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Resources for Working on the D-A-Bm-G Progression

by Jerry Rockwell

In the email newsletter I send out once or twice a month, I asked if there were any subscribers who wanted to work on their very own versions of the D-A-Bm-G or "Light Into Darkness Chords." So I sent out a group of 3 emails to this small group, and got some encouraging responses from a few subscribers. Here are the emails and their respective links:

email #1:

Light Into Darkness Ensemble Version from 2008:

Light Into Darkness in C (with sub-cycles on each main chord) from 2016:

....and some TABs I have compiled over a long period for these chords:

Fingerpicking Exercises on Light Into Darkness:

Solo on Light Into Darkness from 2011 - 2 pages:

email #2:


Last email in this little series was all about my various journeys and adventures around D-A-Bm-G -- now I want to get YOU playing and trying things in your own personal way, and I want to deal with some philosophical things that have been bouncing around inside my head for more than a week, and I think they might help you and free you up a bit:

1.) It is actually much more difficult to give ourselves permission to do something original and creative with music than many people think: there would be MANY more people making music every day on a huge variety of instruments and electronic gear if this were not the truth. Music "talent" and who gets it is a subject of many books and discussions in our current society. It is fair to say that some people feel "left out" and there are many, many reasons for this. If you are playing the dulcimer - to any extent at all - you are MILES ahead of the general public for one very good reason: the dulcimer is the most WELCOMING instrument I can think of.... we are all so lucky to be playing an almost magical instrument where most anything we play sounds decent, and our dulcimer community is usually set up to let us share our joy in a whole variety of ways. I've been a guitar player for even more years than I've played dulcimer, and I can guarantee you that there is no analog in the guitar world, even today (the uke craze is an exception, but that is very big and complex and has a lot of different dimensions).

2.) Try to suspend judgement if you can when you are just trying things - fire your inner critic! Don't worry about perfection or precision: just let your most natural rhythms flow. Everything will come together as you work on this over time. Remember: the point of almost everything we're doing here is to have FUN!!! Enjoyment comes first!

3.) I think it might help if you just start playing these chords in the simplest way you know how. I often start with chords in the first 3 or 4 frets. You can play all the chords you'll ever need for the diatonic key of D Major in these lower frets, so why not?

4.) All of my ramblings that you got access to were in some form of 4/4 - so YOU should do something ELSE!!! Try 3/4, 6/8, 9/8, or 12/8 -- and if you need help in setting any of these up just ask me and I will give you a measure or two for a template. Sometimes if I'm in a 12/8 sort of groove, what I come up with is almost like boogie-woogie or shuffle-blues. This is not a genre-specific exercise, so let your imagination go wild - there is no LID or LIMITS here! (I know how uncomfortable that makes some people - it is a sudden pulling of your comfort zone right out from under you! If you can learn to be with this uncertainty and fear of the unknown for a while, you may be amazed at the possibilities!). And just because MY music is meditative, dreamy, mesmerizing, and sleep-inducing DOESN'T MEAN YOURS HAS TO BE!!!!

5.) Try to get your music out in the OPEN AIR. I do everything on a laptop with headphones and sometimes I just want to go outside and do some primal screaming, though I hold back because that would positively terrorize the local cat population!! :-) -- But what I'm saying here is try to figure out a way you can record the back up chords and then try some melodic playing over them. Use your computer and loop the backup chords and you can have so much FUN! Its not that you can't learn something by playing your dulcimer solo, but that is really an old-fashioned way to learn any musical instrument today: we have ready access to all sorts of recording options and we should take advantage of them!

email #3:

I had a chance to do some back-up chords for you to play along with, and I took my own advice on finding different time signatures:

So try playing along with these in your own individual way - just see what happens, and if you get an idea from this stuff, feel free to go off on your own tangent entirely: record your own version and then try playing along with YOUR backup. I guarantee 100% that you will enjoy this process once you get started!

Here is a set of chord reference charts listed in the order that we play them. The top chart on each chord gives you the actual pitches, and the bottom chart tells you where the Root (R), 3rd, and 5th are. This is incredibly important as you progress in your musical understanding. For now just try to be aware of where the Root of each chord is located - everywhere it is found. This will help a LOT!!

Two Newsletters on Ostinatos over these chords

Ostinato Power 1 from April 10, 2016

Ostinato Power 2 from April 20, 2016

I'd love to hear how you are doing with this project, so don't be shy if you have questions or want to share your experiments!

Thanks for being part of this project!!

Here are a few more resources I put together after the emails:

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