Articles & the Press

making music come to life

how to make your music come to life by adding variety to your compositions and arrangements

who is this article for

some of the suggestions and techniques mentioned in this article are generic and could apply to all musicians, some are for stringed instrument players and yet others are specific to (mountain) dulcimer players – so I hope this article will appeal to both dulcimer players and a broader audience

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2024 events cancelled due to illness

I don’t normally share health issues, but feel the need to make an exception here, as it has impacted my music work …  

 

cause and early symptoms

in mid-march this year I caught a severe infection – after a couple of days of violent digestive distress, pain swept my body and settled in my hip joints and left arm – the pain in my hips lasted a couple of months and resulted in my walking stiffly but it eventually settled and disappeared of its own accord

the pain in my arm however, became a the main issue – the nerves in my left arm became inflamed and I had pain and limited movement in my shoulder, arm, wrist and hand – anything that required two hands was difficult or painful – I was unable to walk properly, drive, sleep or even get dressed easily – I couldn’t even pick up a cup of tea with my left hand

obviously, I could not play my instruments and started to cancel events – I was tired, in pain, confused and worried for the future

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in praise of DAA – the forgotten tuning ?

introduction

I was first introduced to the Appalachian dulcimer (as we called it then) back in the early 70’s and, at that time, DAA would have been the main tuning used for major scale songs and tunes.  For me, living in England, London’s Roger Nicholson was a major influence when I started out and Roger used DAA as his major scale tuning.

Today, as the reader will know, DAD is by far the most dominant tuning for the modern mountain dulcimer and DAA is now perhaps seen as a dated and/or beginner’s tuning.  This film however, made in 2021, of Roger’s pastoral piece Spring Season may challenge that perception.

In this article I’d like to demonstrate that DAA is not only alive and well but can be used to play meaningful, and perhaps even moving, dulcimer music.

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book review: Pluck, David Schnaufer’s biography

‘Pluck – The Extraordinary Life and Times of David Schnaufer’

by Linda Paulus

an informal book review by Dan Evans

first impressions

At over £37 from Amazon UK and with over 500 pages for the main story alone, this paperback represents quite an investment of time and money.  So is it worth it ?

Schnaufer’s story is written in the present tense with an ease that seems to make the pages turn more quickly than usual.  I enjoy reading but I’m often put off by very long stories.  Here however, I found myself on page 300 in seemingly no time, eager to read on and find out what happens next.

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interview in Unicorn magazine

I stumbled across this interview for Unicorn folk magazine (UK) in my files today.  My wife and I met the editor: Simon Bailes, while we were on holiday in the Lake District in May 2014.  Simon was working away from home nearby in Cumbria at that time, so we met up and shared a meal together.  Following this acquaintance, Simon both interviewed me for Unicorn and, later, reviewed my Au Vieux Moulin CD, which was in the making at the time.

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my back catalogue

part 9 ~ CD albums ctnd…

A Waltz Through The Woods (2024) is a lovely collection of instrumentals and a few songs from my current repertoire – original nature-themed pieces sit side-by-side with new arrangements of popular classics so there should be something here for everyone – the CD holds a number of waltzes and piece set in 3/4 timing – beautiful cover artwork by Ian Scott Massie sets the mood of this tranquil and calming album

for a fifth time I’m joined by international jazzman Andy Crowdy who, on this project, plays superb double bass, classical guitar and percussion – English actress and singer Rebecca Hallworth joins me again to take beautiful lead and harmony vocals – new friend Sharon Sullivan completes the line-up with on-point violin – the album was superbly recorded, mixed and mastered by Angus Wallace in his excellent Northamptonshire recording studio

Linda Paulus reviewed it for the Dulcimer Players News (USA): “A Waltz Through The Woods flows like a brook that sparkles and dances across ancient, polished stones.  Evans has created a conceptual masterpiece that prompts reflection and warm memories.”       

