Look B4 You Leap!


Look Before You LEAP! This expression has been found in old manuscripts as far back as 1350 and appeared in a collection of proverbs by John Heywood in 1546. Its first use in the U.S. was in 1677 in the History of Indian Wars in New England. It’s all about thinking, paying attention, and taking on the world in such a way that you don’t fall flat on your face because you forged ahead too fast.

I think this is good advice for approaching a new tune as well. I admit, sometimes I charge right in … expecting to play a new tune fluently from the get-go. But it doesn’t usually (ever?) work out well for me. There is a much better approach. Before you begin a new tune, I recommend that you look over the tabs or sheet music and ask yourself these questions.

  • In what key am I playing? Will I need to use my capo?
  • What starting finger would work best on the fretboard?
  • How should I finger so my notes connect?
  • What are the chords I will be playing?
  • What is the time signature?
  • Maybe I should clap the rhythm first.
  • What dynamics can I see?
  • What is the highest note? Where is that note located?
  • What is the lowest note? Can I find that note?
  • Which measure looks the easiest?
  • Which measure looks tricky? Maybe I’d better go over that one a few times first.

Can you think of more points to check before you leap?

After you have checked these points, GET BUSY!

As Walt Disney said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." Begin by playing one line or phrase, and then go back to correct any mistakes. Then try playing the next phrase, and next play the 1st two phrases together. Take it slow, phrase by phrase, line by line.

Don’t be in a rush. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Happy dulcimering,



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