimer Shop. If it wasn't for Bud and Donna Ford, would I have ever met the dulcimer? That's a very good question.

If I had never met the dulcimer, would I know Roger Zimish and Quintin Stephens? Probably not - and that would be a sad thing. They are two of the best players in the country and I'm simply blessed to have the chance to jam with both of them.

I'm headed back to Phoenix this week to be with Jae for her birthday and will also get a chance to visit with members of the Phoenix Dulcimer Club again. How nice to have a bit of a jam on vacation!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What Are Words For?

Great freaking song. Check out the lyrics sometime.

I'd have to sit here for a week and recount everything that went down on this past road-trip. Since most of it involved playing music, I'm happy to let the music speak. It's customary to hit the ground running whenever I get back.

So, now there is Manitou, among other things, and what a lovely and beautiful birth it is!

Big happy hellos to the Phoenix Dulcimer Club and to everyone at the Mountain Music Festival. The pictures and audio will have to speak their thousand words.

It's good to be home though.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ahhh, back to the desert where I was born

I wasn't born in Arizona, but I was born in the southwest. Dry heat is something I can deal with. Phoenix has been around 110 degrees F- this week and I'm loving it! Anything's better than all the rain and humidity that I had to deal with while driving Interstate 10 to get over here. Getting caught by tropical storm Erin was sort of scary, especially when the frontage road flooded and lifted the front end of my rental car off the concrete. I stayed in Houston for the night, but missed a couple of stops that I wanted to make. What are ya gonna do?

The next day, I drove from Houston to Phoenix - and it was partially because Texas has implemented an 80 m.p.h. speed limit along the western portion of I-10. Of course, I drive about 10 miles over the limit, so I was flying through the rest of the state, which got me into Phoenix at a pretty decent time.

It's been beautiful here - Amy Clair of the Phoenix Dulcimer Players set up the workshops and concert along with putting me up at her parents casita in Anthem. Sweet digs! I just love being back in Arizona, hearing the coyotes howl at night, seeing the red rocks blazing in the afternoon sun. The workshops were full and the concert went great. Amy's parents, Steve and Louise, are super-nice and I had a good time hanging out with them, having dinner, talking American Indian culture. Their house is gorgeous, filled with Native American art and artifacts. They gifted me with a really neat necklace of a mask painted by Two Dogs Doyle. Funny this. My gold dolphin chain, which I've worn for years, broke a link about two weeks ago, and at last week's gathering of the Florida Sunshine Dulcimer Society, Suz Chapman gifted me with a frog totem made of Chinese turquoise. Then, the gift of the mask this weekend. It feels like a real big blessing, and an omen of something to come. I'm looking forward to whatever it is.

Tomorrow morning, I head out for Colorado where Rick Laurenzi is awaiting my arrival. It's going to be a fun week - I'll be back with more when I get settled in at Manitou Springs.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sit Long, Play Much

The Florida Sunshine Dulcimer Society is now a reality, thanks to Dennis Waldrop, John Morgan, Della Ashton and others who have rallied 'round to create a unique group in which mountain dulcimer players (and other instrumentalists), can get together and enjoy some "no rules" jamming in a friendly and challenging environment, other than their local dulcimer clubs.

The "Jam 'N' Bag" this past weekend was a fun-filled time of playing, visiting and eating - though I was having so much fun, I forgot to eat. Events will be sponsored all over the state of Florida; visit the website above for more info.

Heading Out

This past Sunday was a nice way to relax with fellow dulcimer players and enjoy the music and company. Today, I finally bounced back from the road-tripping to record some new episodes of The Dulcimerica Video Podcast that feature song demos and workshopping. Wednesday, I hit the road once again for Austin, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona and Manitou Springs, Colorado. Hope to see you at a show!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Back and Rolling

It was a brief but exhilarating swing through Louisville, Kentucky for Kentucky Music Weekend; so many sights and sounds, so many wonderful moments and visits. I spent two days standing up on concrete while shooting video for the event, so I didn't get as much time to hang with people as I would've liked.

Friday was interesting: hopped on a US Airways flight in the early a.m. and arrived in Charlotte, NC for a switch - which was canceled due to mechanical issues. The airline was going to put me on a flight to Cincinnati three hours later and *then* put me in a van headed to Louisville. Thankfully, Tom and Missy Strothers live in Cincinnati, so they planned to pick me up from the airport. I spent the time playing music and chatting with a very nice gentleman about the war in Iraq, the state of alternative news and his venture into home made chicken and dumplings, offering to ship me a box. I traded him a CD for the gift, and he bought me a drink for the entertainment. I love traveling with the dulcimer - talk about a conversation piece!

Kentucky Music Weekend was incredible - and what moment stands out in my mind? Jean Ritchie walking backstage, seeing me and saying, "hi Bing, how are you?" She's just amazing - so is her husband, George Pickow. I wish I had met them sooner in life, but I'm sure glad to know them now.

Another moment that stands out is hearing Small Potatoes play a song called "Knott!" I'd never heard them before and enjoyed their sets immensely, but this has got to be one of the most incredibly clever and funny songs I've ever heard. I bought the CD just for that tune and listened to the whole thing on the way back from Louisville. You ought to check them out.

Third big moment was seeing my adopted nephew Josh Noe (middle, holding the dulcimer he won) take first place in the Kentucky State Mountain Dulcimer championship on Saturday. I met Josh last year at Kentucky Music Week and we hit it off immediately, sharing a room at Kentucky Music Weekend later in the summer. He was my roommate again this year and the night before the competition, we talked through what he was going to do on-stage. He was coached by a lot of people, but I think he ended up making his own decisions up there and he beat Louisiana State Mountain Dulcimer Champion Aaron Thornton, who took second place!

I could go on about the weekend, but now I'm home, sick, and have a pile of work to finish amidst the clutter of a house undergoing cosmetic surgery. Sick sucks, but it's better than dead. Amen.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tell The Rambler, The Gambler...

I'm very surprised at the responses to "Run On" over at MacJams - this one has charted even higher than "Crazy Feels Like." Granted, the vote inflation at MJ keeps shooting for the moon, considering the other tunes in circulation right now, it's still enough to once again make me wonder "what's the secret ingredient?"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Babelfish doesn't cover this.

