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mountain dulcimer

Gotcher First Gig?

It’s only natural to daydream about your first gig … a small gathering of friends hoping to see you do well, spotlights , applause, a crowd of satisfied folks from the audience wanting to shake your hand and congratulate you after the event.

I hate to stick a pin in that daydream bubble, but first-time concerts don’t always run so smoothly. But, the good news is that, with just a little preparation, you can avoid many of the pitfalls that might spoil the dream for you. Don’t even think about …

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Connect Like a Rock Star

I am SO not a rock star. And you probably aren’t either. But when I’m playing my instrument, I’m a communicator and I want to connect with the person or audience for whom I’m playing.

 With that in mind, do you ever feel like you’re not connecting with your audience … when you’re introducing your next tune … or when you’re actually playing your dulcimer? Do they look bored (out of their minds)? Are their toes stubbornly still, instead of tapping along with the beat? Does their body language reve…

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The Difference Between an Improvisor ...

The Difference Between an Improvisor ...
And the Rest of Us

There is an important difference between a musician who can improvise and the rest of us who depend on our staff music or tabs in order to play a tune.

I would say a big percentage of us simply play music the way it was written by others, note for note, measure after measure. Now I have several books with my favorite hymns, many of them with the same hymns. Each collection has arrangements by a different composer so, when I pick a new …

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If It Doesn't Challenge You ...

I practice the same things routinely, so I’m prepared in case someone walks in the house, sees instruments all over the place, and asks me to play something for them. BUT … have I fallen into a rut, both on my keyboard and my hammered dulcimer? Is my practice growing stagnant?

I think, if I’m honest, the answer would have to be yes. It occurred to me yesterday that I haven’t learned anything new in a while. I haven’t tried any new licks or tricks. I haven’t challenged myself for far too long.…

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Can I Play This in Public?

The copyright law for musicians is pretty simple: In short, “a music composition or sound recording is protected by copyright law when it is an original idea that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” according to the Digital Media Law Project. For example, the classic song “I Will Always Love You” was written by Dolly Parton, so she has a copyright as the composer of the song. But we can never forget the incredible sound of Houston Whitney singing it, and she has the recording copyrig…

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It's Just Practice

Person: How do you perform so well?

Musician: Practice

Person: It must be an innate gift.

Musician: It’s practice.

Person: I can never understand how some people get all the talent. It’s a total mystery.

Musician: It’s just practice.


It doesn’t matter what you want to learn. The difference in performance or results are the direct result of practice. When you were learning to cook, was your first batch of cookies the best you ever made? Did you burn food on the campfire or BBQ pit at the be…

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3-Chord Songs

Have you ever gone to a jam session and gotten left behind holding your pick in confusion? If you’re just starting out to learn to play the dulcimer, it can be frustrating when everything that sounds so good seems so complex. You just want to play along with the others, but everyone else is WAY ahead of you. Well, there’s a solution for that. Just play chords until the melodies start to sink in and sound familiar.

You may have noticed that many of the songs we play at jam sessions sound simil…

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Play It by Ear


Have you ever gone to a jam session with a new dulcimer club or at a festival, and the tunes they play are different from the ones you play with your group back home? I have, but that didn’t stop me from playing along because I can play by ear. Oh, I don’t play by ear as well as a professional musician does for sure, but well enough to strum along or hammer the chords, and even pick out the melody if they keep on playing enough verses.

Playing by ear is a highly-prized musical skill, and has …

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Anchor Like a Pro!

My husband and I lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands for 7 years, and occasionally we were blessed with the opportunity to spend a night or two on a friend’s sailboat. We would sail to the British Virgin Islands, drop anchor near Tortola, and fire up the BBQ grill so we could eat while enjoying the sunset.

Now imagine the captain had forgotten where he was supposed to set the anchor. What if he hung the anchor at the bow? That wouldn’t work; the sailboat would surely float back to the U.S. islan…

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How Do You Eat an Elephant?


Eating an elephant can be daunting and overwhelming. So can setting and achieving lifetime goals. How can you accomplish something as big as eating an elephant? By doing it the SMART way, of course … eating it one bite at a time.

Everything in life that seems daunting, overwhelming, and even impossible can be accomplished gradually by taking on just a little at a time. If you can learn how to break down large goals in to smaller more manageable goals, you will be well on your way to reaching yo…

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