Step By Step


Back in “the day”, I could run up and down stairs with no problem. I actually took the photo below, before racing up those stairs as fast as I could – excited to see the view from the top. But today, climbing stairs is more challenging for me. I use the excuse of my age (I’m closing in on 79), but that’s just an excuse really. If I worked harder at keeping myself physically fit, I could do it easily as I have no real physical limitations or mobility issues.


I wonder if I do the same with my dulcimer playing. Am I making excuses for staying at the same level, continuing to review my old favorites over and over instead of adding more arrangements to my repertoire? Could the excuses I make for staying at the same level musically be compared to the excuses I make for avoiding stairs at all costs? I think so and I need to change that.

There are several reasons to push yourself to move musically upward – step by step.

  • Progression : Just as climbing stairs involves taking one step at a time to reach the top, learning to play the dulcimer requires gradual progress. Each step in learning an instrument, such as mastering basic techniques, scales, and music theory, brings you closer to proficiency.

  • Consistency: Climbing stairs requires consistent effort and determination to reach the top. Similarly, learning to play an instrument demands regular practice and dedication to improve your skills and become proficient.

  • Challenges: Climbing stairs can be physically challenging, especially if the stairs are steep or numerous. Learning to play an instrument presents its own challenges, such as mastering difficult pieces, developing finger dexterity, or understanding complex musical concepts.

  • Plateaus: When climbing stairs, you may encounter flat landings between flights of stairs where you can rest before continuing upward. In learning to play an instrument, you may experience plateaus in your progress where it seems like you are not improving. Pushing through these plateaus with perseverance is essential to continue advancing.

  • Achievements: Just as reaching the top of a flight of stairs brings a sense of accomplishment, mastering a new song or technique on an instrument can be a rewarding achievement. Each step forward in your musical journey provides a sense of satisfaction and progress.

  • Mindset: Climbing stairs requires a positive mindset and determination to keep moving forward. Learning to play an instrument also necessitates a growth mindset, resilience in the face of challenges, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

  • Practice makes perfect: Climbing stairs repeatedly strengthens your muscles and improves your stamina over time. Similarly, consistent practice on an instrument enhances your muscle memory, refines your technique, and enhances your musical abilities.

Enjoy the journey.  While the ultimate goal of climbing stairs may be to reach the top, enjoying the process and the view along the way is equally important. In learning to play an instrument, finding joy in practicing, exploring new musical pieces, and expressing yourself through music enriches the learning experience.

Happy dulcimering,

[Cover Photo: Steve Eulberg re-tracing the 313 steps down to the Point Reyes Lighthouse on the north central California coast.]



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