Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Clayville-Prairieland Strings UPDATE Jan 19

This message went out tonight as a blast email to everyone on the Prairieland Strings and Clayville workshop lists:

Hi everybody -

Saturday's workshop went so well, I think you all owe yourselves a round of applause! And the folks at Clayville desrve another big round og applause, too. They couldn't be more cooperative and all-around better to work with!

We're working on getting more experienced players for our next workshop on Saturday (which is why you're getting this, by the way, if you're on the Prairieland Strings email list ... I want to make sure we have enough tutors and loaner instruments to go around ... so if you've already contacted me, thanks so much! And if you haven't, please consider coming out to Clayville from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday to help out.) I'm attaching copies of some of the handouts and links for our workshops ... including one to my weblog called Hogfiddle, where I post video links and explanatory material for my classes and workshops. It's at ...


... there's some other stuff on the blog you can safely skip over, but if you scroll down to Jan. 3, you'll find something called "Prairieland (dulcimer) Strings - ** UPDATE ** doin's in January." The update is from Saturday, when I reported on our first workshop and asked for help from more experienced members of our dulcimer club. And after I send it, I'll post a copy of this email message too. That way you can link more easily to a couple of websites.

(Tangent: Sometimes people ask what a hogfiddle is. It's another name for an Appalachian dulcimer.)

Don't forget: Our next workshop is at Clayville from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 19. And if there's enough interest, we can schedule a couple of added workshops in February. I think it would be good for the beginners to have as much instruction as possible.

Here's another link. Bev Buck has started a webpage for the Prairieland Strings. It's at


... definitely worth a visit. We've just started it, and we plan to make more use of it as we get more experience with it. A couple of attachments:

1. A press release for Mike Anderson's 4th Annual Illinois Mountain Dulcimer Weekend Feb. 22-24 at Chillicothe. Mike is teaching the beginners' class. Tuition is $130, and lodging is available at a motel right down the road from from Two Sisters Park, where the workshop will be held. This is a real opportunity to get started on a fast track and learn from a master. Steve Endsley of Canton, who makes and repairs dulcimers, will be there. He tells me he has a few ready for sale, by the way. Another reason to come to the workshop. Another link follows, to details on Mike's website about Winter Weekend ...


2. "Where the Notes Are on a Dulcimer," which has a diagram of the fretboard when the instrument is tuned DAD and a couple of suggestions about playing scales and very simple songs by ear so you can hear, well, what the title says, where the notes are. We started working with it last Saturday, and we'll come back to it this weekend. (You may want to keep coming back to it -- it's based on what I do to warm up before learning a new song, or playing an old one for that matter.) The objective here is to know what the notes sound like and where to find them -- to learn your dulcimer, in other words.

Next time, we'll move on to two more subjects: (1) the "bum-ditty" strum that provides the basic rhythm for playing an old-time dulcimer tune; and (2) the "three-chord trick" for playing backup chords. It's the foundation for accompanying your singing, for playing rhythm in a group ... and, for faking it till you make it in a jam session. I'll have handouts and tablature for you Saturday.

In the meantime, there's a very good instructional video by "Strumelia" (not her real name). She's from the Northeast somewhere and she learned a very traditional style of playing after mastering the chord-melody style we're learning. There are differences in the two styles, but the basic strum she teaches here is still used for dance tunes, and once you master it you can go on to play just about any kind of folk music on the dulcimer. Her video, the third of a series of 10 or 11, is available at ...


Watch it a couple of times, and try to strum along once you're getting the hang of it. You'll also want to hear what the "bum-ditty" strum sounds like in the hands of an experienced player, and there's none better than Jean Ritchie. Originally from Kentucky, she did more than any one person to popularize the dulcimer from the 1940s and 1950s onward by playing it in Greenwich Village and teaching it to Yankees caught up in the folk revival. From there it went nationwide. There's a fine YouTube clip of Jean Ritchie playing of an old mountain minor key fiddle tune called "Shady Grove" on Pete Seeger's old TV show Rainbow Quest during the late 1950s or early 60s at ...


... and a clip of her performance of the same song at a music festival at the Hindman Settlement School in eastern Kentucky in 2007


Finallly, a couple of upcoming meetings of the Prairieland Strings:

-- Thursday. Jan. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. we'll have our regular "third Thursday" session at Springfield's Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson. You're welcome to come and listen, or play with us if you feel ready to try it, and meet us in any event. Kate Kaneley-Miller will inroduce us to a lovely Irish air called "Si Bheag Si Mhor" (which is Irish for something like the fairies of the Big Hill and the Little Hill). It's intricate, but well worth the learning! There are links to performance videos on my updated blog post for Jan. 3. Well worth a listen.

-- Tuesday, Feb. 5, our "first Tuesday" session from 7 to 9 p.m. at Atonement. PLEASE NOTE: This is a new meeting time. So more members of our group can join us, we're changing our monthly schedule to the FIRST TUESDAY and THIRD THURSDAY of the month.

If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please don't hesitate to get back to me.

Hope to see you at Clayville Saturday!

-- Pete

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