Welcome to the web version of DulciTheory, the free email newsletter that shows you how to get more music out of your mountain dulcimer.

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DulciTheory #15

TheoryToImprov1: SKIP TO MY LOU - FROM MELODY TO CHORDS

Skip To My Lou is one great tune for illustrating fundamental principles of harmony: it uses the the two main chords that define Western Tonal Music, and it uses ONLY those two chords.

However, in the beginning........there was MELODY, and that's exactly what we'll start with:

SKIP TO MY LOU: MELODY ONLY

   /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
A|-----------------|-----------------|---------2---2---|-----------------|
D|-2---2---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|-1---1-----------|-1---1---3-------|
   /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
A|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
D|-2---2---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|-1---3---2---1---|-0-------0-------|

QUESTIONS:

  1. What chord does the melody in measures 1 and 2 suggest? Why?
  2. What chord does the melody in measures 3 and 4 suggest? Why?
  3. What measures sound best using the open string drones? Why?
  4. For the measures where the open strings don't work very well, how do you fix this problem?

For now, just let these questions settle in a bit -- contemplate on them, and maybe jot down a few notes for yourself. In the next issue of DulciTheory (#16), I will do my best to answer them in a thorough way, illustrating how the answers can lead to some real freedom in your improvising, which we will delve into more and more as we progress onward.

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DulciTheory #16

TheoryToImprov2: SKIP TO MY LOU: FROM CHORDS TO CHORD-MELODY

This time we'll start by answering the questions from TheoryToImprov1, which appeared in DulciTheory #15:

QUESTIONS:

  1. What chord does the melody in measures 1 and 2 suggest? Why?
  2. What chord does the melody in measures 3 and 4 suggest? Why?
  3. What measures sound best using the open string drones? Why?
  4. For the measures where the open strings don't work very well, how do you fix this problem?

ANSWERS:

  1. Measures 1 and 2 seem to outline a D Major chord, right? Good! F# - D - F# -A is pretty clear, don't you think?
  2. Measures 2 and 3 (and 7) outline a partial A7 chord. Did you have trouble visualizing that? Did you hear the tension that this rather unstable combination of tones creates? Fingerboard Surveys and Chord Reference can really help you VISUALIZE chord shapes and how melodies interact with them. We'll be looking at a few Fingerboard Surveys a little later in this issue. As for hearing tension and resolution, this is a SUPERB tune to start with! You'll get the hang of it if you actively listen for tension giving way to resolution (and vice-versa).
  3. Measures 1, 2, 5, 6, and 8 seem to work great with the bass and middle strings ringing out. These are the measures where the melody is calling for a D chord, and the bass and middle strings open are the important dronal Root and 5th of a D chord.
  4. The other measures that call for an A or A7 chord have a couple of problems with the open strings:

SKIP TO MY LOU: (BLOCK) CHORD-MELODY

   D   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     A7  /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-0-------0-------|-0-------0-------|-1-------1---1---|-1-------1-------|
A|-0-------0-------|-0-------0-------|-0-------2---2---|-0-------0-------|
D|-2---2---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|-1---1-----------|-1---1---3-------|

                                                                          
   D   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     A7  /   /   /     D   /   /   /    
D|-0-------0-------|-0-------0-------|-1-------1-------|-0-------0-------||
A|-0-------0-------|-0-------0-------|-0-------0-------|-0-------0-------||
D|-2---2---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|-1---3---2---1---|-0-------0-------||

LEARNING TO APPLY CHORD REFERENCE

So.....how do we get from the Fingerboard Surveys to a Chord-Melody arrangement?

Easy --> while you are on the D chord -- for the first two measures -- scan the D Major Fingerboard Survey:

Fingerboard Survey: D Major

D F# A
R 3 5
D|------------|--------F#|-----|-------A|-------|---|---|--D|
A|------------|----------|----D|--------|-----F#|---|---|--A|
D|------------|--------F#|-----|-------A|-------|---|---|--D|

R|------------|---------3|-----|-------5|-------|---|---|--R|
5|------------|----------|----R|--------|------3|---|---|--5|
R|------------|---------3|-----|-------5|-------|---|---|--R|

You might notice that I have the "individual chord ingredient" labeling on this lower survey (R=root, 3=third, and 5=fifth), in addition to the actual pitches (D, F#, A) on the survey above. There is a very good reason for this:

As you progress further and further in your applications of theory, you will realize how important it is to be aware of the numerical degree of each chord ingredient. This allows you to become acquainted with the unique characteristics of each chord inversion, learn the principles of good voice-leading, learn how to build interesting bass lines, and many, many other things. If we just had the pitches, it might be nice to know these (and it certainly does help to have them right there in the survey above), but with the numerical chord ingredients, we have a global, symmetrical, TRANSPOSING structure. Getting familiar with the intervallic structure of the chords you are voicing will pay BIG dividends in the future, as your understanding of theory increases.

