Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jam at Casa Cabanas - January 28th

Saturday, January 28th at:

Casa Cabanas
2510 Harris Ave.
Key West, Florida

5 - 11 pm

Jams galore! I'll be there - looks like Robert Force and Scott Snyder will be there as well. Just one of the many opportunities to get together and have some musical fun!

If you're interested in private lessons, I will be in Key West from Thursday to Monday (Januuary 26th - 30th) - e-mail or call (407-342-1447) if you'd like to set something up.

Looking forward to living la vida local in Key West. : )

Sho na bish,


Monday, January 16, 2012

Key West: gathering

Here's the latest on the dates of January 26th through 29th:

There are a handful of dulcimer players who will be in Key West, myself included. There will be some get-togethers, jams and private lessons available. No dates and times have been set - that will happen once I'm down there and better know where everyone is. If you're interested in any of the above, the best thing to do is drop me an e-mail and I'll put you on a list to be notified when a group is getting together or heading somewhere on the island. I don't know of any other instructors who will be down there during this time.

Refunds have gone out, so please keep your eyes on the mailbox if you were a registrant.

We're looking forward to a laid-back hang-out in Key West - keep in touch!

Sho na bish,


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Wednesday Morning Theory Workout

Got an e-mail this morning from a friend looking for some answers. Check this out:

"I'm working on a new song and the melody follows a rather "different" scale. I was hoping you could help me identify the key and the direction I should take with noting the incidentals.... Yes...I tried to look it up, but am coming up short or just shy of what I'm looking for and KNEW you would be able to point me in the right direction. :) SO.... On the piano keyboard, the scale would go:
Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, Fb, G, Ab:"

My answer:

Well, typically - six flats would be the key of Gb - but this is that scale:

Gb - Ab - Bb - Cb - Db - Eb - F

I - ii - iii - IV - V - vi - vii°

If your melody begins with Ab - then consider the following possibilities -

Ab - Bb - C - Db - Eb - F - G

I - ii - iii - IV - V - vi - vii°

four flats in Ab - now compare to your scale

Ab - Bb - Cb - Db - Eb - Fb - G

First of all - remember that B and C are a half step apart - as well as E and F. So the corrected Ab scale would look like this:

Ab - Bb - (B) - Db - Eb - (E) - G

Now, if you listen to the scale - it's a minor (Abm) - a harmonic minor, to be exact, because your seventh note (G) is raised a half step from the natural minor.
intervals: 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7
half-steps: 2-1-2-2-1-3-1

Normally - the natural minor seventh degree would be flattened.

So, we're in Ab minor. For reference sake - what major scale has Ab as its sixth note? We can determine the correct number of flats by looking at the relative major scale.

intervals: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
half-steps: 2-2-1-2-2-2-1
notes: B,C#,D#,E,F#,G#,A#

6th note - G# = Ab

So, I think you probably want to be thinking of this in terms of sharps as opposed to flats. Let's take another look at the relative minor. Same notes, starting on the sixth note of the scale.

intervals: 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7
half-steps: 2-1-2-2-1-2-2
notes: G#,A#,B,C#,D#,E,F#

And, taking into consideration the raised seventh note - making it a harmonic minor scale:

G# Harmonic Minor Scale
intervals: 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,7
half-steps: 2-1-2-2-1-3-1
notes: G#,A#,B,C#,D#,E,F##

Did you follow all that? Would you like to learn the language of music? Contact me for music theory instruction!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Another New Year

"Where do we go now?" - Guns 'N' Roses

2011 was the biggest year that I've ever had and that's largely due to the many of you who read this blog, buy my merchandise, come out to concerts and take lessons/workshops with me. Thank you. It's an honor, a privilege and a real joy. Happy New Year!

So, now what?

As you might've noticed, there was no huge rolling out of intent OR content on January 1st, 2012 from this camp and I'm just now getting around to posting the first blog of the new year. Going back in time to read past posts from the flipping of the calendar pages revealed the typical plans going forward, like here, here and here.

This time around, during the first week of the year, it's all about a little less talk and a lot more action: namely, those projects that have been brewing for awhile and some new ones that suddenly got ushered to the front of the velvet rope line. More than anything, this low-key approach to the beginning of 2012 is all about scoring precious time simply sitting with my instruments and working on the basics. If there's one thing I learned while on The RV Project Tour (besides how much people hate driving behind Winnebagos) it's that, despite all best intentions, not a whole lot gets done on the road. Practicing, writing, creating - it's all there in fits and spurts, enough to keep the plane leveled out and soaring, but most of my downtime in the spring, summer and fall last year was spent doing a whole lot of nothing. No thing.

That's not exactly true. There was visiting with folks in RV parks, campgrounds and festival parking lots. Many hours spent relaxing under the green canopy and red/orange sandstone and granite cliffs of our nation's state sanctuaries. Quite a lot of time madly pedaling my mountain bike on actual mountains. Soaking in the beauty of the United States of America and resting up before the next event. And sure - some recordings were made and some light administrative business was conducted but, for the most part, I came home in November to not only a huge glut of unfinished business but also to some tough choices that I had to make regarding activities in other areas of my career. Something like a total of two hours of video was shot on tour and that was by design. I wanted to live life as it happened. Not later while editing together Dulcimerica episodes. I had to pick and choose my battles last year in order to get through without imploding.

