Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Che hun ta mo!

First of all, thanks for all of the birthday wishes! It never ceases to amaze me just how many people I actually know or have met at some point in time. There's a memory for each and every one of you; you're keeping company with the music that's been roiling about in my head and in my dreams.

If you haven't downloaded "Last Christmas" yet, it's free to members of my mailing list. If you'd like to join, or are already a member, visit this page. Click "Become Fan" to join the list - or click on the "download" button next to each of the tracks beginning with "The Little Drummer Boy" and finishing with "What Child Is This?" (but feel free to download any other tracks in the music player - I rotate them occasionally, so you never know what you might find there, however briefly.

Key West Dulcimer Fest CANCELED

In case you hadn't heard (and it hadn't been posted here), we've cancelled the Key West Dulcimer Fest indefinitely. We had two great years that are already legendary. Now, a perfect storm of reasons and influences have conspired to consign that to history, at least in the shape of a festival. Words were murmured not long after the first outing in 2010 about the anarchical nature of the Kindred Gathering, which takes place in a different venue each year.

There will be a handful of us down in Key West on the original dates of the festival (January 26th - 29th, 2012) but there is absolutely nothing planned. We're simply going to hang out, enjoy the tropical weather, play a lot of music and go with the tide. Anyone traveling that far to the end of the United States is probably industrious enough to deftly locate the group for a meet-up and, if private lessons and masters classes happen, there you are, quite literally.

Now, if that kind of logic worked alongside of the creation of my daily schedule, I'd be in a far better place when peering at the calendar.

Burrowing Again

DΔ - G/D - Em

I've been working on "Dive!" for about three years now; it's sort of like a volcano slowly returning to life. This is the time of year when I typically work on big projects, so here's hoping that this baby gets born this spring - tired of carrying it around.

And the old year feels the same way, I'm sure. Bring on the baby and let the reaper sleep!

Here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thanks for all you do and are!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Home For The Holidays

Che hun ta mo!

Well, Rita and I rolled into Orlando a week ago on Sunday, officially coming to the end of The RV Project Tour 2011! Some preliminary numbers for you: we traveled to or through 28 states including Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, District of Columbia, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, New Jersey, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Connecticut, Kentucky and Arkansas! From California to New York, we criss-crossed the United States, racking up 17,599 miles and performing on 60 different days at various festivals, house concerts, churches, pubs, clubs and coffee houses. Though we hit a few mechanical snags along the way (most notably, alternator troubles in Pennsylvania and New York, air conditioning issues in Tennessee and a sort of benign incident with a tire), Rita, the '91 Winnebago Warrior with the heart of gold, sallied forth into both boiling deserts and freezing mountains with great determination and never once failed to get me to the show on time. I feel very confident that Rita will be around for another round of touring in 2012. I wish to thank Folkcraft Instruments for their official endorsement and support of this tour. Thanks also to V-Picks, for making the best dulcimer pick ever - and General Case, for helping to protect my Folkcraft dulcimers while on the road.

Besides getting there, the next joyful experience was BEING there. Whether it was sharing music and visiting with folks or camping out at a state park, this was an amazing few seasons of experiencing American life. From spring at the start of tour, through the blazing summer and into the chill of fall, I've watched the colors change, tasted the harvest bounty from early gardens and late farms, seen so much more than my fair share of this great country and have come back with more inspiration and determination than ever to continue creating and channeling music. It's not mere dramatics to state that this past six months has been the most incredible, defining and eye-opening journey of my entire life. Quite honestly - I'm a different person today for having made the trip. The result is a combination of all the people I've met and shared time with, all the places I've been and all the music that was the soundtrack for the past half a year.
It's appropriate that Rita and I arrived back home during the week of Thanksgiving because there are so many things that I'm thankful for in this life. I'm thankful for the gift of music that God gives to all of us; thankful for my encouraging and supportive wife, Jae, for sending me back out into the world for weeks at a time in order to fulfill my musical purpose; thankful for the freedom to travel and explore this beautiful country; thankful for the many wonderful friends that I've met along the way and, most of all, thankful for everyone who helped to make The RV Project Tour 2011 a blazing success! This is one, quite literally, for the record books, and if it never happens again, I've still got a whole lifetime of memories (and pictures) to savor and hold within my heart.


The Pub Thang returns to McWell's (4757 S. Orange Ave., Orlando) at 6 pm this Thursday, December 1st. I'll once again be performing everything from traditional and original music to obscure covers and your requests.

Then, December 3rd - it's a special holiday concert and I'll be opening for the wonderful duo Four Shillings Short!

7:00 – 10:00pm
IN CELEBRATION OF WINTER - a night of Seasonal music, stories & poetry with Bing Futch and Four Shillings Short


2218 Vincent Road

Orlando, FL 32817

$15.00 cover

Rsvp Requested: Mark Fodor (407) 923-0712 or


Those are my only two public shows for the month of December - the rest of the performances are all for-hire private events, so come out and share the one time of year that I play Christmas music!

"Last Christmas"

Last year, Folkcraft Instruments commissioned me to record a solo mountain dulcimer Christmas recording which was made available to their customers. This year, I'm making it available to those of you who are on my mailing list. You can download the music here. If you're not on the mailing list and want to join now to get this limited time release - you can sign up here.

Thanks a bunch! Have fun out there!

Sho na bish,


Friday, October 28, 2011

Dulcimerica 189 - RV Project: Dulcimerville

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winter Is Rising

Winter Is Rising
Music and lyrics by Bing Futch

Turn your eyes and look behind,
See where you've been;
Swim through every memory,
Swallow every scene.

Nothing can prepare you
For the future unknown,
Except the dreams you've had
Along the path that takes you home.


Caught between a rock and a hard place,
The screen and the window;
You can't see through me,
As hard as the wind blows.

So toughen up baby,
And get ready for the chill,
Because winter is rising
Over the hill.

Used to be a dealer
Of promises true,
Now all your words are second-hand,
What happened to you?

You're just another bullet
Looking for a gun,
Waiting at the station,
But the train never come



Whispers on the breeze
Sighing of the sun;
Fading far and fast
Now it has begun

The harvest of the heart,
Table my faith

Copyright 2011 JOB Entertainment Inc.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

RV Project Tour: Third Leg

I'm parked on the Perrin Limousin Cattle Ranch in Decatur, Texas where Rusty and Marcy Perrin raise Limousin cattle for breeding.  As one of two couples who went for the "Total Package" as offered during the fund-raising for the RV Project Tour, the Perrin's pre-bought a bunch of stuff that included albums and books, registration for the Key West Dulcimer Fest and my presence at their home for a week to do various chores and perform a private concert.

What this means for me is that I get to do a whole lot of real cool things that I've never had the chance to do before.  Herding cattle and experiencing farm life; it's like the county fair but a whole lot better!

This leg of the tour has been wonderful - and so very different from the first two legs through the southeast and northeast.  Going back home to California was a huge element in just how different this leg was; meeting up with old junior high school and high school friends was a blast.

