Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Tis The Season…To Be Busy

This holiday season has been the busiest in a long time, due in part to a family of kittens that were born in our backyard several weeks back.  So, along with the usual hustle and bustle, there's also been muddle and cuddle (we took O'Malley, the orange one, in) as well as lots of new gear and some fun gigs.

The "Dulcimerica" pledge drive has been a huge part of fall since we successfully raised funds for new equipment including two Sony video cameras that have been used to shoot the newest episodes.  I spent a good amount of time putting together the incentive packages to mail out and that was quite a lot of fun, especially the sealing wax part.  I'm a Sagittarius, a fire-sign, whaddya want?

Beyond that, I've been looking at replacing my old stage lighting rig with something more modern (and less hot) so I picked up a couple of really neat little lights that have already been a huge hit at shows.  

The first one is a Chauvet EZPar 56:

I was performing at a wedding and they had these all over the place, which looked very cool.  They're battery-powered, no cables required, so you have the freedom to stage them where ever you like.  I got it mainly as a spotlight/stage wash, but it's got built-in chase sequences and will even switch colors in time with the beat of the music.  Selling my old lighting rig essentially bought this one - trading up from six lights requiring power to one light that doesn't - not a bad deal at all.

The next rig is the Chauvet Colorstrip Mini and it's kinda ridiculous, but then so is my stage show.  I got it specifically for the out-of-control performances that I do in clubs, pubs, for special events or when I DJ after a performance.  These likewise have built-in chase sequences and will also move in time to the beat.  The best part about LED technology is that they throw off very little heat, and that's nice on the skin when you're already sitting in a hot room on a hot night somewhere (and sure, I'll miss the heat throw on those cold nights where the lights were the only thing keeping you from freezing your 'nads off, but, whatever.)

Eventually, I'll get some kind of truss and a few more lights for some of my longer shows and really take it to the next level.  Since I come from the rock 'n' roll world, I'll admit to loving the flash and pizazz of a good light show and these little rigs really do the trick.  

As I type this, a brand new "Dulcimerica" has hit the net just in time for Christmas.  It may well be the longest episode ever, but there's a lot to cover as I perform and teach "O Holy Night."

I'm gonna keep this short and sweet as work continues on "Method For Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer" and, since it's so busy around here, I'm stealing every bit of time that I can.  Hope you're enjoying a happy holiday season and we'll see you here again on the flip side!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

…And so it begins...

Production time is here, my friends, and that means a lot of exciting new developments here at Casa de Milagro.  The newest, and most obvious, development is the arrival of the equipment purchased with funds raised from the "Dulcimerica" pledge drive.  This past weekend at the Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat in White Springs, Florida, I initiated the two new cameras in a big way and that footage is now being posted.  Check out the first new episode with the fresh gear:


Sure, I cropped the frame a little too close to the top of my head; new technology can't change that, but you get the idea.  Watch for more episodes this week and for the rest of the year.  We're back in full swing and I just can't thank you all enough.  The last of the incentives are being ordered and produced right now (t-shirts and calendars); they'll ship at the beginning of December.

Ongoing Projects

The chromatic method book is back on track now that I'm home for a spell, along with a number of other creative endeavors, including the duet book with Jeff Hames, and a number of new recordings.

I've also got some instruments that I "sort of" play, but not really, and am looking to boost my education in those areas (including harmonica, low "D" whistle and bass guitar.)

"To The Make Of A Piper…"

I'm self-taught on all the instruments that I play (except for clarinet, which took some years of instruction in middle and high school) and decided to pick up the bagpipes, which I've been told is something that you really shouldn't try to teach yourself.   I love the sound of the bagpipes, but also wanted to start with something that wouldn't totally make my neighbors hate me and that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg for a beginner.  I decided upon a set of Gibson Fireside Pipes which are lower in tone than the Great Highland Bagpipes and can be played indoors.

My reasons for starting on the bagpipes are many:

• I love the sound of them and have always wanted to play them.

• By playing another wind instrument (and a demanding one at that), I'm looking to bolster my abilities as a singer and player of other wind instruments, developing new techniques and increasing lung capacity that will help me across the board.