Anyway, you can easily see on the Fingerboard Survey, that your open bass and middle strings form a great Root and 5th dronal support for the open, 2nd, and 4th frets that your melody part is playing. Can you also see how your melody notes are right there on the Fingerboard Survey?

Good! Now let's try to harmonize measures 3 and 4, which call for an A or A7 chord.

We'll have to cross over to the 2nd fret of the middle string to get the C# melody note, but then we go back to the 1st and 3rd frets of the melody string:

   /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
A|-----------------|-----------------|---------2---2---|-----------------|
D|-2---2---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|-1---1-----------|-1---1---3-------|

Now.....let's scan the A7 Fingerboard Survey for possible harmony notes on the middle and/or bass string:

Fingerboard Survey: A7

A C# E G
R 3 5 b7
.|--------E|--------|---G|-----A|-----|--|C#|--|---E|----|-G|
A|---------|------C#|----|-----E|-----|-G|--|-A|----|--C#|--|
.|--------E|--------|---G|-----A|-----|--|C#|--|---E|----|-G|

.|--------5|--------|--b7|-----R|-----|--|-3|--|---5|----|b7|
R|---------|-------3|----|-----5|-----|b7|--|-R|----|---3|--|
.|--------5|--------|--b7|-----R|-----|--|-3|--|---5|----|b7|

So......you can see why I chose the first fret of the bass string -- you might think of this 5th of the A7 as "low hanging fruit" in terms of how handy it is. I have also chosen the middle A open, or Root, to form an almost-complete A7 chord on beats 3 and 4 of measure 4:

                                                                 *        
   D   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     A7  /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-0-------0-------|-0-------0-------|-1-------1---1---|-1-------1-------|
A|-0-------0-------|-0-------0-------|-0-------2---2---|-0-------0-------|
D|-2---2---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|-1---1-----------|-1---1---3-------|
                                                                 *        
                                                               --5--      
                                                               --R--      
                                                               --b7-      

Also, by scanning the Fingerboard Survey for A7, you will be able to see how the melody in measures 3 and 4 outlines a nearly complete A7 arpeggio. What chord ingredient is NOT present in the melody?

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DulciTheory #17

TheoryToImprov3: SKIP TO MY LOU - EXPLORING THE FINGERBOARD

Last time, in issue #16, we harmonized SKIP in a Chord-Melody arrangement, and I gave you some ideas for making decisions based on a visual scan of the Fingerboard Survey charts. Now, let's see how many different ways there are to do basically the same thing --> only now in different areas of the fingerboard: playing the same melody notes sometimes three frets higher on the middle string -- harmonizing based on what sounds best, and what's handy and reachable in a particular context.

For example, suppose we tried the first two measures of SKIP starting out on the middle string:

   D   /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-0---0---0---0---|-0-------0-------|
A|-5---5---3---3---|-0-------0-------|
D|-0---0---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|

Now, scan the D survey and look for some likely harmony notes:

Fingerboard Survey: D Major

D F# A
R 3 5
D|------------|--------F#|-----|-------A|-------|---|---|--D|
A|------------|----------|----D|--------|-----F#|---|---|--A|
D|------------|--------F#|-----|-------A|-------|---|---|--D|

R|------------|---------3|-----|-------5|-------|---|---|--R|
5|------------|----------|----R|--------|------3|---|---|--5|
R|------------|---------3|-----|-------5|-------|---|---|--R|

Do you see any possibilities? How about a very symmetrical harmony-part based on parallel 6ths -- then 3rds:

   D   /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-4---4---2---2---|-0---0---0-------|
A|-5---5---3---3---|-3---3---5-------|
D|-0---0---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|

Use your imagination! We all get into ruts where we can't imagine that there might be a cool alternate route to take. For me, at least, learning to "visually brainstorm" possibilities on these Fingerboard Surveys has opened up some wonderful doors to new arrangements and unforeseen possibilities.

Continuing this general style for A7 in measures 3 and 4, we might have:

   D   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     A7  /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-4---4---2---2---|-0---0---0-------|-6+--6+--4---4---|-4---4---4-------|
A|-5---5---3---3---|-3---3---5-------|-4---4---2---2---|-2---2---4-------|
D|-0---0---0---0---|-2---2---4-------|-----------------|-1---1---3-------|

Now......how about going up real high on the bass string for melody:

   D   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     A7  /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-9---9---7---7---|-9---9---11------|-8---8---6+--6+--|-8---8---10------|
A|-0---0---0---0---|-0---0---0-------|-0---0---0---0---|-0---0---0-------|
D|-0---0---0---0---|-0---0---0-------|-?---?---?---?---|-?---?---?-------|

The first two measures are fine, for the exact same reason that they were in our first chord-melody: this time the middle and melody strings form an open 4th interval with the 5th and Root, respectively, so they do a great job of dronal support of the melody.

When we get to the A7 in measures 3 and 4, we have a slightly different situation. Our middle string open is a great support, as it is the Root of the chord, but we will have to do something besides the open D on the melody string, because it is not an ingredient in the A7 chord formula. (We could just leave the melody string out altogether, but this is hard if you are strumming, and sometimes it just sounds empty).