Traveling through the great southwest was a welcoming sensation as it's been so long since I had been back in my native region.  Then, getting to explore Oklahoma more than before with a nice voyage through Texas taking place right now - the climates are all different than this summer and the experiences are composed of much different dynamics - all of it good; from the festivals of the south and southeast in early June to the various small towns and big events of colonial North America - I have seen more than my fair share of the country in the past few months and it's been awesome!

Woven throughout all of this is the music.  Music made and discovered, music shared and explored - I've been recording snippets of time since June and I'm looking forward to revisiting the moments when the fourth and final leg is completed in November.  For now, there are still many thousands of miles to go and many thousands of smiles to be smiled. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Storm's Sigh - New CD!

NEW RELEASE! Bing Futch - "Storm's Sigh" - $15.00

1. Intro
2. Out Of Dreaming
3. A Muse Sing
4. Homeland
5. Lubby’s Lullabye
6. Weight Of The Way
7. The Girl and the Book
8. Storm’s Sigh
9. The Road

Listen to a 7-minute sampling of all 9 tracks!

I do a lot of recording and about 90% of it just sits on the hard drive and waits for re-tooling. The other 10% gradually takes form and turns into albums sooner or later. This summer, I've been busy tracking for "The RV Project: Official Album" and, of course, I've been working on songs for "Dive!" now for about two years. Where this one snuck in, I have no clue, but I've always wanted to do an album like "Storm's Sigh." It's an all-original, instrumental recording that was, at first, going to be called "Calm Before The Storm" because it represented such a mellow state-of-mind before the absolute insanity that "Dive!" will present.

The tracks are a mixture of tunes that I've written and also ideas that were improvised in the studio. There are inspirational nods to such "space-music" kings as Ray Lynch and Steve Roach, both of whom were pretty influential in my early music career. "Storm's Sigh" also features a re-visitation of the title track from my 1987 release "The Girl and the Book", which could rightly be seen as the very first atmospheric instrumental record that I ever produced. This new release combines mountain dulcimer, Native American flute, percussion and very unapologetic synthesizers. In fact, this is not a mountain dulcimer record so much as it is simply a Bing Futch record that features mountain dulcimer. But there it is, front and center in sparse arrangements, albeit garnished by copious amounts of synthetic bits and bytes. What's key here are the wide-open spaces and melancholy melodies that have always been a hallmark of my non-dulcimer music. Much of this is accomplished with chromatic mountain dulcimer - though a good portion of what you'll hear is all done on standard instruments. The link above features a 7-minute .mp3 file containing a snippet of each of the 9 tracks from the release.

The record will ship beginning Wednesday. Being home for four weeks allowed for the completion of this record - and now, I've got 7,000 more miles to travel on THE RV PROJECT TOUR, which re-launches on Friday, September 16th. More updates soon!

Monday, August 15, 2011

On The Trail

At one point in time on the current leg of tour, I was camped at Harmonie State Park in New Harmony, Indiana where you could look across the Wabash River and see Illinois. Now, a scant week later (even less), I'm at Trail Of Tears State Park in Jackson, Missouri, looking across the Mississippi River back at the state of Illinois. Of course, during this past week, I spent four days in Belleville at the Gateway Dulcimer Festival and had a great time. Not only did I get to hang out with Guy and Sharrie George, make lots of music and new friends and work in classes with eager students, but I also adopted a stray kitten that had been living in a corner of the parking lot. I named her Samantha Snows, partially after the character in "Bewitched", who is seen as a black cat in the animated title sequence, partially because she was discovered at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine.

Before this, it was back to Townsend, Tennessee for another fantastic day of workshops and a concert at the Pickin' Porch. It was a unique night, with not only Mike and Connie Clemmer performing as usual, but also featuring didgeridoo player Josh Carroll, young mountain dulcimer whiz Bradley Ellis and my buddy Butch Ross. Fun times all around!

Tomorrow, I'll head back to Tennessee for gigs in Nashville and Sevierville. Be sure to check the show calendar on this page for more info

Sho na bish,


From iPhone with love.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Live From The Dutch Barn at Old Songs

(Photo by Bill Spence)

Here's a snippet of my concert in the Dutch Barn at Old Songs Festival in Altamont, New York. This clip opens with me talking about my unusual double-fretboard dulcimer and then moving on to the original tune "Nowhere, Nevada."

"Nowhere" (Live at Old Songs) MP3

A Tale Of Two Ponies

In June, I stayed with Michael Vickey on the elevated shores of Lake Erie in Northeast, Pennsylvania (which is located, ironically enough, in the northwest corner of the state) and some great jams resulted. Vickey and Mark Zimmer of the Good For Nuthin' String Band lent dulcimer and guitar to an evening of music that was captured on recording, a portion of which is represented here. The regional differences of "Spotted Pony" meet face to face in this snippet from the session.

"Two Ponies" - MP3

I start off with the version of "Spotted Pony" that I'm familiar with and Mark Zimmer begins to play backup guitar. Michael Vickey soon joins in with his rendition and the two versions combine to form a lively jam. This is a sneak preview of "The RV Project: Official Album" available only to tour contributors.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gotta Lotta Catchin' Up To Do

Well, that look says it all, don't it? "MAN! Staying connected online when roving parts of the country with little to no cel phone service is difficult!" Suffice it to say that a LOT has happened since July 4th. Which is why you see me standing above on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium; former home of the Grand Ol' Opry.

Common Ground On The Hill was fantabulous - had a lot of great interactions with musicians and plenty of good jam sessions, some of which were captured on recording and will be heard in the upcoming "RV Project: Official Album." After departing, McDaniels College in Westminster, MD - I headed out on a mini-tour of Pennsylvania State Parks, stopping at Cowan's Gap in Fort Loudon and spending a few idyllic days at Trough Creek in James Creek.

Rita and I enjoyed a week of camping, hiking, mountain biking and just plain sitting around and doing nothing, which was mighty nice after that last burst of rushing around between New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland! After that bit of recharging, I headed up to Portage, PA for Portage Dulcimer Day and had a great time with JT Taylor and the folks who came out for a day of workshops and the concert.

With the final stop on the first leg of tour complete, I angled for setting out early in the morning to begin the long journey back home. Up to this point, Rita held together fast and braved the harsh weather and road conditions for a spectacular shakedown tour. However, knowing that the alternator wasn't long for this world, I knew that there would be trouble up the road and, as it turns out, it wasn't that far up the road. In fact - after rolling out at 6 am to traverse the Dutch country hills, Rita made it fifteen minutes before the engine began to sputter up those inclines and the headlights began to dim in concert with the dash lights - classic signs of a failing alternator. I cruised to a stop in front of an old abandoned restaurant and wrestled with the lack of cel reception before finally landing Triple A and getting a ride down to Bedford, PA where Rita was fixed up and ready to go for the rest of the way. A quick stop over north of Richmond, Virginia and we made it home in decent time.

Long enough to have a visit to Epcot and then.....

Jae, Sheri and I hit the road again - this time heading for Kentucky where we planned to visit some bourbon distilleries en route to the Indiana Dulcimer Festival.