part 8 ~ CD albums ctnd…

inspired by a stay at an old water mill in France where the tile track was composed, Au Vieux Moulin (2014) has been my best-selling CD to date – with only a little guitar, this album is a showcase for the fingerpicked dulcimer, featuring pieces from medieval to modern music in a variety of different tunings – especially important are four new minimalist pieces for the dulcimer, including the title track Le Ruisseau Du Moulin (The Mill Stream)

international jazzman Andy Crowdy plays superb bass and classical guitar and English actress Rebecca Hallworth takes beautiful lead and harmony vocals – American dulcimer maestro Stephen Seifert plays on two dulcimer duets, which were recorded by multi-award winning county artist/producer Thomm Jutz in his Nashville Studio – most of the tracks were again recorded at the World Of Sound studios, Wellingborough and again superbly produced by Russ Dawson Butterworth

my own photography of the French mill illustrates the luxury card packaging & booklet – JP reviewed it for Acoustic Magazine: “an astonishing variety of tunes and soundscapes – gifted with seemingly limitless imagination – it’s all incredibly pure and all incredibly beautiful

hear samples or purchase in various formats from The Divine Art Recordings Group here

part 7 ~ CD albums ctnd…

Let It Be Me (2010) took a slightly different direction – this acoustic & very natural recording presents arrangements of folk songs & tunes on dulcimers with occasional guitar – harmony vocals by Hilary Davies, violin by Sylvia Seaton, string bass & classical guitar by Andy Crowdy complete the accompaniments – recorded at the Salvation Army’s World Of Sound studios in Wellingborough and produced again by Russ Dawson Butterworth, who now is gaining in reputation as a TV sound producer – beautiful photography by my late friend Martin Plant compliment the attractive packaging in a modern digipack (card CD case)

Neal Walters reviewed it for the international Dulcimer Players News magazine: “the new recording focusses on Dan’s clear and precise dulcimer & guitar playing along with his superb vocals – I am gobsmacked by Dan’s amazing ability to provide such compelling and lyrical accompaniments to his singing”  

hear samples or purchase in various formats from The Divine Art Recordings Group here

part 6 ~ CD albums ctnd…

completing the Spirit Dancing trilogy, Autumn Dance (2002) is my second favourite CD overall and the one I was most prod of at the time – this is a nicely themed folk album with a mixture of dulcimer and guitar songs and tunes – it also features my unique electro-acoustic guitar with sampling and effects – Ruth Cohen Rose takes lead, harmony & ambient vocals, Sylvia Seaton plays violin and again Martin Vishnick, John Ward & Andy Crowdy play classical guitar, bodhran and bass respectively – again, recorded at The Old School Studio in Peterborough but this time produced by Russ Dawson Butterworth

mastering was done in Keighley, Yorkshire by Jon Blamire at The Digital Audio Company, where Paul Mc Cartney was working on his Oratorio project at the time (Jon said he would play Paul my version of Let It Be – I hope he liked it)

Jane Muir created the original artwork and Theo Thomas reviewed it for the Unicorn folk magazine: “this album features once again Dan’s amazing talents on electro-acoustic and acoustic guitars and Appalachian dulcimer – Dan’s mastery of his instruments and the electronic effects he creates though sampling, coupled with his sensitive and modal accompaniments create a unique and distinctive melodic sound throughout this album – recording is quality is first class as one would expect and the album as a whole is superbly and professionally packaged”

hear samples or purchase in various formats from The Divine Art Recordings Group here

part 5 ~ CD albums ctnd…

my second CD, Spirit Dancing (1997) was released just in time for my first US tour with the late, great Roger Nicholson – Roger guests on the album, where we play a couple of dulcimer duets – for the first time my dulcimer music is featured equally with my guitar – this album holds a mixture of folk songs and tunes on acoustic instruments with varied accompaniments – Elaine Samuels sings harmony to my vocals and Natasha Briant plays a little cello – classical guitarist and close friend Martin Vishnick supports my dulcimer nicely, there’s percussion by John Ward and, for the first time, superb bass by Andy Crowdy