To jog our memory and get ideas, let's scan an extended A7 survey:

Fingerboard Survey: A7

A C# E G
R 3 5 b7
.|--------E|--------|---G|-----A|-----|--|C#|--|---E|----|-G|
A|---------|------C#|----|-----E|-----|-G|--|-A|----|--C#|--|
.|--------E|--------|---G|-----A|-----|--|C#|--|---E|----|-G|

.|--------5|--------|--b7|-----R|-----|--|-3|--|---5|----|b7|
R|---------|-------3|----|-----5|-----|b7|--|-R|----|---3|--|
.|--------5|--------|--b7|-----R|-----|--|-3|--|---5|----|b7|

Might we do a high 5th of the chord as a "pedal tone" to sort of anchor the bass string melody?:

   D   /   /   /     /   /   /   /     A7  /   /   /     /   /   /   /    
D|-9---9---7---7---|-9---9---11------|-8---8---6+--6+--|-8---8---10------|
A|-0---0---0---0---|-0---0---0-------|-0---0---0---0---|-0---0---0-------|
D|-0---0---0---0---|-0---0---0-------|-8---8---8---8---|-8---8---8-------|

Of course, the problem we run into here is that we only have high notes to use for harmony, and these tend to steal the show away from the lower melody if we are not careful. In this case, the high E or 5th of the A7 is static throughout the bass string movement in the melody, and our ears naturally gravitate toward this movement: it creates interest and drama.

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DulciTheory #18

TheoryToImprov4: SkipToMyLou - EMBELLISHING THE MELODY

Last time, in issue #17, we explored the chord-melody possibilities of SKIP as they occur all over the fingerboard. We tried to think of some unique approaches, using a sort of hybrid across-the-fingerboard --AND-- Linear style of arranging. Maybe you were able to come up with some unique ideas of your own?

This time, we will approach the whole IMPROVISATION topic by fooling around a bit with the melody:

--> We'll connect the chord tones with passing tones that are in-between consecutive chord tones. Here is a Fingerboard Survey for the I Chord or D, which shows clearly the numerical chord ingredients (labelled with the usual R, 3, and 5), and the passing tones in between (labelled P):

R|-----------P|---------3|----P|-------5|------P|---|--P|--R|
5|-----------P|---------P|----R|-------P|------3|--P|---|--5|
R|-----------P|---------3|----P|-------5|------P|---|--P|--R|

Now, you may want to view the standard survey for D Major, and just remember that the passing tones are found on EVERY FRET* between two consecutive chord tones:

R|------------|---------3|-----|-------5|-------|---|---|--R|
5|------------|----------|----R|--------|------3|---|---|--5|
R|------------|---------3|-----|-------5|-------|---|---|--R|

And Now -- FINALLY -- we get to a brand new feature of this newsletter which will allow YOU to test yourself on some aspect of applied theory, maybe deepen your understanding about some topic, or to actually extend our current work a bit (and maybe even customixe it for your own musical applications --->HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE???).

This new feature is called H O O P S, as in "hoops to jump through" -- and I hope you find these challenging and fun.

888    888  .d88888b.   .d88888b.  8888888b.   .d8888b.      
888    888 d88P" "Y88b d88P" "Y88b 888   Y88b d88P  Y88b     
888    888 888     888 888     888 888    888 Y88b.          
8888888888 888     888 888     888 888   d88P  "Y888b.   d8b 
888    888 888     888 888     888 8888888P"      "Y88b. Y8P 
888    888 888     888 888     888 888              "888     
888    888 Y88b. .d88P Y88b. .d88P 888        Y88b  d88P d8b 
888    888  "Y88888P"   "Y88888P"  888         "Y8888P"  Y8P 

1.) * Notice the asterisk after EVERY FRET several paragraphs above. Why do you suppose that there are some frets left out, particularly in the fret 5 ---> 7 range?

2.) What would we have in the way of passing tones if we had a traditional dulcimer fret pattern, without the 6+ fret? Do you think that the traditional fret pattern makes our fretboard "purer" in any way? Why? Why NOT?

Now let's try to add some more interest and movement to the SKIP melody by playing mostly on the eighth note level, connecting all the chord tones with the passing tones in between them:

   D     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
D|-------------------------|-------------------------|
A|----------------0--------|-------------------------|
D|-2-----2--1--0-----0--1--|-2--1--2--3--4-----4--2--|

.  A7    /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|----------3--2--0--2--3--|-------------------------|
.|-1--2--1-----------------|-1--0--1--2--3--2--1--3--|

.  D     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|-2--3--2--1--0-----0--1--|-2--1--2--3--4--5--4--2--|

.  A7    /     /     /       D     /     /     /      
.|-------------------------|----------2--0-----------||
.|----------------3--2-----|----1--0-----------------||
.|-1--2--3--2--1--------1--|-0-----------------------||

