I received an email today from a dulcimer teaching/lesson web site announcing creation of a new category for traditional noter style. That's great, I thought.
So I looked. Quoted below are two statements which are used to justify playing traditional style.
"This style of playing is very popular, and helpful if you experience pain in your wrists or hands."
"Some people play with a noter to overcome physical limitations and the obstacles to their music-making."
While both statements are true, there seems to be a lack of recognition that some players CHOOSE to play in the Traditional noter style rather than having to play in that style due to physical limitations.
I am sure most of us here are among those who choose to play in this style--yes I know we have at least one member with limitations in his hands that make noter style much better for him. This member shows his admiration for this style as evidenced by his copious amounts of research and knowledge about the traditional dulcimore and playing style.
I play noter style because I like it. I love the sound. I love the drones. I like the idea of playing in a way it was from the early days and on an instrument that is similar to how it was in the early days. I often hear it mentioned as if it is just a beginner style and that once you “advance” you move on to modern playing styles with chording and such. I actually think it’s quite easy to learn, but challenging to do well. There is skill and nuance in noter playing just like other instruments or other styles of play. I much prefer traditional play over modern. Don’t get me wrong. There are great modern players. I just prefer and choose traditional play.
The fiddle, flute, and other instruments only play one note at a time, a melody note, a harmony note, or a note to provide harmony in a measure where the instrument is not playing melody or harmony. I think of the dulcimer in the same manner with the dulcimer just playing melody, harmony, or a note to provide harmony in each measure. But, the dulcimer is like two different instruments. The first instrument can play melody or harmony or a note to support the melody with or without the drone strings. The second instrument can play melody and harmony at the same time, the second instrument can play chords. If enough frets are added to the second instrument, it can play in several different keys and keep up with any style of music. The second instrument is not simple any more. The first instrument is simple and it can be tuned to play a given song (major or minor) within a given diatonic scale. Notes must be substituted when the song requires notes outside of the diatonic scale on this instrument.
So, I think of the dulcimer as being two different instruments and that's okay. I play both styles. As I get older, I'm finding more comfort in playing something with a noter. Yes, the family of Renoir used rags to tie his paint brushes to his hands so he could continue painting in his later years. Maybe one of my family members will tie a noter to my hand and duct tape a pick to my other hand so I can keep playing dulcimer in my later years (I haven't learned to use a quill yet, maybe Scotch tape will work better with a quill than duct tape). Like Renoir, noter playing is possible for people with difficulties in their hands. There are many songs (and tunes) that are very challenging to play with a noter and those songs and tunes can sound just as beautiful as played with any other instrument.
Most of the time I play with a noter when I'm alone. I've made some multi-track recordings while playing with a noter, but those recordings are still something I made while I was alone. I've been able to play with a noter at times while playing with a group that plays everything in DAD tuning and that is usually when the song can be played on the melody string(s) only and the dulcimers are not playing chords. So, there are times where there is room for two instruments.
P.S. I have been out of town for a week. Now, "I'm BA-ACK". You get to listen to my rants and raves again.
It is good to see more festivals including noter playing workshops and having a website doing that is wonderful. I have to admit that I not only play N/D style but also chord/melody and finger dancing. One person in one of the dulcimer groups I play in has a bass dulcimer which she has loaned to me and I am learning to play that to add a different voice to the ensemble.That definitely isn't traditional, but it is fun.
Post by clawhammer7 on Aug 1, 2019 21:26:23 GMT -5
No other musical instrument sounds like a traditional dulcimore played with a noter...and I love that sound! Also, it seems to me, that if playing noter/drone was so easy and simple, EVERYONE would be playing that way...and it isn't, and they aren't!
When I first started to learn to play dulcimer, I tried all of the techniques in McSpadden's Four and Twenty book. Then, I joined a jam session with a friend from work. They were playing country and folk songs with electric guitar, mandolyn, and acoustic guitar. We hooked a pickup to my dulcimer and as long as I played chords they thought it sounded pretty neat. I kinda' played chords on one song. I didn't know very many chords at the time, so when the next song was in a different key, I wasn't able to play along. I didn't get asked to jam with them again. I tried jamming with a relative who played guitar. She sang in a country band and I didn't know any country songs on the dulcimer, so I tried to work on playing some chord progressions with her. We never jammed again.
So, I left the rosewood noter in the case and went down the road of learning chord melody style for many years. Occasionally, I might try playing something with a noter but mountain dulcimer involvement was trending toward DAD tuning and chord melody style. Tablature for DAD tuning and chord melody style became predominant in most dulcimer clubs. Much later I started to see where playing with a noter in certain tunings was a good thing. I taught a beginner one-hour session at the local dulcimer club and I passed out noters to the attendees and we worked on noter playing. It was fun and we made some good sounds.
I think some of the dulcimer clubs have become something like corporations. The clubs have tablature collections and publish what to play at the next playout. Some clubs get permission to distribute modern songs where someone created tablature. Hey, does anybody have mountain dulcimer tablature in DAD tuning for R.E.M.'s song "Man In the Moon"? Okay, our next song is "Greensleeves". Rustle, rustle, rustle while the players flip pages in their tablature 3-ring binders or page through their electronic tablet. If I have heard the song before and I know it is in a given mode with few or no chromatic intervals, I just need the starting note to play it with a noter or just use my fingers on the melody string(s).
Okay, I need to find a way out of this rant and get busy with some chores for today. There were some comments about people with arthritis or other difficulty with their hands such that noter playing was easier. Last year a person asked on Facebook if anything was available for people who couldn't hold a noter. I created this short video for that post but today I loaded it to OneDrive in the Traditional_and_Noter folder. Here's the link.
But, noter playing is for everybody who wants to play and it is not limited to people who have difficulty with their hands. Also, sometimes I get a cramp in my hand while playing a song with a noter, so the next song I might play in a different style without a noter.