Easy Does It!
The Professor Series for Hammered Dulcimer,
We can all empathize with eager dulcimer players who are not yet able to keep up with a jam. Everyone has been there! It can be frustrating and overwhelming to try. Soon, undue embarrassment consumes them as they peck out a note or two (using their softest leather side of their hammer collection). Understandably, these capable players are often intimidated by the tricky rhythms and fast tempo of “notey” fiddle tunes (and the sheer number of them!) and sit on the sidelines of jams while more experienced players leave them in the dust. “Slow Jams” are a helpful musical outlet all of us have enjoyed at times; but often jamming on the same “notey” fiddle tunes a little slower doesn’t solve the problem. After all, playing a hard song slowly does not necessarily make it easy! We simply need easier alternative versions of these tunes for those who need them while preserving the authentic versions of our rich musical heritage for those who are ready for the challenge of learning the original tunes.
The old adage, “crawl first, then walk, and then run” is great advice in learning a musical instrument. The problem in applying this advice has been that fiddle tunes and jam books only have us “run”- and running over hurdles at that. Even “running slowly” (slow jamming), is still running!
This book, Easy Does It! Popular Jam Tunes You CAN Play, presents these great fiddle tunes in an easy to learn, easy to play, and easy to “RUN” way for ALL ability levels. Each tune is first presented in an “Easy Does It!” version that captures all of the spirit and character of the original tune, but without all the pitfalls. These versions allow beginning and intermediate players to learn the tunes quickly and be able to keep up with a jam. I have even arranged some difficult tunes with an “Intermediate Does It!” version that bridges the gap between the easy version and the original tune when needed. These easy versions are then paired with the original tune on the adjacent page for intermediate and advanced players.
After more than 15 years of teaching these tunes, I noticed that students tend to stumble on the same things when learning new tunes. Pick-up notes in general, and those found in 1st and 2nd endings in particular, often cause students to trip rhythmically. Long streams of 8th or 16th notes often cause students to miss-hit and/or get lost. Some hazards are in the tune books themselves. Fiddle tune music is often written much too small for hammered dulcimer players to use well.
Further, the music is often placed on the page with no regard for the phrase structure of the music. Fiddle tunes typically have four measure phrases that consist of a 2 bar question phrase and a 2 bar answer phrase. In this Easy Does It! book, all of the music is printed in landscape view allowing the music to be printed 40% larger than in other jam books AND each piece is formatted so that each line begins a new musical phrase. This helps your eyes from getting lost! You will instinctively be able to tell where you are on the page when looking up from your dulcimer by what your ears naturally hear in the song’s phrases- no guessing!
All of the tunes in this book have been arranged specifically for hammered dulcimer with special care given to preserve the integrity of the original tune. Even so, all of the tunes will fit on a 15/14 standard dulcimer. It is my strong personal belief that one should play with strict dominant hand lead (strong hand on strong beats) on all fiddle tunes for the strongest rhythmic drive and most intuitive hammer patterns. Certain tunes that may be less intuitive have suggested hammer patterns included for your convenience. Finally, no book can replace the need to hear fiddle tunes by expert players. After all, fiddle tunes have been passed down in an aural tradition for hundreds of years. You will enjoy your instrument and these tunes even more if you begin building a listening library of all of the great players out there.
Please enjoy these fun tunes and consider this book your license to keep up with any jam! Dulcimer clubs may purchase this book at a discounted bulk rate as a thank you for keeping our music alive! I hope to see you all festivals or online at my website soon.