Thursday, December 30, 2010

Retrointrospection: In Brief

Just exactly who reads this stuff, anyway? If you're reading this, please leave a comment. Want to see if this thing is working. You've got plenty of interesting stops on the Information Superhighway to make, so I'm chuffed to bits that you've chosen to stop and have a scone or two here in my own little ghetto of the grid.

"Let There Be Peace On Earth" was released this month after missing the opportunity to release it during last year's holiday season. It features the incredible pipes of Benjamin Dehart: The Cracker Tenor and you can check it out here, if you haven't already.

Also, if you missed the album that flew under the radar, check it out here.
A project for the good people at Folkcraft Instruments.

Christmas is over. New Year's Eve is never a big deal around this household. A couple of movies. A bottle (or three) of bubbly. Kiss. Snuggle. Chill.

What this means is: time to dig in.

There's lots of exciting new stuff that's been developing over the past month or so and it's all been kept very under the hat. I'm looking forward to the Key West Dulcimer Fest in January, of course hoping that our good weather isn't on back-order come that third week.

Looking back on the past year, I see a lot of those days spent planning were put to good use. That just reinforces the time that I spend studying. Researching, working through test books and memorizing elements of music theory. Practicing scales, bouncing improvisations off of the wall. Sitting at the computer for infinite stretches of time putting it out into the universe; data salvo!

Times are tough all over and they're going to get tougher before they get better. That, coupled together with the ongoing studio improvements here at Casa de Milagro has seen a sort of bittersweet decision to sell a lot of my dulcimer collection to raise funds for equipment upgrades. To be fair, these were instruments that were not being played on a regular basis and would probably only be engaged on special occasions in the foreseeable future, though they'd all seen their share of stage-time. They each went to good homes where they'll be loved and played as a primary instrument, meanwhile leaving me with enough cash to do some shopping.

What I got (and what's on the table) will be the focus of the next couple of blog posts as we begin a brand new year of renewed production.

For everybody who reads this blog, watches "Dulcimerica", listens to my music or attends my workshops; if you've paid any attention to me this year: thank you. Somewhere between time wasted and a worthwhile time spent is a place where everyone is grooving to the same beat. Happy New Year and many blessings to you for a great 2011! The beat goes on.

If this year was any kind of forecast, then 2011 is going to be a great one for everybody (keep putting that good mojo out into the universe.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Dulcimerica: Volume 2" - NOW AVAILABLE!

Now available! You can preview all the tracks and download two full tracks as well.

The first 30 copies are signed and numbered - plus no shipping! I'll have some this week at McWell's for the December 8th edition of The Pub Thang.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dive Chronicles - "Speechless"

As production has once again resumed on "Dive!", I'll be posting some of the process here so you can get an idea of how this stuff comes together.

Above is a perfect example of how it starts - or not. Basically, this latest tune evolved out of playing a riff on the chromatic mountain dulcimer and then seeing what would happen with it after awhile - what kind of inspiration would come out of the notes. After laying down a basic drum pattern and some bass - it became clear that this would be a rocker of some sort. Seeking a comfortable spot for my voice to begin creating melody, I laid out some basic changes using piano, which would then get transferred to the chromatic dulcimer. I'm more familiar with piano voicings and part of my learning curve with the chromatic dulcimer is to take those voicings and then make them work with three strings. Or not.

Well, as it stood - I miscalculated the key for this tune - pegging it at F when I later found it to be much more easily sung in Bb. Notice in the scrawlings at the top of the page that I've been careful to write out the chord progressions using scale degrees such as I - IV - iii, etc. That way, if I decided to change keys again I could more quickly transpose the chords and, in some cases, the melody (which, in fact, happened.)

The tune, called "Speechless", takes some unusual twists and turns, but I wanted to use chord leading to make it feel more natural. Chord leading refers to the fact that some chords naturally lead to other chords.

For example, I'm beginning the tune in an odd way:

V - V - II - V
Fsus - F - C - F

Instead of starting on the I - which would be Bb - I've begun with a chord based on the V - which happens to be the 5th of the root chord. (Bb - D - F are the ingredients of a Bb major chord.)

Getting into the tune gets a bit more conventional. These scale degrees are based on the Bb major scale, which is: Bb - C - D - Eb - F - G - A. Remember that the chords and scales built off of the 1st, 4th and 5th notes tend to be major while the 2nd, 3rd and 6th tend to be minor with the 7th being diminished.

I - V - II- V
BbMaj7 - FMaj7 - C - FMaj7

The above is pretty much the verse progression. I've kept the scale degrees simple, even though I've chosen to use extensions on the I and V chords. Why not the II chord? Sounded too complicated. The progression moves three times this way, and the final way replaces the last V chord with a minor third or Dm. To my ears, with so much in a major key - the minor chord signals that something big and dramatic is coming in the chorus.

I - iii-II - I
Bb - Dm - C - Bb

There you have the chords of the chorus. It repeats twice before heading back into the verse. Pretty simple, eh? Except for the second time through when and additional Bbm6 chord serves as a very dramatic transition to the bridge.

Let me tell you, I had a devil of a time trying to figure out where the bridge was going to go after that crazy bit of color - and, after trying a number of things - this is what I ended up with:

iii-VI -II - VII -VII-iii -IV - vi - VII - VII
Dm - G - C - Asus - A - Dm - E - Gm - Asus - A

Here, I've completely leapt outside of the box and gone with changes that are very classical in a nature. Take notice of the Major VI - a recurring Major II and a Major VII. I've also included a minor VI as well - to really create a bit of urgency and darkness.

