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DulciTheory #1

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DulciTheory #3

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DulciTheory #5

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DulciTheory #10

DulciTheory Newsletter -- Issue #5: Back To Basics 2

The first four issues:



Why Learn Theory?

Last time I gave you a boat-load of reasons why I love to use theory as a kind of toolbox for composing and improvising. This time I'd like to shift the focus totally to YOUR needs and desires -- keeping in mind that many of you subscribing to this newsletter have had very little formal training in music, and are probably near ground-zero when considering where to start with a theory and ear-training program.

The Ear-Training Component of Learning Music Theory

In the Theory curriculum of any university-level Music program, there is a VITAL component called Ear Training and it is comprised of many activities that help your ear to identify all the things you are looking at on paper. Some of these activities include:

  • Melodic Dictation
  • Harmonic Dictation
  • Interval, Chord, and Scale Recognition
  • Sight-Singing using solfege: do, re, mi, etc.

Update: If you Google "Ear Training" you may be amazed at how much is available on the web!

Now.....I know we are not embarking on a college-level study of theory, but I bring Ear Training up here because I'm convinced it will REALLY, REALLY help you. It will help you immeasurably to HEAR everything you are trying to understand in theory.

With regard to Ear Training, I'm going to try hard to provide some audio files to go along with these articles. It helps a lot to actually HEAR what I'm talking about.

In earlier editions of DulciTheory, and in the introductory material on my web site, I have promised repeatedly to keep the focus on REAL-LIFE, everyday, USEFUL theory -- the kind that you can apply directly to your dulcimer. This is a great goal, and indeed I hope many of the "morsels" or "tidbits" of theory I throw out in this newsletter end up helping you directly with your dulcimer playing.


In a larger sense, though, I'm here on this planet to INSPIRE and ENCOURAGE you: I would like nothing more than to have you get REALLY CONNECTED to music in a fundamental, life-changing way! (yes, I've been accused of being an idealist many times.) I would like to challenge you to "go for the gold" with your study of music -- YOU can do it!

A Few Things To Keep In Mind

  • only YOU can do it, with ACTIVE involvement
  • I can help guide you, but it doesn't hurt to have a little self-motivation
  • musicianship is 99% PERSPIRATION and BLOOD-SWEAT-and-TEARS and 1% "talent"
  • you can learn at your own pace: most of my suggestions point towards self-teaching methods: you can progress through these programs at a rate that suits your lifestyle
  • theory is a BLAST when it is integrated into your life and music: it won't be like "taking your cod-liver oil"!


  1. Get some sort of keyboard instrument. Get access to a piano, electric piano, synthesizer, or any other electronic keyboard.
  2. Consider learning guitar or ukulele: they are both easy instruments to learn, not too expensive, and they have chromatic fretboards so you can freely explore the chromatic adjustment of intervals.
  3. Use your voice to sing with, even if you are not a singer. I'm a shower singer myself, except when I occasionally lead a sing-a-long audience participation at one of my concerts.


There are so many fantastic music learning web sites these days!! I can't keep up with the possibilities, but I can give you one that I keep coming back to year after year:

Gary Ewer, who does the site listed above, also has a great blog called The Essential Secrets of Songwriting. I've gotten a whole lot of great ideas from this, especially in the chord progression area. Google it and sign up!