Anyone speak Norwegian?

Da jeg selv er ejer af en dulcimer sker det at jeg studser over info på nettet om dette instrument. Bing Futch fra Orlando i Florida har virkelig gjort noget ud af at dele sin viden. Han har lavet en videoserie med spilletips på BlogSpot så du kan høre og se hvad det er for noget. Nu stammer dulcimeren ikke fra U.S.A. Den er kendt på britiske øer og også i Danmark hvor den er blevet kaldt en langleik ikke at forveksle med med det instrument der hedder ”Hammered Dulcimer” eller hakkebræt.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Like Feels Crazy

"Crazy Feels Like" has been voted "Track of the Day" at for July 22nd, 2007 - a special anniversary for me. It was the day that I bought my first computer, back in 1994. In any case, by clicking the red graphic above, you can reach the song page - which features listener reviews and other statistics; the song also got a "Best Lyrics" award during the week of July 9th. There are thousands of songs vying for attention at - so these very real opinions count for something when I take it all in.

Of course, it doesn't surprise me in the least that the word "cheesy" pops up a lot when describing elements of my music. Somehow, I'm really cool with that. Some people work real hard to be cheesy. For me, it's pretty damn easy.

I've been wanting to do "Run On" for a long time. (ha-ha) So, I'm messing with it now. There's a gig next weekend up in Jacksonville and I may ask Roger Zimish to come with me - it'll be a rock crowd, so we need to be able to bring that kind of game. I'd love to do "Run On" and then "You Will Go Free" by Tonio K. - performed with T-Bone Burnett on the album "Romeo UnChained." Look it up - buy it if you can.

Anyway - there's a demo for "Run On" here.

I hope Thomas and Ian don't read this blog - for if they do, I'm about to spoil the plot. Now, that would suck. Well - then I'll say this - I'm working up one of their tunes, one that has history in their town of Lincolnshire, England. I've almost got it down and want to record it for them - and that's what the rest of this Sunday is all about. The gardening went well. The compost pile is growing and we got a little rain. Hope the water is flowing wherever you are today. Aloha!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Been Home. Nice 4th. Get To Work.

Yes, I'm back. It was great, I've been busy. Busier than a one-armed cat in a room full of long-tailed paper-hangers. But check out some of the video - it really says it all!

And yes, I did bring Jae her own bottle of Four Roses. With a bottle of Elijah Craig for me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chillin'? Right.

There's something to be said for just chilling. To the lowdown. I do mean, extreme. When you've got the opportunity to kick back like a local, then you should be grabbing it, because it may be a mighty long time before you do it again.

On paper, three weeks between trips seems like a long enough time to bounce back, but with all of the day-to-day of running a business (albeit a creative and fun one), it seems like only yesterday that I was getting my respective chill on in Key West.

Saturday, I'm heading for a rendezvous with Butch Ross and we're carpooling to Kentucky Music Week. I'm still printing stuff over here. Nothing like the eleventh hour as inspiration for a musician.

It's funny in a surreal way. This time last year, I was attending my first dulcimer festival, Kentucky Music Week, meeting Butch and his super-cool soon-to-be-wife Christie Burns, and taking one of his workshops, learning about Robert Force for the first time. Nope. Couldn't have seen the next twelve months coming.

It's gonna be fun. And this time, I'm bringing home the Missus her own bottle of Four Roses.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

New Additions/Directions

After my performance at Dulci-More 13 in Lisbon, I watched some of Four Shillings Short's set and then said my goodbyes and began the trek back towards Florida. In the middle of a rainstorm. Taking the backroad trip suggested by MapQuest, it took only a couple of hours before my eyes began closing and it became apparent that a stop-over would be happening sooner than later. I hate driving at night anyway - but I wanted to expedite the process in order to get home in decent time. We had a new member of the family to pick up before heading down to Key West.

I stopped over at a Best Western, uploaded the latest Dulcimerica Video Podcast, checked some e-mail and then got a decent night's sleep before heading out on the road the next day. Smooth sailing on Memorial Day - with only a ticket in West Virginia to dampen my spirits (I still call bullshit on that ticket, but contesting it from Florida would be a chore.)

Making pretty good time, I arrived home and fell into the arms of my loving wife, made time with our cats and switched out dirty laundry for clean clothes. We'd be up early to go pick up our new doggie. Jae had seen her on Craig's List - a full-blood border collie that had been rescued from a shelter where she was scheduled to be put down in a week. A couple had taken her home, not wanting to see that happen to her, but had too many dogs themselves - so this would be her second placement. When we got to their house - she ran out to meet us, no signs of mistreatment or fear. We decided to call her Bella Dolce - because she was obviously beautiful and very, very sweet.

We then proceeded to take her directly to Key West for her first big adventure. As a year-and-a-half old puppy, we're pretty sure that she hadn't yet been to the southernmost point in the United States, and was going to have a blast soaking in all the sights, smells and interactions that happen for everybody, no matter what your species.

Jae and I have been coming to Key West for six years now and it's become an annual stop to celebrate our wedding anniversary, since we got married just off the coast of the island. Every year, we have an appointment with the Schooner Liberty and we take a sail on our anniversary day. This time around, we'd be not only celebrating our wedding, but also the arrival of a new family member.

So, straight home from Ohio, and then skipping off to Key West - life will return somewhat to normal on Sunday when we return home to Orlando - where the true settling-in of Bella Dolce will commence. She still has two cats to meet and grow used to - not to mention the house and the backyard with the occasional snake sighting courtesy of Monty.

With Tropical Storm Barry providing a nice island breeze and a guaranteed tailwind home - we've got another night on the island, which will include an awesome dinner conjured by my brother-in-law George and a night of karaoke singing which will included the traditional showpiece of "Rock Lobster" performed with my sister-in-law Sheri.

I'm still in the afterglow of Dulci-More 13 and Dulcimer Days - more of that to come here and in the Dulcimerica Video Podcast.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Week O' Busy

I arrived in Ohio Wednesday night and it's been an adventure every step of the way. From Bidwell, where I was the houseguest of Kendra Ward and Bob Bence to Coshocton, where all manner of interesting things began happening, including my first mountain dulcimer competition at The 33rd Annual Roscoe Village Dulcimer Days.