• I wanted the discipline and routine of working on a weekly basis with an instructor who would not only give me direction but also challenge me continuously.  I do pretty good as a self-starter, but I work best under someone's tutelage - not something that happens often in my career.

• Adding another skill set to my repertoire just makes sense, especially with an instrument that is so in demand.  

That all said - it'll be years before I'm any good at the things, but I am still very excited about it and I've got my first lesson in a week with Reginald Lyle.  Watch and listen for updates!

Lots to do, so I'm off to do it.  Thanks for your patience during the slow periods here on the blog.  I'll be back with more mountain dulcimer sweetness soon!

Friday, October 25, 2013


Thanks to everyone who pledged during this drive; we are fully funded!  There are still pledges coming in, so watch for a grand total in about a week or so.  

The cameras have been ordered and will arrive next week.  The computer upgrades are underway and the designs for the wax seals, stationery, stickers and t-shirts are completed.  Orders have been placed for the custom work and for the small gear items. Next, I'll begin working on the DVD set and setting up a new server for the tons of HD video footage that will be uploading soon.

We really couldn't have done it without you - THANK YOU for your support of "Dulcimerica" and, as always, thank you for watching!

All the best,


Friday, September 06, 2013

The "Dulcimerica" Crowd-Sourcing Pledge Drive

"The Dulcimerica Video Podcast" (iTunes - YouTube) launched in 2006 and has since produced over 200 episodes viewed by more than a million unique viewers worldwide. When I first started producing the series, my equipment was state of the art.  However, with time and much usage, the cameras began to fail, the software became outdated and the popularity of the show plus the immense data storage began costing me extra for bandwidth and server space.  As a free program this is difficult to maintain, so I've added donation buttons on the sites and graphics asking for pledges right into the videos, but it's not been enough to keep things rolling smoothly.

For that reason, I'm initiating a crowd-sourcing pledge drive to raise funds for the upgrades and I'm offering incentives for varying levels of pledges so everyone will receive something cool for their participation. Included on this page is a detailed list of incentives, a F.A.Q. covering the who, what, where, when and why and the specific gear and services that I'm looking to purchase. The result will be a renewed ability to keep "Dulcimerica" rolling merrily along into its 8th year of existence as one of the most popular (and still free!) dulcimer-related programs online!

What are the pledge incentives?

Pledge $10 or more
6 backers

Every little bit counts!  An "I Love Dulcimerica" sticker will be included in a personally handwritten letter of thanks which will be mailed to you on special "Dulcimerica" stationary sealed and stamped in wax.  Classy!

Pledge $15 or more
6 backers

The "I Love Dulcimerica" sticker, the Classy Letter Package and a
special autographed and personalized glossy photo

Pledge $25 or more
10 backers

The sticker, Classy Letter, glossy photo and an "I Love Dulcimerica" t-shirt suitable for framing or wearing.  Or framing and wearing.

Pledge $35 or more
3 backers

The sticker, Classy Letter, glossy photo, the "I Love Dulcimerica" t-shirt
and a your name in the end credits of a special 8th Anniversary "Dulcimerica" episode.

Pledge $50 or more
9 backers

The sticker, Classy Letter, glossy photo, the t-shirt, your name in the
8th Anniversary show and a 16-month 2014/2015 calendar featuring awesome moments from "Dulcimerica" (with your name listed inside the calendar as well!)

Pledge $75 or more
3 backers

Sticker, Letter, Photo, T-shirt, Calendar, name in the Anniversary show credits AND calendar plus a quick personal phone call from me to tell you how much you totally rock!

Pledge $100 or more
13 backers

Sticker, Letter, Photo, T-shirt, Calendar, name in the credits and calendar, quick personal phone call from me AND your name in the credits of "Dulcimerica" for a full year as a co-producer.  Woot!

Pledge $250 or more
1 backers

All of the above PLUS an ad for your business or just a special message inside the 16 month calendar (first come-first served on your choice of month.)

Pledge $350 or more
0 backers

All of the above PLUS a DVD set,  "Almost A Decade Of Dulcimerica", featuring full episodes, never-before-seen footage, outtakes and special features.  High Definition goodness where you can see everything super-clear and real up-close!

