A New Musical Grammar; or, The Harmonical Spectator (1746)

A New Musical Grammar; or, The Harmonical Spectator

by William Tans’ur  (1746)

A New Musical Grammar; or, The Harmonical Spectator

Containing all the useful theoretical, practical, and technical parts of musick. Being a new and correct introduction. to all the rudiments, terms, and characters, and composition in all its branches. With several scales for musical instruments; and philosophical demonstrations, on the nature of sound. Laid down in so concise and easy a method, as to be understood by the meanest practitioner, whether vocal or instrumental, by way of question and answer 


Another wonderful and rare treasure courtesy of The Internet Archive.


Practicing Dulcimer And Following My Own Advice

Practicing dulcimer with the aid of a metronome

As a dulcimer player and instructor with decades of experience I often find myself repeating the following advice to students, “If you slow it down enough you will be able to play the part of the tune that is giving you trouble.”

This phrase is often followed by my saying, “Try practicing the tune at a speed no faster than you can play the part that gives you the most trouble.”

It is not uncommon for a student to come to a lesson and tell me they couldn’t play a particular phrase of a tune. I’ll have them play it while I recite the following mantra, “Slower, slower, slower…” Eventually they find a tempo where it is possible to play what moments earlier seemed impossible.

Some students have trouble keeping the timing of a piece even from beginning to end; they speed up and slow down throughout the tune. There are typically two habits that lead to this problem. The first is playing the tune as fast as one can play the easier passages and slowing down when reaching a more challenging part of the melody. The second cause of irregular tempo is often caused by learning the tune a phrase at a time and developing the habit of pausing at each new phrase.

My recommendation is to learn the first phrase, learn the following phrase, and then go back to the beginning and string them together. Each time you learn new phrase start again from the first phrase and play through to the last phrase you learned. Your playing will become more musical even if it takes a little longer to learn the entire melody. You will be playing a melody rather than a collection of phrases.

A metronome is helpful when disciplining yourself to practice at an even tempo. You can set the metronome to the tempo at which you can play the most difficult part of the tune, The metronome will help you avoid speeding up on the easier parts. As you become more comfortable with the tune you can speed up the metronome a notch or two. If all goes well crank up the metronome another notch or two. If you start making more mistakes back off the tempo a little. Lather, rinse, repeat. It really works!

I have had trouble with a tune I am currently learning and needed to remind myself of the advice I have been giving others for many years. I am now practicing the tune only as fast as I can play the passage giving me trouble. It is frustrating because I can play 90% of the tune at full throttle but I know that mastering the remaining 10% will make all the difference.

As an aside, I have found that the mantra, “Slower, slower, slower,” has made other areas of my life easier as well.


Paul Bertrand Playing “Danse Carree” On Hammered Dulcimer (1928)

Paul Bertrand Playing "Danse Carree" Hammered Dulcimer (1928)


Here is a treat thanks to the generous offerings of Canadian Library and Archives “Virtual Gramophone.”

15951.mp3 – Paul Bertrand – “Danse Carree” (1928)

Like many players of the era Mr. Bertrand’s playing has a lilt and rhythmic precision that probably comes from playing for many dances. The style is somewhat sparse but every note is played with excellence. In my opinion this sounds more musical than any flashy technique could bring to such a tune.

I can not make out what instrument is providing the accompaniment. At various times I have thought it to be a piano, harp, guitar, zither or maybe even another hammered dulcimer.


Study In 7 – A Tune For Dulcimer

I wrote this tune the other day and thought some dulcimer players might enjoy learning it.

The tuning is D-A-D and requires the 1 1/2 fret.

The time signature is 7/8; a common time signature in some parts of the world. In this tune the accent falls on the 1st, 3rd and 5th beat of the measure. An easy way to get the feel of this is to play the 7 beats per measure as “1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3” with the accent on each “1” This rhythmic pattern is very popular in Bulgarian dance music though this particular tune does not work the rhythm in a traditional Bulgarian manner.

When playing “Study In 7” I vary the melody by adding or removing the paired sixteenth notes in the tablature.  Tablature presents a skeletal structure of a tune at best.


[audio:https://www.dougberch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Study-In-7.mp3|titles=Study In 7 by Doug Berch] “Study In 7” composed and played by Doug Berch (C) 2012


(click the  tablature for a larger image)

 Study In 7 - A tune for dulcimer by Doug Berch