After this - the tune goes to the chorus progressions for a solo run and then one more pass through the chorus before ending. At just over three minutes long, it's probably one of my shortest tunes, yet it packs a powerful punch. Once I get a bit more polish on the tracks, I'll post it as an exclusive streaming track for members of my mailing list (so you still have time to sign up if you haven't done so already! You can use the form at the top left of this page.) In the meantime, here are the lyrics:

Music and Lyrics by Bing Futch
© Copyright 2010 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

The door's closed, the light's out
and we got nothing to talk about
on my side of a one way street
don't know why I feel so incomplete

so much pain in your eyes
and it's my fault, one too many lies
in the darkness with a flashlight
searching for the words to make it right


oh - mercy me
can you see this? (see this)
oh - can't you see
that I'm speechless (speechless)

remember when we used to
talk for hours, I felt so close to you
but emotions met with violence,
damned the flow, now there's nothing but silence

and the time comes, and the time goes
still I'm comin' up with nothing but zeroes
forgive me or please try
let words, like rain, fall from the sky


oh - mercy me
can you see this? (see this)
oh - can't you see
that I'm speechless (speechless)

there's no way to begin
we can't go back again
the signs say that we're through
because of what I've done
I've ripped out my own tongue
how am I supposed to talk to you?


oh - mercy me
can you see this? (see this)
oh - can't you see
that I'm speechless (speechless)

That's it for this week - I've got quite a few new tracks for "Dulcimerica: Volume 2" recorded this week and will be working quickly to have that one mastered before the end of December. "Dive!", however, will continue to flow as I write new tunes and work with the ones already in production. I hope this process serves to shine a light on how songs go from idea to recording and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to post them to the threads here.

Until next time -

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Juke Joint Hen" with Stephen Seifert at Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting down to it.

Just got back from the Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat in White Springs, Florida and had a sweet time hanging out, playing music, teaching under the clear blue sky and catching up with friends old and new. I missed last year due to a scheduling conflict, so it was nice to be back. Stephen Seifert and I once again paired up on a tune. This time it was my already pretty messed-with version of "Cluck Old Hen" that I've tended to title "Juke Joint Hen." With him on bass dulcimer, we took it around the block a few times.

This was also the second time that I've taught a workshop on performing with your mountain dulcimer and it's been incredible, not only to see people stepping up and wanting to take their music in front of audiences but also, to have the environment to pause and reflect on my own journey from fledgling musician to professional performer. One of the key themes that is brought up has to do with The Gift. No matter what your spiritual beliefs might be, the living entity that is Music comes from some place deep within the soul which, in turn, takes its cue from the Divine. Music is a pretty magical thing, in playing, in listening, in communicating and sharing; it's probably the best thing that we engage in as humans. So, in taking this Gift that we've all been given and bringing it forth to share with others, you should be bold in your efforts. Banish away all fear, all butterflies and doubts, all hesitance and anxiety. For the gift of the Divine has been entrusted to you for the purpose of sharing with others. Whenever you sing or pick up an instrument and begin to communicate in that wonderful language, you are doing exactly what you need to be doing at that time. You belong there doing it, where ever you might be, and it doesn't matter whether that music is accepted or rejected - that's not for you to worry about. Just put it out into the world. You plant the seeds and someone else will water the garden.

11th Annual Patrick Smith Day

This Saturday, November 20th, I'll be participating in the 11th Annual Patrick Smith Day at Forever Florida in St. Cloud, Florida. It'll be a fun day of "storytelling, arts and crafts vendors, musical performances and special cracker cattle and horse demonstrations. It's the perfect day to enjoy the special "A Land Remembered" Coach Safari through Florida's wilderness, the setting for so many of Patrick Smith's great literary works."

Starting at 1pm and running into the evening, the mini music festival will include some of the best local folk and bluegrass musicians performing in a beautiful outdoor venue. This will be the third year in a row that I've participated in the fall festival at Forever Florida and it's really a beautiful time all around. I'll be taking the stage at 3 p.m.

The Pub Thang

"The Pub Thang", that odd mixture of traditional and modern music that I take to pubs, clubs, bars and grills now has its own Facebook page! Be sure to give it a "Like" if you've ever enjoyed the show (or want to) and help get it filtered out into the Facebook universe! Tomorrow night's show (November 17th at 7 pm) will feature special guest Big Ron Betts as well as the usual treat of The Simon Time Trivia Show beginning at 8 pm. 50 cent wings, drink specials and a good-timing crowd make for a fun weekly happening in Orlando! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Catching Up With Dulcimerica

On Vacation

I've been relaxing for the first time in months! So updates have been either:

a) slow

b) few

c) nonexistent.

But that will change in November when I officially get back on track. In the meantime, I do believe the backyard hammock is calling.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wrestling with it

This week marks the last of the major tour excursions for this year as I travel back to Beaumont, Texas for a show at the Logon Cafe this coming Saturday night and then carry on to Austin for a show there (while staying with Scandinavian dulcimer virtuoso Mark Gilston) and finally wrapping things up in Bennington, Oklahoma at the Winter Creek Reunion for an unprecedented second year in a row.

Besides my regular Wednesday night gig at McWell's and two more festival gigs in November, I'm pretty much done for the year 2010, which means a few very important things. More time spent at home with the family, in the garden and catching up on all the new projects that have been brewing over the past year. Honestly? I'm behind on my list of things to do. But this has been the busiest year of my career and a highly rewarding one - I just wish I had staff! Working for myself is highly rewarding, but you begin to reach a diminishing law of returns; a cap on what is eventually possible because one person can only do so much. Between making music, teaching, keeping tabs on all the administrative stuff, booking shows and festivals, shooting and editing video, etc., it feels sometimes like I'm wrestling alligators.

