2011-01, Dulcimer Players News Vol. 37 No. 1

Page 44

playing backup on dulcimers

by Steve Eulberg

adding chords to the bass line


Hill Country Acoustic Music Camp

he feedback I’ve received  from the first article in this  series (Walking the Bass, Fall 2010) shows we’re on the right  track. The exclamation, “I’m finally  getting it!” comes from more than one  correspondent. So it is time to forge  ahead. After we understand the concept  of playing a bass line and feel comfortable playing by walking between chords  with enough notes and spaces to arrive  in time for the strong beat of the measure, the next step we are going to take  is to add chords to the bass line we are  playing. I am going to add one wrinkle  here. In the last article we added bass  lines in 4/4 or common time. This time,  we are going to use a waltz (¾ time) as  the skeleton upon which to hang our  concepts and understanding. So let’s  turn our attention to the waltz form. Waltz Time “Waltz” comes from the German

word walzen which means “to roll, turn,  or to glide.” Viennese waltzes such as the  Blue Danube, when accompanied by the  swishing of fancy fabric, seem to embody  the flowing waters of the river. In this  dance, the couples spin and glide across  the floor, lifting just before the strong  downbeat on ONE and continuing with  the graceful movements on “two-three.”  If you’ve ever taken dance lessons this  is one of the easiest to count: it only has  three beats, and ONE is always the accented beat. (Practice by saying: “ONE  two three, ONE two three,” and so on.) When playing back-up for a waltz,  our bass note will be the name of the  chord played on ONE with the rest of  the notes of the chord answering on  beats two and three. I try to play the  bass note in the location that gives me  the lowest possible note which names  the chords on my instrument. On a  mountain dulcimer, this is typically  the bass (or thickest) string, furthest

Teaching June 7th – 11th, 2011 at HCAMP, Kerrville, TX Sue Carpenter Sue is known for her challenging, organized and intensive teaching methods, nurturing patience, and energetic enthusiasm that make learning fun. A favorite workshop leader and performer at dulcimer festivals. Her many awards include 2003 2nd place and 2005 1st place National Mountain Dulcimer Champion at Walnut Valley. Karen aShbrooK Karen teaches and performs Celtic, contra dance, and Jewish music and works teaching Flemish, French, Irish, Appalachian and classical melodies for the instrument. Karen is considered one of the finest Irish hammered dulcimer players anywhere.

away from me. On a hammered dulcimer, this is usually in the lowest box  between my bass and treble bridges. I can anticipate your next question.  “OK, I get the walking bass bit, but which  notes should I play to answer the bass  which plays on the first beat?” The quick  answer is: “the other two notes of the  chord!” Remember a triad (a chord) has  three different pitches by definition: the  first, third and fifth steps of whatever  scale the chord corresponds to. If we are  playing the root (or first step of the scale)  as the bass note on beat ONE, that leaves  the other two notes for beats two and  three. (Fig. A illustrates this for mountain  dulcimer and the hammered dulcimer.) Here is a note of caution for mountain dulcimer players: because we’ve  already played the bass note on beat  ONE, it can sound cleaner if we don’t  play it again on beats two and three,  which means we will need to work on  right hand accuracy with our picks. I

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