Mike Oliver of Ohio and Bing Futch of Florida picked up first place in the Mountain Duet competition while Doug and Gary Felt of Ohio picked up second. Judy and Bob Durham of West Chester won third place. - Coshocton Tribune

By the way, the paper made a mistake - that's Doug Felt and Gary Sager who were the second-place winners.

I also placed first in the mountain dulcimer vocal competition and second in the open competition, which was a mind-blower, considering who else participated. I'm still scratching my head over that one.

I've stayed with Jerry Rockwell and helped him get his new podcast up and running. I've met Marty and Don, owners of Wildwood Music (and couldn't resist picking up my fifteenth mountain dulcimer while I was there - named her "Marty"), I've played "Lee's Waltz", "Mississippi Sawyer" and "Wellyn" with Doug Felt and talked about Ireland with Lee Felt of Thistledew Acres. I've discussed the issues of TablEdit and the merits of margaritas with Sue Carpenter and the list of wonderful people I've met and visited with goes on and on - literally, a who's who of folk musicians. It's almost overwhelming - but everyone is so down-to-earth and nice!

I've also conducted a couple of radio interviews/in-studio performances that I'll have posted when I get the CDs. One was with 91.3 The Summit for the program "Just Plain Folk" which can be heard over the airways and streaming live on Tuesday May 22nd from 8-10 pm ET. I was a special guest of the program along with Bill Schilling, founder and organizer of Dulci-More 13, where I'll be performing and teaching this coming weekend.

The other was a live spot for WFCO 90.9 FM in Lancaster this morning at 8:30 a.m., which will be repeated at 5:30 p.m. this evening. This spot was to promote the workshop and concert that I'm doing tonight here in town.

I'll have a little time off this week to chill and relax with my good friends Denny and Rose in Medina before capping off the trip with Dulci-More 13. As amazing as this trip to Ohio is - I still get the delightful pleasure of returning home to my lovely wife Jae, and then driving down to Key West for our 3rd wedding anniversary. Talk about how sweet it is.

At some point, I'll get all of this great video up on The Dulcimerica Video Podcast, but I've been simply too on-the-go to settle down with the laptop, so be watching for new episodes later this week. Thanks to all the amazing people I've met, and to my hosts and hostesses for being so wonderful - this has been some kind of ride!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Looking Forward and Backward

What a crazy couple of weeks this has been! After the fair show, it all seemed to throw into super-overdrive as I stared down the barrel of a deadline to get things done before heading up to Ohio. There's been the matter of keeping on top of songbook shipping and then the finalizing of the companion CD, along with making accomodational arrangements for the journey (accomodational? does that word exist?) This trip is going to be a blast and I'm really looking forward to enjoying every moment. I'll be shooting lots of video and cutting it together on the road via The Dulcimerica Video Podcast, so be watching this week for updates.

As much as this is about looking forward - funnily enough, this trip has inspired a good look back at where I've been musically. See, back in the day, I was part of a Christian post-punk trio called Crazed Bunnyz that saw a lot of action on college radio and in underground print zines, and strangely enough, many folks remember this band and its music. The trio consisted of myself on vocals and guitar, Sean "Shaka" Harrison on vocals and Marc "Gadget" Plainguet on synth bass and vocals. It was a joke band, really - with only one live show to our credit - that got started with a four-song demo made in Marc's garage. Somehow, we managed to make enough of a splash in the Christian music scene where people, to this day, fondly remember and still play our music. That's very, very wild to me.

Regardless of being a Christian band or not - I was still a little rough around the edges back in those days and there was some friction between Marc and I. After he left the group and we both enjoyed solo careers, there was much carping back and forth in interviews about this and that. Thankfully, years later, I contacted Marc and we put it all behind us - in fact, we're planning on meeting up in Ohio next week for the first time since we parted ways. I'm really looking forward to it, and so apparently, is he.

This all began a little Googling to see what folks were saying, if anything, about Crazed Bunnyz and it really did my heart good to find some interesting stuff, including this post on the Arts and Faith forum. Also, a fellow named Tim who runs the Christian New Wave blog is planning a write-up on Crazed Bunnyz and said in an e-mail: "Crazed Bunnyz was ahead of it's time and was totally cutting edge during those days. I love the group and was dissapointed that you guys didn't took off with a major record deal. Your group made Steve Taylor and Bill Mallonee's controversies over their lyrics tame. That was really radical! : ) "

Talk about mind-blowing and a blessing - for a musician, it really does your heart a well of good to know that what you did was appreciated and has some kind of longevity. Here, over twenty years later, it's really wonderful to know.

And now - if you can stand it - check out this little trip through the past in pictures:

Me and Marc from our "Nutty Faith" days - circa 1985

From left to right - Phil Poole (drummer), Craig Cook (guitarist) and yours truly - Johnny Quest - from 1987

No joke - the duo was called "The Bing And I" - Tony Karaa and The Bing - 1989.

Okay - I feel kinda old here. But lovin' life. I'm heading out for Ohio in the morning - will check in again soon!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fun At The Fair!

The fair was a blast! What a great time; thanks to everyone who came out - there were folks from and people from my dulcimer group. There were longtime fans and friends and lots of new faces in the audience. What a lot of people don't realize is that this was the first time that Roger, Mark, Kristi and I had ever performed in public together, which just goes to show how professional and awesome these cats are.

I will upload some more pics and video - right now, I'm trying to get over a cold that had just begun to settle in on gig day, and the day after was no picnic on a sandy beach, lemme tell ya. I'm a real snot-fest at the moment, so when I'm feeling better, there will be some more visuals and audio as well. Thanks to John of Beedle Promotions , Sarah and Becky for coming out and showing love and support, taking pictures and being cool as they can be. Here's a shot of us all hanging out between sets:

Again, just a real sweet time. More to come and thanks again! Aloha!

Friday, April 27, 2007

"All Over The Map" Now On Sale!