Here's the A7 survey again for reference on the passing tones:

.|--------5|--------|--b7|-----R|-----|--|-3|--|---5|----|b7|
R|---------|-------3|----|-----5|-----|b7|--|-R|----|---3|--|
.|--------5|--------|--b7|-----R|-----|--|-3|--|---5|----|b7|

Remember: all the notes in between the chord tones are passing tones, labeled P:

.|--------5|-------P|--b7|-----R|----P|--|-3|-P|---5|---P|b7|
R|--------P|-------3|---P|-----5|----P|b7|--|-R|---P|---3|PT|
.|--------5|-------P|--b7|-----R|----P|--|-3|-P|---5|---P|b7|

In the last example, we landed on the same melody notes at the same time as the original melody did --- you will probably be able to hear the outline of SKIP TO MY LOU, though we are certainly dressing it up to some extent.

Now let's get a little freer with some of the phrasing. Let's keep some of the overall SKIP GESTURES --- kind of a similar general landscape of the tune --- but we'll take some freedom on the main beats of the measure, and start our journey AWAY from the literal SKIP melody:

.  D     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
D|-------------------------|-------------------------|
A|----------------0--1-----|----------1--------------|
D|-2--4--2--1--0--------0--|-2--1--0-----0--4--4--2--|

.  A7    /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|----------3--2--1--0--2--|----0--------------------|
.|-1--3--1-----------------|-1-----1--2--3--4--3--1--|

.  D     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
.|----------------------2--|-------------------------|
.|----------------1--0-----|-0--1--------------------|
.|-2--4--2--1--0-----------|-------0--1--2--4--2--0--|

.  A7    /     /     /       D     /     /     /      
.|-------------------------|----------2--0-----------||
.|----------3--2--0--1-----|----1--0-----------------||
.|-1--3--1--------------0--|-0-----------------------||
.                       \____/                         
.                         tie                          
-------------------------------------------------------

Now.......a couple of things I did different this time that you might want to take note of:

--> The first example of an embellished SKIP melody used mostly all STEP-WISE MOTION, or motion by consecutive scale tones. The second looser version takes many LEAPS directly to consecutive chord tones.

--> As we'll explore more deeply in the next issue (#19), some of the lines in both examples come right out of the D Major Pentatonic: particularly those phrases which use the open and first fret of the middle string.

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DulciTheory #19

TheoryToImprov5: SkipToMyLou - PENTATONIC IMPROV

Last time, in issue #18, we fooled around a bit with the melody of SKIP by exploring some of the Passing Tones, which are located in between consecutive chord tones. We stayed pretty close to the general landscape or shape of the SKIP melody, but now we are going to build some unique lines over the REFERENCE STRUCTURE (Chord Progression) to SKIP:

.  D     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
D|-------------------------|-------------------------|
A|-------------------------|-------------------------|
D|-------------------------|-------------------------|

.  A7    /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|

.  D     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|

.  A7    /     /     /       D     /     /     /      
.|-------------------------|-------------------------||
.|-------------------------|-------------------------||
.|-------------------------|-------------------------||

This REFERENCE STRUCTURE is very critical for you to commit to memory. It forms the scaffolding or structural "bones" around which we'll improvise our PENTATONIC melodies. I know it might seem a bit abstract and unusual compared to the well-known tune, but the chord chart or REFERENCE STRUCTURE is what "holds up" or "supports" SKIP. Once you make it a part of your consciousness (or subconscious, really!), you will feel a great rush of freedom as you try different melodies on top of it.

You might even want to try laying down a track of your chords looping over and over so you can play the improvised melodies over this track. If you have a multi-track tape deck or digital sketchpad, you can make incredibly rapid progress by recording your improvisations over on another track, and then saving these recordings over time. I've been doing this over a few years now, and I can tell you it is very encouraging to see your progress over a span of time!

How do we start investigating the world of improvisation without getting ourselves into trouble? EASY!!! The mostly diatonic nature of the dulcimer makes it hard for us to play any real "wrong notes" -- and to make things flow even more smoothly, we'll take out the 4th and the 7th degrees of the major scale, which will give us a MAJOR PENTATONIC. For D Major, we have:

D|-----------E|--------F#|-----|-------A|------B|---|---|--D|
A|-----------B|----------|----D|-------E|-----F#|---|---|--A|
D|-----------E|--------F#|-----|-------A|------B|---|---|--D|

R|-----------2|---------3|-----|-------5|------6|---|---|--R|
5|-----------6|----------|----R|-------2|------3|---|---|--5|
R|-----------2|---------3|-----|-------5|------6|---|---|--R|

EXAMPLES:

This time, for some examples, I will just give you a few ideas on D to get you started. Remember, we're NOT trying to play anything close to SKIP now:

.  D     /     /     /       /     /     /     /      
D|-0--1--2-----------------|-------------------------|
A|----------0--------1--0--|-1--------------------0--|
D|----------------0--------|----0--2--4--2--1--0-----|

HAVE FUN TRYING OUT YOUR OWN IDEAS! The above riff is just something off the top of my head -- I bet you can do WAY BETTER than this if you mess around some -- You CAN'T get into any trouble with this simple scale.