The Indiana Dulcimer Festival was great, sharing the staff duties with Stephen Seifert, Lois Hornbostel, Butch Ross, Aaron O'Rourke, Rob Brereton and Katie Geringer. There was also Woodburn Day In The Park going on simultaneously, so Folkcraft dulcimer players were featured in the parade (we rode on a flatbed trailer.) There was also some razzle-dazzle showmanship going on that introduced me and Steve Seifert to a concert in the park, opening for and then sharing the stage with the Dixie Bee-Liners.

Unfortunately, Jae got ill during the festival; complications from the bronchitis that had been plaguing her while I was on tour. Luckily, she recovered enough to enjoy the rest of the trip; a journey to Nashville and all that goes with it!

While in Nashville, strolling Broadway, I sat in with the Craig Curtis band at Legend's Corner and Bart Hansen (guitarist for Loretta Lynn) at the Whiskey Bent Saloon. (Including The Stage, that makes three Honky Tonk Row establishments that I've performed at now.) We wrapped things up with a visit to the Ryman and then brought it on home.

We're enjoying some downtime, though a lot of this being home involves just getting ready for the next leg of tour! Coming up will be a return to The Pickin' Porch in Townsend, TN and a first-time stint at the Gateway Festival in Belleville, IL. I will do my best to stay on top of things as we go. The next big outing will be in September as I hit the road for the southern United States, west coast and midwest for a month. Of course, I've been pretty diligent about getting pictures and recordings (the latter, I'm working on) and you can catch up with all of the photos on Facebook using the following links:

RV Project Tour: Part One

RV Project Tour: Part Two

RV Project Tour: Part Three

RV Project Tour: Part Four

Monday, July 04, 2011


Wi-Fi has been hard to come by on the road, so I've checked in via social media for the past week or so. So much to say and show, with the big boundary being a little tiny touch screen on the iPhone. Since my last post, much has happened which has brought me to Westminster, Maryland for Common Ground On The Hill.

Old Songs Festival was fantastic! Though the weather was a little moist, it didn't deter the concert audiences from enjoying the music. It made camping onsite at the Altamont Fairgrounds a little like Woodstock, but everyone still seemed to have a great time. Aside from my sets on the main stage and in the Dutch Barn, I taught Three Irish Ballads, engaged singers with a Disney Songs workshop and also participated in a flute summit. My final workshop was all about right and left hand rhythms and turned out to be the most highly attended class. The Dutch band Kapriol' had come out and seen my set at the Old Songs community center on June 18th and we hit it off then, so it was a joy to have percussionist Ad Bos join me on-stage Friday night at the festival with the band inviting me to join them on-stage during their "Going Dutch" set in the Dutch Barn. The music was spectacular, the food was great and the mood was buoyant - a real feel-good festival atmosphere and I made lots of new friends!

After the festival, I ventured up onto the Helderberg Encarpment and relaxed, ate and played cigar box dulcimer before going to hang out at Bill and Andy Spence's house for a day, joining the Old Songs Festival staff for an Italian dinner and then departing on the next day for a whirlwind trip through Connecticut and then Mifflintown and Lancaster, Pennsylvania where all three days of workshops and concerts went splendidly.

July 1st brought me to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I toured the battlefields with Sam Fuson and then performed an epic eight hour set at the Garryowen Irish Pub. The owners had told me to perform for as long as I liked and, with a full house upstairs, I kept going until I literally just couldn't go anymore. From 6 pm to 2:30 a.m., I played, stopping only for bathroom breaks and once to grab an extension cord for my wireless amplifier, which ran out of battery juice due to the sheer length of the set. Deb and Sam Fuson were wonderful hosts and the folks at the Garryowen were a sweet and hospitable bunch, even allowing me a spot in the back of the pub to camp for the night. The next day brought a workshop and house concert at Sam and Deb's - another great opportunity to share the mountain dulcimer with folks who may have not been familiar with it. This was a rare show where I presented the music fully acoustic with no amplification. It sure is nice that way!

Finally, I hit the road for Westminster, Maryland and that's where I'm at now; sitting in Rita with the air conditioner doing its best to keep things cool while the slowly dying compressor wheezes and sighs and gallumphs on and off. I'll be here for a full week with performances at the Common Ground Festival on Saturday. The festival continues Sunday, though I have no performances scheduled, it will be nice to hang out for a while before heading off for a state park somewhere in Pennsylvania. I have no idea where yet - but I'll have a few days to chill out and decompress before Portage Dulcimer Day; my final stop on this leg of the tour.

Though this has been a long journey, in hindsight, it seems to have flown by incredibly quickly! When you're living each moment, they exist in perfect space, filling your life with the magical little (and large) experiences that are woven together into memories. When you look back, the individual pieces of the quilt seem smaller than when you were stitching them together; a curious quirk of the life already lived. All the more reason to sink deeply into life as it happens, enjoying each and every event, no matter how minor or major.

The RV lifestyle comes with a slightly slower pace for just about everything, and this mindset has taken me to some pretty amazing parts of the country where I've visited with lots of extraordinary and interesting people. For this day, where we celebrate the independence of the United States, it's extremely rewarding to have spent time in some of the smallest hamlets and to have cruised through some of the largest cities (a middle-of-the-night cruise through the streets of Manhattan was an eye-opener) with the end result being a better understanding of this country and its people. I'm grateful for the opportunity, humbled and overjoyed by the experience and blessed by each person I've met on the road. And to think that this tour has really only just begun!

Happy 4th of July! Have a great time today and tonight, whatever you do!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I hung out at Sampson State Park for all of the morning, grabbing my mountain bike and going for a ride along Seneca Lake and around the museum before coming back to breakfast and a quick visit to the dumping station before heading out for Voorheesville. Rita got a good taste of the New York rollercoaster roads as we got into Poestenkill and stayed the night camped near a creek on the Langley property. Morning brought a trip into Voorheesville for a day long workshop and concert event at the Old Songs Community Center. A great group of folks gathered together for the classes and hung out for the show afterwards with a break for supper. With a 1 pm start time in Stroudsburg, PA the next morning, I headed south after the concert and camped in a Walmart parking lot about halfway, making up the rest of the trip in the morning. The Pocono Dulcimer Club was behind the two-day stay in Stroudsburg and the first day consisted of workshops and an informal jam. The next day brought some private lessons conducted inside Rita, parked at the church, and also an evening workshop. There was plenty of downtime for relaxing and also catching up with administrative things. Great seeing Jody Sebring and Norm Williams again!

Tuesday morning, I set out to visit my friends Kristy and Kevin in Milford, PA and I've been here since then, hanging out, making music, watching Disney movies and checking out some of the local sights and produce (Rita's fridge is filled with local goodness.) One of the things that is really nice about Rita is that she's like a window to the world. When it's raining, when wild animals are about, you can sit inside and see it all through the big windows and observe. I don't know what it is about this space - but I've been loathe to leave it. Maybe it's a bonding thing. All I know is, when I pass by hotels and motels, I laugh and keep right on driving. So nice to have my home right behind the driver's seat!

