Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Golly, modes aren't so scary after all... Part One


This is the first of several posts devoted to a VERY SIMPLE beginner level review of how to play in the most common modes.

Up to now, I have tried to introduce the four commonly used dulcimer modes one at a time, each paired with a tune, in order to keep from scaring people away by having them feel that it's all too much to learn at once.

I think it may be a good time now to step back and present a little review of the four modes I use in this blog in a way that might help you visualize the differences between them by seeing them plainly, side by side together rather than separately. Being able to play in the four different modes is truly not that complicated or scary once you understand the basic simple concept. Tuning to the four modes is the key to being able to play all kinds of interesting and varied tunes and songs in traditional noter and drone style.

I'd like to try to get you comfortable with the four common dulcimer modes in a very simple way that anyone will be able to put in to action on their own dulcimer. I'm going to skip over all the brain-wringing explanations about modal scales having bunches of whole steps and half steps. I remember trying to learn that stuff when I was just starting out, and wow, it would scare off almost anybody!
So the HECK with that! Let's approach it from a much simpler angle instead... starting with picture charts that show you exactly how to tune for the four modes, in the key of D.

For now, I want you to know two simple things:
First, please note that your two drone strings remain tuned the same in all four modes. Thus, to change modes, you are only going to be re-tuning your melody string(s). We will not be re-tuning the drone strings (middle and bass strings) at all. Simple enough? I knew you'd like that.
Secondly, you need to know that if starting in mixolydian mode, in DAD, that when you re-tune to the other three modes you are going to be tuning your melody strings DOWN from the original D, not up! Thus, when re-tuning from DAD (mixolydian mode) to DAC (aeolian mode), for example, you will be tuning your melody strings DOWN one step from D to C. You need to know this so that you don't start breaking your melody strings by trying to crank them w-a-y up from your starting DAD point. (And like I said already, your other strings will remain the same and will not be re-tuned at all.)

Click on each chart picture and it will get larger in its own window, and you can print it out. Print out all four charts and in my next post I will further explain how to use the modes easily, in simple terms. I suspect most of you are already familiar with playing in DAD mixolydian mode, so we will go from there.
So...tune your dulcimer to DAD and play any simple tune. If you hadn't realized it before, you are already tuning and playing in a mode!- the Mixolydian mode.
This is going to be EASY. I'll take things step by step, starting with mixolydian mode. I'll keep things very simple, and I'll explain each thing very clearly.








3 comments:

  1. I like your approach to modes here, Lisa. Although I play in a variety of tunings, when people get to talking modes I get confused. Glad I can play in different modes-- just hope to not feel so confused by mode talk someday. ;-)
    Robin T

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  2. Thank you, thank you so much for your generous, clear, unequivocal and friendly instruction. You obviously understand how daunting a new instrument can be for some people and how unlocking the mysteries enables others to participate. I had a vague idea of what modes were - now I know all, thanks to you!
    Kit (English banjo and fiddle player in France)

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  3. Thank you! You have made a dread into a simple.....

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