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Advent Dulcimer Devotions return…

Advent Dulcimer Devotions return…

by Steve Eulberg

Imagine this:  A weekly email playing gentle music of instrumental ensembles featuring dulcimers, with a message of preparation that is serene, clear-sighted and hope-filled–an anti-dote to the crazed, blurry-eyed busyness of Christmas preparations (that began in some locations back in October.)

Advent is the 4-week season in the Christian tradition that marks the beginning of a new year in the life of the “called-out” people of God known as the church.  While we gather and prepare to celebrate the birth of a savior, we also gather and prepare for the return of the savior in the days when the light from the sun is shortest each day.  (In the northern hemisphere, that is.)

This is free and available to you and anyone with whom you share this link!

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2016 in special event, subscriber news

 

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“Prepared to be Lucky”

“Prepared to be Lucky”

luckyjoesinteriorby Steve Eulberg

Lucky Joe’s Sidewalk Saloon, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is one of the places I began honing my craft of performing in live venues at the end of the last century.

As soon as church was over in the morning, I would phone in to get my name put on the Open Mic list for what I hoped would be the prime time after the weekly Acoustic Open Mic began at 9 pm every Sunday Night.

Sometimes I was “lucky” and my name was earlier on the list, so I could listen to a few of the other players, play my set and get home to take my shower (this was before the local Clean Air Act banned smoking in bars in 2003).  If I didn’t take that shower, my sensible wife would not let my smoky-smelling self sleep in the same bed!  (I guess, twice lucky–the couch was none-too-comfortable for a night’s sleep.)

Other nights, the list was nearly full when I called in and I got to play much closer to closing time….which made the required shower much e-e-e-arlier in the morning.

Many of the performers were guitarists and singer-songwriters, although I do recall a stride pianist coming in and playing some mean Jelly Roll Morton, too.  Sometimes I would bring my guitar and try out some new songs, to test them in front of a rather discerning audience.

Many other times, I brought my mountain or hammered dulcimer up on that little stage (which provided the host and sound guy the opportunity to learn how to amplify these feedback boxes on the fly!) to introduce their delicate and lively sounds to the beer-sipping audience.  (To their intrigue and delight.)

I don’t know how the other performers used the time they were not performing, but this was a laboratory for me.

I studied them, their material, how they presented it, how the audience did (or didn’t) respond.  I prepared my nervous heart to calm itself as my time slot neared and I tried to make my set up time be efficient.  I listened to (and made internal comments on) everyone’s stage patter, and tried to edit my own in light of my quick reflections on theirs.

And I was lucky.

Joe (half of Lucky Joe’s) booked me to play for a couple of St. Patrick’s Day gigs and one year I rode on the saloon’s float in the pre St. Patrick’s Day Saturday morning parade in March (this is Colorado, remember, and March is one of the big snow-dump months every year!), playing my hammered dulcimer, wearing finger-less gloves as the float bounced down College Avenue.

But mostly I was lucky because I learned that all this preparation is what made me lucky.

(with thanks to Twyla Tharp for sharing E. B. White’s quote:

“Habitually creative people are prepared to be lucky.”

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.)

 

 

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Backing Tracks Library is growing!

Backing Tracks Library is growing!

We keep adding to our Library of Backing Tracks which are available to our Premium Members.

backingtracklibraryexanding

The two newest are the chord progressions in the Keys of D and G which match the Albert Brumley tune:  I’ll Fly Away.  These were created for the new Bluegrass Dulcimer series taught by Steve Eulberg.

We are continuing to produce these and other resources to assist you in your goals to “Bridge the Gap Between What You Know and Where You Want Your Music to Grow.”

 

 

 

“Music Confounds the Machines”

“Music Confounds the Machines”

tboneburnettby Steve Eulberg

Focusing on the challenges that artists face in the current digital and mechanistic day and age, T Bone Burnett gave the keynote address at the AmericanFest in September of this year.

