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'!

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