Thursday, April 24, 2008

A nice word from Charley Groth

Charley Groth - Music Man: Last Hurrah In Florida For Now
I thought the music this weekend was fine throughout. I had the pleasure of making music both on and off stages and visiting with many old friends. Made a new friend too, and that's always especially cool. Getting to know mountain dulcimer virtuoso, fine singer and entertainer, and excellent guy Bing Futch was a highlight of the weekend for me. Here's Bing:

Don't miss this accomplished musician and entertainer! He is good!

That's super-cool. Thanks, Charley! I look forward to jamming with you again sometime.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Great Show!

It's always a pleasure to play the Central Florida Fair and tonight was no exception. Thanks to all who came out and listened to the band. Got some great comments from fair workers, who hear lots of music come through there, as well as the sound guys. But most importantly, our dear fans who came out and supported us during this gig. Here's what our set-list looked like:

Set 1 – 6:00 p.m.

Ring-A-Ding (extended) – Bing Start
One Way Ticket – Bing Start
At The Fair
Flip Side (extended) – Bing Start
Tribal Groove (key of F#m) djembe, flute
F#m/A – Bm/D – C#m/E
Positive Vibes – Bing Start
Come On With Me – Gil start (floor toms)
Caught – Bing Start (watch ending – 1, 2, 3)

Set 2 – 7:00 p.m.

Time Bomb
Mary Jane’s Last Dance (Roger start)
Juke Joint Hen (key of Em) extended
Tribal Groove (key of Em) djembe, flute
Em/G – Am/C – Bm/D
Big Alligator
Run On (extended percussion breakdown)
Casualties Of Faith – Bing Start

Set 3 – 8:00 p.m.

Boy On Rock (extended) key of Em
House Un-American Blues Activity Dream – Roger start Tribal Groove (key of Am) djembe, flute
Am/C – Dm/F – Em/G
Music – Bing Start
Interstate 10 Blues (Key of G) Bing Start
Ring-A-Dingian Improv (slower tempo) Bing Start

The last set was changed up a little.

This was the first live show that my daughter Casey was able to see, and it was a joy to have her and her mom there. Also, one of my dulcimer students, Haley, came out with her brother Harrison and her mom Laura. There was also the man, John Beedle, of Beedle Promotions, and a number of good friends who came to hang out.

Afterwards, I got a much-needed spin on the Zipper and will be going back tomorrow for even more food and fun. The fair is where it's at!

Thanks again to everyone, most especially the band; it was a great run tonight!

Aloha -

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lapidus On Dulcimer

Joellen Lapidus - Dulcimer and Klezmer Musician, Songwriter, Builder, Teacher, and Author - PURCHASE

When I visited Stephen Seifert and family in Nashville last month, he had a book called "Lapidus On Dulcimer" that completely blew my mind. Published in 1978 by Joellen Lapidus, who introduced Joni Mitchell to the mountain dulcimer, it's a fabulously exhaustive guide to the both the instrument and how to approach it as a player. My covet machine was in full roar by the time I got home and sought out a copy on Ebay.

It didn't take long to arrive (it popped magically into the mailbox yesterday) and today will be spent soaking in the very descriptive text and illustrations. While flipping through it at Steve's place, I recall thinking and saying "this is the wheel, no need to re-invent it", in reference to my current plans towards a mountain dulcimer method book. Steve made a good point about it being out-of-print and therefore hard to find (Lapidus offers used copies on her website for $65), plus - my approach to the instrument is different, and a divergent book would emerge as a result.

Still - it's a pretty hard act to follow.

Today's The Day

Dulcimer Players News - Podcasts

It's official today - I'll be producing audio and video podcasts for Dulcimer Players News and the first episodes are out of the bag and on the website!

Weekend Show Canceled

This weekend's workshops and concert at The Bluegrass Shop in St. Petersburg, Florida have been canceled due to the shop's untimely closing. Of course, it's disappointing to have a gig canceled - but it's really a drag that Florida has lost another fantastic small shop owned by really terrific people. It's an alarm call that we need to support the independents more, especially in these times of recession, or we'll all be buying our dulcimers from Wal-Mart.

Note To Mother Nature

Can you tell Winter that check-out time was last month?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tonight's Show Performer plays a variety of music on dulcimer
When it comes to dulcimer devotees, Bing Futch is as unusual as his moniker.

He's been playing Appalachian dulcimer since 1985 and is one of the highest-profile performers on the unique and old-timey instrument.

Futch, who tours worldwide, will give a special performance at 7 tonight at the St. Paul United Methodist Church, 8264 Lone Star Road, in Arlington. He was invited and is being sponsored by a club called River City Dulcimers and Friends, also based in Arlington.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blues on mountain dulcimer

I posted this to the Jeff Hames forum on blues dulcimer this week and thought I'd cross-post it here.

Lately, I've been looking to raise the personal bar and really challenge myself to play better, a process that all musicians go through, no matter what level they're at. Going back to the basics is the right route for me, since I'm self-taught and basically skipped a lot of the music theory on dulcimer that is the foundation for well-informed playing. Not everyone needs "music theory" per se - what I like to tell people is that everyone pretty much knows music theory, we just don't know all the terms.