I found these words echoing in my soul:

“Music is to the United States as wine is to France. We have spread our culture all over the world with the soft power of American music.  We both have regions- France has Champagne, we have the Mississippi Delta.  France has Bordeaux, we have the Appalachian Mountains. France has Epernay, we have Nashville. Recorded music has been our best good will ambassador. The actual reason the Iron Curtain fell, is because the Russian kids wanted Beatles records. Louis Armstrong did more to spread our message of freedom and innovation than any single person in the last hundred years.  Our history, our language, and our soul are recorded in our music. There is no deeper expression of the soul of this country than the profound archive of music we have recorded over the last century.”

This is my experience of the power of music to bring people together across the divides of background, experience, age, culture, gender.

I see it six days a week in my Music Together classes with preschool children and families who speak languages from Korea, Russia, Greece, China, Serbian, Japan, Israel, India, Pakistan, Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, Germany, Australia, England, Canada and the USA (and probably several more that I can’t even identify!)

But what confounds the machines and the census takers is what T Bone said, which is the reason for what we pursue in music:

“Art is a holy pursuit.

Beneath the subatomic particle level, there are fibers that vibrate at different intensities. Different frequencies. Like violin strings. The physicists say that the particles we are able to see are the notes of the strings vibrating beneath them.

If string theory is correct, then music is not only the way our brains work, as the neuroscientists have shown, but also, it is what we are made of, what everything is made of. These are the stakes musicians are playing for.”  (read the entire address here: keynote address)

These are certainly the stakes that I am playing for.

What experiences do you have to share which relate to these descriptions?

 

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2016 in history, lessons, subscriber news

 

“I Have to Practice every day…

“I Have to Practice every day…

by Linda Ratcliff

…to play as bad as I do.    —Woody Allen

Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg) is a passionate fan of jazz, and jazz music has often been featured prominently in the soundtracks of his movies. He started playing the clarinet when he was a teenager and actually chose his stage name, Woody, after the famous clarinet player Woody Herman.

Woody will be 81 in December, and these days he is performing with the Eddy David New Orleans Jazz Band.  They play every Monday night at the Carlyle Hotel.


What made me take a closer look at Woody was a quote by him about his own playing: “I have to practice every day to play as bad as I do.” I love his statement because it mirrors the way I feel about my own playing.We all need to practice – and not just to prepare for the next jam session or performance.

Practicing an instrument sharpens your brain, increases your eye-hand coordination, teaches you perseverance, and creates a sense of achievement when you overcome the challenge of learning a new tune.
I’ve also discovered a lot about the history of our country and its musicians by researching the stories behind those old fiddle tunes dulcimer players enjoy.
 (This post originally appeared in the DulcimerCrossing Newsletter.  You can subscribe here)
 

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Historical Music Printing

Historical Music Printing

renaissancemusictypesetby Steve Eulberg

Now, for a taste of History!

Luís Henriques has posted a terrific video that illustrates and describes the challenge and results of printing music using a printing press in the Renaissance.

Understanding the challenges of musical notation in the printing process can help us better appreciate the tools that are available to us today as we produce original music, arrange music for playing with friends and create tablature to translate our ideas for playing on dulcimers.

Stay tuned for more explorations!

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2016 in history, music theory

 

Quantity vs. Quality

Quantity vs. Quality

by Steve Eulberg

Which is more important in art:

Quantity or Quality?

Very often in the artistic world some believe we have settled this classic debate by choosing the benefits of quality over the benefits of quantity.

ok_signWe want to have qualities of timbre and phrasing in music, quality of graceful movement in dance, qualities of taste and smell in cooking, qualities of joy and cleverness in humor, qualities of color, depth and placement in visual art.

So, choosing the end goal of this discussion as the most important can lead us into the mistaken of mixing up the ends and the means.

Because, as this story by David Bayles and Ted Orland in their book Art & Fear:  Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking illustrates, the quality of the result may rest upon the quantity of production that precedes it.

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.

All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple:  on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group:  50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.

Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one— to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged:  the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes—they “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

 

In my experience in learning, performing and teaching music, I have found the same to be true.

The only way I can perfect a phrase that I can never play perfectly once, is to try and play it 20 times….only to discover that out of twenty times I can play it perfectly three times; and then eight times, then fourteen times….all of which demonstrates the quantity needed to produce the quality I desire.