Friday, September 23, 2011


Dulcimerating. That is the term my husband uses when I am online blogging about my dulcimer, visiting Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer, watching YouTube videos of people playing the mountain get the idea. So now, as I sit and dulcimerate, I have to share this golden treasure I found in the FOTMD forum. It's about all the Irish music you could ever want...and it's free to download! To get it all in one swell foop - click here to Download O'Neills Irish Tunes PDF . To pick and choose individual tunes from O'Neill, visit this page.

Since my Autoharp is now a cherished treasure, never to be played again, I've been looking back at all the richness of the past two years. Music has been my haven as I transitioned from Professional Artist to Customer Service Representative. Keeping up with the food and shelter bit takes a lot of time away from my hobbies. But through music, I've made new friends, shared wonderful memories, and thrown some awesome music parties. With my next one coming up on November 5th, and only dabbling with my mountain dulcimer after that first month in May, I have lots of practicing to do. I'll have to give Homestead Pickin' Parlor a call and see if I can get in with Karen for a lesson or two. Really, I'm going to do it this time since the party is looming and my repetoire is very small and clumsy at this point.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Down by The Sally Gardens

To sing a Yeats poem is a glorious thing, I feel connected through time by my voice and the sound of my dulcimer. I decided to learn this song next, as it has many chords in common with "The Parting Glass" so "Down by The Sally Gardens" I go.
It was down by the Sally Gardens, my love and I did meet.

She crossed the Sally Gardens with little snow-white feet.

She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree,

But I was young and foolish, and with her did not agree.

In a field down by the river, my love and I did stand

And on my leaning shoulder, she laid her snow-white hand.

She bid me take life easy , as the grass grows on the weirs

But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Down by the Sally Gardens, my love and I did meet.

She crossed the Sally Gardens with little snow-white feet.

She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree,

But I was young and foolish, and with her did not agree.

I sure I hope I have it ready for my Autumn Music Circle & Party. We're going with a theme again, this time it's Surly.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


After consulting with Karen Mueller, who gave me some tips on what to look for on my Autoharp that might indicate a more serious problem than just old strings, I found a crack. Now I knew last summer that the support straps holding up the soundboard had given way under the chord bars, but it was still playing great.

Not now, now I can't get it in tune, and what's more, the fine tuners/bridge is being pulled up and towards the tuning pegs. Because the crack is at the corner of my high C tuning peg and runs over an inch up. Boy has the soundboard sunken there! I think the only thing that's been holding it together these past six months is the heavy laquer.

When I purchased her it was in the middle of summer, July the hottest month of the year. The soundboard supports could have given way while it wiled away on my steps waiting for me to come home. Or it could have been that time I left it in my car before taking it in to have strap pegs added. That's the first time it was pointed out to me. The 'harp was hot, too hot, and homestead pickin' parlor said puppy rules apply. They pointed out the sunken area which I could see at that time when I looked from the bottom under the chord bars. I mentioned it to Karen and she said it still sounded fine, so I played it for another year until I noticed something wrong. This summer I took it camping, it was June and was not hot, just damp so I kept her in my car. I took her out and played her a couple of times, but I notice that she really needed a good tuning. After camping I left her in her case, and didn't play her again for a month, I tried to tune her but never got her very well in tune. I kept trying every week, and every week the middle and upper strings were way out of tune. Something told me this wasn't just a string thing, and now I've confirmed it.

May my darling Autoharp rest in peace. She sure does look pretty in her new stand. So now she is the first of my instruments to have died young.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Harder Than It Looks

I am currently working on learning the chords and singing along to "The Parting Glass" which is a wonderful closer at the end of a night of making music. It's a lovely tune, and I'm getting better bit by bit. Mind you, if my autoharp hadn't gone all un-tunable on me I might not be doing this right now, I'd still be working on my repetoire on the more familiar instrument. String changing is a long weekend project, and since I just had to pay to repair a flat tire on my lovely little PT cruiser, I'm lacking the funds for the new strings anyway. So out comes the mountain dulcimer, on it's fancy new stand, which is just lovely, from Ray Lynn Woods. I actually bought the book before the dulcimer arrived last Spring, as I figured Slow Airs would be just my speed starting out.

As you know, I started with the Dulcimer School, and my subscription to that is about to end now that I have a few of the basics down. So I picked up the book and went through it again and found, what I thought, was a good song to start with. Each verse ends with the toast "good night and joy be with you all" and it looks as if I might actually be able to learn this one before the next music party. My fingertips are toughening up once again, and I'm practicing more now too. Now that the cool Autumn temperatures are coming in, I'm really looking forward to making music in my little cottage with my friends. I will be honest with you, I was thrilled with the beautiful cover art on this book as well, it is by the very talented Rachel Arbuckle. My thirst for music, history, song, and instructional notes is thoroughly quenched, and it even comes with a CD to give you an idea of how some of the songs go. This will give me hours of pleasure this winter, and I'm taking a staycation when October switches to November. You may or may not see me blogging about my progress here, depending on my mood. That will be ME time that I sorely need.

So the title of this entry is it's harder than it looks, because Neal makes it look so easy as he plays on a beautiful Folkcraft teardrop dulcimer, a couple of laments.

Beautiful, I have hours and hours of practice ahead of me, but it's music like this that makes me so glad I took up the Mountain Dulcimer.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Mighty Wind

If you love folk music and haven't seen "A Mighty Wind" you really must. It's a pity that I didn't see it in the theatre, that would have been awesome. As it is, I own the DVD, CD and the music book. Yes I spoiled myself for my birthday just over a year ago, and I still watch the movie from time to time when I get in the mood. It's still holding up and I can't even tell you how many times I've seen it, probably about a dozen by now. At least. Tonight after watching it I decided to tune and practice my autoharp. So I tuned...and tuned...and tuned some more...and I started to practice and the poor darling was still flat. I've been tuning it at least once a week for the past month, thinking that it would get better the more often I tune it, but the strings are going flat by half a note or more between tunings.

I've had the 'harp for over two years now, and I've never changed the strings. I figured I'd have to change them this summer, but with all the fun things I've been up to I just haven't gotten around to it. Oh, I bought a lovely display stand for it, but buying strings means changing strings and that is a daunting task that will take hours and hours. Not to mention that the set costs about $65.00, more than double the cost of the stand. My other concern is that it might not be the strings, it might be the autoharp itself. You see, somewhere along the line, the support straps gave way under the chord bar area. You can't really see it above the chord bars where I strum, but the wood is sunken in pretty dramatically right before where the strings are attached to the fine tuners at the bottom of the autoharp. I think it might be time for my first dulcimer lesson from Karen and maybe she can take a look at my 'harp and let me know what she thinks. Because I just don't have the cash for a new Autoharp right now, I'm really hoping it's just a thing with old strings. Sigh.

Lucky for me I have my trusty mountain dulcimer, which is getting it's own stand courtesy of my darling husband as a belated birthday present. He's so supportive of all my enthusiasms. I haven't been practicing it much lately, so I think it's time to dive back into it and practice every day for a little bit, and re-watch all those lovely dulcimer videos on YouTube. But I have to share another video with you first, it's actually a deleted scene from the movie "A Mighty Wind" which features a song I've been trying to learn on autoharp.