Pledge $450 or more
1 backers

All of the above PLUS 8 hours of one-on-one real-time video lessons with me on your instrument of choice; mountain dulcimer, Native American flute, ukulele, jaw harp, whatever you like!  

Pledge $550 or more
1 backers

All of the above PLUS an autographed copy of every CD I've ever released.
No flash drives.  Tangible schwag!

Pledge $650 or more
0 backers

All of the above PLUS an autographed copy of every book I've ever published. WITH the CDs that go in the back and everything!

Pledge $750 or more
1 backers

All of the above PLUS a song written especially for you, showcased on a
"Dulcimerica" episode and released on an upcoming album. How cool is that?

Pledge $1000 or more
0 backers

All of the coolness above hand-delivered PLUS a "Dulcimerica" episode shot at YOUR house where I will cook dinner for you and your guests!  It's going to be a party! (Offer only good in the continental U.S.)

Pledge $1500 or more
0 backers

Everything mentioned so far PLUS a private house concert for you and your guests.  You'll really be workin' it then! (Offer good only in the continental U.S.)

Pledge $2000 or more
0 backers

You are The Boss if you reach this level!  Not only will you receive EVERY incentive listed here, but you'll have your choice of one of two options.  Either I'll write and record an entire album for you based on your themes, suggestions and preferences (holy concept album, Batman!) OR a full week spent in the studio with me as I record and produce YOUR ALBUM.  Not only will I produce your album, I'll set you up with digital distribution online so that you can start selling music straight away!  And I'll take you out for Mexican food when we're done. (I'll bring the studio to you, so no need for travel or lodging arrangements.)

How much are you trying to fundraise?


What exactly is wrong with your gear?

Since I went full-time as a musician, and because I don't charge a fee for "Dulcimerica", there hasn't been a budget to upgrade software or repair damaged equipment.  One of the two cameras that I use for shooting sustained water damage on tour which wiped out the LCD viewfinder.  The motor for the lens assembly malfunctioned later and has to be propped open in order to view anything.  The secondary camera uses Hi8 video and will not be compatible with the next round of Mac OS upgrades.  My only tripod is broken.  The Final Cut Pro editing suite that I have, along with DVD Studio Pro and LiveType, are all outdated and are no longer supported by Apple.  I've been holding off upgrading to the latest OS because it will render these programs completely unusable.

The other problem has nothing to do with gear and everything to do with too much of a good thing!  "Dulcimerica" has over 200 episodes which all need to be stored on a server in order to feed both the current iTunes directory and also the archives on the website.  Besides the ever-growing server space, there is the tremendous bandwidth involved as people from all around the world access the data and either stream or download the media.  My current internet provider has warned me that I'm taking up too much space, so I need to move all of the data to a different provider.  The show has grown too big. Kind of a nice problem to have - but it's still an issue.

What will $5000 purchase?

Here are the items we've identified and their respective costs:

2 Sony HDR-PJ430V Handycams - $1800
2 Sony NP-FV50 Batteries - $69.90
2 Transcend 32 Gb Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Cards - $45.16
Final Cut Pro X - $299
Motion - $49.99
Compressor - $49.99
Logic Pro X - $199.99
Mountain Lion - $19.99
2 Fluid Head Tripods - $300
Server Data Relocation/Implementation/Setup/Hosting
Raw Materials For Incentive Production
Packaging and Shipping For Incentives

Thankfully, software costs have gone down.  Final Cut, Motion, Compressor, Logic Pro are the updated tools that will allow me to edit, design graphics, record and mix sound and export online and to DVD.  They will all be compatible with Mac's latest OS, Mountain Lion.  The cameras are in the mid-$800's apiece and are not quite professional-level, but have features that will speed up the production process (one of the big issues we've had - an investment of over 8 hours for each ten minute episode due mostly to logging of video tape.  These cameras work off of flash drives and can even send the footage via wi-fi to the editing bays.)  Finally, the moving of all the data from the current server to a new host where we'll need to pay for a year up front.  The rest of the funds will assist in producing and delivering the incentives.

Why aren't you using Kickstarter for this pledge drive?

