QuaranTune: The Social Distancing Community Music Project

Posted by Dusty - 2020-03-17 15:25:15

Greetings from your friendly Seattle harp and hammered dulcimer makers! These are strange times we're all going through, and one of the many subjects on our minds is how much isolation affects the music community. No doubt all of you are feeling it in some way, whether you consider yourself a player or a listener or something in between. Music is such a powerful medium for human connection, and when we're trying to keep each other safe by keeping our distance, opportunities to make music for and with each other are much harder to find. And yet shared musical experiences can bring people together and lift spirits in truly magical ways during hard times. We've been inspired (and reduced to tears) by videos of our friends in Italy making music with their neighbors without leaving their homes, and we wondered if we could organize something similar in the harp and hammered dulcimer communities that we inhabit - a musical affirmation that we're all in this together.

Since we can't play music together in person, our idea is to create a community music video in which anyone who wants to can participate. You'll send us your videos (guidelines below) and we'll edit them all together into a compilation that will remind us that we're a community, that we're not alone, and that music has the power to bridge all sorts of divides.

The piece we've chosen is The Water is Wide (or Waly Waly), which is a well-known traditional tune that can be played at a slow pace, hopefully making it accessible to a wide range of skill levels. We want this to be a true community project, meaning your contribution is welcome whether you've been playing your instrument for five weeks or 25 years!

As builders of harps and hammered dulcimers, we're aiming this primarily at players of those instruments, though we won't turn away anyone else who wants to participate (instrumental only, though, please). Please feel free to share this invitation! We hope to be able to include every video we receive, though we've never attempted something like this before and have no idea what the response will be.

You will need:

  • A harp or hammered dulcimer tuned to A440 (this is important!)
  • A device that will record both video and audio (like a cell phone, a tablet, or a laptop with a camera and microphone)
  • Either a metronome with a headphone jack or a digital media player (like a computer, ipod, or another cell phone)
  • A pair of headphones

We'll all be playing the same tune (The Water is Wide) in the key of C major at the speed of 80 beats per minute. You can play the melody, a simple bass line, a harmony part, chords, or any other embellishment you want. Play whatever is comfortable at your skill level. The important part is to play in the same key and at the same tempo and with the same tuning as everyone else so that we can line up and/or layer all the videos into one group performance.

Steps:

1. Make sure you can play the song (or whatever part you decide on) in the key of C major on your instrument. Here is a lead sheet showing the melody and chords, and here is a demo video done by our own Molly Bauckham:

2. If you want to play along to a metronome, plug your headphones into the metronome and set it to 80 beats per minute. If you want to play along to the demo recording, load the video above onto the media player of your choice and plug in your headphones.

3. Set up your video recording device however you want. If you don't want to show your face, you can focus the camera on your hands instead. The audio will sound best in a quiet location, but we're not expecting studio quality! We'll take whatever you've got.

4. Make sure your instrument is in tune and is tuned to A440.

5. Put on your headphones. It helps if you can have the headphones covering only one ear, so you can hear the metronome or demo recording in that ear, and you can hear yourself playing with the other ear.

6. Record yourself playing the tune once or twice through, making sure to stick to the metronome tempo. Again, this doesn't have to be anything fancy or impressive! This is all about making music together, and participating in whatever way is comfortable for you. If all you do is play is a C at the beginning and the end, that's wonderful!

7. Listen back to your recording and make sure you can't hear any metronome clicks. If you can, try turning your headphone volume down and recording again.

8. Email us the video, along with your first name and city, state, country, or whatever you're comfortable sharing in the video. Since many video files are too large to send directly by email, we recommend uploading your video to a file-sharing service, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Gofile (free), and emailing the shareable link and your name and location info to [email protected]

The deadline is Wednesday, March 25th April 1st. Go forth and make music, and we'll all share it together!

Yours truly,
The crew at Dusty Strings

NOTE: You are welcome to send us comments using the form below, but you won't be able to send your video files that way. Please see the suggestions in step 8.

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