I’ve just been spending some time with my Magowan chromatic mountain dulcimer plugged into my micro-cube amp this weekend….experimenting with the variety of vibes that make my mountain dulcimer sound so different than it does during our monthly meetings…different, but good–in an electrified way that takes my day-dreams back to fantasies I had as a teenager…during the times I wanted to rock-n-roll somehow, somewhere, but realized that my Bb clarinet marching band music wouldn’t pave the way, so much–as the different sounds intrigue me and get my improv juices flowin’….and, btw, with the volume of the micro-cube turned up high, I acknowledge it’s a good thing my teenager goes out with friends while I’m day-dreamin’ up into these personal improv sessions.
I’ve also been reflecting on our last monthly meeting of the Memphis Area Mountain Dulcimer Club. It was good to have my friends back in my home, as I was out of town during the June meeting and missed seeing everyone.
Bob Magowan did another wonderful job leading our meeting. He shared info he recently learned in North Carolina while attending the Cullowhee Mountain Dulcimer Week. Joe Collins, one of our National Mountain Dulcimer Champions, was kind enough to give Bob permission to pass along some simple examples of inverted chords for mountain dulcimer fretboards. Bob demonstrated and taught the club how to create harmony for a melody by simply using those inverted chords. After Bob explained the hand-outs he shared, we divided ourselves into harmony players and melody players, and we played a pretty sweet version of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
I love using familiar and simple tunes to learn new things! In fact, it’s the only way I like to learn new musical things…applying the new info to something already learned. It helps me every time.
Recently, I’ve spent a bit of time at the piano, trying to do just that. I’ve been applying my knowledge of who’s who in chord families to playing the piano….and with the help of an old theory book…I’ve learned to play a fairly fun version of Bile Them Cabbage Down…in any key! I’m a little rough around the edges in some keys, yet, but I’m working on it. It’s all about patterns, ya know? Well, if ya don’t….I’ll explain that later….when I REALLY get it myself.
That’s how we started our last meeting! Together we played Bile Them Cabbage Down in the keys of A, G, D, and C….the dulcimer players, the piano, and me.
I’ve always heard that a great way to get better at playing any instrument is to play with other people playing instruments….and I think that is very true, as lately, I’ve enjoyed learning more about one instrument by playing another instrument….and by playing it with other people. The musical knowledge is definitely transferable, I’m happy to say! And, someday, when I understand it all…I look forward to possibly being able to explain all that to anyone who wants to listen.
I’m strummin’ in Memphis,