The Value of Encouragement

If it was not for the encouragement that I received from family, friends, and musicians, I would have quit the hammered dulcimer many years ago. The encouraging comments from those who recognized my talent was enough to keep me from quitting.

Additionally, I didn’t get the 1st place trophy at Winfield in one attempt. It took three failures before I had one success. And, I almost didn’t compete in 2003, but the encouragement of those around me was the inspiration that I needed to give it one more shot.

But my playing pursuits have not ended with a trophy, and I feel like my playing still has a long way to improve. But the encouragement that I received early on was enough to give me the confidence to continue for a lifetime.

Be a person who gives encouragement. The value of encouragement may prove to be priceless.

Being in Tune to Yourself

How well in tune are you to your yourself? Many of you are saying, “I thought it was dulcimer was supposed to be in tune to my Korg!” Well, you’re right. But, that’s not the motive of this accumulation of 888 English words. Allow me to begin…

You’re lost and driving your car down the road when your cell phone rings. You quickly rummage to find your phone with the intent of answering it, not because you want to talk, but because you want to turn off that annoying ring tone that you paid $1.99 for.

After nearly driving your vehicle into a group of trees, a friend (who isn’t very musical) says to you, “Turn your radio on! They’re playing that dulmier thing you do!” You think “Finally! The dulcimer has made it onto my biggest, local music station!”

Amidst the frustration of being on the wrong road, you tune into the station to realize that it wasn’t a dulcimer. It was a mandolin in the middle of a country song talking about the memories had with a pair of boots and pickup truck.

There are three really big points in this story.

1) Don’t pay $1.99 for a ring tone which you’ll end up hating
2) Know where you’re going
3) Know who to listen to

Alright, so where does this whole tuning thing fit in? In order for things to be in tune, there must be a standard by which you tune to. In this particular case, I will mostly discuss the subjective standard–yourself. You must learn to be in tune to what your personal tastes and goals are with your dulcimer.

One of the beauties of human beings is that we’re not all alike. We’re different. We have different strengths, weaknesses, preferences, methods, etc. All of these play an enormous factor into your relationship with your instrument.

Now, on to elaborating my three really big points…

1. Don’t pay $1.99 for a ring tone which you’ll end up hating

One of the most important things of being a musician is to find the instrument(s) that you’re happy with. Plenty of quality articles have been written about choosing the right dulcimer, so that is not the overall motive of this article. There are black and white rights and wrongs with choosing dulcimers. But, much of choosing the right dulcimer is being in tune to what your personal preferences are. This can take time! I’ve owned many instruments. Some, I decided I liked. Others, I didn’t. To summarize, if you’re not happy with the instrument that you’ve purchased, odds are that you’ll end up seeking to “turn it off” rather than to play it.

2. Know where you’re going

It is crucial to make an intentional effort to know where you’re going. This includes your motives, habits, and development progress. Too often, I’ve seen musicians who found themselves at a dead end because little attention was given to where they were headed as a musician.

Something that I ask all my students is, “How good do you want to get and why?”
These two questions answer a lot of questions and are extremely revealing to being in tune to your personal goals and motives. If you’re honest with yourself, you may discover that some are healthy and others are not!

Once your goals are set, write your plan. This can include how often to take lessons, when, what, and how often to practice, attending festivals, your budget, distance learning, etc. The glue is steadfastness. Never quit and never procrastinate. Stay with your goal and one day you’ll be satisfied with the results.

The next step is to reward yourself with milestones. Stair-step your milestones. Example: if I were to have a goal of running 10 miles non-stop, I would personally set milestone markers at 2 mile intervals. My first goal would be to run 2 miles, then 4, then 6, etc. If I set my sights on the 10 miles to begin with, the road would seem too long, unattainable, and I might quit. However, if I set milestone markers, I know exactly where I’m at, that I am making progress, and also have satisfaction of achieving personal milestones.

This ties into music as well. You may have a long-term goal of playing in a successful band. But in order to get there, set different milestones along the way. It could start as simple as playing a scale 2x in a row without mistakes, followed by knowing how to play a scale in 3rds, learning the chromatic scale, completing your first arrangement or compositions, etc.

I’m not saying that everybody has to be the next Yo-Yo Ma, but what I am saying is that you need to be in tune to your motives and development progress or else you may find your days as a musician coming to screeching halt.

3. Know who to listen to

We should only listen to those who know what they’re talking about. If possible, find a quality teacher who has credentials. If that isn’t possible, look into taking Internet lessons or attending festivals to learn from teachers who know what they’re talking about. Also, listen to quality music by established players. This doesn’t just have to be dulcimer music. It could be any type of music. But the key is that if you listen to those who are accomplished, you will make yourself better. Input=Output.

Desire for Departure DPN Review

Joshua Messick, now 23 years old, has played hammered dulcimer for more than half his life. He took second place in the Texas State Competition when he was 10. Josh, helped along the way with lessons from Peggy Carter, went on to win the Winfield National Championship in 2003.

Joshua’s latest project features quite a few new compositions that reflect his maturity as a man and a musician. Everything about this recording reaches for the epic. Even the liner notes display the intertwined nature of Joshua’s passion for his faith and music itself.

He partners with keyboardist/producer Randy Wills and makes bold and effective use of unusual time signatures, sweeping synth pads, and triggered percussion. You can also here a bit of Rich Mullins inspired rhythmic passion.

Joshua calls his project “mostly interpretive” and self-classifies it as “New-Acoustical Eclectic World (NEW).” He says his goals were for the project to be “fresh and excting, but also pleasant and comprehendible. Also, I wanted to make a professional grade recording that would have appeal, even if the listener didn’t know what the hammer dulcimer was.”

To my ears, he’s achieved his goal. The hammered dulcimer on Desire for Departure was recorded and mixed in a way that presents it as powerful and piano-like. After listening to this recording several times now, I’m impressed with the way the CD flows. It is inspirational in a way that seems suitable for listening to while either exercising or relaxing. This is a great CD suitable for anyone who enjoys great music.

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