What is Your Method of Exercise?

What is Your Method of Exercise?

swimmingimageby Steve Eulberg

I remember the question from the cardiologist I visited on my 33rd birthday.

I was there because my heart was skipping beats periodically and heart disease runs in my family.

After the stress test failed to produce any abnormalities they concluded that the source of this anomaly may be just day-to-day stress, rather than being physical activity-induced.

So their strategy was to be certain that I was building a strong physical system that could withstand the mental, social and emotional stressors of an inner-city pastor.

But still the question made me pause….

“In what forms of exercise do you regularly participate?”

“Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I remember how to spell that word: e-x-e-r-c-i-s-e.”

(There were NO forms of exercise in which I was regularly engaged.)

The following week I began a program of swimming, which has always been my preferred method of exercise:  low-to-no impact, aerobic and using many muscles groups, in addition to focusing on breathing.  That program has continued to this day. Everywhere I have lived and travel, I do my best to find a swimming pool and make being there regularly and often a priority in my schedule

So, by now you might be wondering what this has to do with music?

Usually when we speak of exercises in music, we are playing a fingering pattern, or developing a hammering pattern, or becoming more dextrous with hammer-ons or pull-offs, or learning bends and releases, not something aerobic like, well, swimming!

Patrick Gannon, PhD, in an article written for the International Musician (journal of the American Federation of Musicians), borrows from the world of sports psychology to help the kinds of mental training needed to deal with performance anxiety.

He begins with Exercise As Medicine for Your Music.  (This short article is full of tips for how exercise can help you relax and learn more effectively!)

Just this week, as I began to feel the weight and pressure of decisions and preparations and deadlines and schedules that I face, I decided to take his advice and increase the length of time I was swimming in my daily swim sessions.

Wow, the sense of calm and centeredness, the depth of sleep without anxiety of dreams, were very noticeable.

So now, my question is for you:

In what regular exercise do you participate?




Don’t Marry Your Tablature

Don’t Marry Your Tablature

by Linda Ratcliff

At jam sessions, I have noticed the tendency for a group to play the same tune through several times, verse after verse after verse.  Now, many of you have set up your music stands with your notebook of tablature right in front of you.  And I’ve seen you reading your tabs for that tune, over and over and over.  Now there’s nothing wrong with that … except … I think it stifles creativity.

My system is to learn the basics of a tune, and then put the sheet music or tablature away.  I have noticed my wrong notes actually lead to ideas for variations.  And if I couldn’t play a tune a different way each time we repeated it, I might get a little (ok, a lot) bored.

May I make a suggestion?  Set up your music stand with your notebook of tablature right in front of you – like a security blanket.  But leave the notebook closed.  Start playing by memory, and just open your notebook when they play a tune with which you’re not as familiar.  You will see your confidence grow when you can leave behind the tablature.


Technology–Tool or Crutch?

Technology–Tool or Crutch?

QmarkKeyboardBy Linda Ratcliff

Technology can be an amazing aid — as long as you don’t get too dependent on it.

There are free or low-cost apps you can load on your cell phone and iPad, such as a metronome and a tuner, which are essential tools for practicing.

And, of course, Dulcimer Crossing’s online lessons include videos and flash animations – which make practice time fun.  (That link is for hammered dulcimer players.  Here is one for Mountain Dulcimer players.)

However, some students are TOO DEPENDENT on the technology aids.  They feel discouraged if they can’t play a tune exactly the way it is demonstrated in the videos.

handshammers2I believe you can feel good about yourself if you can make a tune your own, play it in your own style, with your own variations.

If there is a lick in the video that proves to be too difficult for you at this time, make up your own to fill in the same number of beats.

Study the videos, but then turn them off and see if you can play what you are hearing in your head and heart.

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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in lessons, subscriber news


Music is the Best Medicine

Music is the Best Medicine

ListeningtoMusicDuringSurgery.pngby Linda Ratcliff

Researchers at Brunel University in the United Kingdom studied the relationship between music and patients undergoing surgery.

The study followed about 7,000 patients, and discovered that patients who listened to music before and after their surgery recovered more quickly than those who didn’t. In addition, they found that those who listened to music depended less on their painkillers.

So, I am wondering – what about patients who PLAY music?

Could there be an increase in recovery time for patients who play an instrument, rather than merely listening?

A 2013 study from McGill University’s Psychology Department found that playing and listening to music can improve your body’s immune system.

Also, it cuts down your levels of stress, as it reduces the amount of cortisol — “the stress hormone” — in your body.

Spend more time with your instrument.  It’s good for you.

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Posted by on August 11, 2016 in lessons, subscriber news


Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety

visualize.pngby Linda Ratcliff

Stage fright is experiencing intense feelings of nervousness before or while you’re playing your instrument in front of people. In fact, it is also called performance anxiety.

But the truth is, when we feel this way, we are determining the outcome in our imagination before it actually happens. We are visualizing a complete mess-up, and we expect to either strike or strum the wrong strings at any moment.

You’re not alone.

When I used to perform on the piano, I remember standing back stage waiting to go on, desperately trying to remember even the first note.

Jim Carrey almost put off performing for life, after a bad experience as a stand up comic when he was 15.

After forgetting the lyrics to a song during a concert in Central Park, Barbra Streisand stopped performing live for 27 years – out of fear she’d repeat the incident.

Carly Simon once fainted on the stage, right in front of her audience – from stage fright.

One way to overcome this is by visualization.  Now, you’ve probably heard it said that all you have to do is imagine that everyone listening to you is sitting there in their underwear.

But I recommend that you visualize a successful performance – playing every note perfectly and with expression.

Be fully prepared before you plan to play for someone, and then shift your negative thoughts into positive thoughts.


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Posted by on August 4, 2016 in lessons, subscriber news


Upcoming Lesson: Playing with a Backing Track

Upcoming Lesson: Playing with a Backing Track

Coming soon from the DulcimerCrossing editing bay:

A new lesson series with coaching and suggestions for playing along with a Blues Backing Track.

Using the example from the Backing Track Library in our Premium Membership section, Steve Eulberg demonstrates the power of the Pentatonic Minor Scale as a strategy for playing along with recorded music (without any written tablature!)

PlayingBluesCoversFrontIf you really want to dig in deep and understand what is going on inside the blues and how the mountain dulcimer is particularly well-suited for playing blues, you might be interested in Steve’s book/CD:  Playing the Blues on the Mountain Dulcimer

This book/CD is available as an interactive PDF (useable on your iPad or tablet) available as a  download or as a hard-copy in spiral binding (the traditional way!)

All of these resources are designed to help you play your blues into the corner for awhile!