June Note from Carla

[originally posted in June 2006 on www.Memphis-Dulcimer.com, copied and reposted here on 4/11/2009]

Hi Friends,

Today is the first day of Mountain Dulcimer Week at Western Carolina
University!  I’m in a dorm at Western Carolina University,
Cullowhee, North Carolina, where I will be spending the week in Steve
Seifert’s advanced players class.
During our next meeting I will share some of the highlights of the
week, pictures, and experiences in the jams.  Tonight I joined a
jam led by Don Pedi.  He slowed down some of his fast fiddle tunes
so everyone could keep up!  Don is a gracious jam leader.  He
spent last week in Kentucky playing for square dances, he said. 
He always looks like he loves what he is doing! 

I was excited to be able to keep up in the jam this year.  When I
left Cullowhee last year, I made my goal to “know my fretboard.” 
Playing the chords, changing chords, varying the chords, and knowing
when to change chords is SO much easier when you really know the

Larry Conger taught about chord shapes in our Memphis Dulcimer
Gathering with Larry Conger one year.  I understood the
information he presented, but I didn’t really apply it, until this past
year.  Larry demonstrated how all the chords on the mountain
dulcimer can be classified as one of four shapes:

  • Bar
  • L
  • Slant
  • Extended Slant

I guess that lesson was one of those times when the information I
received had to sink in later to be fully understood.  And, now
that I really understand and know the four chord shapes and where the
chords are on my fretboard, I am really enjoying the music that I am
making in a jam. 

At our July meeting, I will be glad to share with you what I have
learned about playing backup chords, improvisation, and rhythm with
other instruments.  Chords don’t have to be used only in a
“jam.”  Playing chords with a few other players playing the melody
is a lot of fun, and adds a lot of interest to the music! 

Well, I’m off to crawl into this dorm bed — not looking forward to
sleeping on a plastic mattress with no mattress pad — but I need to
get some sleep tonight!  Breakfast is at 7 a.m. and classes start
at 8:30.  

Don’t forget, our next meeting is the second Sunday, rather than the
first Sunday, in July.  It will be at my house, and I look forward
to seeing you all there. 

See you then!


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