The last post, Chord Progressions One, had a whole lot of stuff for you to look up. I hope it wasn't too overwhelming for you! My intent was just to get you excited about starting the process of discovery with chord progressions. With any mountain of new things to learn like this, remember that you can always just look up one term that you are curious about and leave the rest behind: I have found that the small steps made consistently make a real difference in my music study.
Getting Started With Your Own Progressions
- Simpler is Better: progressions with 2, 3, or 4 chords repeating over and over in a cycle are amazing, and fun to play.
- Cycles that repeat over and over are soothing, mesmerizing, and entrancing—NOT boring! AND they work GREAT for the dulcimer!
- Make sure you understand the difference between back-up chords (often arpeggios like in fingerpicking style) and melody. In rock bands, there is a rhythm guitar and a lead guitar. A singer (melody) often accompanies herself on the piano (often with arpeggios).
- I try to combine the backup, or accompaniment arpeggios AND the single-string melodic lines on one solo dulcimer performance. I like to TOGGLE between these two functions playfully as I go. This is not really that difficult, but you do need to GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to do it!
A GREAT Two-Chord Progression: D -- G
- I know you are probably thinking: "that's too simple" but it is really endless in its possibilities, and is especially hypnotic.
- I have more fun with this progression if I spend a longer time on each chord. Try 2 or 4 measures on each chord.
- Try some different time-signatures! 3/4, 6/8, and 12/8 are all ways to jog your rhythmic muse. Google "time signatures" if you need some help with this.
- Move through several positions up-and-down the length of the fingerboard for each chord. Stephen Seifert has some GREAT chord charts that you can download from his web site free of charge. This will give you a roadmap for navigating through the chord tones.
- Have FUN!! Keep it PLAYFUL, ENJOY the process, Don't be a perfectionist!
- MAKE YOUR OWN RULES!!!
- Try to use open strings whenever you can—like on the bass to the D chord!
Give-Away For This Issue
Here is another great two-chord jam, this time with Em (or Em7) to A7. This TAB was one I used this past October for a workshop in improvising at the SouthEast Ohio Dulcimer Festival (soon to be called a "Gathering"):
Now, if you want something like this to play along with, here is a very rough jam I did just fooling around with this progression. The above TAB will give you some ideas that will work over the recording, but it is NOT a transcription of what I played!!