it was recorded at The Old School Studio, Peterborough and produced by Mat Parkin, who went on to be classical music specialist at BBC Scotland – the lovely cover etching, this time by Karen Jones, suggested the title – Alan Hibbert reviewed it for Folk In Kent magazine:  “unquestionably Dan Evans is one of this country’s most accomplished performers of both acoustic guitar and dulcimer – he also has a fine voice and is a skilled songwriter and arranger”

hear samples or purchase in various formats from The Divine Art Recordings Group here

part 4 ~ CD albums

Guardian Spirit (1993) was my first fully commercial album, released on CD just as that format was becoming popular and was recorded by Bryan Smith at Farm Factory Studios, near St Albans – the title was partly prompted by the cover artwork, an etching called Green Guardian by famous artist Jane Muir – Guardian Spirit is a folk album featuring acoustic guitar with a few electro-acoustic effects – Michéle Welborn took lead and harmony vocals, Jenny Newman played fiddle & viola and John Ward, bodhran

Moni Aldous reviewed it for Essex Folk News: “a consummate artist who presents us here with a superbly professional and polished recording – Evans’ unique instrumental artistry is the outstanding feature of this recording – buy it, listen to it, be uplifted” 

now with professional distribution globally, you can hear samples and purchase in various formats here

part 3 ~ cassette albums ctnd…

Sampler (1992)

this first product on my own record label, DanSing Music, was recorded at Greenbank Studio, Luton by Doog Moody – this 5-track cassette was originally produced as a demo – it was repackaged and renamed Sampler for me to have a product to sell when I turned professional in 1992 – it served me well for the short time is was released and attracted one of my favourite reviews: “Dan Evans is bit of an enigma – at first he comes on all pastoral and acoustic, then turns all that on its head with electro-acoustic effects that wouldn’t seem out of place at a Hawkwind gig – he is also a classy acoustic guitarist in the Renbourn mould and has a voice not dissimilar to Martin Carthy”  Rock R Reel magazine

part 2 ~ cassette albums ctnd …

Autumn Dance (c. 1990) was perhaps the best of my personal home recordings as it featured the breadth of my music to date, including original, nature-themed instrumentals, arrangements of traditional folk songs and my unique electro-acoustic guitar work – unbeknownst to me at the time, it became a template for my professional Autumn Dance CD album, released much later in 2003 – again totally home-spun, the recording, artwork and design were all done by myself

part 1 ~ cassette albums

Songs & Tunes vol I … to … Songs & Tunes vol VII (c. 1984 – c. 1989) 

In hindsight, I’m not really sure why I made these simple but pleasing home recordings (all seven volumes of them), as only a few copies were made and they were not released to the public – they did however serve a number of useful purposes – they created a record of my music, before I started using notation, and they prepared me well for the professional recordings I was to make later on – totally home-spun, the recording, photography and (analogue) graphic design were all done by myself

What Is A Dulcimer ?

“What is a dulcimer ?” is perhaps the question I’m most often asked – this blog aims to answer that question and to give a little background to this charming instrument, as well as my own approach to it

the dulcimers that I play are members of the zither family, not to be confused with the hammered dulcimer, which is a trapezoid-shaped percussion instrument

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dulcimer strings

advice on strings for mountain dulcimers

background

I am often asked which string gauges I use on my dulcimers – this blog aims to answer that question – but I first need to explain some of the peripheral issues for my answer to make complete sense …

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the difference between rhythm and timing

the difference between rhythm and timing in music

In music, timing and rhythm are two completely different things.  This issue has cropped up a few times on my workshops, so I created this blog post to help to explain the difference between two.  Clarity for me came when I considered the difference between a timing change and a rhythm change within the same piece of music.  So, as well as defining the terms, I have included in this blog examples from my dulcimer repertoire of both type of changes.

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Making Music

practical tips for aspiring musicians 

these helpful hints are presented here as they were published in the British monthly magazines MK Pulse and NN Pulse from March 2021 

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