Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All the Good Times

Here is a very nice simple traditional song- All the Good Times Are Past and Gone. It's especially good for beginners (are you with me, "papabill"?). I've presented it in the key of G, because that's the key I usually see it written out in. Also because you don't want to get stuck in the rut of only being able to play in the key of D... I've tabbed it for G 'reverse' ionian tuning (DGD). I presented a chart a few posts ago showing how to make the change from D 'regular' ionian into G 'reverse' ionian. Using the reverse ionian tuning sometimes can make the re-tuning process a little easier by changing the strings a bit less than going from regular D ionian to regular G ionian. I know that statement might be confusing- I am going to explain that a little further one day very soon. But do notice again that the song ends on fret 3, which gives us a hint that it's in ionian mode.
I know you probably are loathe to retune your dulcimer into the key of G from your 'comfort area' of being in D...but getting over the natural tendency to want to avoid re-tuning is going to allow you much greater freedom to play all kinds of songs and tunes later, and will give you the ability to play in fun jams of other music playing people... people who play in several different keys on other instruments. It's only hard and scary to change tunings the first few times you do it. After that it becomes much less of a big deal.

By the way- did you know the difference between a 'tune' and a 'song'? A tune is a piece of music usually with a melody, and a song is the same thing but with words/lyrics added to sing it. You sing a song, you play a tune. If you play a tune and then add words to it, it becomes a song!

"All the Good Times..." is a very good song to try to singing to while you play, since the first verse is pretty easy to memorize and sing on 'autopilot' while you play. Being able to sing a song while you play it is an immensely helpful skill to practice. It doesn't matter if you don't sing well at all, you can just sing by yourself all alone if you prefer. Having a slightly crude and rustic voice is actually something that's admired in old-time music! You'd sound pretty lame if you sang these old country songs in a trained operatic voice.
Practicing singing something simple while playing actually helps cement the song into your brain so that you can better play it without tab, and it helps you to keep rhythm better. Think of how easy it is to remember little children's songs from your youth- this is much the same thing. Plus, there may well come a time as you get to be a better player when you will actually want to sing songs with others, and if you practice this here and there during your early learning stages it won't be so hard to pick up the skill later.

As will all things, my advice is the same- start simple and slow, and don't get more complex until you feel comfortable. Remember this: it's far better to play 3 simple slow tunes well than to stumble awkwardly through 8 fancier tunes.
In this case, I'd suggest singing just the first few words with your dulcimer playing over and over: 'all the good times have past and gone'. Once you can play and sing that phrase comfortably, add the 'all the good times are o'er' to it. And so on. If you never get past the first verse, that's fine too!- at least you have shown yourself that you can do it.
Here is the song, in the key of G, ionian mode (but remember you can play the tab exactly the same way if you are tuned to D ionian tuning, DAA, as well):


  1. Lisa,
    Great post,now you want me to go out of my comfort zone. LOL. I'am tuned in the key of D, now you want me to re tune to G.LOL I had to have my Teacher tune my Dulcimer for me.LOL I'll see what i can do, and try to follow along, Thank you for your consideration and lesson. What do you consider for practice time?



  2. Hey Bill, don't get stuck too long in the DAD rut!! ;)

    Not sure what you mean by:"What do you consider for practice time?" you mean how long do I recommend you practice for at home each day? If that's what you mean, then even 10 minutes per day is good!
    Or a half hour is better. Or an hour every other day is ok too.
    Some people practice a LOT. I'd prefer to see people practice more often but for shorter periods than do a long practice every few days.
    Even 10 minutes a day will keep you moving forward. Don't try to force yourself to practice for a long time, or you'll begin to dread it and then you'll avoid it. Keep it fun. If it starts feeling like work then back off a little, slow down, and play some simpler stuff that feels satisfying and fun to you. Music should be fun, not a chore. :)

  3. Oh, and Bill, another thing-
    if you simply cannot get your dulcimer tuned into G ionian yet, then you can just tune it to D ionian (DAA) and play the tab the same exact way on the same frets...since it's still ionian mode, the tab numbers will stay the same.
    then go to your teacher next time and get them to show you how to get into GDD (G ionian). You might need to buy an electronic tuner so you can start tuning your own instrument- a very worthwhile purchase.

  4. Lisa,
    That's what i meant, time wise per day. I see what you mean by shorter spurts instead of longer ones. Thanks again

  5. Ummm, Lisa... up above in your post you spoke of G Ionian tuning as DGG a couple times; then later down you called G Ionian GDD and "Reverse" Ionian DGD. Just wanted to let readers know that Ionian in the key of G really is GDD - bass string tuned G (two notes higher than D in DAA), mid and melody strings tuned to D five notes higher than the G.

    Ken Hulme

  6. Hi Ken, you caught my mistake! Thank you! I think I've corrected the text in my post now- are there any mistakes I've missed?
    One thing though- if one tunes thier bass string from D to G, shouldn't it be tuned DOWN to G rather than up three whole steps to G?- wouldn't tuning up that much break your bass string, especially on an average scale length dulcimer of 28"? Do let me know what you do on your dulcimer.

  7. You got it fixed {grin}. G is one of those notes. I successfully tune UP to GDD without breaking anything on my 27"VSL instrument using .012 strings for mid and melody and a .022wound bass string. Maybe I'm just lucky. The sound is really silvery and shimmery. Tuning DOWN to G is certainly a lot easier on strings and voices.

  8. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for this beautiful Tab!
    I didn't know this song because i'am not from America, but i found it on Youtube.
    It's an easy to learn melody and i could play it
    in a few times practising.
    I really love it! Now it's time for another nice tune to learn.
    I think this is a fantastic blog and you're a great teacher, thanx!