As the economy continues to take its nose dive, there has been a lot of evaluating going on here - looking at ways to work smarter and faster. Knowing when to step in and when to step out - sort of like a cosmic Hokey-Pokey because, you know, that is what it's really all about.

That's why no books were published and only a handful of videos were produced in 2011. I had to make some choices in order to move forward. Upon returning home from tour to find a deficit of registrations for the Key West Dulcimer Fest, there was a decision to make there too; not a popular decision in the least.

And after enjoying the holidays with Mrs. Futch, puttering around the house, getting caught up, re-oriented and blowing out my vice-ridden ya-ya's, I'm emerging, blinking, into the sunlight of a new year with some better plans. I'll let you in on a few of them before I get back to it.


I've been producing "Dive!" now for almost four years and it's going to drop this year; period. If the Mayans are correct, then I've got 12 months before we're all turned to sheet rock or something. I will be a happier piece of sheet rock having birthed this bad boy, so it's priority number one.

Though "Storm's Sigh" and "Live At Old Songs!" have been available since the end of last year, the official release dates of both projects will be accomplished this month. (Mainly for digital distribution to pipelines such as iTunes, Spotify, Napster and more.)

As for Mohave, the trio (along with Roger Zimish and Tom Sharp) has been dead in the water since drummer Gil Oliver left town for the northeast. I've been busy on the road and with solo performances even as the guys have wondered aloud when we would get together next. Really, the next time needs to be magic in order for us all to pour the time and energy into it. It would take the right drummer and the right environment to make it work. That time may come this year and it mayn't. I know better than to make promises where there's more personality than just me involved, so stay tuned on that one.

I don't have as many festivals booked this year, but am still going to quite a few places for the first time including the Colorado Dulcimer Festival next month, Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival in March, Augusta Spring Music Week in April and in May, the NGFDA Spring Thing and the Lone Star State Dulcimer Festival. Of course, I'll be back at Folkcraft headquarters for the Indiana Dulcimer Festival in July (with a return trip to teach ukulele in August at a brand new fest - stay tuned for details.) I haven't even begun to plan the in-between concerts and workshops but the idea is already to travel less across the country and more right here in my (now) home state of Florida.


From no books in 2011 to at least three to be published this year, I'm right now working on some method books. Two of them concerning diatonic mountain dulcimer and one in support of the chromatic dulcimer. Before I get a load of ball-busting e-mails, yes - the oft-mentioned diatonic blues book will finally land. There may be more, but I kind of doubt it. I haven't knocked out more than four books in a year since 2010, I think, and I had a lot more time on my hands then.


I officially got out of the video production biz (for hire) some time ago and realized last year that the state of the art was beginning to change without me. You know how it is with technology, right? First you need to upgrade the software. Then you've got to upgrade the hardware. Then you have to search for patches for the software because someone went "oops" at the hardware design phase. When it comes to media tech, especially video, which accounts for so much of our entertainment medium these days, it can be a full-time job just keeping the equipment happy and in working order so you can do what you do. The shift has slowly been tilting towards getting rid of tape altogether in favor of a fully digital format and I am very excited to embrace that. Once you shoot - you just move it onto the hard drive and you're in like Kevin Flynn. No more real time encoding and logging. It was largely the sheer amount of time that it took to produce individual episodes of Dulcimerica that kept me from doing more last year; just prohibitive in terms of actual hours in pre and post-production, especially during 19,000 miles on the road with only occasional whiffs of wi-fi. With a staff, I could make that work no problem. As the only elf in the shop, well - there I am picking and choosing battles again.

Sometime this month, I'll be taking delivery on a fully digital means of recording HD video. It's an experiment and I hope it works, greatly reducing the amount of production time so that I can shoot, cut and post as quickly as possible. In the immortal words of Dr. Walter Gibbs (Barnard Hughes) from "Tron", "Won't that be grand?" He said something else, eerily predicting the future, right after that but I'll leave it to you to find that chestnut.

So, new Dulcimerica. Soon.

Back To It

Many of you came up to me last year while on the road, or e-mailed, saying that I sounded a little off my game in this post from April of 2011 and you couldn't have been kinder or more on the money. Everyone has their breaking point and something, many things, had brought me to the brink of it back then. Thankfully, the cri de coeur was a brief one, partially soothed by the outpouring of love that was The RV Project. Then, as now, I plan to be less visible (as opposed to Les Visible, for there can be only one) so I can get to work on all of this cool stuff that's brewing. My headspace is 180° from almost a year ago. If indeed this is the last year of civilization, then I'm going to continue living the dream, making the music and loving the life. Honestly, I think we're about to enter another age of enlightenment and this is no time to be cowering under hollowed-out spaces for fear of what "might get us." If there ever was a time to be alive, alert, awake and thrilled for each second we are blessed to live - this is it.


And on that note. Thanks for reading. I appreciate you and hope that you are receiving something of value from me. If not: be kind enough to tell me so and I'll do my best to deliver.
Wishing you peace, joy and, most of all, love, in this new year. Let's all win together!

Sho na bish,