Final proofs have been submitted and my first songbook comes back from the printer tomorrow. "Dulcimerica: All Over The Map, Volume 1" is a twenty song collection of mostly original tunes with some unique arrangements of traditional and popular music as well. The songs included are:

This Road This Moment*
Gold Trails Hotel
From The Hills To The Sea*
Summer At The Fair*
Seminole Solstice*
Amazing Grace (Miles To Go)*
John Henry
Swing Low Sweet Chariot/He's Got The Whole World In His Hand
Juke Joint Hen (Cluck Old Hen)
We Shall Overcome
I Cried For Days*
Sandy River Elfman (a spooky version of "Sandy River Belle")
The Pirate O'Reilly*
Please Bury Me By The River Shannon*
Old Yeller
Theme From "Jurassic Park"
'Tis Only Faire*
Sunday Morning*
Minutes From Manitou*
Garden of The Gods: A Suite For Dulcimer*

Songs with an asterik denote completely original tunes, and there is a fair amount of improvisation in many of the others, so you won't find much duplication in this collection! There are also a number of photographs spread throughout that I took while on the road writing many of these songs, and the text that ties the book together tells stories behind the songs along with shedding light on techniques for interpretation. The book begins with a visual description of musical symbols used on the pages.

The book is spiral bound on heavy-duty 60# paper with a full cover glossy cover totalling 74 pages. There will be a companion CD made available at a later date; probably by mid-summer. I decided to sell them separately as an either/or/both deal, to keep the book price at a low $19.99.

First 100 books will be personalized, signed and numbered (store orders will simply be signed and numbered, unless you know who they're going to) and they will begin shipping within the next couple of weeks.

Reserve your copy at:

This is a very fun book to play through, with something for players of every level. Each song features both standard music notation with chords as well as tablature. The one exception is "Garden of the Gods", which is a classical piece that does not have chord markings, but rather features all of the parts within the staves. So not only mountain dulcimer players can utilize the book, but also hammer dulcimerists, pianists, guitarists, mandolinists, harpists, flautists and anyone who reads music. The tablature is strictly mountain dulcimer, however.

This is a collection of songs that I'm proud to offer from my heart and musical spirit. Thanks for your time and consideration!

Me ke aloha,


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Review of "Dulcimerica: Volume 1" From Dulcimer Players News

Bing Futch has been making music on the mountain dulcimer for a long time. As a front man for the Americana band, Mohave, he has demonstrated a unique playing style that incorporates tribal rhythms from African and Native American influences as well as Celtic and early mountain music. His technique is equal parts traditional and experimental, with a fondness for playing in DAA tuning. He also plays electric dulcimer with the band as well using distortion, delay and various digital effects to create a sound that has been described as "musical Tabasco" among other things. Mohave has performed at Walt Disney World and opened for bands such as the southern rockers Molly Hatchet and the classic doo-wop group The Crests. That's a pretty impressive resume but it doesn't really prepare you for his latest album which is solo dulcimer with no electronic gimmicks at all. The only "extra" is some fine harmonica playing by Charles Stansell. Bing is a relly fine player with an eclectic taste in music that takes him from "Polly Wolly Doodle" one minute to "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" the next. "Dulcimerica, Volume 1" is a real treat that showcases Bing's excellent playing on a wide variety of material, including several originals.

Thanks for THAT Neal!!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Ramp Up

Here's the cover for my first songbook, titled "Dulcimerica: All Over The Map". Yeah, I decided to ride with the Dulcimerica theme, because it connects everything. The music, the video podcasts, the book, the concept that this is an American instrument that has international reach. How many truly American instruments are there anyway? I'm not sure. But I'm sure of this one.

The book has twenty tunes, most of which are originals. The rest are my take on traditional tunes and some more modern compositions. It's not a terribly difficult book to get through, there's a little something for everyone in there, from the easy-to-play to the sit-back-and-go-whoa. I'm offering it by itself to start - and will make a CD available probably later this summer as I get all the demos recorded.
I'm very, very excited about this and the proofing is being done right now, with my lovely wife Jae poring over the first printed copy. Exciting stuff!

A Classic

There's been quite a lot of recording going on, amidst all of this other hullaballoo - Mohave is playing this Sunday at the Central Florida Fair and we've got rehearsals all this week. Been a long time since the band played out and the line-up this time around is stellar, with Mark Kring on bass, Roger Zimish on guitar and Kristi Kief joining us once again on drums and steel pans. We're really looking forward to a fun show on Sunday night, 7-10 pm on the Community Stage. Plus fair food. Yum.

I'm also recording some more tracks for Mizieya's upcoming album and while that was going down, I realized that I'd never attempted a version of "Wellyn", the tune that was made famous by Robert Force and his late partner Albert d'Ossche'. So, I experimented and cut a quick demo of it and sent it off to him. Here's a sneak peek:


It's just a classic tune for not only the mountain dulcimer world, but music in general. I didn't want to change it too much from the basic two-dulcimer arrangement - so I retained that, of course, but I did rock it out with drums and bass, along with some extra distortion for a good head-bobbing effect.

Coming Up

I've got another collaboration on deck, this time with a musician from Baghdad, Iraq. His name is Feter, and I'm really looking forward to working with him - he's an amazing talent and totally inspired. I am in deep awe that he is able to be so upbeat and creative with all of the hell and chaos unfolding around him. When that work is finished, I will post a link to it here.

The Kentucky Music Week website now features the promo video that I put together, shot mostly last year at the event. The clip shows what fun KMW is and also shows many of the teachers, including myself, who will be there this year. There aren't many video outlets for the dulcimer world online, so I think this will be an eye-opener for a lot of folks, and hopefully, will increase attendance at this year's event.

One of the things I've wanted to do with the mountain dulcimer is to bring some more ethnic music into play. I love the old-time mountain music and European tunes from the U.K., and I love to rock out as well, but I've been consciously trying to learn songs of other cultures, including African, Native American, Polynesian, Asian and Indian music. Right now, I'm working on a medley of tunes that is really a small smorgasbord of languages, requiring me to learn not only new music, but new ways of singing as well! The trilogy of tunes includes:

"Kâua i ka huahua`i" - also known as the "Hawaiian War Chant" (though it's really a love song, and not about war at all.)
"Ue o Muite Aruko" also known as "Sukiyaki", originally sung by Sakamoto Kyu

and, inspired by something that happened yesterday, "Big Alligator" - a song by Chief Jim Billie of the Seminole Tribe.

