Thursday, April 16, 2009

Single Girl, Married Girl

Here is a fairly simple and fun song for beginners in DAA ionian tuning. I am dedicating this TAB to Kelly, a lady who is, as I write, just beginning to play mountain dulcimer in traditional noter style, much to the delight of her adoring husband. Kelly, I assume your married life is more fun than the one described in this song. If not, then follow the example of the lady in the picture above!
This TAB version of "Single Girl, Married Girl" is mostly inspired by the well known Carter Family recording of it. However, I have evened out the parts where... they eliminate or add a couple of beats, simply to make it a little easier for beginners to follow. It still remains quirky and interesting enough, what with the repeated last line of each verse. If you ever get really good at this one, you can always go back to the funky Carter Family timing, which is even better.

I have always loved this song! You can hear a snippet of the Carter Family's version here on Amazon, (or download the whole MP3 of the tune there for 99 cents).

If you find yourself feeling like the poor married girl in this song, then go jump on your bike or buy yourself a new dress immediately!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A face from the past

Dulcimer musician Stephen Seifert recently asked me about the picture I had used on my second blog entry that I posted on Feb. 14, 2009. Stephen wondered why he had never seen the image before and asked me where I got it. It is a tintype of a bearded man holding a lap zither or scheitholt and a bow:Well this little picture has an interesting story...
Several years ago, I was searching the term 'zither' on Ebay, and this tintype popped up in the antique tintype category. I realized it was an important and marvelous image that looked to be from the first half of the 1800's, important especially because the fellow is holding a bow. New photographic proof that lap zithers were sometimes bowed does not pop up often. This was a rare image and appeared to be in very good shape.

I would have loved to try to buy it, but I figured it would sell for well over $100 to tintype collectors, and I really couldn't justify spending that on an image as opposed to something more 'useful'. No other dulcimer collectors were likely to find it since it was not in the Ebay 'instrument' category at all, and it didn't have the terms scheitholt or dulcimer anywhere in the auction either.
So I contacted Ralph Lee Smith about it, because I thought he might view it as something worth trying to get, from the dulcimer history standpoint. Ralph was very excited by the tintype zither man, and said it was indeed a wonderful image with historic value, and that he could certainly use for an upcoming museum exhibit he was planning. We both estimated its date to be likely somewhere between 1860 and 1880.
Unfortunately, Ralph was not an Ebay member and had no clue how to go about bidding on anything, and had no idea how much to bid. I offered to bid for him, and we then figured out a logical maximum price for the tintype that would give us a decent chance of winning it.
So I bid on the tintype at the last few moments of the auction and happily I won it for us. I had it shipped to me, where I would scan it in high resolution before sending it on to Ralph.

It arrived and it was truly marvelous! It was on a tiny piece of tin, only about 1 1/2" x 2 1/2", and the image was CRYSTAL CLEAR. The bearded scheitholt player's piercing eyes stared out at me from a time long past. I so wondered what his name had been, and where he was from, what language had he spoken?
I scanned it at very high resolution and further brought out it's details in PhotoShop, so that I would have a nice image of it and so I could send the scan to Ralph as well, for his reproduction purposes.

I hated having to part with it and ship it off to Ralph, but it was to have a great home and be 'safe' with him. Ralph reimbursed me the Ebay price, I remained with a beautiful photo image to remind me of it, and Ralph used a large poster print of the scan in his recent Mercer museum exhibition .

Ralph still has the little jewel, and he told me he didn't mind at all if I told the story of the tintype here.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Bravest Cowboy

Today I actually cleaned up my office, which was getting drowned in accumulated piles of junk that I thought were really important but which didn't actually need to be piled around everywhere at my fingertips. A good fresh start for Spring! I got rid of some things that were emotionally difficult to sort through, as well. I feel unburdened, and I love the visual shock now when i walk into my office and wonder if I'm in the right place.

Well I've been promising myself to post another relatively simple mixolydian mode tune again soon for the benefit of all you mix-heads out there (I know you're out there lurking and going through withdrawal) here is a good ol' western cowboy song for you- The Bravest Cowboy.

But wait! Before you get too comfortable, I pulled a little trick on you... I made it in mixolydian all right (tonic D note on the open melody string) but I put it in BAGPIPE TUNING! Ha ha. Actually, I started playing it in old reliable DAD tuning, but I found it had that odd sour feeling to it that I dislike in some D tunes. I have mentioned this before, in this post where I might have to kill you. The sour feeling comes from the interval of the 5th- the middle string tuned to A. (remember, in the musical scale abcdefgabcd-etc, an interval of a 5th is 5 steps or intervals up from the tonic key note, the key note being 1. For key of D then: D=1, E=2, F=3, G=4, A=5) Now usually I just LOVE that 5th interval in tunes. But in some happy type D songs, that 5th interval just doesn't sound quite right to me, and when that happens I simply tune all my strings to D and then it sounds great. Try playing it both ways and you'll see what I mean! It's also called a unison tuning. So for bagpipe mixolydian D tuning, your bass string will be a low D and all your other strings will be the higher octave D, all the same note. (For myself, I just tune all my strings to the high D for bagpipe tuning, since I don't use heavier bass and middle strings at all, I just use .010 strings everywhere because I don't care for the bass string sound...but that's for another post altogether!)
There are some slightly interesting strum patterns in this one that are good to practice as well- I worked them to not conflict with the rhythm of the lyrics. This is actually a good one to practice singing along with your dulcimer player on, since both the dulcimer melody line and the lyrics are relatively plain and simple, and there is only one part to the tune. Try it by practicing with just the first verse a few times! Plus, you needn't worry about how 'good' your voice is, since cowboys are supposed to have cruddy voices! (unless they are cowboy movie stars of course, but those are fake cowboys)

So now you have a cowboy mixolydian tune. You could play it while watching Tom Mix.

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