Here are some HOOPS for you to jump through:

888    888  .d88888b.   .d88888b.  8888888b.   .d8888b.      
888    888 d88P" "Y88b d88P" "Y88b 888   Y88b d88P  Y88b     
888    888 888     888 888     888 888    888 Y88b.          
8888888888 888     888 888     888 888   d88P  "Y888b.   d8b 
888    888 888     888 888     888 8888888P"      "Y88b. Y8P 
888    888 888     888 888     888 888              "888     
888    888 Y88b. .d88P Y88b. .d88P 888        Y88b  d88P d8b 
888    888  "Y88888P"   "Y88888P"  888         "Y8888P"  Y8P 

1.) What kind of a scale are you going to play over the A7 chord? Are there a few different alternatives? Did you make a Fingerboard Survey for the scales you are using over A7?

2.) Can you come up with a little riff that has a sense of UNITY or COHERENCE to it? If you succeed on the D chord, why not try playing the same general riff off of your A7?

3.) Have you thought about the difference between IMPROVISING and COMPOSING? Do you see a difference? Why? (HINT: I like to think of improvising as "composing on the fly" or "composing in real time")

4.) On the old "legacy" pages of my web site there is at least one article about improvising and it starts with pentatonics:

http://www.jcrmusic.com/improv.html

Check this out --- you might get some ideas from it

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DulciTheory #20

Special Halloween Edition: Hey, Ho, Nobody Home

We'll take a break from our usual SkipToMyLou programming with a majorly dark and haunting round known as "Hey, Ho, Nobody Home." The chord progression I use for this is in the pure diatonic Aeolian Mode. Since we're tuned D-A-D, the best key center for this is the RELATIVE Aeolian of D Major, which is none other than B Aeolian. Here are the chords:

.  Bm    /     A     /       G     /     F#m*  /       
D|-2-----------1-----------|-3-----------2-----------||
A|-1-----------0-----------|-1-----------2-----------||
D|-0-----------1-----------|-0-----------2-----------||

*On the V chord, F#, there is a case to be made for being ambiguous about whether we invoke the major or minor third. Two main ways of being mysterious or sneaky here are:

a.) Just do a Root, 5th, Root barre chord like the example above....keeps 'em wondering.......

b.) Depending on the melodic stuff you are jamming against it, consider suspending the 4th. This is very common and sets up a real nice anticipatory feeling of whether the sus4 will resolve a half-step down to A# (The Leading Tone in Classical Tonal Minor Scales ---- which we don't have on our D-A-D dulcimer, but we don't need anyway because we're going pure diatonic), or down a whole-step to A (which is what we'll probably do from time to time, but remember that we can always keep our poor spooked listeners in suspended 4th suspense!)

Here is a way to get your F#sus4 by sustaining a high B pedal-tone throughout the entire chord cycle:

.  Bm    /     Aadd9 /       G     /     F#sus4/      
.|-5-----------4-----------|-3-----------2-----------|
.|-5-----------4-----------|-3-----------2-----------|
.|-5-----------5-----------|-5-----------5-----------|

....actually, this high-pedal trick is a ridiculously cool device -- in itself -- and it has paid BIG DIVIDENDS for me in my arranging and composing.

_._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._._
<|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|><|>
~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~'~

Just to help you get acquainted with what our resources look like when we're focusing on the V, we let R = F#:

..|-----------E|--------F#|-----|-------A|------B|---|-C#|---|
.A|-----------B|--------C#|-----|-------E|-----F#|---|---|--A|
..|-----------E|--------F#|-----|-------A|------B|---|-C#|---|

..|----------b7|---------R|-----|------b3|------4|---|--5|---|
b3|-----------4|---------5|-----|------b7|------R|---|---|-b3|
..|----------b7|---------R|-----|------b3|------4|---|--5|---|

I have included the 4th (B) as well as b7 (A), because you'll need all these as you build various kinds of F# chords.

Now here is the single-line melody:

.  Bm    /     A     /       G     /     F#m   /      
.|-------------------------|-------------2-----2-----|
.|-1-----------0-----------|-1-----1--1--------------|
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|

.  Bm    /     A     /       G     /     F#m   /      
.|-------------------------|-------------------------|
.|-1-----1-----2-----2-----|-------------2-----------|
.|-------------------------|-0--0--1--0--------------|

.  Bm    /     A     /       G     /     F#m   /       
.|-------------------------|-------------------------||
.|-------------------------|----------------------2--||
.|-2--------1--2--------1--|-2--------1--2--1--0-----||

I have purposely left this sparse, because it gives you a nice workout in chord-melody building. (HINT: learn every possible voicing that you can imagine for each of these chords, because you'll need them as you move all around the fingerboard. That's where these reference charts can REALLY help!)