I'll roll out from here in a little bit, take a quick trip to a dumping station and then it's three hours to the Altamont Fairgrounds where Old Songs Festival is taking place. This is a pretty big deal and I'm very excited to be a part of the line-up. This may require a couple of different posts over the weekend and I'm looking forward to all of the music that will be made and shared.

Till soon,


Friday, June 17, 2011

Rita at Sampson State Park

From Ohio To New York

My apologies for the lack of updates. Wi-fi has been selectively available and I've been playing catch-up; doing things the hard way due to the lack of my personal assistant and concierge, the iPhone.

Thankfully, Doug Snapp had an old iPhone 3 and gave it to me, along with some of his delicious "Dulcimer Blend" coffee, in Lancaster, Ohio.

Laura Elder orchestrated the day of workshops and concert, which was extremely well-attended. It was, by far, the biggest group I've had for "Performing For Others" and the overall response was enthusiastic, with a lot of folks ready to take their act to the public.

I had a great time hanging out with Laura, Marge Diamond, Mike Sutter and the other folks who joined us for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant as well as a post-concert jam. While camped at the site, I also managed To rope Laura into recording a tune with me for the RV Project: Official Album.

From Lancaster, I rode up to visit the Brouse Family in Wadsworth, only to find that they were at Epcot in my home town. Ha! But Danny was there, and we jammed and recorded a little bit as well.

From there, it was up to Mentor, Ohio to have lunch with Guy George and then an arrival in Erie, Pennsylvania for a nice stay with Michael Vickey which included breathtaking views of Lake Erie from his property as well as a great jam with Vickey and Mark Zimmer, a member of his Good For Nuthin' String Band.

Morning brought a little rain, but that didn't deter me from cruising up State Road 5 and ending up at spectacular Niagara Falls, a side trip suggested to me by Guy. Wow. What a magnificent sight and sound! I set up recording equipment and got a track of Native American flute with the roar of the falls in the background.

Which brings me here - after some detours of S.R 20, I checked in for the night at Sampson State Park on the banks of Seneca Lake in Romulus, New York. My first state park experience while camping and it is simply incredible. Thanks again to everyone who helped make this a reality.

In a little while here, I'll roll out for Vorheesville, New York in anticipation of tomorrow's day-long eventatt the Old Songs Community Center. Will check in again soon!

Sho na bish,

From iPhone with love.

Thursday, June 09, 2011


It has been a busy week here in Black Mountain, North Carolina at the 2nd Annual Dulcimerville. After check-in on Monday, there was a get acquainted meet-n-greet and concert which kicked off the first workshops. Tuesday morning, we began classes in earnest.

I've got the Advanced Beginners for the two morning sessions, a total of 13.5 hours for the week. In the afternoon, it was Mountain Dulcimer Blues; I've got about 15 students in each of these groups. The Blueridge Assembly is an incredible location nestled in valley of mountains here - lots of hills and creeks, lush forest and gorgeous scenery.

I'll post pictures eventually - been taking stills with my video camera and can't seem to remember how to extract them. Definitely missing my iPhone, but it looks like I'll inherit a used one next week, so I'll be back on track with updates.

Last night, I performed in concert on a bill that featured Don Pedi, Stephen Seifert, Randy Adams, Terry Duggins, Ehukai Teves, Nina Zanetti and Joseph Shelton. Quite a distinguished group and it was an honor to share the stage with them at the Washburn Auditorium. My selections were Richard and Mimi Farinas "House Un-American Blues Activity Dream" (first time performed at a dulcimer festival for me), "If We Hold On Together" from "The Land Before Time" and, natch, "Juke Joint Hen." I also played a little Native American flute at the start of the set. (The flute wasn't little, it was - oh, nevermind.)

The sounds of breakfast have erupted downstairs in the dining room downstairs, so I'm going to go mix in and prepare for morning workshops. Hope you're having a fantastic day!

Monday, June 06, 2011

RV Project Tour: Tennessee to North Carolina

(photo courtesy of Suzanne Shires Upton - who happened to drive past and saw Rita parked there at Walmart in Asheville.)

El More cooked another fantastic breakfast (he makes the best eggs over easy that I've ever had) and took me on a little tour of the area, including the site where Grandpa Jones is buried. After saying goodbye and thanking him for his peerless hospitality, I hopped on the road and it was about five hours before I got into North Carolina. It hadn't been too long since I was here the last time (late last summer), so finding my way to a local Walmart in South Asheville was fairly easy.

After obtaining permission inside (gotta know your parking lot protocol), I picked up a few sundry items and then proceeded to fix up a spinach salad and then seek out a pay phone on my mountain bike. (Good thing it's a mountain bike because, you know, I'm in the mountains.) Turns out that public pay phones, even inside the local Applebee's, are becoming an endangered species and I had no luck. Feeling a little disconnected from the world I spent so much time in, I opened the windows, folded out the couch and had a very nice sleep with the mountain temperatures and a slight breeze keeping everything nice and cool.

I awoke at around 7:30 a.m., prepared a breakfast of bacon and eggs with some ground beef and cheese, then headed out for Black Mountain, where I picked up a Virgin Mobile phone, activated it and then sat in a parking lot, having discovered a wi-fi signal, and did a little catching up.

Registration begins in less than three hours for Dulcimerville. I'm looking forward to a fantastic week of music and fun on the mountain! I will have wi-fi in the room that I'm sharing with Stephen Seifert, so if you're trying to get ahold of me, I will be checking my e-mail frequently.

The adventure continues....

Sunday, June 05, 2011

RV Project Tour: Day One

After leaving the house about 6 a.m. on June 3rd, Rita The RV and I headed down to the local CAT scales to be sure we weren't overweight before sailing north on the Florida Turnpike. The drive to Tennessee took longer than it normally did, of course, but was made all the more pleasant by listening to tunes and occasionally pulling over into rest stops to raid the fridge and use the facilities (without ever leaving the RV - which was awesome.)

After talking with Butch Ross, I decided to make a quick pit-stop in Chattanooga and visit with my fellow dulcimer-playing madman before pulling into Nashville and hooking up to shore power in the the front yard of the man known as El More. All in all, the trip was uneventful and Rita handled the miles, the heat and the psychotic Atlanta drivers with nary a hiccup.

First Official Day

After sharing breakfast with El More and his family (all of them just a wonderful bunch of people), we headed out to conduct workshops at Davidson Academy with a sprightly bunch that included Nancy Seifert (Stephen's mom.) I was able to park Rita in front of the school with a shore line that would keep the interior cool and the fridge running.

I conducted two workshops of 90 minutes in length, going over fundamentals of rhythm and chording while also teaching more advanced concepts and finally getting into some tunes. It was a couple of very good sessions with skill levels ranging from very new beginner to experienced musician. All seemed to have a great time!

Sometime about halfway through the session, I went outside to get something from storage and noticed that the inside of the RV was anything but cool. Thinking maybe the roof air had frozen up, I turned it off and came back later to see if it had thawed. There was a mighty shudder from above. It sounded like a death rattle.