So, here is a bit of capsulized info about the blues and how to get them gushing out of your mountain dulcimer:

Although there are all kinds of blues, there is a primal kind of blues that comes right out of Africa and into the cotton fields of the south. Africans came to this country as property, so the music not only allowed them to voice their despair, it also offered them hope of reprieve from the toil as they lifted their songs to God.

Even after the slaves were freed, many descendants of Africans could not read or write - they learned to communicate, through words and music, by listening. Therefore, the best way to learn the blues form is to listen to early blues and also those who continue to perform in that style. Robert Johnson has been mentioned, how can you not? Along with others mentioned here, I also submit:

Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Copeland, Etta James, Junior Wells, Willie Dixon, Sonny Rhodes, R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford, Pinetop Perkins, Buddy Guy, Little Milton, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, Bessie Smith, Albert Collins, Howlin' Wolf, James Peterson, etc.

Also, check out The Digital Library of Appalachia online:

Besides being a fantastic archive of culture from the Appalachian region - it's also got some great field recordings of blues music - just search for "blues" and you'll find some sweet and lowdown tunes.

After you've soaked in enough of this music, you'll get a definite ear for the form and can then follow your heart, soul and fingers to the mountain dulcimer and apply what you've heard. A great starting point for gaining skill in playing licks and creating improv is based in the scales that Steve posted. I'd like to add a few to that list and make one correction (it had to have been a typo, because Steve knows his stuff!)

What Steve posted are minor pentatonic scales - they take their cue from diatonic major scales, but only use five notes, the 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 with the third and seventh being flat. 1 b3 4 5 b7

Key of D - D F• G A C•

Key of E - E G A B D [this was posted as E G A G D]

Key of F# - F# A B C# E

Key of G - G Bb C• D F• (Bb can be bent upwards from A - A# = Bb)

Key of A - A C• D E G

Key of B - B D E F# A

Key of C# - C# E F# G# B

I added some scales and would like to note that you can play these scales across the strings in a box that will become recognizable to you as you practice them and play them more. For the most part, these scales won't require you to do any bending if you play them straight, unless you're playing in G. A • after the note indicates that you'll need a 1+ fret to play it without bending.

As some mentioned here, bent notes are core to the blues and the pentatonic blues scale or hexatonic blues scale requires you to do at least one bend in every scale that you play - these notes are marked by the * symbol and can either be bent and then plucked, or bent from the preceding note. A • indicates an existing note on dulcimers with a 1+ fret. This scale is based on the pentatonic minor scale but adds the flat fifth to the flat third and flat seventh. 1 b3 4 b5 5 b7

Key of D - D,F•,G,Ab*,A,C•

Key of E - E,G,A,Bb*,B,D

Key of F# - F#,A,B*,C•,C#,E

Key of G - G,Bb*,C•,Db,D,F•

Key of A - A,C•,D,Eb*,E,G

Key of B - B,D,E,F•*,F#,A

Key of C# - C#,E,F#,G,G#,B

Blues chord progressions have historically been based in major keys with harmonic and dominant seventh colorations, though as been mentioned here, minor blues progressions are also steeped in tradition, particularly spiritual forms.

A blues in E, for example, could go:

E - - - A - - - E - - - E7 [dominant 7th]

A - - - A7 - - - E - - - E7

B - - - A - - - E - - - E7 [or a B7 for a turn-around V7 chord)

Monday, April 07, 2008


I haven't been blogging much because the past couple of weeks have been pretty fast and furious. Both the Ohio Valley Gathering and Will McClean Festival were a blast and the video is starting to surface on The Dulcimerica Video Podcast. Made lots of new friends at both events and got lots of playing time in.

It wasn't too long ago that I was still in what could be considered a musical wilderness of sorts; all alone grubbing on the tuneful equivalent of locusts and honey. So it is absolutely amazing to me that I find myself hanging out and jamming with some of the best players of the mountain dulcimer including Stephen Seifert, Butch Ross, Aaron O'Rourke, Gary Gallier and many others. It's really sometimes very overwhelming because, you know, there are so many questions and so many ideas floating around in this head-trippin' head space of mine.

The push right now, along with maintaining balance, is to really put the pedal to the metal and raise my performance bar. I was honored to jam with Charley Groth and Marge Chavin at WillFest while sipping coffee and enjoying the smells and sounds of breakfast cooking by the campsite Saturday morning. He later invited us on-stage to perform with him during his set, a definite honor that was somewhat marred and pre-empted by sound issues, including the absolute deluge of rain that fell upon the festival grounds. Still, Charley's an internationally traveled performer, and that kind of recognition and encouragement wasn't lost in translation.

I've got some serious video work to do this week before heading up to Jacksonville for a house concert this weekend. There are also events next weekend and the weekend after that, so festival season has kicked in hard. In all reality, you may be seeing a lot more video than words in the next few weeks, but I'll try and shed some light on the backstage action as well. Mohave has a rehearsal this week for our show at the Central Florida Fair this month and seeing as how this blog was originally started as a chronicle of the times of that band, I figured it was a good idea to mention that.