Here are some HOOPS for you to jump through:

888    888  .d88888b.   .d88888b.  8888888b.   .d8888b.      
888    888 d88P" "Y88b d88P" "Y88b 888   Y88b d88P  Y88b     
888    888 888     888 888     888 888    888 Y88b.          
8888888888 888     888 888     888 888   d88P  "Y888b.   d8b 
888    888 888     888 888     888 8888888P"      "Y88b. Y8P 
888    888 888     888 888     888 888              "888     
888    888 Y88b. .d88P Y88b. .d88P 888        Y88b  d88P d8b 
888    888  "Y88888P"   "Y88888P"  888         "Y8888P"  Y8P 

1.) What about sustaining a high F# Pedal Tone throughout the entire chord progression? What about a high A? (if you have a 4-equi dulcimer setup, try some high "Pedal-Clusters" like a high A and B major 2nd cluster at the top of each chord. The fingering is challenging but the sound is totally remarkable.)

2.) Can you think of some neat counter-melodies that will go nice over these chords? All you have to do is ask me via email:

jcrockwell@gmail.com

....and I will post some of my favorite countermelodies to the next issue.

3.) Try fingerpicking through the chords and singing various lines over this -- that's how I'm coming up with all of my ideas now -- I was never able to generate really musical ideas by just trying things on the dulcimer --- Now I've have WAY more neat ideas than I can even remember.

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DulciTheory #21

Special Topic Outline Issue From 2005

I. Outline of Projected DulciTheory Issues

This time, with the 4th Annual Southeast Ohio Dulcimer Festival only a day away, I want to do a little tie-in with the Arranging Workshop I'll be doing at the festival from 9 - 11 AM, and, at the same time, give a projected overview of what DulciTheory MAY look like in the near future.

[NOTE: I have reams and reams of projected outlines of instructional material. I very, very seldom publish any of these -- they are almost like diaries. In this exceptional case I'm going to suggest some areas of investigation and inquiry for you --- BECAUSE I have traversed this terrain and it is all theory I find INCREDIBLY USEFUL in my daily musical explorations. I want to make it clear right now, though, that I'm not committing myself to any of these topics. YOU will have much more say about content in this newsletter when I can figure out how to get feedback from the subscribers and yearly contributors.]

POSSIBLE DulciTheory FUTURES

1.) REFERENCE STRUCTURES -- What they are, how to discover/uncover them, and how to think outside the box and use them creatively.

a.) Harmonic Rhythm = How fast the chords change ---> or what level of detail or granularity you are ZOOMING INTO. (are there different levels existing simultaneously INHERENT or IMPLICIT in any Reference Structure?)

b.) How To Get INSIDE Your REFERENCE STRUCTURE -- Using Chord Reference Charts and Fingerboard Surveys:


2.) MAKING A CLEAN SEPARATION BETWEEN MELODY AND ACCOMPANIMENT

a.) MELODY -- using it as a jumping-off point for variations. Embellishing the melody.

b.) ACCOMPANIMENT (Chords)


3.) GOING RETRO: Exploring the DRONAL ESSENCE of the Mountain Dulcimer - For these investigations, I use a dulcimer with the traditional diatonic fret pattern AND it is only fretted under the melody string. You can use any standard dulcimer, though you must rigorously apply these "filters" to the modern dulcimers with extra frets, if you want to get the essence of the older, linear style of dulcimer.

a.) Starting with the 1-5-5 Tuning -- D-A-A or E-B-B

b.) Going BAGPIPE! with the 1-8-8 Tuning -- A-A-A

c.) IMPLYING chord changes with the absolute minimum of chord tones

d.) Applying all these concepts to 1-5-8 and any other tunings that you probably use for mostly chordal playing.


4.) APPLICATIONS: Using dronal arrangements (mostly) from my Beginners Tunebook as source material:

Cabbage
Frere Jacques
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
SkipToMyLou
Hush Little Baby (not in book)
This Old Man
RowRowRow
3BlindMice
Lovely Evening
Streets of Laredo
Red River Valley
Simple Gifts
Waterbound
Liza Jane
Angeline Baker
The Girl I Left Behind
Buffalo Gals
Oh Susannah
Loch Lomond
Shortnin' Bread

(there are MANY other song and tune possibilities that we may explore -- those that did not make it into my Beginners Tunebook)


5.) MORE RETRO JOURNEYS: EXPLORATIONS INTO DRONES, PENTATONIC SCALES AND MODES

a.) Just WHAT are we investigating here?

b.) Three types of Pentatonic Modes based on the Major Pentatonic:

c.) The Semitonal Pentatonics:

d.) Strategies for Harmonizing Pentatonics:


6.) The BLUES SOUND

a.) Definitions: the BLUES SOUND vs. Mississippi Delta or Chicago Blues

b.) STRUCTURE of the Blues Scale:

c.) How HARMONY helps to define the BLUES SOUND

d.) STRATEGIES for situating the blues on the dulcimer: best keys and why -- ways to get around lack of chromatics.