In short time, after the last workshop, I had taken the advice of one of my friends who was in the class and gone to Camping World to have it looked at. It was going to be a hot summer and it would totally suck to be without air conditioning while trying to sleep at night. The service department had gone for the day, but Aly was able to secure a phone number for Road Ready Repair. After calling and getting no answer, El More and I headed to Richard's Cafe where a spot had been secured for me as an opening act for the owner's band.

Cajun dinner was wonderful and I had a nice little jam session with Richard on-stage before things got started with the scheduled musical acts. My iPhone finally rang and I spoke with Neal, who said he'd have a look at what he surmised might be a blown compressor. After my brief set opening for the Gator Bait Band (featuring stand-in bassist Woodstock, who was also bassist for Jason Link and the Family Band that I jammed with on Broadway in Nashville a couple of years back, small world), El More and I headed over to Goodlettsville and met up with Neal. I pulled into the back of the yard and hopped out as Neal told me to move forward just a bit more. Getting back in, I gained a few more feet and then got out as he positioned his ladder and got on top of Rita's roof. Thinking this was a great picture, I reached for my iPhone to find that it wasn't there. Remember that I'd had it out in the cab when El More had called at some point during our trip, I looked on the seat, but didn't see it. I looked on the ground. Didn't see it. El More called me. I didn't hear it. Very strange.

Then, it hit me.

Walking back to where I had first hopped out, I spied it laying on the ground and picked it up. It had fallen off of my lap and onto the ground where, after being told to move up, it had rightly been rolled over by the outside rear driver's side tire.

If it had been a normal vehicle with both tires in line, I would've missed it by that much. But the outermost tire had caught it squarely and shattered the face, surprisingly the integrity of the case remained fairly intact. But no denying - lights were out.

The good news is, Neal fixed the roof air by rewiring a spare capacitor that he had lying around. Besides being quite a technician, he was also a very big-hearted guy and I'd trust him with any repair on Rita in the future (615-390-3851, if you're ever in the Nashville area - he's the man.)

The bad news is - I really can't afford a new iPhone, so I'm looking into some options. In the meantime, I've printed out my maps for the trip to Black Mountain today and just thanking Creator for all of the good people that I get to meet every single day. People like El More and his family; Nancy, Aly, Richard, Woodstock, Neal and the folks who let me know that I had a brake light out (need to get that changed out today, mental note to self.) As the U2 song goes, sometimes you can't make it on your own. And when you can't, it's just beautiful that there are people who can and will help you on your journey. El More was musing over the fact that what seemed like bad news, and a test at the beginning of this tour, was being greeted with optimism from me. Every test is something to be anticipated and looked forward to - it means you're worthy of the challenge. And how much better for it are you after sailing through with your sanity and hope left intact.

I can't think of a better way to have kicked off this tour. Onward to North Carolina!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Shakedown text

5:30 am - Went for a three-mile walk around Fort Wilderness Campground at Walt Disney World after a lovely first night and comfortable slumber. 

6:50 am - Made coffee and took the dulcimer outside to pick awhile and enjoy the sunrise. 

8:01 am - Recorded a slow, finger-picked version of my original tune "Campin'" for THE RV PROJECT: Official Album.  Why finger-picked?  Because, along with a bigger measuring cup, grease jar and other sundry items, I forgot to bring picks.  Sssssh....... Don't tell anyone. 


Bing (via iPhone)

Shakedown Cruise at Disney

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Che hun ta mo!

Just a quick note to say that a couple of big dates have been added to the schedule:

June 4th - Nashville, TN - 11 am

Davidson Academy
Upper School
1414 Old Hickory Blvd.,
Nashville, TN 37207

$30 per person ($25 if taking more than one workshop)
You can see the workshop choices here:

OR, I can create something on the fly and we can work on a piece of music with a look at the technique to play it. It's up to you - if you're interested in attending the Nashville workshops, drop me an e-mail and let me know!

July 1st - Gettysburg, PA - 6 pm

The Garryowen Irish Pub

I'm still playing a house concert the very next day in Gettysburg - this is an added show and should be a lot of fun, as my Irish pub gigs are a VERY different breed of show!

You can access my entire schedule right here: for details on the other tour dates.

Also a mention that t-shirts have been ordered! Be one of the first to get the official RV TOUR PROJECT t-shirt at: (and scroll down - you'll see the shirt designs there.) Allow two to three weeks for delivery (or pick yours up at a tour stop in person!)

That's it for now - please check the schedule as some details have changed (starting times, workshop offerings, etc.) - also, I'm working on a couple of new dates!

Thanks, everyone - sho na bish!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Gearing Up

To bring you up to speed, so to speak, the Winnebago Warrior came home on Wednesday, May 18th. Fully insured, tagged, taxed and titled, the first stop was at Camping World, where I picked up some supplies and prepared to begin systems testing. After hooking up to shore power and city water, we checked things off the list as they proved themselves to be ready and able. DC 12 volt systems - go. Faucets and tanks - go. Coach battery charging - go. Propane gas leak test - go; no leaks. Refrigerator power - go. Range and microwave power - go. The only thing not working correctly is the generator and after about four hours and one rebuilt carburetor later - it's still not working. But that's okay; I probably will not need it this summer.

I have a couple more tests to run - on the water heater and furnace and then the final thing will be a full tune-up, oil change and all points inspection. She's driving like a dream, even at speeds up to 75 m.p.h., though she more comfortably rolls at a smooth 55 or 60.

The two photos in this post have been photoshopped; no vinyl signs have been affixed to the sides or rear...yet. But, after getting a fantastic price ($350), this will be a way of garnering additional promo while driving this big billboard down the road. Folks that see me driving through town may correctly assume that I'm there for a show and will, hopefully, look up the URL, find the info and come on out. It's just one more way of maximizing presence while spending so much time on the open road.

We are still receiving donations and will gladly accept them if you feel so moved. As little as $5 will go a long way towards these start-up RV lifestyle costs and you'll get a MP3 music package for donations of any size. Again, we thank you for helping with this incredible foray into crowd-sourcing. As someone put it on Facebook, "love bought this RV", and we indeed feel the love! To find out more about the donation gifts, visit THE RV PROJECT page.


We are about to add two stops on the tour; Stroudsburg, PA (June 19th-20th) and Louisville, KY area the weekend of July 15th. More details to follow!

Monday, May 16, 2011


Bing Futch: THE RV PROJECT Tour 2011 rolls June 3rd for:

Nashville, Tennessee
Black Mountain, North Carolina
Lancaster, Ohio
Voorheesville, New York
Altamont, New York
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Westminster, Maryland
Louisville, Kentucky

more dates to be announced...

Humble thanks to you and blessings, friends, family and fans!

Jae and I are just simply blown away. Our deepest thanks - mahalo nui loa, sho na bish - love. You've given us a blessing and I just hope that you'll enjoy what I now give to you. It was going to be cool enough to travel 3,000 miles and meet with lots of old friends while making new ones. From the music made to the sights seen, with the spark of inspiration to the joy of being around folks that have tapped into this mystical little instrument and claimed it as their own personal totem.