That's why I've slowly been removing things from my plate all season and trying to find a way to delegate some of what I do to others. That began in earnest this week as I discovered someone to take over designing reigns on my oh-so-cluttered website. What a blessing that is! I've also made a pretty big decision, though it wasn't too difficult. Except for my own productions, I'm no longer doing any videography work. It just takes too much time away from music, which has largely been the main focus for a couple of years. I may do the occasional outside project, if the price is right, but for the most part it will all be internal shoots and edits.

That frees up even more time to write, rehearse, teach and otherwise continue to "become." It's been incredibly humbling and flattering to have students, festival organizers, fellow instructors, performers and fans of music lay kudos on me, some with the idea that I've reached the top of my game. However, every day that I live and breathe is spent climbing the mountain because, as an artist, plateaus aren't the way to go. It should never be "it" - you should never have "enough." There's always room for improvement, clarification, imagining the possibilities. That sort of thing takes time and effort, continuously pushing for better. Every once in a while it's good to sit back and reflect upon the journey thus far, seeing how far you've come and what you've accomplished. Then, when you've caught your breath and become appreciative of your trip up the mountain, it's time to grab ahold of some rock and start climbing towards the next ledge heading skyward. Does the ascent ever cease? Not while you breathe, it shouldn't. The zenith isn't so much insurmountable as it is taller than your dreams. For each level you attain, your dreams shift and change, grow more vivid and include bigger things. And while you can always sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labors, there's always just a little something else that will plus that experience.

This fall is going to be a serious sort of mountain climbing - Half-Dome in scope. So many things I still wish to accomplish and won't be able to until I take slow, methodical action to engage the side of the cliff and put some sweat into it. Some of that may involve sitting down with an instrument and studying. Some parts may be simply existing with others, sharing life's moments and gaining inspiration from the day to day, or weeding in the garden and gathering wisdom from the soil. The School of Life is everywhere and all we have to do is look and apply.

But first, we have to make room for it in our rucksacks, or it will just fall down the side of the mountain. And at the bottom of the mountain are just a bunch of alligators, ready to be wrestled.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dive!: The Update

As I posted here, the album Dive! is an ongoing work of raw passion that is serving as my personal psychotherapy. I hope it's enjoyable to listen to - at the same time that I'm not terribly concerned with that. The line between art and entertainment is very much intact with this one.

That said, it's taking quite a while to write and record for a number of reasons and I'm not going to rush it. Originally planned as a spring release, then a fall debut, now - I'm quite sure that it's going to drop when it damn well wants to, even though we're quickly approaching a usable number of tracks. It just doesn't feel complete yet - and until it does, work will continue. Some other recordings may surface before then - in fact, I've decided on a couple of concepts that will probably be out in time for Christmas, but we'll see. One will be called "xxx Days" and will reflect a stretch of recording whatever leaps into my mind for x number of days (be very scared of that one.) The other will be an instrumental album of lullabies. The first tune, "Dare To Dream" began to take form yesterday.

It's been a bit of a tug-of-war, recording Dive! As I've explained to a few people, it hearkens back the Castaway trilogy that I released in the late 80's - songs of such brutal honesty and vein-opening candor that I can't believe anyone actually bought the stuff. But that was the artistic outpouring of a young twenty-something still not quite sure what the deal in life was all about. Dive! is more reflective and, perhaps, still very restless. My biggest worry is that people will either be put off by the edge of it, or shocked by the admissions, or even still, convinced that everything they hear will be a statement of absolute fact and conviction. Some of this stuff will be fictional - and then again, some of it won't be. There's the danger - in trusting that people will know the difference.

Basically, I don't care.

To paraphrase Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas, what you've got in you, bring it forth and it will save you. What you've got in you, keep it hidden and it will kill you. Music is a pressure release, an avenue of emotion, and for so long, ever since those early records, I've kept myself just a little bit removed from the subject matter I sing. This summer, I began to take down the shields, open the curtains and once again let it all hang out. The response has been encouraging, and with that behind me - Dive! is once again chugging into balls-out territory.

Some of the songs I thought would be on the record are no longer passing muster, tunes like "April Fools" and "I Am An Artist". They've gone by the wayside in favor of fresher, more accurate tunes that will weave all of the album together into something that actually makes sense when listened to as a whole. The latest addition to the roster came about as kind of a surprise and basically wrote itself. Cobbled together and cannibalized out of a tune called "Your Dreams And You" which had lyrics written in October of 2006, the basic feel and chord changes came to me this morning while I was preparing to continue work on the lullaby waltz "Dare To Dream." Obeying the muse, and thanking her for returning this way, I leapt right into it, knowing that a chromatic dulcimer would be needed for the changes. Influenced by the great Sam Phillips and urged on by the recent work of She & Him, it's a deceptively perky tune about the falling away of scales, the healing of wounds through deliberate emotional self-mutilation; the retraining of a barren heart. This is "How To Cry":

How To Cry
Music and Lyrics by Bing Futch
© Copyright 2010 J.O.B. Entertainment Inc.

raindrops are falling from the sky
blue eyes have come to say goodbye
no reason to be upset
I've finally gotten used to it - since you taught me how to cry

I couldn't move and couldn't speak
back then I was such a freak
didn't know and sure didn't care if
the world reflected in my stare took notice - till you taught me how to cry

bridge -

every window shows a scene
close enough to touch, and when you do
fingers leave a smudge on the glass in between
your dreams and you

you came from miles and miles away,
didn't even know the time of day
found you sleeping in my yard
come, let's go stroll the boulevard - won't you teach me how to cry?

bridge -

raindrops are falling from the sky
this is where love comes to die
right here on the highest shelf
what's wrong, don't you recognize yourself - the one who taught me how to cry?
you're the one that taught me how to cry

You can hear a rough demo of this tune over at Reverbnation.