Kristi, who is moving to Australia soon, is a gator wrestler at Gatorland and enlisted me in putting together a video so she can get a job at the Australia Zoo when she gets down there. So, while shooting yesterday, she offered to me the chance to wrestle an alligator; that is, sit on its back for a picture. Or so I thought.

All of the tourists she instructed to keep the gator's head held back, so it wouldn't go anywhere. She'd keep its head up until they had gotten it, and then back away for the photo, then take control again once they, er, disembarked. However, when I got on this old boy's back, she first had me hold his head up, which I did with little to no style, with my thumbs hanging over the edges of his jaws. She noted, over the microphone in the arena, that I could've lost my thumbs right then "and how would you play dulcimer?" I replied, "by using only my fingers!" Then she said, "put your hands on his neck," which I did. Of course, the gator then began crawling slowly back towards the water as Kristi exclaimed, "c'mon Bing, stop him."

Well, that wasn't happening. Try as I might, he was an unstoppable force, and as I attempted to be man enough to make this gator cease his motion, this picture was snapped. Just another day here with musicians in central Florida.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Love Was Comin' Through

Quintin Stephens is spearheading an effort to do a Mimi and Richard Fariña tribute album, which he's pitched to Robert Force. I hope we end up doing it - as he mentioned in his e-mail, it could be a new Pacific Rim Dulcimer Project along with bringing more attention to the Farina's music. He asked me what tune I'd be interested in covering and, with no hesitation, I said "The House Un-American Blues Activity Dream." Buddy, we're about to indict.

I began a new song yesterday and finished it today. It's deep. It works on many different levels. Here are the words:

love was comin' through
music and lyrics by Bing Futch

what's that you're smoking?
I need to know
I was only joking
I don't really need anything anymore anyway

what is your mission?
what was your crime?
got away with murder
I don't really need anything anymore anyway

cause I got love
sweet love I found
she lifts me up
when I am flat on the ground
do you remember
how it felt to you
when love, sweet love, was comin' through

left you a message
left it on my knees
make me uncomfortable
I don't really need anything anymore anyway


instrumental break

why should I believe you?
where should I begin?
says I need a reminder
I don't really need anything anymore anyway


what's that you're saying?

Easter 2007

Told you it was deep. The music is loosely southern gospel - and I'm working up the charts right now to get some players onto it and working it proper. More to come soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Energy of Spring

Like the magnetic power of a waxing moon, this springtime buzz has been slowly seeping into everything. Ready. Steady. Goforth. Walkin' on the balls of my feet again and smilin' for no particular reason. Has Spring got a hold of you yet?
It's so good to smell the earth - to sense its unfurling underneath you, sending waves of brown and green scents to dance and flirt with the air, lovely for the allergic and asthmatic, it's true, but what a great pain to have, huh?

The songbook is almost finished and while I continue to knock out pages for that, I'm simultaneously working up charts for the songs that Mohave will play at the Central Florida Fair on April 29th. It's their 95th year. I think it's our seventh. It's one of our favorite shows to play each year (how can you beat milling about between sets eating polish sausage sandwiches and grilled corn on the cob? or riding something puke-inspiring?) and we've got a great line-up assembled for this outing. Kristi Kief, who just recorded "Music" with us, will be on drums and steel pans. Mark Kring will perform bass guitar - I had the opportunity to share a jam with Mark and local guitar hero Roger Zimish not too long ago; he's a magnificent bassist. Our man-on-the-harp Charles Stansell will be there and I'm still looking to rustle up another utility performer - I've got a phone number that's got the dreaded tri-tone "the number you have reached has ceased to exist" message.

Did you get that "Music" rough demo? If not, it's gone. Been replaced by this.

The raw Pro Tools tracks arrived from Full Sail last weekend, so I imported the 648MB of filework into Garageband and did a quick mix. There were 24 tracks! In configurations that only the talented students of Group 16 and their intrepid instructor Paul Harlyn could possibly know, I guessed at some of the microphone placement to recreate the room ambience that they'd built so beautifully in the studio. With the multimillion dollar toys in every direction, it's no surprise to notice the incredible quality in the sound as compared to the tracks that I record here at the studio.

While I'm dishing out music, here's one that I wrote to be in the songbook. It's called "Seminole Solstice." Just mountain dulcimer and Native American drums (with a few cinematic effects).

Podcasting Stuff

Stephen Seifert played "Positive Vibes" by Mohave to open show #11 of his Mountain Dulcimer Folk Podcast. If you know about Stephen, then he needs no introduction. If you aren't sure who he is, visit his page and let it hit you slowly. Stephen stands out in the mountain dulcimer worldwide community as a tremendous talent and teacher who explores the boundaries of space as often as he kicks back in the groove of terra-firma tradition. And the boy smokes some dulcimer, sho' nuff. Burn it to the ground.

Also, thanks to everyone who has been subscribing to The Dulcimerica Video Podcast and downloading episodes. The response has been fantastic and it's been a lot of fun. Road-trips are going to be especially fun.

But mostly - thanks to you "Nowhere" blog readers. You know who you are.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together Pt.2

One of the worst phrases in the whole world has to be, upon arising from a deep slumber: "honey, what time were you supposed to be there?"

Needless to say, I made a few quick phone calls Friday morning to make sure that something would be happening for the Full Sail students besides a total absence of musicians. Charles was due to arrive at 9 am, so I dialed in and found that he was running slightly behind - with apologies to Michele, I jetted out of the house and got there as he was tracking. Big apologies to the students and to Paul Harlyn, the instructor, "no worries" came the response and we got on with the business of overdubbing. For all of my flustered tardiness, both Full Sail classes were quite professional, friendly, engaged and a good bunch of students, some of the best I've ever worked with at the facility.

As it stood, I left the dulcimer tracks as they were and added an acoustic track to "Ring-A-Ding" along with vocals and harmony. Kristi arrived and added tambourine to the mix, giving the song a real revival flavor. Quick. Done. Out of there.

After lunch, we began work on "Music", with its tri-vocal harmony and assorted percussion tracks. I also laid down a "bubble track" of burbling keyboards. All in all, it went just as smoothly as the previous day's session and by the time we were finished, I had a mixdown of "Music" with a promise of the ProTools tracks to follow on disc.