Now, that's all going to happen again - and this time, I'm coming in with the knowledge - the feeling - the sensation of love from so many of you. Simply incredible.

Listen, I'm getting goofy. So, I'm going to capsulize what I'm trying to say with a snapshot from last summer's tour.

It was at Portage Dulcimer Day last summer, weekend of the 4th of July. An old coal mining town from the turn of the century, peering out over the Cambria County valley with all of its greenery, punctuated by the occasional fireworks display. The organizer, JT Taylor, and his family are hanging in the background with friends and neighbors. Kids splashing. Belgian beer. Cigar. Laughing. Talking about the oil spill and JT's work involving it. Red rockets shooting and noisemakers whistling and popping every now and again. A whoop and a holler from across the street. The smell of barbecue. One deep pool. Cool breeze in Portage that night, though it was still very hot.

I remember just kicking back and looking around at the folks around me. Having played music all day long and fellowshipped around the dulcimer, we were enjoying a holiday weekend in one of the gold veins of America. Small-town in the U.S. and it was the dulcimer that brought me there, like some kind of magic carpet. So many places that we never see when traveling on a plane or a train. At least, on a train, you can kinda see some of these places as you go speeding by. How many of them have I passed? How many spots have you blasted past on the way to somewhere?

Whenever someone says something like "middle of nowhere", I'm always reminded of the song by Daniel Amos - "Nowhere Is Someplace."

I know, I'm as corny as Kansas in August, but I'm in love with this country and the people that are the salt of its earth. You know who you are.

I'm glad that this was made possible, this summer, this tour. Thank you, with everything I've got. Let me tell you what I'm working on for the donations.

"Unreleased Music Collection of MP3s from the entire recording history of Bing Futch."

I've got to find a better name for that. Anyway, it's what it says. To give you some idea of what to expect, you'll hear stuff from 1985 through the present that has never been released, some of it for good reason, but it's all part of history. You think I'm weird now? Wait till you hear "Tamagochi Girlfriend."

"E-Book of mountain dulcimer tablature"

Yes, this one needs a better title too. I figure, the material that gets included will inspire the actual title. Some of this is music that I arranged, or wrote, or learned and transcribed, or heard on a YouTube video. Some of it is directly inspired by the events of THE RV PROJECT, so you can probably expect everything from "On The Road Again" to "Cumberland Gap." So far, it's a bizarre little mix - check out some of these (including two crooked tunes.) Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring, The Old Black Cat Couldn't Catch A Rat, Beauty and the Beast, Abdul Abulbul Amir, Ein Prosit, Donnegal Highland, Faerie's Hornpipe, Lincolnshire Rangers, Texas, Alouette, Arirang, El Rey, Fisher's Hornpipe, Lubby's Lullaby and more. Over 100 pages of tablature and each song has a TablEdit file so that you can play the tune at slower and faster speeds and watch as the playhead follows the music to hear and learn them all!

"The RV Project"

That's the name of the CD - some thought went into that one. : ) I'm really looking forward to this. Basically, all of the material will be tunes and songs recorded during the actual tour. I'll be traveling with recording equipment in the RV and I'm expecting to meet up with lots of wonderful musicians. This may be a single or a double, but it could be a triple. These are all going to be sent out in a folder of music and images from the trip.

The other stuff involves signed books and CDs, private lessons, registrations to the Key West Dulcimer Fest and, the big one, a week of washing cars, weeding gardens, painting walls, cooking food and putting on a private concert. I'm delighted and honored to say that I'll be spending two weeks at two different homes where simply amazing people have shown their support and encouragement for The RV Project.

So, if I see you - be aware that you could very well end up on the record. Don't be shy!

Fundraising is officially over, though we welcome any donations if you feel so moved. As a neophyte RVer, I feel way over my head. Pics and video to come of the Winnie's coming home. Blessings to you - thank you!

Donations -

$50+ - Unreleased Music Collection of MP3s from the entire recording history of Bing Futch

$100+ - E-Book of mountain dulcimer tablature covering a variety of different music styles from all around the world + Unreleased Music Collection

$200+ - "The RV Project" MP3 Collection with special guests, featuring music recorded during the first part of summer tour (will only be available to donors and not released to the general public) + E-Book of tablature + Unreleased Music Collection.

$300+ - 8 Hours of Private Lessons on mountain dulcimer and/or Native American flute (in person or via webcam - a $360 value) + "The RV Project" + E-Book of tablature + Unreleased Music Collection of MP3s.

$500+ - Physical CD copies of "70mm", "Clear Blue Trickling", "Dulcimerica: Volume 1", "Dulcimerica: Volume 2", "Dulcimer Rock", "Kokopelli Rising", "Christmas Each Day" plus "All Over The Map" and the entire 6-book "Mountain Dulcimer In The Band" series (all with CDs), each piece signed and personalized (a $280 value) + 8 Hours of Private Lessons on mountain dulcimer and/or Native American flute (in person or via webcam - a $360 value) + "The RV Project" + E-Book of tablature + Unreleased Music Collection of MP3s.

$1000+ - Physical CD copies of "70mm", "Clear Blue Trickling", "Dulcimerica: Volume 1", "Dulcimerica: Volume 2", "Dulcimer Rock", "Kokopelli Rising", "Christmas Each Day" plus "All Over The Map" and the entire 6-book "Mountain Dulcimer In The Band" series (all with CDs), each piece signed and personalized (a $280 value) + 8 Hours of Private Lessons on mountain dulcimer and/or Native American flute (in person or via webcam - a $360 value) + "The RV Project" + E-Book of tablature + Unreleased Music Collection of MP3s AND….I will come to your house, wash your car, mow your lawn, weed your garden, cook meals for FIVE DAYS and play a private concert for you and your invited guests at the end of the week.

Remember last year's tour?

Friday, May 13, 2011


In these final weeks running up to the start of summer tour, my faithful road companion Buster, a 20-year old Geo Metro LSi convertible, sprung a transmission fluid leak out of a rusted part of his underside, thereby officially rendering him unsafe to take on the 3,000 mile first leg. He's not down for the count yet, and will be fine to scoot around locally. But his days of careening from one end of the country to the other are over unless extensive body work is completed.

The next option would've been to pay around $900 for a rental car (compact) and about $1000 for lodging on the days where I wouldn't be hosted by either a festival or a host family, not to mention fuel with rising gas prices on the march. Jae and I had been talking about getting me into a RV of some sort for a while now, a move that would effectively remove the cost of staying at motels and hotels along the way while also providing more space to carry all of my instruments, books, CDs, P.A., lights and other gear. I'd also be able to prepare my own meals, thus saving a tremendous amount of money altogether. Of course, getting into a camper is an expensive proposition all its own and we simply weren't prepared for this kind of setback, especially with a June 4th tour starting date just around the corner.