7.) MODAL CHORD PROGRESSIONS FOR IMPROVISING AND COMPOSING

a.) Definitions and what we are trying to accomplish:

b.) Building Your Own Modal Chord Progressions

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DulciTheory #22

Joy of Multi-Part Arranging 1

Explanations

I'll be giving quite a few short workshops with this title at various festivals throughout the year, so if you are enjoying this material via email and the web, you'll surely have a blast when you hear the various parts all played together in an ensemble setting.

Basically, my idea is very simple: Starting out with single-line dronal melodies, we'll explore the natural beauty of the dulcimer and let some very easy two-part music wash over us. The key here is ENJOYMENT and actually EXPERIENCING the music. If it really sounds great to us, we'll have the forward momentum and inspiration necessary to dig into some theory -- so we can compose new parts on our own, or perhaps merge two parts onto one solo dulcimer.

The REFERENCE STRUCTURE we'll start with is the well-known (and perhaps well-worn) CABBAGE CHORDS progression (sometimes known as a "Passamezzo Moderno," because of its historical roots in the Italian Renaissance). I make no apologies at all in offering up this humble little structure: I used it for my first self-published dulcimer book, entitled CHORDAL EXPLORATIONS FOR 3-STRING DULCIMER, which was issued in 1978 --- I'm still finding all sorts of melodies to spin out over these changes, and I continue to be amazed at how well different world rhythms work with it.

Joy of Multi-Part Arranging 1

First, let's take a look at the actual REFERENCE STRUCTURE for the Cabbage Chords:

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
D|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
A|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
D|------------------------------|-------------------------------|

.  D      /      /      /         A7     /      /      /         
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|

.  D      /      A7     /         D      /      /      /          
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||

This is the structure we'll be hanging all of our parts on, so the more familiar we are with this specific progression, the better.

[If you noticed that I don't have any specific chord voicings listed for this reference structure, you are perceptive. I do this to stimulate your imagination RIGHT AWAY with the infinity of possibilities for different chord forms all across the fingerboard!]

The Bile Dem Cabbage Melody

Well, with two-part arranging, we actually have to start SOMEWHERE, so it might as well be with the well-known melody associated with the song:

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
D|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
A|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
D|-2------2------2------2-------|-3-------------3---------------|

.  D      /      /      /         A7     /      /      /         
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|-2------2------2------2-------|-1-----------------------------|

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|-2------2------2------2-------|-3-------------3---------------|

.  D      /      A7     /         D      /      /      /          
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||
.|-2------2------1------1-------|-0-----------------------------||

Now, as you'll soon see, we don't need to stick with this particular melody to write our future second parts off of -- but it is here to start with.

Parallel Harmony Parts

Perhaps the easiest second parts to write are those that run parallel to the original melody, only a 3rd higher:

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
D|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
A|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
D|-4------4------4------4-------|-5-------------5---------------|

.  D      /      /      /         A7     /      /      /         
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|-4------4------4------4-------|-3-----------------------------|

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|-4------4------4------4-------|-5-------------5---------------|

.  D      /      A7     /         D      /      /      /          
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||
.|-4------4------3------3-------|-2-----------------------------||

.....or a 6th lower:

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
D|-4------4------4------4-------|-5-------------5---------------|
A|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
D|------------------------------|-------------------------------|

.  D      /      /      /         A7     /      /      /         
.|-4------4------4------4-------|-3-----------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
.|-4------4------4------4-------|-5-------------5---------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------|

.  D      /      A7     /         D      /      /      /          
.|-4------4------3------3-------|-2-----------------------------||
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||
.|------------------------------|-------------------------------||

See if you can find some other parallel harmonies, like a 3rd below the melody. Are there other intervals that might work for a parallel harmony part? Why or why not?

How about moving two of these parallel parts on the same dulcimer? This really isn't too hard: try it and see what you come up with.

[BTW: you may well be wondering how you can hear the two parts together if you are NOT consciously moving them on to one solo dulcimer. My suggestions are:

  1. Try to find a friend to play the second part.
  2. Record one of the parts on a tape machine or your computer, then play the second part over it -- perhaps overdubbing this part if you want to.
  3. Sing one of the parts! This is what I do, and this whole series would NEVER have happened if I had to rely on overdubs or finding a nearby dulcimer player!

How about combining some aspects of both parts on the same dulcimer in a LINEAR fashion:

.  D      /      /      /         G      /      /      /         
D|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
A|------------------------------|-------------------------------|
D|-2------4------2------4-------|-5-------------3---------------|

....and so on.

Next time we'll take a look at writing a second part that is NOT parallel to the original melody: it will have a MIND OF ITS OWN -- a true INDEPENENCE from the melody.

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DulciTheory #23

Joy of Multi-Part Arranging 2

Parallel vs. Contrary Motion

Last time in issue #22, we explored parallel harmony parts, or parts that move in exactly the same direction as the melody: when the melody goes up, the harmony part goes up, and when the melody goes down, the harmony part also goes down.

