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DulciTheory Newsletter -- Issue #2: Accidentals 2

PART ONE: Tablature for She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain

As I promised in issue #1, we'll spend most of this first part exploring some tabs for "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain". Actually, this will provide a good workout in basic arranging principles -- even for very simple arrangements -- as we'll take kind of a layered approach to the tune:

a.) Basic melody-with-drone arrangement in higher octave

b.) Simple Chord-Melody arrangement using octaves on the melody and bass strings to suggest Dominant harmony (V)

c.) Lower octave across-the-fingerboard Chord-Melody with chords suggested very sparsely, often with only 2-string chords.

d.) Higher octave Chord-Melody Etude: a challenging arrangement rich in harmonic detail -- here we'll explore the chords with the accidentals we worked so hard to identify in issue #1 -- like V7/V, V7/IV, and #IVdim7

She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain (tuning 1-5-8, or C-G-C) Basic melody-with-drone:

        /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|------|0->-------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|------|0->-------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|      
|4--5--|7---7---7---7---|5---4---2---4---|7---------------|--------7---8---|


 /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|      
|9---9---9---9---|11--9---8---7---|8---------------|--------11--10--|


 /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|      
|9---9---9---9---|8---7---7---7---|5---5---5---5---|8---7---6+--5---|


 /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------||
|----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------||      
|4---4---4---4---|9---8---5---6+--|7---------------|----------------||

She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain (tuning 1-5-8, or C-G-C) Simple Chord-Melody arrangement using octaves on the melody and bass strings to suggest Dominant harmony (V):

        I   /   /   /    V   /   /   /    I   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|------|0->-------------|5---4---2---4---|7---------------|----------------|
|------|0->-------------|0---0---0---0---|0---------------|----------------|      
|4--5--|7---7---7---7---|5---4---2---4---|7---------------|--------7---8---|


 /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    V   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|0---------------|0---------------|8---------------|----------------|
|0---------------|0---------------|0---------------|----------------|      
|9---9---9---9---|11--9---8---7---|8---------------|--------11--10--|


 I   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    IV  /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|0---------------|0---------------|0---------------|0---------------|
|0---------------|0---------------|6---------------|6---------------|      
|9---9---9---9---|8---7---7---7---|5---5---5---5---|8---7---6+--5---|


 I   /   /   /    V   /   /   /    I   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|4---4---4---4---|9---8---5---6+--|7---------------|----------------||
|0---0---0---0---|0---0---0---0---|0---------------|----------------||      
|4---4---4---4---|9---8---5---6+--|7---------------|----------------||

She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain (tuning 1-5-8, or C-G-C) Lower octave across-the-fingerboard Chord-Melody:

        C   /   /   /    G   /   /   /    C   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|------|0---------------|1-------2-------|0---------------|----------------|
|0--1--|0---------------|1---0-------0---|0---------------|----------------|
|------|0---0---0---0---|----------------|0---------------|--------0---1---|


 /   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    G   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|0---------------|0---------------|1---------------|----------------|
|0---------------|0---------------|0---------------|----------------|
|2---2---2---2---|4---2---1---0---|1---------------|--------4---3---|


 C   /   /   /    /   /   /   /    F   /   /   /    Dm  /   /   /
|0---------------|0---------------|3---------------|3---------------|
|0---------------|0---------------|1---1---1---1---|1-------2---1---|
|2---2---2---2---|1---0---0---0---|----------------|1---0-----------|


 C   /   /   /    G7  /   /   /    C   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|4---------------|3-------1---1---|2---------------|----------------||
|0---0---0---0---|0-------1---2---|3---------------|----------------||
|----------------|2---1-----------|0---------------|----------------||

One important point about the first 3 arrangements is that the harmony is paired down to mostly I, IV, and V7. You can simplify many tunes this way, just as you can embellish the harmonies of simpler tunes with secondary dominants and mediantly-related chords.

The Etude below pulls all the stops -- you'll have to work hard on the fingering to get it to flow smoothly -- I know I certainly did! Make sure to notice and appreciate the harmonic detail, particularly in how the melody seems to crash into a new chord, making a colorful and somewhat dissonant chord. See measure 14 in particular. If we were to take the melody note into account for the chord formula (on beats 1 and 3 of the measure), what would these two chords be called?