Now that things have slowed down a bit, I expect production to pick up on this album and the other projects. I've decided NOT to produce any more Mountain Dulcimer In The Band books until these recordings are finished. It's hard enough to focus without too many things going on at once.

That is the update - and I'm going back to working on this tune.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 Bluegrass Creek with Bing and Guy George.wmv

Aloha from Evansville, Indiana!

Check out video of me and Guy George performing "Shady Grove" and "Road To Lisdoonvarna" at Bluegrass Creek Dulcimer Festival.

This e-mail was brought to you by aloha and iPhone!

Thursday, September 09, 2010


It's interesting what playing mountain dulcimer in an airport will do. People move closer to you, ask questions, and in what is ultimately the biggest blessing, thank you for playing.

It's a great way to pass the time between flights and also an opportune moment to introduce or re-introduce the instrument to people. One of my favorite things about flying with the dulcimer.

Cabin doors are closing - next stop: Evansville, Indiana.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Manitou music

We're en route to Denver after a crazy couple of days at the Mountain Music Festival. Manitou, the group, had a semi-reunion in the town where we were first brought together.

Dave Batti and Quintin Stephens weren't able to join us, but with the remaining collective (me, Robert Force, Roger Zimish, Bud Ford III and Judy Piazza.) on-stage, coupled with the magic of the area's energy, the spirit returned and the music flowed as it has always.

It's hard to blog in the vehicle, so until Denver....

Hello from Manitou Springs

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back On The Mountain

Jae and I rode into Black Mountain, North Carolina while the Sourwood Festival was in full swing. The tiny downtown was stacked with traffic as people sought parking spaces. We were headed to Cabin Creek Lodge, our digs for the weekend during which Steve and Kay Fernandez would renew their wedding vows high up on the mountain. Steve and Kay are good friends and have had me over at their Orlando home for a couple of house concerts - they also come out regularly to see me at Dicey Reilly's (now, once again, called O'Doherty's) and had asked me to participate in their ceremony, providing music.

Not only was it an honor to do so, but they also booked me into the Town Pump Tavern for a post-ceremony/reception party. The Town Pump Tavern has been around for 30 years and is a magical little place with a warm feel (partially due to the lay-lines that intersect at the stage.)

Just prior to our time in Black Mountain, Jae and I had stopped in Asheville and spent a couple of days there exploring the place. It was great to be back in the Swannanoa Valley and to be sharing it with her - even though the winding roads to get here nearly took her out. An avowed flatlander, Jae has a low tolerance for heights and curves.

All in all, it made for a magical weekend and the pictures from this North Carolina leg of the tour can be found here.

The Town Pump Tavern gig was a lot of fun (again, I played for three hours straight before a broken string forced me to take a four minute pause) and I'm looking forward to coming back some day. In the meantime, the next gigs on the horizon are this coming Friday at McWell's in Orlando; Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom on August 31st with Manitou and a return to The Logon Cafe in Beaumont, Texas on September 25th! Details on these shows can be found by checking out my gig calendar at!

Have a great week and thanks to everyone who made this weekend such a blast!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ending On A High Note

The Swannanoa Gathering rolls out over the course of five weeks in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with the final week devoted to the music of mountain and hammered dulcimer. It was my first time experiencing this mix of community, family, instruction and beauty, leaving me breathless from the journey. Besides wonderful students in intensive workshops throughout the week, the fantastic fellowship among everyone, the gorgeous campus of Warren Wilson College and incredible food in the cafeteria and during mid-morning breaks, there was plenty of jamming to be had and evening concerts that entertained as well as enlightened. I, once again, had the distinct pleasure of sharing the stage with Ken Bloom and Ken Kolodner at the Monday night instructor concert, as well as joining Kolodner and Rob Brereton during the informal lunchtime concert series.

Jae and I are actually heading back up to this area of North Carolina this weekend to spend time with friends who are having a vow rededication ceremony in the mountains. I'm looking forward to sharing this beautiful spot of the country with my wife and also getting a chance to explore it some more, as I never left the campus during the week, picking and visiting and hanging around near the beer tent with the other students and instructors (now, a dulcimer festival with a beer tent, that's a novel idea!)

Next up: I'll be starting early tomorrow night at McWell's (5 pm) and performing throughout the evening for Simon Time Trivia, which begins at 8 pm. Then, Manitou is having a partial reunion in Manitou Springs, Colorado on Saturday, August 28th where our album "In The Garden Of The Gods" was recorded, followed by a gig at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver on Tuesday, August 31st. After that, I'm actually home for awhile (imagine that.)

I'm working on getting back into the groove of things - including updating "Dulcimerica" - but for now, I'll settle for cleaning the studio, getting caught up with e-mail and, of course, picking.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Texas Sized Fun!

Well, to say that I had a blast in Texas is sort of understating the plot point. The Bayou City Music Festival was a lot of fun in Houston while t.v. appearances, workshops and a wild three-hour show at the Logon Cafe organized by Linda and Barry Evans of Sweet Sounds Dulcimer Shop was an exciting end to this stopover in the Lone Star State. I'll be back in September. Check out my three friends Gwennie (with floppy ears), Molly (all shaved up) and Briona (whom you can't miss, even if you tried.)

Now, I'm en route to Kentucky Music Weekend in Louisville. Here's a great summation of what I'll be doing there along with Stephen Seifert, from Stephen's page:

"Bing Futch and I will be teaching, performing, and contest judging THIS WEEKEND at Kentucky Music Weekend 2010 in Louisville, KY. Here's the details:
Mountain Dulcimer Workshops

10 to 11:30 AM, Saturday, July 31 - Bing Futch and I are each preparing a 90-minute lesson plan covering a kind of greatest hits of each of our most popular topics. ($20 per person) We are both presenting our material in a way that easily scales from novice to intermediate. Before we begin, we'll each talk briefly about what we're going to teach so we can split into separate groups. In addition, we will both be available throughout the weekend for private lessons at $25 per half hour. If you want to be a better player, we want to help. Just let us know.