This time, we are going to use one of the most celebrated and successful devices known to composers of multipart (polyphonic) texture: CONTRARY MOTION. This is exactly the opposite of PARALLEL MOTION. With CONTRARY MOTION, we'll move the part we're writing in the opposite direction to the melody: when the melody part ASCENDS, the harmony will DESCEND -- and when the melody DESCENDS, the harmony will ASCEND.

Contrary motion can get us out of many difficult situations in 2-part writing, and it can often mitigate situations that would be totally unacceptable with parallel or similar motion. Also, it just seems to be the most musical way to go.

. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   /   /   A7 /   /   /  
|-2------2-----|-3------3-----|-2------2-----|-1------------|

|-7------------|-5------------|-4------------|-6+-----------|


. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   A7  /   D  /   /   /   
|-2------2-----|-3------3-----|-2------1-----|-0------------||

|-7------------|-5------------|-4------3-----|-2------------||

[NOTE: starting with this issue, I'm implementing a shorthand way to write parts for two dulcimers. Since we are dealing with single string lines, I have just given one line of tablature. This can be played on the melody OR the bass string, and you should definitely experiment switching octaves this way. Also, the melody part will be on top, with the harmony part on the second dulcimer right below.]

Now, it is not always practical to employ contrary motion 100% of the time, so we will be mixing in some parallel movement here and there, as you see in mm. 3 and 4 and 6, 7 and 8.

Here are a few variations on the part above:

. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   /   /   A7 /   /   /  
|-2------2-----|-3------3-----|-2------2-----|-1------------|

|-7------------|-5------------|-4------------|-4------------|


. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   A7  /   D  /   /   /   
|-2------2-----|-3------3-----|-2------1-----|-0------------||

|-7------------|-5------------|-4------3-----|-2------------||


. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   /   /   A7 /   /   /  
|-2------2-----|-3------3-----|-2------2-----|-1------------|

|-9------------|-8------------|-7------------|-6+-----------|


. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   A7  /   D  /   /   /   
|-2------2-----|-3------3-----|-2------1-----|-0------------||

|-9------------|-8------------|-7------6+----|-7------------||

---> OR, we might consider stringing some of these ideas together:

. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   /   /   A7 /   /   /  
|-2------2-----|-3------3-----|-2------2-----|-1------------|

|-9------------|-8------------|-7------------|-6+-----------|


. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   A7  /   D  /   /   /   
|-2------2-----|-3------3-----|-2------1-----|-0------------||

|-7------------|-5------------|-4------3-----|-2------------||

Some Issues To Contemplate and Questions for Further Explorations

  1. Do you have any problem with the E note found on the 8th fret in the second measure of the part directly above? Why or why not? Does this note NOT belong in the G chord? Can you expand your harmonic vision to welcome this note into the IV chord? Are we invoking II harmony? What is the difference between II (ii) and IV?
  2. In the last issue (#22), we had some fun "toggling" two different parts into a one single-string linear part played on a single dulcimer. Can you see some opportunities to do this with the parts we're working with in this issue?
  3. Next issue (#24), we'll discover the JOY OF DITCHING THE ORIGINAL CABBAGE MELODY in favor of some related parts that go well with the reference structure. We will generate our own ideas here, and this is a chance for you to get a part you can personally relate to. We can have one of these, or we can have a slew of them, but the really cool thing is that we can now GENERATE HARMONY PARTS OFF OF THIS NEW AND INTERESTING MELODIC MATERIAL. Of course, you DO NOT have to wait for issue #24 to roll out before you mess around with this -- go ahead and get yourself a jump-start.
  4. With the original cabbage melody on top simplified even more -- down to the whole note level consistently -- try the following harmony part:
. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   /   /   A7 /   /   /  
|-2------------|-3------------|-2------------|-1------------|

|-7------4-----|-5------7-----|-7------4-----|-4------6+----|


. D  /   /   /   G  /   /   /   D  /   A7  /   D  /   /   /   
|-2------------|-3------------|-2------1-----|-0------------||

|-7------4-----|-5------7-----|-4------3-----|-2------------||

-->notice that there are TWO harmony notes for every melody note (except for the last few measures). Doesn't this add GEOMETRICALLY to the possibilities for building harmony parts? Can you see any LOGIC or SYSTEM behind the building of parts like this?

   / . . . / . . . / . . . / . . .   / . . . / . . . / . . . / . . . 
D|-5-------6+------7---------------|---------------------------------|
A|-------------------------4-------|-5-------6-------7---------------|
D|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|

   / . . . / . . . / . . . / . . .   / . . . / . . . / . . . / . . . 
D|---------------------------------|---------5-------6+--------------|
A|-6---7---8-------5---6---7---5---|-4-------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|

   / . . . / . . . / . . . / . . .   / . . . / . . . / . . . / . . . 
D|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|

   / . . . / . . . / . . . / . . .   / . . . / . . . / . . . / . . . 
D|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------|---------------------------------|





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