According to Kickstarter's rules, you have to have a finished project to show at the end of the drive.  Our fundraising drive's main purpose is to upgrade equipment so that we can produce an ongoing video podcast. There will be a brand new DVD set, "Almost A Decade Of Dulcimerica", that comes out of this drive.  However, it won't even be possible until we purchase the equipment to make it happen. Unfortunately, we don't qualify under Kickstarter's rules, so we're conducting the drive on our own.

What is the timeline you're looking at?

We'd like to have raised all of the funds by the end of 2013 with an eye on delivering the incentives in January of 2014.

Can I get a refund on my pledge if you don't meet your goal?


Can I pledge with a check or money order instead of PayPal?

Yes, you can.  Please make it out to "J.O.B. Entertainment Inc." and mail to:

J.O.B Entertainment Inc.
P.O Box 560727
Orlando, Florida  32856

Who can I talk to if I have any questions about the pledge drive?

You can talk to me, Bing Futch, either by e-mail (bingfutch@yahoo.com) or by calling me directly. (E-mail me first and I'll give you my phone number.)

Will "Dulcimerica" continue in the meantime?

Yes, I'm currently uploading episodes from footage shot this summer and will shoot some additional episodes throughout the next few months.  No matter what, "Dulcimerica" will continue.  We're just hoping to streamline things to make it easier to produce and manageable for everyone concerned.  Thanks for your support and thanks for watching!

Dulcimerica 218 - "Florida Folk Festival Pt. 3"

Dulcimerica 217 - "Florida Folk Festival Pt. 2"

Dulcimerica 216 - "Florida Folk Festival Pt. 1"

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Back In The Producer's Chair

Usually how it works is you debut some tunes on the road and then record the most well-received ones for your next record.  I can't tell you how many times I played "Sweet River" and had folks ask "which album is that on?"

So, taking a major musical hint, I began laying down tracks for "Sweet River" yesterday using some new equipment that is making this particular recording experience totally dreamy.

I bought an Audio-Technica atm33a shotgun mic some time ago and it has been awesome to use in studio, but I've never possessed a stereo pair until now.  The second one is a little beat-up, cosmetically, but works fine and I got it for half of the price!  Using an XY Stereo miking technique, I got a beautiful dual track of mountain dulcimer rhythms and a likewise beautiful pair of overdubs in one take each.  Both mics were sent through my Presonus Firestudio Mobile without compression.  As usual, I'm using Garageband for laying down my tracks.

I then recorded the Native American flute track using my Studio Projects B1 condenser microphone and this is the first time that I've used this mic for this instrument.  The results are amazing!

Sometime during the flute session, a storm kicked up outside, so I set one of the atm33a's at the open door of the studio and captured a mixture of rain, pond noise and thunder to mix in with the track.  At one point (and completely on the beat) a huge clap of thunder punctuated and permeated the flute track.  I'm so leaving it that way.

Finally, everything is being heard through my new pair of Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitors.  For years, I've been using a TEAC consumer home system but felt like I needed to step up my engineering game in proper fashion.  These new monitors give a fine, clean signal that is enabling me to record and mix with the truest signal possible.

Today, I'll begin laying down bass, building the rhythm track and nudging all of the elements into place.  I'm not sure what release this will go on, but it will probably go out as a single since so many folks have shown a desire to have this track in their music collections.  Having performed it hundreds of times over the past year or so, it was probably the simplest recording I've ever done - everything in one take and distilled to the essence.

If you're interested in getting into doing your own home studio recordings, I'll be teaching a workshop on the subject at the 2nd Annual Florida Gulf Coast Dulcimer Retreat.  All you have to do is bring your laptop, audio interface, connecting cables and headphones.  I've been a home recording studio engineer since 1986 and have self-produced all of my albums, which are available all over the world through various digital distribution outlets and retailers.  I'm still learning, of course, because technology continues to evolve and change - but I'm happy to share with you what I know because a penny saved is a penny used to buy more cool gear.

Sho nah bish ~ Blessings,

Friday, August 09, 2013

Yeah, I Know....

Well, it's been absolutely MONTHS since I last posted here but sometimes, this blog is the last thing I think about when it comes to social media.  Why?  Because it hardly garners any response, so it's a little bit like talking to a wall, so you can't blame me too much. (I know you're out there - I can see who visits.  But y'all are so quiet.)