I will be performing a 20 minute set during Friday night's concert while Bing will be performing a 20 minute set during Saturday night's concert. You might catch us both sitting in on other sets as well.

I don't care how good a player you think or don't think you are. Come to this contest and play something you've been playing for a while. Don't try anything new. Some years, there's not very many contenders. Seriously, come give it a shot."

Thanks, Steve!

Now, I'm checked into a place in Forest, Mississippi where there is a Mexican restaurant within sight across the parking lot. How cool is that? Looks like I have a date with destiny. See you soon.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Houston Means That I'm One Day Closer To You

Had a great time at the Indiana Dulcimer Festival - huge thanks to Richard Ash and everyone at Folkcraft who made this event happen. Looks like you have really started something! See a neat article here. Pictures and video are now being posted on the IDF official website.

Got home and had just enough time to pack, go to Epcot to see 2U, and then roll out for Houston, Texas where I'm now getting ready for the second day of the Bayou City Music Festival. This is my first official show in the Lone Star State and they aren't kidding about Texas hospitality (though I had a taste of that at the Winter Creek Reunion last year, where I'll be returning in October.)

Looking forward to another fun couple of days of music before heading out to Beaumont Texas on Monday to teach a workshop and perform at the Logon Cafe.

Be sure to check my Facebook page for tons of video and pictures from this final leg of summer tour!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To all who come to this happy place...

I'm safely ensconced at the hotel in Woodburn, Indiana where the first annual Indiana Dulcimer Festival is taking place today and tomorrow. When the idea first came about from Richard Ash, president of Folkcraft Instruments, it was a shining beginning to yet another chapter of a wave created by the mountain dulcimer and its many enthusiastic supporters.

It's an honor, not only to be endorsed by Folkcraft, but to be a part of this first festival and to share teaching duties with Stephen Seifert and Lois Hornbostel, performers who have directly influenced my own journey on the instrument.

We're about to embark on two days of instruction and performance on a cornerstone set by Walt Disney 55 years ago with the dedication of Disneyland. When Richard mentioned the dates, the July 17th benchmark rang like a gong in my head. So, as we go forward in celebrating the music and legacy of the mountain dulcimer, not to mention the promise of the instrument as it moves into a wonderful and progressive future, I'm reminded of the spirit that infused the opening day of such a beautiful place not so long ago.

Many pictures to come, and video. Suffice it to say that this is a special weekend to be shared with enthusiasts of music and magic alike. Peace and be well.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tour Update!

I'd like to call it a whirlwind tour, but three weeks does not a whirlwind make! It was more of a steady breeze that carried me through six state stopovers, two major festivals, a trade show, three house concert/workshops and more Mexican food than I've had in a number of months. As I've discovered, it's easier to update via the iPhone than attempt to find wi-fi and use my laptop, which is why I mainly shot tons of pictures and then posted them on Facebook. There are over 400 photos from Nashville, Tennessee (NAMM Show), Townsend, Tennessee (The Pickin' Porch and the Great Smoky Mountains), Bardstown, Kentucky (Kentucky Music Week), Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio (Doug and Deena Snapp's), Portage, Pennsylvania (JT and Missy Taylor's) and Westminister, Maryland (Common Ground On The Hill.) You can find those pictures in three albums on Facebook entitled "Summer Tour 2010" parts 1, 2 and 3. The photos and captions tell the story:

Summer Tour 2010

Summer Tour 2010 Pt. 2

Summer Tour 2010 Pt. 3

Tomorrow, I fly out to Woodburn, Indiana for the
1st Annual Indiana Dulcimer Festival, teaching and performing along with Stephen Seifert and Lois Hornbostel, both of whom I've rubbed elbows with earlier on tour. Looking forward to a great weekend at Folkcraft Instruments headquarters. Returning on Monday, I'll have a quick shot at Epcot to see U2 tribute band 2U before climbing back into Buster and heading westwards to Houston, Texas for the Bayou City Music Festival, thereby kicking off the second leg of this crazy summer tour.

I'll try to be better about at least posting updates here on the blog - but if you follow me on Facebook and/or
Twitter, you'll probably get more info until I'm back home with reliable wifi.

Many thanks to those of you who have signed up for the mailing list and regularly drop a line to say "hey". I do my best to answer each e-mail in timely fashion and sometimes the spam filter arbitrarily grabs a message. If you don't hear back from me, try again. We'll see you on the road.

There are Hotwire coupons you can use to get here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Energy of Excited

Going on tour is always an exciting prospect and, after it's all said and done, I'm also excited to come home as well. Variety is truly the spice of life for Sagittarius and it sometimes makes me do crazy things. Like last night, after The Pub Thang and Simon Time Trivia at McWell's - I packed up my gear, put it in Buster, went home, unpacked, re-packed, said goodbye to Jae and hopped in for a ten-hour drive to Nashville. Normally, I'll break up anything over eight hours into two days, but for some reason, I figured that I could do this without getting any sleep. I was right.

It's currently 4 p.m. ET and I've now been up for a consecutive 31 hours and showing no signs of fading. Too early to knock off now - better wait until later in the evening. Got a long day at NAMM tomorrow.

Met up with Richard and Nick from Folkcraft - got my exhibitor badge, heard some music at Tootsie's and checked into the hotel room, which is niftily within walking distance of Broadway. Hopefully, this time around, I'll get a chance to see 16th Avenue.

But for now, I'm thinking "pool." Pool, and maybe a nap.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Good News and Bad News

I know, when someone says that to me, "I've got good news and bad news", the heart starts to racing a little faster. Since there's more timely news to present here, I'll actually save the bad news for last. If you simply can't stand it anymore, you can jump to the end of this post. But be sure to come back!

