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Category Archives: music theory

posts that relate to general music theory

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.

 

 

“Sweet Harmonies”

“Sweet Harmonies”

honeyimageby Steve Eulberg

We play dulcimers, whose name incorporates the Latin word for “sweet” (dulce).  So when I talk about sweet harmonies, in a broad sense, they are the beautiful tunes that we play on our lovely instruments.

However, in a more specific way, there are harmonies that reflect the intervals between notes that, at least to Western ears, trained to expect Western harmonies, that are “sweet.”

The space between two notes that are played simultaneously, or one after the other, is called an interval.

In the diatonic scale (the 7-step, or “white-key” scale around which both mountain and hammered dulcimers are organized) the intervals are a series of whole and half steps between each note in the scale.

The Ionian (or major) scale can be written like this:  1-2-34-5-6-78, or whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.  (See this related post or this one)

The interval between do and mi in this mode is a Major 3rd. It is composed of 2 whole steps. It is this interval which determines that the scale or mode is considered a Major scale or mode.    In the scale of D, a Major 3rd from Do=D is F#, two whole steps away.  This can be called a 3rd harmony.  And this is in close voicing.

If we play these same notes further apart from each other, for example, playing F# and then the D above that one, the interval between the two notes is a 6th and can be called a 6th harmony.  The notes have the same name and same sweet feel, but their relationship to each other is separated and so their is some more space between the notes.

If we play that first D and then skip and octave and play the F# in the next octave, then we have a 10th interval.

When I talk about “sweet harmonies” then I’m talking about harmonies that utilize this interval.

Which songs do you use that feature these sweet harmonies?  Do you tend to prefer the closer 3rds or the more distant 6ths?

Which harmony are you “sweet on?”

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Playing with a Backing Track

Playing with a Backing Track

Steve Eulberg demonstrates the beginning of a new Lesson Series at DulcimerCrossing.com:  Playing Mountain Dulcimer with a Blues Backing Track from the Premium Membership part of the website.

He will demonstrate the Pentatonic Minor Box and how to move it around the fretboard to find the notes that will work for playing Blues in the key of E on an instrument tuned to DAd.

(He also describes this process in his book, Playing Blues on the Mountain Dulcimer, which is available for sale on his website here:  OR, Free to his Patrons on Patreon here.)

 

Chords on Chromatic by Erin Mae Lewis

Chords on Chromatic by Erin Mae Lewis

Erin Mae Lewis Finding and Building chords on a Chromatic Dulcimer.

In her chromatic lessons series, Erin, shows how she maps out and builds chords, both the I-IV-V chords for playing progressions, but also the rich chord additions (minors, 7ths, major 7ths, minor 7ths and 6ths, diminished, suspended and augmented)

 

[Note: this lesson uses both Diatonic and Chromatic Fret Numbers]

Here Erin introduces the lessons:

Here is the lesson set.

Subscribe to DulcimerCrossing.com to see the rest of the lesson!

 

 

 

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Dulcimercrossing.wordpress.com Blog Year 2014 in review

Dulcimercrossing.wordpress.com Blog Year 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks for reading and commenting and sharing this blog with others who love dulcimers!

Let us know  if there is something you’d enjoy reading about or find particularly helpful for your playing!

 

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