Here is the rough mix, which I'll keep up until I get the files for fully mixing the track. Dulcimer will come up in the mix as well as the lead vocal, backing vocals will be brought down some along with the bass. I don't remember if the tracks ended up dry or with reverb effect, but for a reggae tune, I'll probably throw a vocal slapback of some sort on there during mixing.

Again, it was just astounding to have actually met the rhythm section on the first day of tracking and sixteen hours later, we had two great sounding songs and two classes of students who were happy to be working with us and material that they enjoyed. As I stated with the titles of these two posts, "I love it when a plan comes together."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Went into Full Sail today to record for two different classes. For those of you who don't know, Full Sail is a state-of-the-art recording school and facility that educates aspiring audio and video technicians in their respective skill areas. I've been working with Full Sail since 1999 - recording arts in the main studios A and B, live sound reinforcement with video across the street from the main campus, artist sessions on a more intimate scale, lecturing to music business students on the skills of the trade -- I mean like this. Michele Bunker has always hooked me and the various projects of mine up. But this was the first time that I had NEVER played a live note with any of the people involved.

Early this morning at 9 am, I met with Kristi Kief, whom I had met through Bob King, a member of my dulcimer group. She's a world-class drummer and percussionist who also works part time as a gator wrestler at Gatorland. I had lined up a bass player for this session, but it sort of fell through; twice. So, upon a suggestion by Cheech, the manager of Hank El Diablo, I got ahold of Larry Nader, who drove down from Jacksonville to do the double session.

Keeping in mind that I had never played with either of these people before, I wasn't concerned.

We did two songs, "Ring-A-Ding" and "Music." The first being a staple Mohave tune and the second being also a staple, but extracted from the song "The Miner and His Music" which was a mixing of two songs written by myself and Bunky.

I had sent out chord sheets and demos to Larry and Kristi so they could get the hang of the tunes, very simple ones at that. When today rose in the sky, we were there at Full Sail making it happen. I had a peaceful easy feeling about the whole thing, and as it turns out, for a very good reason.

First off, Kristi is on. The girl knows her stuff. Having listened to her demos, I knew she would bring a lot to the session. Something about talking to Larry also put me at ease. He had the ineffable way of someone who has been playing for years in the biz, and a confidence that could not be faked. I knew he would rise to the occasion after talking with him.

We ended up doing two different sessions with two different classes of students, both under the direction of instructor Paul. Kristi played a drum kit for the rockabilly/boogie-woogie hybrid "Ring-A-Ding" while Larry played bass guitar and we knocked out the track in five takes, working through all the changes for the first time ever. It sounded so good, that it was delightful to tell the students at breaktime that we had only met for the first time that morning and had never rehearsed together before.

Afternoon session brought on "Music", with its reggae beats and Kristi's expertise on steel drums. It was a sure sign of success as we tracked the rhythms with the students nodding their heads in time with the music.

Tomorrow, we do some overdubs, having laid down what are known as "bed tracks." They are the foundation for the rest of the recording. Once you've got the drums, bass and main string instrument down (in this case, dulcimer), then you're ready to keep piling on layers until it really begins to erupt.

I did a vocal scratch track, meaning, we weren't planning on keeping it - just as a guide for the live performance of the scratch track. Tomorrow, I'll actually stand alone and record not only the main vocals, but also the secondary harmony and, in the case of "Music", three-part harmony. We're also bringing in my friend Charles Stansell to play harmonica on "Ring-A-Ding" and Kristi will be adding some more percussion to "Music" in the later session.

I found out that Kristi is moving to Australia to be with her boyfriend, who moved there recently for a computer gaming job. I'm happy for her at the same time that I'm frustrated, because it's been a long time coming to find someone so intuitive and talented in rhythms. I wish her well, at the same time that I bemoan the chance to work with her in the near future - not that we won't work together from afar, but damnit! The good ones always get away, don't they?

What can be said about today's session is that it was wonderful, magical, informative, spectacular, eye-opening and jammin' to the highest degree. We're all looking for a way to gig together before Kristi heads off to Brisbane, because it's not very often that three people who have never played together before can come together and create such beautiful music as they did today. There's something special in that kind of inspiration - and as soon as the tracks are delivered to us - I'll share them here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Beautiful Night

The gig tonight was wonderful - I love Scott Ainslie for his passion in not only playing music, but sharing it and educating others about the roots of the form. As soon as we arrived at Fodor's Grove, I met up with Scott and met his wife Barbara - and then we quickly launched into a fervent political discussion. I love his heart, his spirit and his dedication to truth. And he's an intelligent, well-read guy, to top it all off.

It was great to see Mark Fodor again and Barry Brogan of the Central Florida Folk group, both of whom were responsible for me opening for Scott. The Orange Blossom Blues Society had co-sponsored the event, so there were some familiar faces there - and of course, the potluck. Now, I don't really eat before a show, so I missed out on some good vittles, but there was plenty left after my set. Well, I missed Jerry's shrimp jambalaya, damnit.

My voice coach Judy was there and she was happy with my performance, as was I. Scott was amazing - as I've said, he can play the blues right down to the zip code, and he delivered once more some incredible songs and stories, shedding light on the origins of songs and providing background to events that may have otherwise been passed over. He also gifted me with a copy of his album "The Feral Crow", which has the fantastic song "Don't Obey" included. This tune is one of the many that are on Neil Young's "Living With War Today" site - and if you haven't heard it, go have a listen.

Another great night - and there were many friends there - along with George and Sheri, my brother and sister-in law, who are always fun to be around. I'm reviewing the video now and will post something on YouTube and MySpace soon.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Submerged In Song

After a hard-impact learning curve with the TablEdit software, I'm finally making some progress towards finishing the songbook. Once you get the hang of it, the going is easy. Getting the hang is not-so-easy.

In any case, much of the sheet music for tunes that I had created with Sibelius have been uniformly re-done and now the process of notating new and older pieces of music has begun. I'm not sure what to call this songbook, but I'm thinking of the title "Dulcimerica: All Over The Map", because it truly is. Style-wise, that is. Any songbook that contains the traditional tune "John Henry" as well as the theme to Steven Spielberg's dinosaur flick "Jurassic Park" is really stepping outside of conventional music boundaries.

