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Ken Kolodner and Laura Risk
Ken Kolodner - hammered dulcimer
Laura Risk - fiddle

Laura Risk's Workshop Topics
(geared for fiddlers unless otherwise noted, but other instruments are welcome to attend)

Scottish fiddling. What makes a tune sound Scottish? We'll cover ornamentation and bowing, phrasing and expression, playing 'in the groove', improvising melodic variations, and using accents to create rhythmic excitement. (Can gear this to any level from beginner on up).

Regional styles in Scottish fiddling. Learn about the differences between Northeast, West Highland, Shetland and Cape Breton fiddle styles. We'll listen to archival recordings of seminal players from each style and learn some representative tunes. For advanced players.

Pipe Tunes for Fiddlers. A look at the bagpipe influence on Scottish music. Tunes will include reels, strathspeys, jigs, marches, and airs, all either composed for bagpipes or written in a pipe style. We'll discuss ways to make your instrument sound like a bagpipe using ornaments, bow techniques, double-stops, and melodic variation. For intermediate to advanced players.

Lowland Scottish fiddle music from the early 18th century. Learn about this fascinating repertoire of variation sets, minuets, 3/2 hornpipes, and more. This music, influenced by both the Scottish folk music and by the classical art music of the time, led directly into the 'golden age' of Scottish fiddling. For intermediate to advanced players.

Fiddle tunes of Robert Burns. Robert Burns' influence on Scottish traditional music cannot be overstated. Learn the history through the fiddle tunes that he used in his songs. (Can gear this to any level from beginner on up).

Advanced Scottish fiddling (Recommend Part I and Part II or a minimum of three hours.) This course will explore the stylistic nuances of Scottish fiddling. We'll work on ornamentation and bowing, phrasing and expression, playing 'in the groove', improvising melodic variations, and using accents to create rhythmic excitement. We'll also look at the art of playing second fiddle in Scottish music and work on improvising harmonies and chordal backup parts. In addition, we'll look at the differences between Scotland's regional fiddle styles (Northeast, West Highland, and Shetland) and study recordings of players from each style. Technique and theory topics - such as tone, practice methods, simple chord theory, and playing with speed and precision - will be included as appropriate. All tunes, including strathspeys, reels, jigs, marches, and slow airs, will be taught by ear. Students are encouraged to bring a small tape recorder to record musical examples and repertoire. For advanced players.

Rhythmic variations: avoiding the downbeat! Typically, we learn to accent on the downbeat of a measure. This can place the phrasing of a piece in a "dynamic box." We'll work on emphasizing the offbeats and the 'off-offbeats' instead. Accenting in weird places can completely change the feel of a piece, and usually for the better! We will learn parts of a few different pieces and explore how varying accents in a multitude of ways can be a great addition to your playing. (Can gear this to any level from advanced beginner on up, and to all instruments.)

Improvisation in traditional music. Expand your horizons by learning to spontaneously invent melodic variations - your goal is to never play the tune the same way twice! Easier said than done!! (Intermediate/advanced, for all instruments).

Essential harmonic knowledge for fiddlers. Starting from the basics (How do you know what key a tune is in?), we'll discuss finding and playing chords on the fiddle, figuring out chord charts for tunes, and using simple chord substitutions. (all levels)

Musicality. This workshop will look at how to play more 'musically' by exploring phrasing, shaping, dynamics, and accenting. We will focus on the playing of each and every note with special attention paid to the technical aspects of playing expressively on the fiddle. (Intermediate/advanced).

So you don't know the tune? Back-up techniques on fiddle. Learn lots of tricks of the very challenging and creative process of back-up including the use of rhythmic vamps, 'chopping', drones, harmony, counter-melody and bassline construction. (Can gear this to any level from advanced beginner on up).

An introduction to French Canadian fiddling. Gaining popularity in the US among traditional musicians, French-Canadian tunes have a distinct feel and rhythm with much syncopation. This workshop will attempt to communicate that feel and introduce the participants to some exciting French-Canadian repertoire. (Can gear this to any level from advanced beginner on up).

