By Aubrey Atwater

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VideoAbout the Lessons

1. Intro and Influences Aubrey was greatly influenced by Jean Ritchie's music, and spent 23 years around her. In this video, she tells about the time when Jean began to use the dulcimer as a harmony voice.
2. Demonstration Now Aubrey demonstrates what she means by playing "Pretty Saro." First she plays melody with melody,and then, the second time through, she will play harmony on the dulcimer while singing the melody.
3. Ritchie Family Tunings Aubrey is tuned in D-A-A for this lesson, but also explains the tuning for other modes commonly used by the Ritchie family: Ionian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Dorian.
4. Find the Intervals You might try playing a third, a fourth, or a sixth above the melody to find your counter-melody. But this isn't a system written in concrete - they don't always come out perfectly parallel. You have to experiement to find harmonizing intervals.
5. Playing Harmony with Humming In this video Aubrey hums "Pretty Saro" while playing the harmony she cooked up for her own arrangement.
6. Finding the Harmony Voice with Fret Numbers Aubrey discloses the exact fret numbers for her harmonization of "Pretty Saro."
7. Simpler Harmony "Bile ‘em Cabbage" is a good song to use for learning to harmonize with your dulcimer.
8. Using the Harmony Voice with Arranging A final word about arranging - you will find you don't always play a tune the same way. But you haven't necessarily made a mistake! Sometimes you will discover new sounds that harmonize well. Experiment to make original new arrangements.

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Music GlobeExtras

  • "Pretty Saro" is an English folk ballad originating in the early 1700s. The song died out in England by the mid eighteenth century but was rediscovered in North America in the early twentieth century where it had been preserved in the Appalachian Mountains through oral traditions.

  • Here are the lyrics for Pretty Saro.
  • "Boil Them Cabbage Down" is also known as Bile 'Em Cabbage Down." This an American folk song. Hoecakes are small cornmeal cakes that were fried in the fire on the blade of a hoe. A breakfast of hoecakes and cabbage soup testifies to the humble origins of this song.

    According to some, this tune can be traced to an English country dance called Smiling Polly, first printed in 1765. As it has been played and sung throughout the South, the song integrates African and European musical elements: banjo and fiddle – slave, minstrel and mountaineer.

  • Here are the lyrics for Bile Em Cabbage.

Music GlobeExtra: About Jean Ritchie

  • Jean Ritchie is extremely significant to traditional music in America as a performer, author, and composer. Besides launching what is usually referred to as the "dulcimer revival" through her performances and books, she has influenced many other folk and country singers, including our own Aubrey Atwater. Jean Ritchie was known as "The Mother of Folk".  In 1998, Jean became a recipient of the Folk Alliance International Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002, Jean received a National Endowment For The Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.  In 2008, she was inducted into the Long Island (NY) Music Hall of Fame.

    • Enjoy this video with Jean singing "The Cuckoo" and playing dulcimer. This is a beautiful example of using your instrument to harmonize with your vocals.

    • In this video, Jean sings harmony with Emmylou Harris in "Have You Seen My Dear Companion", a song actually written by Jean.

    • Finally, here is a video of Jean singing "Jenny Jenkins" with Pete Singer. Jenny Jenkins is a "courtin' song," an "answer-back" song, or a "dialogue song." If you play this song at a jam sesson, it's fun to try to come up with new rhymes and even new colors for the song. For instance, what else rhymes with green? How about, "I won't wear green, cause I'll look like a bean"? Or how about violet - "I won't wear violet, cause I wanna be a pilot."

  • Because fans kept asking Jean, "Which album has the most dulcimer?", Jean finally recorded an album called The Most Dulcimer in 1992.

  • If you are interested in books written by Jean, just click on the titles.
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