It will be mostly an original songbook, with my arrangements of some traditional and not-so-traditional favorites. One piece that I'm having fun with is the Disney medley, which will include parts of songs from "Old Yeller", "The New Adventures of Davy Crockett", "It's A Small World", "The Little Mermaid", "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty." The licensing on this one will more than compensate for all of the original and public domain music that's on the CD, but it will be well worth it, absolutely the show-stopping final track.

At the same time that I'm tabbing out tunes, I've also been on the search for traditional Irish music, jigs, reels, airs and the like, just to get my fiddler's repertoire up. This week, I ran across a delightful traditional Irish tune called "Off To California" that I can't wait to play out live.

Mohave's got a recording session at Full Sail in two weeks, so I've also been charting out the changes for the players - "Music" is one of the tunes and the other one, I'm not sure yet. Perhaps "Neon Tiki" or something newer. I want something that's not too complex so that we can learn it, rehearse it, record it and have it under our collective belts. More word on that as the day approaches!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Blues Jam at Underground Bluz

It's been a good week for jamming - I haven't been doing much of that lately. After sitting in with Patty Gates at Reilly's Lantern Pub last week for a sizzling rendition of "Bobby McGee", she mentioned to me another jam going on at Underground Bluz on Saturday night. Not putting two-and-two together (I'd performed there on this night before), I arrived and discovered that it was a blues jam.

Blues on mountain dulcimer isn't impossible, but it can be difficult due to the diatonic nature of the instrument. With the blues revolving around the pentatonic scale, you're hard-pressed to find the melody, let alone accompanying harmonies that will make your music sizzle. However, it can be done with a good load of string-bending and, if you're capoed at the second fret (key of F#), you can actually get the pentatonic scale and lay some smoky sweetness down.

Of course, it also helps to know your blues chord progressions - so even if you're playing in the key of E (capo first fret), you know that the blues is typically a I - IV - V chord progression.

With each key, there is a scale - and with each scale, there are degrees for each note. The degrees are represented by roman numerals:

I = Tonic (or the root note)

II = Supertonic

III = Mediant

IV = Subdominant

V = Dominant

VI = Submediant

VII = Leading Tone

I, IV and V are what's known as primary chords - the only major chords in the major scale, and usually the chords that are used for blues progressions. No matter what key you're in, this holds true.

So, in the key of E (which is the Tonic or I chord), you count up four notes in the scale (including the Tonic) and you've got A as your IV chord. One more to five and there's your B.

And don't forget that the Key of E has four sharps, F#, C#, G# and D# - so you've got to make some careful choices, even if you're barreing the chords, for soloing.

In any case - blues is not a real strongpoint for me, so I resisted the urge to quietly slip out into the night. Especially after enough people had seen me tuning up and wanted to know what the hell I was playing. Angelique has never been known for her huge voice and this was an all-out jam, better suited to Halcyon's solidbody sound, but I found a break in the action between sets and went to do a little demonstration of some swamp blues with "Cluck Old Hen", just to mix things up from the big Chicago sound that had dominated the evening up to that point.

Imagine my dismay when I couldn't get any sound out of her - realizing that I had left her plugged in all day while practicing and drained the already fatigued battery! No worries, for a shallowbody, she's got a pretty decent voice, so I just had them mic her and I went ahead with the jam, which was raucously received.

There were quite a few familiar faces and talents there, like Kristen Hart and Roger Zimish, who had in mind a little experimental free-associative jam with the dulcimer. So, a fresh battery and a jewelers screwdriver was located, Angelique was re-energized and I hopped in with Roger and crew to do some crazy jamming on a spacy tune in D and then a bluesy rocker in the aforementioned key of E. I was plugged into a Kramer 412 that had some seriously nasty power behind it - but I resisted the urge to go nuts and kept it in the pocket, carefully experimenting with my lead licks; I knew that Roger would toss the ball my way at some point, and when he did - I had found a nice little combo to work over the chord changes. After it was all said and done, event promoter Straycat said to me, "now I can say that I've heard Stevie Ray Vaughn played on a mountain dulcimer!" Wild good times. And recorded for posterity somewhere - I'm going to work on getting ahold of that.

There's another blues jam tonight - and I'm looking forward to mixing it up again, though I'm stuck on whether to bring Halcyon or not. One one hand, her humbucker pickup gives her a bold and brassy voice. On the other hand, her fretboard is too shallow for me to use a capo, and that's a serious setback. I think Angelique is up at bat again.

At least I know she's got a fresh battery.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Web Updates

If my web statistics show correctly, it looks like people, in general, like to watch more than they like to read. My two video portals, The Dulcimerica Video Podcast and my YouTube page get the most traffic out of just about all of my websites. God, I love statistics.

And in thinking through some workflowy thoughts, I suddenly came to the conclusion today that offering live video lessons would be a good thing to do. So I'm doing it.

Actually, I've been talking with a soon-to-be-student about doing some lessons via video, and these would be of the TDVP variety, recorded and then sent out. But then I thought, "hey, wait a minute..."

So, check out the page at my website, which also has undergone a slight bit of updating to sort of accomodate the growing and changing times. It's under video lessons.

Tonight, I think I'm heading down to an open mic to start testing out material for my opening set with Scott Ainslie in a couple of weeks.

I've also got to demo a version of the left-behind song "Music" for Mohave, as we gear up for a recording session at Full Sail and begin looking at playing out again. We've already been getting inquiries from folks in the past who have booked us - so it's definitely time to get thing shakin'!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Just A Little Recap

It's been a busy couple of weeks. If my bulging calendar is any indication, it's about to get a lot busier, so I'll take some time here to catch up a little with what's happening in the dulcimer community from my corner of the world.

Dulcimerica Video Podcast

Subscribership is booming - thanks to everyone who's downloading video and checking back for new episodes. The latest entries are a reminiscence of last summer's Mountain Music Festival in Manitou Springs, Colorado. This is where I met the inimitable Robert Force and had the sublime opportunity to join him onstage during his performances at the festival. This is recounted through still pictures and video, courtesy of Rick Laurenzi and Richard DuCharme, who were both in the audience. Thanks guys!

