Happy New Year (Almost)

Good morning! Or afternoon…

If you are reading this, congratulations on your discovery or, for my patient readers, perseverance. Right now, it is December 31, 12:30 am. I really did not mean to abandon this blog – or the other one, either. In part, this piece is for both.

In the middle of last year, life got messy; I responded by backing down and away from the best of myself while struggling to keep everything else going. It worked, mostly; what got done needed doing, but the giving up and letting go left me feeling empty, powerless and too much of a failure. Creative time? Nada…

That is changing, starting now. The rebuilding will be chronicled in either “Notes from Around the Bend” or “Reclaiming the Muse” as new and interesting things happen. Yes, I will keep up with family, obligations, and the whole crappy mess that nearly totaled me in past months. I will ALSO keep up (and take care of) myself –

My performance at jams has gotten weak and nervy; I’ve totally quit open mic or any public performance, SO, I’ve drafted a multi-part program to change that.

1) get solid on the jam pieces I do know (and add a couple of new ones!), 2) do public performance with both my groups, using the jam set when I lead, 3) work back to open mics, first as audience, and later as participant, building repertoire along the way and, 4) work on alternate tunings in order to increase instrument range, confidence and skill sets.

Easy, right? I’ll keep you posted!

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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in creativity, making music, Uncategorized


Can’t sleep, so… time to write another blog post?

Guess so… And there is mischief afoot.

As promised, I’ve started building a chord chart for DGD (Ionian Mode) mountain dulcimer. There are at least six pages of chords scribbled into my handy-dandy 6″ x 8″ lined yellow pad, and I’m on the hunt for more. It needs to go digital, so this morning I entered the “G” chords into TablEdit. They sure sound pretty when played back…

So far, it’s a very different set from the orderly chords found in DAD tuning. There seems to be a usable number of I, IV and V chords but not many minors and 7ths. And very few recognizable (read easily memorized!) chord “shapes” that move in logical fashion up and down the fretboard. The one I have identified is pretty danged awkward, at least to my grumpy fingers. One source suggests barring with either the little finger or fourth finger, leaving the others free to play elsewhere… which is also not smooth or easy, but maybe it will come later? If it doesn’t, can I just play on the first and middle strings, and let the bass alone if it clashes?

Next question: what happens to any or all of the above when you slap on a capo?

I have not a clue; it really does depend on the needs of the music being played. Knowing more than a smidge of music theory would help. Meanwhile, I’m on the lookout for something called “chordish drones”, i.e. a compatible note on the middle or bass string that creates a partial chord to support the melody line. Much easier (and faster!) when it works. All this comes later…

For now, it’s baby steps. I’ll get the lot tabbed and then send to friends for testing and ideas. With luck, we’ll put together the first ever full-featured chord chart dedicated exclusively to this tuning.

Is all this fuss worth the time and trouble in this era of DAD supremacy? I think so. And not just to preserve a legacy of past practices. It’s more about musicianship and helping myself – eventually others? – explore one of the many possible voices of this “simple folk instrument”.



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Soooo…. What’s happened since my last post in March?

Quite a bit, actually.

We’re finally (mostly) in the black, which means that most of the major after-purchase home repairs are done, and we can probably do the last (re-plumbing underground and adding a faucet in back) in affordable bits. I stretched the dollars (read hit up the credit card) and bought a refurbished HP laptop. I can type again. That’s a good thing, because there’s been a lot going on here in my little burg that I’d like to share.

I’ve been playing gigs with the “Hilltop Gang” at the McDonald’s in Cordes Junction. It’s fun, we all make a few bucks, and it’s cool to see people’s faces light up when they hit the drive up and see musicians. Some go thru the drive-thru, get their food and then park to sit and listen for a while. We do a lot of country standards, a little gospel and some fiddle tunes. Kudos to the local McDonald’s for letting us play!:

Also did a few bluegrass gigs with the “Beaver Creek Philharmonic”, the most recent being the Flywheel Convention a month or so ago in McGuuireville, AZ. This got us a write-up in the paper.

On the quiet side, I’ve been working on other tunings, especially DGD. I’ve even converted a friend… but she can’t find any chords in the books she has; promised I’d get her some. Strange how so many of the newer dulcimer books do not talk about the older tunings… it’s all DAD. So most people who are new to playing don’t know that many other voices are possible.