TONIGHT! Earth Trivia and The Pub Thang at McWell's Restaurant (6/9)

We're trying something new with the Wednesday nights at McWell's in Orlando. Throughout the summer, I will be there on the 2nd Wednesday of each month and then we'll boost it to every week. However, starting with last week, every Wednesday will be Earth Trivia with Simon, starting at 8 p.m. On weeks that I'm there, the music will begin at 7 p.m. and continue until trivia starts. Then, I'll be performing during breaks in the trivia until it's over at 10 p.m. and then the music continues on until 11 p.m. More details are on the site at - tonight will be the first evening where we try the new format, so please come out and have some fun with us! Besides the usual drink specials and .50 cent wings - you can also compete with other teams to win a $25 bar tab and more!


I'm still performing this Saturday, June 12th, at Dicey Reilly's, but will not be performing on June 11th due to a scheduling mishap. The show will launch, as always, at 7 p.m. and if it gets even half as wild as the last time I was there, better bring your dancing shoes.


I will be in Nashville, Tennessee next week for four days, demonstrating at the Folkcraft Instruments booth during Summer NAMM Show. Actual dates of the show are Friday, June 18th - Sunday, June 20th and I'll be arriving on Thursday, June 17th. Though the music trade show is closed to the general public, you may be one of those folks who actually has a badge to get in. Folkcraft will be at booth #907 on show days - come by and say hello! If you're interested in getting a private lesson while I'm in town, just drop me an e-mail and we'll set something up. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. I will not be available for private lessons on Sunday due to an immediate departure time after the show - destination: Kentucky Music Week in Bardstown, Kentucky.


Besides Kentucky Music Week (if you're going, you probably already know what I'm teaching by now), I'll be swinging back through Tennessee into Townsend to perform again on The Pickin' Porch at Wood 'n' Strings Dulcimer Shop. June 26th is the date and I'll also be teaching three workshops that are geared towards all skill levels. The schedule looks like it might roll this way:

Noon - 1:30 p.m. - Mountain Dulcimer Boot Camp (90 minutes)

1:45 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. - Get Rhythm (90 minutes)

3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. - Jamming Without A Net (90 minutes)

(90 minute Workshops) - $35 per person ($30 if taking more than one workshop)

Concert will be at 6 p.m. and workshops will take place in the lower level of the building behind the dulcimer shop. This info may change - so please check with Cherith at the shop before heading out on Saturday, June 26th.


I just booked two more events today, so the details are still being assembled, but if you're interested - I've got contact information for you.

Thursday, July 1st will be a day-long event in Columbus, Ohio organized by Doug Snapp (614 313-6424 - I'll be teaching a number of workshops and also performing in concert as well as offering private lessons to anyone who'd like. If you're within driving distance of Columbus, be sure to contact Doug if you're interested in attending and he'll give you the details!

Saturday, July 3rd will likewise be a day-long event; Portage Dulcimer Day, organized by JT Taylor (814-659-8254 - Once again, I'll be doing a handful of workshops and also an evening concert as well as private lessons. Be sure to contact JT if you're interested in attending.

Common Ground On The Hill

Which all leads to Westminster, Maryland for Common Ground On The Hill. This is an extraordinary event, unique, and it's my first time attending so I'm very excited! I'll be teaching mountain dulcimer as well as Native American flute.

These dates are all listed above and you can also click on the "Tickets" link for more information. There's much more to come this summer, of course, with the Indiana Dulcimer Festival just around the corner in Woodburn, Indiana as well as the Bayou City Music Festival in Houston, Texas. There will be some additional new dates popping up in the south Texas area, so be sure to check my schedules on the websites (one easy place to look is


With the economy continuing to wear away at everyone's reserves and an environmental disaster looming off of the Florida coast, we have decided to cancel the 2nd Annual Key West Dulcimer Fest. We managed to squeak by earlier this year, though we had plenty of cancellations credited to the eroding state of finances in the U.S. and overseas. As we did lose money this first year, it seemed prudent not to move forward with the festival for next year until we can ascertain whether the times will improve for everyone. We sure hate to give in - but tough times call for tough calls. We do expect to continue the festival at some point in the future and, of course, you will hear about it here first.

Speaking of "first", if you skipped down to the bottom to read this - please return to the top of this message and read the rest - it might cheer you up. It had that effect on me. : )

I'm looking forward to seeing many of you on the road soon. Everyone travel safe and get ready for a fun, musical summer!

Me ke aloha,


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Well, Oh Well, Oh 'Wellyn'

Click to hear "Wellyn"

Okay, so this started off as a "testing one-two-three" and turned out to be a not-bad knock-out of "Wellyn" by Robert Force.

What makes this track remarkable is that both dulcimer parts were recorded, E.Q.ed and mixed on my iPhone.

As many of you know, I've been an iPhone owner for about three weeks or so after a long courtship with the Blackberry Curve 8310. Jae and I both upgraded at the same time (we're with AT&T) but figured we couldn't both afford to get the pricey Apple gadget, so I took the bullet and initially figured that the split would be fine. It didn't take long to begin silently envying and likewise coveting her iPhone.

Now that I've got one, it's quite clear why. It rocks. In ways the Blackberry could only dream about.

Take, for example, this app called Four Track.

This is pretty sick stuff. You've got a basic four-track recorder which uses the iPhone's built-in microphone. You'll need a set of headphones, with or without the microphone. You lay down track one, then track two while track one plays back. You add some percussion and bounce it over to track four and then begin filling up tracks one through three with other instruments and even some vocals. Just like the real thing only you're doing it on your iPhone.