Back to today (today IS today, isn't it?), I've been getting some really great topic suggestions for upcoming episodes of the podcast which I will incorporate. If YOU have something you'd like to see covered - send an e-mail to me at

I've been chatting with Stephen Seifert these past couple of weeks. We're both tech-heads and are always looking to do something interesting with the technology that's becoming available to us; through his Mountain Dulcimer Folk Podcast and through TDVP. It looks like we'll be doing some cross-promotion through our individual podcasts for the other, and anyone else who wants to join us is free to submit either an audio or video ad to be shown or played during our respective shows. It's all part of an effort to raise awareness of our various endeavours, and to underscore the fact that there is no competition between these unique features in the dulcimer community. Quite the opposite; the more productions like this, the more people will come to know and more deeply appreciate the mountain dulcimer - which is, of course, what we want! Stay tuned for more info on some plotting Stephen and I have been doing regarding Kentucky Music Week and our laptops.

Central Florida Dulcimer and Autoharp Festival

This past Friday and Saturday brought out a sizeable crowd to Mt. Dora where workshops, jams, open mics and a wonderful instructor concert engaged folks from all over. I only attended the concert (bein' sort of short on change at the moment), but got to hang out in the Memorial Garden outside the First United Methodist Church of Mt. Dora and do a little jamming and meeting with folks from Everything Dulcimer and my dulcimer group, Dulcimer Central, as well as meeting new friends and catching up with Jean Ritchie and her husband George Pickow, and sharing some laughs with Don Pedi. Here are some stills from the Saturday evening concert:

Maureen Sellers

Anne Lough

Susan Boyer-Haley

Festival Organizer Ruth Harnden with scholarship winner Micaela

Susan Trump

Don Pedi

David Townsend, Cheryl Belanger and Ray Belanger

Jean Ritchie

We Get Letters

I'd like to share a response to an e-mail that came all the way from Japan! The question had to do with my dulcimer track "Raga111806" and the tuning that I use to emulate the middle-eastern sound. You may be surprised to learn that it was actually performed in DAD tuning!

In regards to the Raga recording that I did - that was done in DAD, actually, melody played on the bass string starting at open D and then walking up from fret 2 or F#.

0 - 2 - 3 - 4 6 - 4 - 3 - 2

then playing higher on the fretboard

7 - 9 - 10 - 11 13 - 11 - 10 - 9

and what I'm doing to get some of the missing notes is bending the strings -

like, the lick from F# (9) to D# is a bent 7 (D) and I'm bending it before I actually hit the note. I'm also not really hitting it as a perfect D#, since the middle-eastern scale includes quarter tones - so a "not quite" bend is in order there, along with some tremolo that can be attained by wiggling the string back and forth as you bend it.

Then letting the string bend back into place for the final note in the sequence, so you have F# - D# - F# - D# - D

You can also do the same thing in improvisations with the 5 (B) and bend it for a quarter tone between B and C (6) since C is actually a half step up.

Aeolian tuning (D-A-C) on its own is more Celtic sounding, but if you Capo it at the 1st fret (Aeolian E), then you get some really cool middle-eastern sounding runs (with bends in mind) if you include the 6+ fret.

Hope this helps a bit - I'm still sort of wandering about in the land of modal tunings, myself - and there are some really wild sounds you can get by exploring these lesser-used modes like Phrygian (D-A-F) and Lydian (D-A-E). A good resource for tunings and application is Steven K. Smith's site at: and Jerry Rockwell's site at:

Have fun exploring!

Speaking of modal explorations - I've been toying around with the Locrian mode this week, which is a great mode for playing the blues. You can enter this mode by tuning to D - A - Bb or by placing the capo at the second fret, effectively putting the dulcimer into the key of F#. I'll post on this more at another time - probably after I've actually worked out a couple of blues tunes to better demonstrate the process. In the meantime - have fun and keep strummin'!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Theory In Action

Oh God, not a cold. Not now. As my wife always says: I can't afford to be sick.

So, I'm currently recording tracks for another song by Mizieya for his upcoming release "The God Who Had An Affair With Himself." Our collaboration on "Rites of Passage" went so well that he offered up another track of a distinctly different flavor. I like this one too. It's called "Avalon" and is more of an uptempo dance piece, though still dreamy in its structure. It calls to mind (at least to me) the work of Seal, or maybe just the song "Crazy", in general. You know the one - "we're never gonna survive unless we go a little crazy."


I had absent-mindedly strummed along with it in DAD tuning when he sent me a demo several days ago and found that it was another song in D - perfectly suited for the dulcimer. Or so I thought. Upon closer inspection while running through it today, I discovered that my scale wasn't right for the tune. Even though it appeared to be in D. So what was the deal?

A little sleuthing led me to work out the chords of the chorus, since the verses are sort of built on a sustained Dm. That was my first clue.

Dm contains the notes D - F and A. Of course, the dulcimer, when tuned to D, has two sharps on the scale. C# and F#. So that Dm wasn't gonna happen. The chorus then goes Dm - C - G - F. Well, that F ain't gonna happen either. So what key was this? I plucked around on the piano next to my workstation and discovered that the scale I was using was an F major scale. The relative minor scale (beginning with the sixth scale degree) was Dm.

F Major Scale - F - G - A - Bb - C - D - E - F
Scale Degrees - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - (6) - 7 - 8

D Minor Scale - D - E - F - G - A - Bb - C - D

So, obviously I can play all of the chords in the song except for Dm and F Major. What to do?

Well, I decided to run through and try some alternatives, finally landing on substituting an Am chord for the F as a chord extension. Since Mizieya plays the F chord on the keyboards, it wasn't really necessary for me to play it anyway. So by playing an Am chord (6-4-4) over the F, I'm actually extending the F chord into a F Major 7th chord. Here's how that works.

Am includes - A - C - E (1 - b3 - 5)
F includes - F - A - C (1 - 3- 5)

The E (5) of the Am chord serves as the 7th of the F chord! (Remember, a dominant 7th is flatted. That's the standard seventh chord. This is a Major 7th chord I'm creating.)

With that hurdle out of the way, I set about playing the chords to the song and was pleased and relieved to find that the Am chord worked beautifully. Now I just had to resist the urge to do any soloing into the F territory.

I'm still mixing down the various parts that I've conjured and sending them over to him in Wales - when there's something available as an approved demo, I'll post it here so you can see what I'm talking about!