I’m working to change that understanding, one tune at a time! My goal for this year is to learn DGD well enough to use it in open mics and other solo performance, and then get a handle on EAA. I LOVE that sound… so deep and wonderful! It’s the same A tuning used for baritone dulcimers, but works better on mine in reverse. It’s also a mixoylydian tuning, so the chords are the same as DAD (unless you switch the strings, of course. Then you have to reverse the chords too; still cool…)

I’m excited!


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A Funny Thing Happened

just after the previous post. My computer crashed. And a whole lot of need-to-do-it-now home repairs presented themselves.

So we hired a handyman and other sorts, thoroughly scrambled the budget to fit new priorities, and otherwise kept on paddling upstream.

That, plus an attack of bronchitis and ear troubles that left me deaf for most of a month, pretty much got in the way of getting a new computer or playing music, but…

That’s all done now. Mostly. I’m typing now on a mini computer loaned to me by a friend and totally wanting better and faster! But it beats using a tablet for some things, so also grateful for the loan!

On the music end: I went to the Glendale (AZ) Folk & Heritage festival last weekend and had a ball! Didn’t see many acts; jamming and workshops took up most of my time. Definitely worth a trip if you are out that way next year.

The AZ chapter of Old Time Fiddlers’ held a campout in Mayer the weekend before. Two minutes driving got me there (yay!), and it was another good time. Besides jamming, I took a workshop on how to back up a fiddler; good info to know, and a little bit tricky for a dulcimer player.The pick – chop part was easy but finding the root and fifth of each chord (that’s the picking part) was harder. It finally dawned on me that, in Dad (or any other Mixolydian tuning) you can use barre chords for back up, with the bass string for the root and middle for fifth. Much easier!

Gee think I’m finally getting the hang of this. More later; my main dulcimer is in the shop for fret repair so I’m taking the week off to work thru the fiber studio.

Keep on strumming!

There’s always a way.

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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


My new space…

1120141554ais pretty darn groovy! It took more than a bit of wiggling to get all this (plus a whole lot more that you can’t see) into a 10′ x 12′ space and have room enough left to play in. I’m proud of me!

And more than happy that the music is going well, as is most everything else.


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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized


Found ‘Em…

A local play group, I mean. The “Hilltop Gang” meets every Wednesday afternoon. They are easy to like, and to play with; more than good enough for now!

The folk festival was a heady experience and the dulcimer festival in Albuquerque was, as always, phenomenal. No details on either because my computer crashed so I’m blogging via Kindle and  smart phone, so keeping things short.

Later… who knows?

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Posted by on October 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Catching up is hard to do, but…

as predicted in the last post we did, finally, score a home in Cordes. The buy closed at the end of August and we moved in on September 4th.

A well-done deal; we’re settling in and muddling through the “afters”, i.e. the never-ending unpacking, record updates, utility change-outs, repairs, unpacking, restocking and, best of all, the after-the-fact ‘oopses’ that keep you running well past the move-in date.

Like discovering that the cable company who said “of course” when you gave them the new location before the move, but bailed when you called them after, so you have to drive a mere 36 miles to return the box you kept because they said you could… and then they gig you $423 for it anyway because your account was on autodraft????

I could go on but to little point. The upside is that, most of the major hassles are at least in process, and life is scrabbling back to some kind of new normal that we can begin to enjoy.

My fiber cum music studio is up and running. I am practicing daily again, returning to jams and open mics that I frequented before the move, and searching actively for those closer in.

I’m also looking for a friendly (nearby) street or three to strum on.

This weekend I’m headed to a birthday party jam on Saturday and the folk music festival in Prescott on Sunday. And in two more weeks I’ll be off to Albuquerque for the New Mexico dulcimer festival.

Am I excited? Hell no, I’m justifiably ecstatic!

Or would that be certifiably…?

Stay tuned.


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Posted by on October 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

Covered in Beer

by Thomas Cochran, Known Moron

The Neighborhood

The Story within the Story

All Night Knits

Sleep All Day. Knit All Night.

Watching The Photo Reels Go Round And Round...

Snapshots of a self-taught photographer's photographic journey and process..."I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round, I really love to watch them roll... People asking questions lost in confusion, Well I tell them there's no problems, Only solutions..." --John Lennon

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