The other more obvious reasons have to do with finishing "Dive!" and then going off on a two month tour.  It was all I could do just to keep up with e-mail and Facebook while on the road.

In any case - I'm back home now and trying to catch up in more ways than one - so I suppose I'll be getting back into posting on this blog now that I've got my sweet, angled desktop keyboard back (because typing on a laptop sucks!)

The agenda, now that I'm home for a spell, is pretty intense:

• Finish "Method For Chromatic Mountain Dulcimer"
• Begin work on my next album
• Continue work on a duet book and album with Jeff Hames
• Create curriculum for new slate of workshops I'm offering starting in 2014
• Produce more "Dulcimerica" episodes
• Blog more
• Practice, practice, practice

I know that doesn't sound like much, but slap it together with the usual everyday craziness of booking, planning, keeping up around the house, gigging and trying to enjoy a little time off every now and again and what you end up with is one sick schedule.  Still - I'd rather that than waiting for the phone to ring.

Thanks to everyone who helped make my Spring/Summer Tour such an amazing success.  I had a big time these past few months and here are some numbers:

• 14,055 miles traveled
• 16 states
• 6 theme parks
• 39 roller coasters
• 29 events
• 2 RV repairs
• 0 breakdowns

Totally livin' the dream - thanks again, everybody!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Workin' It

I'm here in Decatur, Texas at the Perrin Limousin Cattle Ranch and I'm workin' like a cowboy to make some extra money and help out two of my dear friends.  I've always loved the agricultural farm life, although I've lived it only via county fairs and t.v. shows.  During the RV Project Tour, I got a taste of this life and agreed to come back as a full-bore ranch hand for a week as a part of Spring Tour 2013.  It's been a blast, herding cattle, stacking feed, milking cows, repairing fences and rain gutters.  I'm getting some cool and interesting work experience while getting paid (always a plus!) and still plotting the details of not only spring tour but the release of "Dive!"   Stay tuned for more pics and details!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Dive Chronicles: It Is Finished.

It's finally completed!
After five years, "Dive!" is finally wrapped and heading to the CD place for duplication.  The pre-order campaign has been very successful; thanks to everyone who ordered the CD and the companion book "Confessions Of A Diver."  There is more than enough to cover the cost of production and shipping! You can hear three tracks from the album on my Reverbnation page.  They are the top three songs listed in the media player and I'd appreciate you sharing them with others.  The CD will be available next week on the road only since I've got to do some more design work and prep for it to be available online.  Once I get back home at the end of May, you'll be able to order it online but, for now, you'll only be able to pick it up while I'm road trekkin'.

Not that this cleans my plate a whole bunch - there's still plenty going on right now as I prepare to depart for Texas on Sunday (working the Perrin Limousin Ranch for a week, some fun, fellowship, shooting and extra dough) and then make my way to the Dulcimer Jamboree at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas.  That's just the beginning of part two of Spring Tour, which kicked off in such a great way last week.  Every stop was incredible, culminating in a real good time at The Big Muddy Folk Festival in Boonville, Missouri.  Huge thanks to everyone who helped plan, organize and host events along the route.  Once again, I ate way more Mexican food than I had originally intended.  But it was allll good.

I'll post more pics and share some stories from the road in a little while - in the meantime, tell your friends about this and my other sites, link back, post comments and thanks for visiting!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Tour: Saturday

First day of Spring Tour and I set out in Rita at 8 am with an eye towards camping midway to Shreveport where I'll be staying with John and Karen Keane. This will be my third time to Herndon Magnet School where John is the music teacher; I've enjoyed presenting a musical program with him for the kids and I'm looking forward to Monday's schedule. Knowing that it's April Fool's Day, I'm fully expecting there to be some mischief.

The 12 hour trip was uneventful, cruising at 55 mph in the slow lane is very relaxing and easy on Rita. I ended up in Hattiesburg, MS where I'm camped at a Walmart Resort. Hopefully will get a chance to visit with Jeff Hames in Jackson before continuing north. I'll be checking in periodically!

Sho na bish,