Inspired by bands and solo artists, both unknown and nationally recognized, who have offered special incentives of music, concert tickets and other items in exchange for varied donations, I decided to give this idea a shot in hopes that I could raise enough money to purchase a used, late-model RV, and avoid taking out a loan and tacking on huge monthly payments for a brand new camper. Thus was born THE RV PROJECT.

RV Newbie Alert

If you visit the above link, you'll see the various offerings which are compounded with each successive donation level. ANY DONATION, no matter how small, will help in this quest. Initially, when the e-mail went out on May 12th, shortly before midnight ET, I had set the fundraising goal at $2500, hoping that amount would be enough to cover the cost of a functioning Class B van camper, since some of the larger Class C and Class A motorhomes were not only more expensive, but also not very fuel efficient. What I soon discovered was that, for that price, most of the offerings were officially antiques, or lacked most of the necessary features that make life on the road functional. So, the goal was re-set to $3500.

By morning on May 13th, over $700 in donations had rolled in. I began posting pictures of the campers I had gone to see or was considering going to see and that's when people who really know about the RV lifestyle began to comment. "That's too old", "that's got water damage, bad news", "you'll need a generator", "be sure you get into something safe." It became apparent that though I was trying to keep the budget around $3500 - most of the reasonably outfitted RVs were still out of reach. With less than three weeks left, I wasn't sure if I had a choice in the matter. I'd have to pick something to get on the road.

The Mercury Threatens To Break

It was while doing my daily exercise walk in the park that a number of donations began to roll in. Astonishingly, by 5 pm ET, $3,420 in total donations had come in. Absolutely stunned by this development, I raced home and began reading the e-mails which basically said, "you're not going to find anything safe, comfortable or trouble-free for $3500. Set your sights higher. We want you to arrive in one piece."

Now, I honestly don't know if all of these donations are coming from folks within the dulcimer community or if it is a mixture of all kinds of people, some of whom have chosen to remain anonymous. If you've looked through the donation offerings, I can tell you that at least one person will receive a visit from me during a time in which I will be gardener, butler, cleaning service and chef, not to mention putting on a private concert.

I. Am. Floored.

Do you know what my horoscope said today? "It'll be a social day, and you'll share a strong emotional bond with a pal or group of friends. It's possible that your mutual interest in an unusual hobby or humanitarian cause will be your focus." Wow.

I am simply overwhelmed by this outpouring of support and, reading the emails and Facebook posts, it's once again very clear to me just how incredible a world I've been living in for the past six years.

So, Now What?

Based on e-mails, I already know that the goal of $3500 has been met. And I'm being urged to continue accepting donations in order to afford a camper that will be safe, functional and last for more than just a summer. In the first 24 hours of THE RV PROJECT, this has already been an amazing, emotional adventure, one that I'll be sharing here, on Facebook and in-person as I travel across the country from Connecticut to California and back again this year. I'd be content to pick up this Ford Amerigo that I'm looking at tomorrow, but it does lack a generator and I've been told that having one is an absolute must. Class B and Class C campers with generators start to be found in the $6,000 to $8,000 range around central Florida. Bearing in mind that I need to travel to inspect the vehicle, many of the deals folks have found for me out of state are not practical to attempt, especially with a deadline approaching and the need to get whatever RV I settle upon dutifully registered, insured and prepped to go.

So, this is what I'm going to do. Time truly dictates both availability of my options as well as the time in which to close the deal. With the funds raised thus far with your kind and loving assistance, I can continue with an expanded search for an ideal coach. Knowing what I know about the bureaucracy of the DMV and anticipating whatever hoops I may have to leap through with our insurance company, I would say that I need to purchase something in about 11 to 12 days. With that in mind, I'm going to continue accepting donations with a new target of $10,000. If it's reached - it will certainly give me better options. If it's not, I have faith that I'll be able to get into something that will be well-suited for the road. If whatever I purchase ends up costing less than what I've received, then I'll apply the remainder to tax, title, insurance, gas, maintenance, all of those things that will be much more involved as the owner of a recreational vehicle.

Again, for those of you who have donated, I cannot thank you enough. I hope you will enjoy the many projects that are being offered as part of this fundraising effort and that I will get a chance to thank you in person. I'll continue to post updates and there will be plenty of pictures and video, not to mention lots and lots of music.

I have been extremely blessed since becoming part of the mountain dulcimer community. But this. This is just so incredible, it's almost too much to take. Thank you.

With all my love,


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Won't See Me

It's been a few weeks since I've posted anything here and I'd like to say that it had something to do with all of the work that's going into "Dive!", but it's not. To quote Arthur Dent, "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle." So, I'm taking a little time off in many areas, this blog and Dulcimerica included.

I'll still be performing, both locally and on the road at festivals and house concerts this year, and you can still get all of that information from my mailing list. There will be occasional posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter, but far, far less than were before. There are lots of reasons, including a serious case of social-media burn-out and the realization that one can never have a proper garden if one doesn't get out into it more than once a week. For the past six years, I have been a non-stop music machine, performing, traveling, teaching, creating videos and workshops, writing, producing, promoting, marketing, designing, appearing, disappearing, communicating and miscommunicating. As the economy began to dip towards recession, my income from these exploits began to fall even as my creative output remained constant. It's the same boat that we're all in - I just never thought that it would effect what I do so deeply because, after all, I love music. Who wouldn't want to do it all the time? I've been blessed with the opportunity to do so - but in the perpetual state of production that being one's own boss involves, it has cut out a lot of the other things in my life that require attention.

In order to become a better performer and teacher, I need to take the time to research, learn and practice the things that will expand my abilities. The amount of time that I spend online is prohibitive and directly contrary to that. There's also the matter of identity: who I am, what I've become known for, and the balance between the two. Over the past few weeks, it's been glaringly obvious to me that mentally, physically, socially and spiritually, I needed to take a time-out and get my head back into the game, both for career and for home life. Meltdown is not an option.

So, it's going to be very, very quiet from my end for awhile, except on those dates where I'll be performing locally and at festivals across the country. Of course, I'm always open to e-mails and will return them as quickly as I can, so the lines of communication are still open. The lines of industry, however, are shutting down to conserve both energy and sanity. I'll be digging in the dirt, both literally and figuratively, with implements and instruments, pulling weeds, planting seeds and getting to the root of balance between me and the earth; Between spirit and all things elemental.

I'm wishing you wellness, beauty and hope...but mostly love.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Musical Sorbet: Newmarket Polka

The far-off sound of cackling that you hear in the murky distance is me, experimenting, switch-flipping, strumography. It's nice to be in the lull zone and, you know what they say; I'd rather be in a lull zone than in a null zone. Because you know, they say that, you know.

Thanks for being the test group for some new music methodology that I've been conjuring. I am proofing as I go, so if something sticks out that ain't right, more than likely it's some forgotten setting in Tab|Edit.

As a sorbet separating that first sumptuous course of diatonic-friendly key studies and the inevitable divide that begins the second course, I present a happy little polka. This one caught my ear, and it goes much faster than the recording, but first - we play; then, we shred.