Once you've recorded your tracks, you can do a number of things, from post-recording equalization to mixing down or copying to a clipboard for use in other applications. Then, when you're ready to do something more with it - you can sync via Wi-Fi to any nearby computer with a browser, download the mix or all of your single tracks in .wav format to use in your digital audio workstation (DAW.)

People are creating entire albums with this app - and, as you can hear - the sound quality has an unmistakable "you are there" sense about it. Just incredible. It's not a .99 cent app by any means, but considering what you're getting in this sleek-yet-powerful package, eight additional bucks is a small price to pay.

Jot down musical ideas, create arrangements, lay the groundwork for your first or next album. Sure, there are a few things wanting (like lack of a metronome or quantize feature), but apparently those are fixes that have probably already been worked into the next version. I've got some pretty cool apps in the past three weeks, but I'm gonna have to say that this one is just the coolest of them all.

Dulcimerica 161 - "Key West Dulcimer Fest Pt. 3"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More, Please...

Quite a rowdy time was had at Dicey Reilly's Irish Pub this past weekend, thanks to all who came out and participated (loudly) in the evening's music. From "Seven Drunken Nights" to "The Time Warp" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", it was a sing-along, dance-along, get the beer steins and pint glasses swaying kind of an evening; just the way we likes it.

There is the hint of making this happen a lot more down there at Dicey's, which comes right on the heels of a suggestion that it may also happen a lot more up at McWell's in Orlando. Which simply means that you'll have more opportunity to come out, raise your glasses and sing until you're hoarse, dance until you're sore and have lots of great stories to tell over the weekend as you recuperate.

I'll have more info about that as the details develop. In the meantime, I'm buried under a moving wall of video right about now and won't be surfacing for at least a week, so I'll take this time to wish all of you a blessed Memorial Day and we'll see you on the flipside!

Friday, May 07, 2010

This Week's Shows and A CHALLENGE!

Two out of three gigs this week are passed and it's been quite a lot of fun! First, The Pub Thang at McWell's for Cinco de Mayo and then last night at The Plaza Theater with K-G & the Band. Great grooves - two big nights of music, you'd think my fingers would be worn out, but I'm ready for more jamming and will do so tonight at Fresh Aroma Bistro Cafe in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

It's a unique show, sort of what we used to do with Open Mic Extreme; have an open mic with also featured performers. The open mic begins at 7:30 p.m. and I go on at 9 p.m. with the open mic continuing after that, I believe.

After this, we're back at McWell's for The Pub Thang next Wednesday, the 12th on our regular night, second Wednesday of each month.

Interval Ear Training Contest

Many of you are familiar with the Interval Ear Trainer that I blogged about here at some point. Understanding, and being able to recognize, intervals is one grand step towards building better melodies, playing chords on-the-fly and generally becoming more at-ease with your instrument. I typically will test myself on 100 to 200 intervals every day. The more you keep at it, the better you will get.

Starting something new here, occasionally I'll issue a challenge to equal or beat my interval score, which I'll post here. In order to participate in the challenge, you must be able to take a screen capture of your score from the Interval Ear Trainer site:

Here's my first challenge:

1. Score 100% by correctly identifying 50 intervals.
2. Be one of the first three to post a comment to this thread.
3. E-mail your .jpg proof to me at
4. I'll send you your choice of CD from my store.

Sorry about the perfect score for a starter. : ) Trust me, it's not always the case, so some of these challenges will be a little easier to match or beat. Anyway, have fun with it and do it every day - you'll find that not only do you get better at it, but you'll start to "hear" the music in your head before you play the notes on your dulcimer, making for lots of magic!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Chord Voicings - "Figure Eight"

One of the best ways to get acquainted with your mountain dulcimer, diatonic or chromatic, is to figure out songs on them, trying as hard as you can to perfectly match the chords. As many dulcimer players well know, this can be pretty difficult with a diatonic dulcimer, as there are notes missing.

That's one of the reasons that I got into chromatic dulcimer - wanting to maintain a relative ease of play (the chord shapes for dd-A-D tuning are the same, you just have to adjust for an additional fret space here and there) but eager to perform and write songs without having to do a whole bunch of "leaving out" or "fudging" of chords. I'm currently working on a method book for the chromatic dulcimer which will include examples of how to discern not only standard chords (Majors, minors and sevenths) but also so-called "extension" or "color" chords (the term "chromatic" comes from the latin root "chroma" which means "color") like 6ths, 9ths, Major and minor sevenths, minor sixths, augmented, diminished, etc.

This is yet another very simple look at figuring out chords on chromatic dulcimer, in the same vein as our looks at "Wichita Lineman" and "Her Diamonds." Chords for both of those songs are readily available online as guitar tablature. Trouble with that is sometimes the author of the tab gets it wrong. Another problem with that is if it's anything more than chord symbols, you're going to have a time transposing guitar tablature to dulcimer tablature due to the different tuning. One of the best reasons for coming up with your own chord charts, lead sheets and tab is that if you trust your ear, you're bound to come up with the truest version of a tune that anyone could find.

That certainly goes for this tune, beloved by many, which has haunted me ever since early childhood. "Figure Eight" is the somewhat dark and classical ditty that has helped millions of kids learn their 8 timetables through that bastion of whimsical and entertaining education "Schoolhouse Rock!" "Figure Eight" and "Little Twelvetoes" were two of my favorite songs due to their complex chords, beguiling melodies and nifty arrangements. As I learned while sussing out the chords for "Figure Eight", this tune's a real workout when it comes to the changes.

Figure Eight
Music and Lyrics by Bob Dorough

Cm C#
Figure eight as double four,
G Cm

Figure four as half of eight.

If you skate, you would be great
G Cm 

If you could make a figure eight

Fm G Cm 

That's a circle that turns 'round upon itself.

