Lee Cagle's Blue Smoke Risin' on the Mountain -- Dulcimer News and Information, Memphis, Tennessee

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Barbara Joe graciously invited me to submit tab for the April 2012 newsletter of the NGFDA.  As an instructor of mountain dulcimer and director of the Memphis Dulcimer & Folk Gathering, I play and present tablature from a fairly wide background of musical genres.  However, my very favorite music is traditional old time American fiddle tunes and songs.  So when when deciding on a tune for the club, I chose a tune that I thought the club members would easily be able to play but that might also contain challenging elements for some. 

As mountain dulcimer players, we have a tendency to fall into the rut of playing almost exclusively in the key of D, no matter the key in which the song may have originally been written.  But old time fiddle players pride themselves on knowing the original key of all the tunes and play in C, G, D, A at the drop of a hat.  I chose the tune Barlow Knife in large part because I like the tune, but also because it is a "G tune" -- meaning a fiddle player would never consider playing it in any key except G because that is the key in which it was written.

While originally developed in England in the 1600s, the barlow knife is considered the all-American pocket knife.  George Washington carried a barlow.  Mark Twain referred to barlows in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in 1876.  The small pocket on Levi's jeans (where I now keep my picks) used to be called the barlow pocket.  Presumably, the composer of this tune enjoyed his own barlow knife so well that he wrote a tune for it. 

If you have not tried re-tuning your dulcimer, this is a great way to start.  Re-tuning to the key of G from the popular DAD tuning is very simple -- lower the middle string from A down to G.  (If you play in DAA, you will need to lower the middle string from the note of A to G and the melody string up from A to D.)  This tuning provides nice drones that allow you to play on the melody string only without chording (unless you want to add chords, of course).  Barlow Knife is a peppy tune, but because it was intended to be played for dances, there is no need to rush the tune.  The tune has three parts, and, as with most fiddle tunes, it is played AABBCC. 

As a side note, the DGD tuning is referred to as the "reverse Ionian" mode.  If you have tablature that is written for DAA (the Ionian mode), you can play the melody line of your DAA tab (not chord positions on the middle or bass strings) in the DGD tuning, and you will be playing those same songs in the key of G.   

I realize that the tune Barlow Knife may be new to many people, so I am posting the tablature and sound here, so that you can hear the tune.  There will be a slow version so that you can clearly hear the tune as you learn and a faster version to play along with after you have become familiar with the tune.

Click here for tab and audio of Barlow Knife.

The holiday song for 2008 is Once in Royal David's City.  Click here for free tablature and sound.  There are also links to other songs below.

Below is a link to a fingerpicked arrangement of Southwind.  The arrangement is for my introductory fingerpicking class and is designed to incorporate a variety of techniques, including hammer-ons, pull-offs, brushes and pinches.

I love old time music and the droning sound of the strings on fiddle tunes played on the mountain dulcimer.  On Dancin' Dan, I am playing on an older (circa 1970) 5-string dulcimer tuned DADaa.

Listen to Dancin' Dan

Click on the song titles below to hear a recording of Lee Cagle playing the mountain dulcimer and to see tablature for the song.  Enjoy listening, or play along.  I play the songs at a moderate speed so that you can hear the tune and play along with me if you would like. 
For Gray Cat, I am tuned to DAD and start at the 4th fret.  

Holiday trivia:
Did you know that in the book "I Spy Christmas -- A Book of Picture Riddles" on page 12 in the upper left corner of the toy store window there is a teardrop mountain dulcimer?

It's never to early to practice for Christmas!

Click here for more info on the CD.

"The Water is Wide" CD from Lee Cagle and Betty Dawson, with friends Steve Newman and John Albertson.  All proceeds from the sale of the CD benefit The Church Health Center of Memphis.  CDs are $15 and can be purchased locally from Lee Cagle (send me an e-mail or call 901-877-7763); The Episcopal Bookshop, 672 Poplar; or Cokesbury Books, 6150 Poplar Avenue.  Click the photo link above to learn more about our volunteer project and to hear songs from the CD.

Also available:  The Water is Wide Tablature Book for Mountain Dulcimer.  Play along with the CD!  $15 (plus $3 shipping).

To order The Water is Wide CD and/or tablature book from me, send check or money order to Lee Cagle, P.O. Box 224, Moscow, TN 38057.
CD only: $15 plus $2 shipping (Total $17)
Tablature Book only:  $15 plus $3 shipping (Total $18)
CD and Tab Book:  $30 plus $4.50 shipping (Total $34.50)
All proceeds from sale of the CD go to Church Health Center.

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