Newmarket Polka.mp3

Newmarket Polka.pdf

I'm working on a book of these tunes, which will focus on very accessible-yet-challenging pieces that are fun to play and sound incredible when you get them up to speed. Other tunes from the book include "A Boy's Lament For His Dragon" and "Johnny Don't Get Drunk."

Lots of recording going on right now - a great, rainy week for that! Bring the spring. Have fun and thanks again for visiting Nowhere, Nevada.



Monday, March 21, 2011

Minor Chord Leading

We're leaping right into it with a look at the minor side of A Major.

A    B    C#    D    E    F#    G#
I   ii    iii   IV   V    vii   vii°

Each one of the seven notes is given a scale degree. Uppercase Roman numerals denote Major and lowercase represents minor (lowercase with ° is diminished.)

When songwriting, certain intervals of chord changes have deeply resonant effects of conflict and resolution. Certain chords just "feel" like they need to go somewhere in particular.
I chord leads to any chord
ii leads to IV, V, vii° chords
iii leads to ii, IV, vi chords
IV leads to I, iii, V, vii° chords
V leads to I chords
vi leads to ii, IV, V, I chords
vii° leads to I, ii chords

Beginning the A Major scale on the sixth note gives us the F# minor scale and through our scale degrees remain one through seven, those numbers change from Major to minor and vice versa. The notes maintain their intervals within chord structures:

F#   G#   A   B   C#   D   E
i   ii°  III  iv  v    VI  VII

i leads to iv, VI, VII, III chords
ii° leads to III, iv chords
III chord leads to any chord
iv leads to VI, VII, and ii° chords
v leads to iv, VI, i chords
VI leads to III, v, VII, ii° chords
VII leads to III chords

Each scale degree has a name that describes its distance from the root chord or tonic. You don't need to memorize them, though it always helps. What's more important is hearing the cadences, distinct movement in the music, that result from different chord progressions.

The TONIC is the first note of the scale, whichever key you're in. We're in A Major, so let's call it A. Think of the TONIC as 'home.' No matter where you take a song, always bring it back home.

The SUPERTONIC (literally "above" TONIC) is from the second note of the scale. B minor.
Goes well to the fifth note of the scale.

The MEDIANT is the third note of the scale and shares two notes with the TONIC. It can resolve anywhere. C# minor.

The SUB-DOMINANT is the fourth note of the scale. To the TONIC or to the LEADING TONE. D Major.

The DOMINANT is the fifth note of the scale. It wants to pull the most towards the TONIC. E Major.

The SUB-MEDIANT is the sixth note of the scale. Most naturally flows towards the second or SUPERTONIC, but also goes to the DOMINANT. F# minor.

The LEADING TONE is the very pivotal seventh note of the scale. It pulls towards the TONIC. Remember, this is a diminished scale and a G# diminished chord, so strange things are afoot anyway.

There are a few different schools of thought on building chords off of the natural minor scale versus the harmonic or melodic minor scales. I promised I was going to bring that up at some point and I see no better time and place than right now and right here.

I swear, I'm not trying to murder you. Really. This stuff makes sense in context. I have to rub my brain all over it every day to make it stick - so you're going to suffer with me, yeah? Okay. We move on.

Minor scales and other harmonizations

Since this has already been hinted at in the worksheet material for this study, I'll get it out of the way first. It's been hanging over my head now for about a week and it just needs to get out there.

We talked about building chords (triads) by stacking them three notes apart.

A    B    C#    D     E     F#      G#

Just skip every other letter, starting with the TONIC of A:

I = A - C# - E = A Major
ii = B - D - F# = B minor
iii = C# - E - G# = C# minor
IV = D - F# - A = D Major
V = E - G# - B = E Major
vi = F# - A - C# = F# minor
vii° = G# - B - D = G# diminished

There you have your chords - now, remember that each of these scale degrees have a personality, from TONIC to LEADING CHORD. While keeping their personalities in tact, we re-arrange the order of the notes to create the relative minor scale, also known as the natural minor. Same chords, different order. Some would suggest rather using the harmonic and melodic minor to generate chord progressions, but as a modal instrument, the diatonic dulcimer was made for this approach (and it's easier.) Fundamental. There's a better word.

Here, the 'b' represents flat, down a half-step.

Major Scale

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0ctave

minor scale (also called descending melodic minor scale)

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 Octave

harmonic minor scale

1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7 Octave

melodic minor scale (also called ascending melodic minor scale)

1 2 b3 4 5 6 7 Octave

Chords and other scales can be built from each of these notes and, combined, the incredible treasure of combinations begins to evolve. Let's talk about seventh chords and how to build them from a Major scale.

A    B    C#    D     E     F#      G#

Once again, skip every other letter but do it four times. 

I = A - C# - E - G# = AMaj7 
ii = B - D - F# - A = Bm7
iii = C# - E - G# - B = C#m7
IV = D - F# - A - C# = DMaj7
V = E - G# - B - D = E7
vi = F# - A - C# - E = F#m7
vii° = G# - B - D - F# = G#m7/b5

Whammo! Instant jazz chords! To review the building of each kind of chord:


Root - Major 3rd - Perfect 5th


Root - minor 3rd - Perfect 5th


Root - minor 3rd - diminished 5th or flat fifth or b5
(in other words, the 3rd and 5th are both flat.)


Root - Major 3rd - augmented or raised 5th.

Dominant 7th or Seventh

Root - Major 3rd - Perfect 5th - Minor Seventh or Flat Seventh (or LEADING TONE)

Major Seventh

Root - Major 3rd - Perfect 5th - Major Seventh

Majorminor Seventh

Root - minor third - Perfect 5th - Minor 7th

To play some of these chords, it's helpful to know your scales, arpeggios, across the fretboard so you can see (and hear) where the various parts of the chord are lurking.

Then, we drop out the root, in most cases, and leave the other three parts of the chord, which register in most cases as an honest-to-goodness seventh chord of some complexity.

I know, we're losing some of the diatonics here. This stuff is all covered in the chromatic hand=outs.

Going To Tra-La-La in F#m

Great - now all I can hear is that guy.

Here's some movement for F#m:

F#m - Bm - G#° - A - D -- F#m -- Bm

Bm - C#m - D - F#m

What I've done is just plotted the path of least resistance in seeking out "home" and passing through sequences of changes. You can clearly hear just how extraordinary a diminished chord can be when used in a certain progression and this is a diatonic transcription - all of this is possible on neo-standard mountain dulcimer (and I mean 6+ fret.) Any chromatic players out there who can't figure out the transcription, e-mail me and I'll send it to you.

I'm toying with the idea of writing out a solo. Maybe. After I live with it for awhile, yeah? There's nothing like throwing some chord changes into Band In A Box and just improvising over them in loops. It's the best way to find out what things work and what don't, without having to do all of the math. Ultimately, music theory is just putting to words what you are already putting into practice. Hearing and feeling the music is the key.

Have fun with the chord studies and mp3 file! We're going to do some different things for the next few key studies, so hang in there diatonic players - we'll have stuff that you can work on as well!