Cm C#
One times eight is two times four.

G Cm

Four times four is two times eight.

If you skate upon thin ice,

G Cm
You'd be wise if you thought twice

Fm G Cm
Before you made another single move.

C G/B Gm/Bb F/A
One times eight is eight, two times eight is 16,
Fm/Ab C/G Am6/F# Fm6

Three times eight is 24, four times eight is 32,
C/E Cdim Dm7 G C

And five times eight is 40, you know.

C G/B Gm/Bb F/A
Six times eight is 48, seven times eight is 56,
Fm/Ab C/G Am6/F# Fm6

Eight times eight is 64, nine times eight is 72,

C/E Cdim Dm7 G C

And ten times eight is 80, that's true.

Em F D7/F# G
Eleven times eight is 88, and twelve times eight is 96.

Now, here's a chance to get off
On your new math tricks.

'Cause twelve times eight is the same as

Ten times eight plus two times eight


80 plus 16 ... ninety-six!

C G/B Gm/Bb F/A
One times eight is eight, two times eight is 16,
Fm/Ab C/G Am6/F# Fm6

Three times eight is 24, four times eight is 32,
C/E Cdim Dm7 G C

And five times eight is 40, you know.

Cm C#
Figure eight as double four,
G Cm

Figure four as half of eight.

If you skate, you would be great
G Cm 

If you could make a figure eight
Fm G Cm 

That's a circle that turns 'round upon itself.

Ab Fm C
Place it on its side and it's a symbol meaning Infinity...

As with the other two songs (and many other arrangements you'll want to explore), one of the most memorable aspects of this tune is its descending bass line that runs through all of the chords in the chorus. Starting with the root note "C" at the bass of a C Major chord, the descending notes are:

C - B - Bb - A - Ab - G - Gb - F - E - Eb - D and then a resolution with the chords entering G and then C.

The trick in listening to the tune (no tablature for this tune on the web, at least not where I looked) and figuring out the chords is to maintain that bass line structure or the song just doesn't sound the same. I've done the hard work - now can you figure out how to play these chords? Can you see the pattern? Can you discover which inversion you would need in order to play these chords so that they sound correct?

Let's revisit the concept behind inversions or "slash chords":

A basic 1-3-5 or 1-b3-5 chord is going to have the root note on the bottom, the middle note in the middle and the fifth at the end or top. Using different chord voicings can change the fundamental sound of a chord, even though it uses the same notes, by rearranging the order of the notes. For example, changing the order of notes so that the third is on the bottom, acting as the bass or root - it becomes a first inversion.

So, a C major chord: C - E - G would become E - C - G.

Now, make the fifth the bottom or root note, and you have a second inversion.

G - C - E

When you write out a chord symbol for an inversion, it's often called a "slash chord." You'll see the chord symbol and then a slash and then another note. The note after the slash indicates that this is what the root or bass note should be. So, a first inversion C chord would look like this: C/E

A second inversion C chord would read: C/G

Here below are some chromatic chord shape charts. What I've done here is simply laid out the shapes for chords coming out of the key of D. By moving these shapes up and down the fretboard, paying close attention to the location of the root, you can play in any key. I keep the chromatic tuned to dd-A-D for the time being.

If you haven't already, it's a good idea to learn where all of your notes are on the fretboard. Once you've got that and the fundamental chord shapes, you can play anything!

A key to reading these charts, if you're not familiar with them. First, the number on the left side represents the fret number that it's sitting next to. For this purpose, I'm counting frets like a guitar, numbering 1-12 for an octave, no half-frets here. The numbers on the notes themselves reflect the scale degree of the note (R = root, b3 = flat or minor third, etc.) Sometimes you'll see a chord shape that doesn't include the root, in which case there's normally a trick to suss out what the root is (in the case of the minor 6th, it's three frets up from the "6th" note.)

Have fun!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Catching Up With Myself (and the rest of the world)

Dulcimers On The Green in Central City, Kentucky was the very next stop after a rowdy night of "The Pub Thang" in Orlando. I whisked up Interstate 75 and stopped overnight in Signal Mountain, Tennessee at the home of Dan Landrum, editor of Dulcimer Players News. We then set out in the afternoon of the next day and got into Central City with enough time to have some Mexican food at El Bracero and get checked into our rooms.

This first-year festival was quite a joy - great music and jams, lots to see and do. But what made this different was the entire teaching staff was given a key to the city during an opening night welcome party. Here, Mayor Jerry Mitchell is pictured presenting me with the first key. It's never happened before and who knows if it will happen again? All I know is, it was pretty darn cool.

(pictured above l-r, Stephen Seifert, me and Dan Landrum) After Saturday workshops, we had a break for dinner and then the concert at the Merle Travis Music Center.

All in all it was a lovely time - Dan and I headed back to Tennessee right after the concert and then I switched horses in Signal Mountain and continued on home to Orlando where I was greeted by my lovely wife, Jae. We then headed out to meet our dear friends from McWell's over at Epcot and proceeded to zip around, having fun as you do.

Finally, a week later, we met those very same friends on board the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas to help celebrate Andy Weller's birthday (it had been a surprise cruise in the making for a number of months - hard to keep this secret!) We set sail for Nassau in the Bahamas and disappeared off the radar for the weekend. It was my first cruise and I'm still sort of in denial that we're back in Orlando, getting back to the grind of things.

Knowing that I was going to be caught up in the cruise afterglow this week, I took the liberty of already shooting the second installment of "Dulcimerica" dealing with blues on the mountain dulcimer - it will be posted on YouTube tomorrow morning as well as at Thanks for all of the kind words - glad you enjoyed part one!

It's a busy week here - lots to do. Hope you have a great one - watch this space for more soon!