She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain (tuning 1-5-8, or C-G-C) Higher octave Chord-Melody Etude:

        C   /   /   /    G   /   /   /    C   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|------|0->-------------|4---4-------4---|0---------------|----------------|
|------|0->-------------|0---0---5---0---|0---------------|----------------|      
|4--5--|7---7---7---7---|5---4-------4---|7---------------|--------7---8---|


 /   /   /   /    /   /   D7  /    G   /   /   /    G7  /   /   /
|0---------------|0-------7-------|8-------8---9---|10--------------|
|0---------------|0-------6+------|0---------------|0---------------|      
|9---9---9---9---|11--9---8---7---|8---------------|8-------11--10--|


 C   /   /   /    C7  /   /   /    F  /   /   /    Dm  /   F#dim7/
|0---------------|6---------------|5---------------|5-------5--------|
|0---------------|0---------------|6---------------|6-------6+-------|      
|9---9---9---9---|8---7---7---7---|5---5---5---5---|8---7---6+---5---|


 C   /   /   /    D7  /   G7  /    C   /   /   /    /   /   /   /
|4---------------|7-------6+------|0---------------|----------------||
|5---------------|6+------6-------|5---------------|----------------||      
|4---4---4---4---|9---8---5---6+--|7---------------|----------------||

Problems to work/Questions to answer:

1) What are some other tunes that use V7/IV? (HINT: there are tons of them)

2) What are some other tunes or songs that use the #4 accidental? Does it occur as the 3rd of V7/V?

3) Here are three tunes that use the #2 (b3) accidental:

You Are My Sunshine

I've Been Working on the Railroad

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Where can you "situate" a tune on the 1-5-8 mountain dulcimer in order to get that accidental? (HINT: this requires that you play in another key besides the key note that the open bass string is tuned to).

PART TWO: Questions Answered

Q: Since tunes can obviously be transcribed into the key of D for dulcimer players, a question is bugging me: Why does a composer chose a certain key for his/her work? Or if somebody is doing a new arrangement, why might they pick a different key?

A: Wow! Someone could write a book about that!!! Composers often choose keys to fit their vocal range -- or the vocal range of the artist who will record the song in question. Also, particular instruments have certain keys that that they like and are more comfortable with: brass instruments like Bb and Eb.

On the piano, every key "feels" a little different -- particularly with the placement of white and black keys under the fingers. Sometimes a tune will come rolling out very intuitively, partially egged-on by the pleasurable and NEW sensation that a certain area of the keyboard (or a certain major or minor key) gives.

The guitar has its own idiomatic conventions with respect to chord shapes, register, and whether the composer is a first position player mainly, or more of a jazz-oriented player. The open strings in any guitar tuning -- especially the lower ones -- are a powerful tonal force in their own right.

The mountain dulcimer is more-or-less "hard-wired" into one key, though we will find some creative ways around this limitation in the future. By "hard-wired", I mean that the dulcimer's mostly diatonic fretboard GREATLY favors the key center set up by the open strings: 1-5-8 really sets up a tonal center! We CAN play in a few other keys -- we will -- but playing in D Major while tuned D-A-D is a "no-brainer".

Within the 1-5-8 family, if we want to play in C Major, C-G-C will work great. If we want to tune way down to A on a baritone (which has thicker strings), we tune A-E-A. Of course, different tuning RELATIONSHIPS -- like 5-1-5 or D-G-D for the key of G -- allow for MANY more key possibilities as well.

Q: I'm specifically interested in hymns. So, in other words, is "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" any 'better' in the key of F major than it is in D major?

A: Not if your voice is more comfortable in D or C. Playing it instrumentally, major keys are all like one big HAPPY KEY! The important thing to remember about music theory is that EVERYTHING is based upon STRUCTURE and RELATIONSHIP. Any interval or chord can be built upon 12 different roots, because there are 12 divisions of the octave in our Western Music -- but the STRUCTURE of the chord or interval is identical.

Q: Just this week I've tuned the dulcimer to D-G-D, and like that tuning a lot. What are its advantages? What about D-A-C?

A: D-G-D is a GREAT, underrated tuning! The relationship is 5-1-5, and it is sometimes referred to as "Reverse Ionian". I LOVE to play Ionian single string TAB on the bass string in D-G-D -- the drive and punch is awesome! Also, it is a great tuning for jigs in the first position or the first three frets -- across the fingerboard. You haven't lived till you've heard Leo Kretzner do his hammers and pulls on dance tunes in D-G-D!

D-A-C or 1-5-b7, is a minor tuning if you play on the melody string with the middle and bass as drones. It has a plaintive, mournful sound that's very haunting. If you get creative, though, and think "outside the box" a little bit, you will find yourself in some interesting chromatic territory, with alot more accidentals than the more usual tunings. I really like D-A-C-D with 4-string equidistant -- to me this is the best blues tuning ever!

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