Celtic fiddling for classical violinists. Learn the essential differences between classical violin playing and Celtic fiddling. We'll work on bowing, ornamentation, swing and groove, phrasing, accenting, playing backup chords, creating melodic variations and improvising harmonies. Learn several common tunes from the Celtic repertoire (Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton). For experienced classical players.

Classical technique for fiddlers. For fiddlers looking for better tone, better bow control, more speed, a cleaner sound, and more precise intonation. Clean up your string crossings, add dynamics and tone color to your playing, learn to play with a more relaxed and fluid technique, and develop good practice habits. (all levels)

Teaching fiddling. Are you a classical teacher interested in incorporating fiddle music into your students' repertoire? We'll explore the similarities and differences in teaching classical vs. fiddle music - there's more to it than just teaching a new repertoire! Learn to teach the appropriate style as well. There are also lots of great fiddle-teaching resources available and we'll look at those.

Repertoire classes. I do separate repertoire classes in the following: Scottish, Irish, Cape Breton, French-Canadian (choose from advanced beginners on up).

Ken Kolodner's Workshop Topics
(all taught on hammer dulcimer except 'Old-Time Fiddle')

Map of the dulcimer. This workshop is intended to describe the layout of the instrument. We review three basic ways of playing scales, how to play octave scales, scales in opposing directions, how to find octaves, basic and not so basic arpeggio patterns including inversions. Participants should be able to find nearly any chord at the conclusion of the workshop. Geared toward beginners and advanced beginners but is often useful for intermediate players who missed some of this material along the way!

So you don't know the tune? Back-up techniques on hammer dulcimer. Learn lots of tricks of the very challenging and creative process of back-up including using of vamping, drones, harmony, counter-melody and bassline construction. (Can gear this to any level from advanced beginner on up).

What every dulcimer player should know about chord theory and substitutions. This workshop begins with an applied presentation of how simple triads are formed in any key. We proceed with a discussion of the relationship between major and minor chords and the relevance of this relationship for chord substitutions. Next, the formation of extended chords (e.g. 7th chords) and how to use them are discussed. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of advanced chord substitutions, focusing on modifying chords from notes "outside" of the key signature (including the "secondary dominants" and diminished 7th chords). The practical implications for the discussion are stressed with examples from tunes. (Can gear this to any level from beginner on up—and can gear this to ALL instruments).

The continuum from lead to back-up. To really "know" a piece of music it is useful to explore a continuum that can be created that follows from the melody, to variations on the melody, to counter melody, to a "close harmony," to a complex back-up with basslines and rhythmic variations, and finally to a simple back-up. We begin this workshop by learning a relatively simple melody line. Next, we jumped to the opposite end of the spectrum to learn a simple back-up which follows the chord changes only. We then learn a close harmony to the tune. A more complex back-up using basslines is explored. We will then borrow from the harmony, bassline and back-up ideas along with the melody to create variations and ultimately counter melody. (Recommend Part I and Part II or a minimum of two hours.)

Musicality. This workshop will focus on how to play more 'musically' by exploring phrasing, shaping, dynamics, accenting, with great attention paid to the details of arranging. We will focus will on the playing of each and every note with very special attention paid to the technical aspects of playing the dulcimer. (Intermediate/advanced).

Getting beyond the melody: arranging waltzes and other slow tunes. Waltzes are a gold mine for arranging and varying your playing. This workshop will answer the question "Once you have the basic tune, what is next?" (Choose from advanced beginners on up).

Getting beyond the melody: arranging fiddle tunes for dulcimer. The type of tune that dominates jam sessions is clearly the reel. Once you have the basic tune, what is next? This workshop will answer that question in great detail and focus on phrasing. Many, many ideas will be presented to vary your playing spruce up your fiddle tunes (choose from advanced beginners on up).

Irish Hornpipes. Discover the beauty of this much-maligned type of tune. The workshop will focus on phrasing issues such as taking that "goofy" sounding lilt out of hornpipes and lightening triplets (choose from advanced beginners on up). (This workshop can be combined with "polkas.")

Irish Polkas. Discover the great rhythmic drive of these much-maligned tunes. The workshop will focus on eliciting a driving pulse and an emphasis on chording on offbeats (choose from advanced beginners on up). (This workshop can be combined with "hornpipes.")

Repertoire classes. I do separate repertoire classes in the following: Celtic, Old-Time or Southern tunes, French-Canadian, Scandinavian, South American (choose from advanced beginners on up), "International" or "World Music". French-Canadian is a particular favorite but all are fine.

Sample repertoire class: French Canadian tunes. Gaining popularity in the US among traditional musicians, French-Canadian tunes have a distinct feel and rhythm with much syncopation. This workshop will attempt to communicate that feel and introduce the participants to some exciting French-Canadian repertoire.

Hand separation. Learn different techniques to "separate" your hands so that the hands work independently. Most typical is that the left carries the melody completely while the right plays various accompanying lines (Advanced beginners through intermediate--most advanced players have experience with this already but they are welcome also!)

Improvisation in traditional music. Expand your horizons with this introduction to learning how to turn your preset arrangements into spontaneous interpretations so that you never play the tune the same way twice! Easier said than done!! (Intermediate/advanced).

Leading with the left. For those right hand dominant players, this workshop will force you to lead with the left for a few different types of tunes. This workshop is intended to make you suffer and build character, while showing you the advantages of a left hand lead! Advanced beginners on up.

Rhythmic variations: avoiding the downbeat! Intermediate and above. Typically, we learn to accent on the downbeat of a measure. This can place the phrasing of a piece in a "dynamic box." This workshop makes the argument that rhythm should give the piece a feeling of "one" and that we should be free to use accents on any count. Accenting in weird places (unpredictably?) can completely change the feel of a piece. We will learn parts of a few different pieces (a waltz and a reel) and explore how varying accents in a multitude of ways can be a great addition to your playing.

Old-time fiddle. To get that Old-time sound, this workshop covers bowings and left-hand technique as well as a variety of alternate tunings (e.g. AEAE; DDAD). (Fiddle)

Some additional topics for the dulcimer include playing for weddings, arranging Christmas music, music of O'Carolan, and exploring rhythmic variations in fiddle tunes.

Joint Workshop Topics
led by both Ken and Laura

Twin fiddles.Most fiddle players do not have a firm grasp of chord theory and creating harmony lines. This workshop will cover the basics of chord theory and harmonization especially tailored to twin fiddle playing. We will also explore back-up using rhythmic ideas. (For intermediate to advanced players)

Ensemble playing. This workshop covers a multitude of arranging ideas for various size ensembles. Topics covered include developing a group consensus of the music in terms of phrasing, dynamics, tempos, chord progressions etc., developing "listening" skills, constructing medleys, effectively using spaces, stops, endings and beginnings, exploring tempo and texture changes, back-up ideas, and many other ideas. (For intermediate to advanced players, all instruments welcome.)

General Workshop Topics
led by either Ken or Laura, or by both of us

Basic chord theory. This workshop focuses on how keys are constructed and how simple triads (chords) are formed within a key. The difference between major and minor chords and relationships between major and minor is explored. Generally for those with little or no or very rusty understanding of theory. (all levels, all instruments)

Jam etiquette. There are general rules of behavior that guide most jam sessions. This discussion addresses those somewhat organic and dynamic guidelines (all levels, all instruments).

Surviving a jam. This workshop covers "what to do when you don't have a clue!!" Jam etiquette will also be discussed. There are general rules of behavior that guide most jam sessions. This discussion addresses those somewhat organic and dynamic guidelines (all levels, all instruments).

Other workshops that we can lead together (descriptions above):
Musicality
Rhythmic variations: avoiding the downbeat!
Improvisation in traditional music
Repertoire class - Irish
Repertoire class - French-Canadian
Irish Hornpipes
Irish Polkas

Please note: All workshops are taught by ear, but sheet music for the tunes will be available. Participants should bring a small tape recorder to record musical examples and repertoire.