Monday, April 8, 2024

Expedition Dulcimer: A Two-Minute Glimpse


Many of you know that I have a videography background, and that it's what I was doing professionally while putting in part-time work with my music gig.  Over the years, it's delightful to see how easy it is to pull some stuff off, when it used to take forever just to create decent-looking on-screen graphics.  Now I can do just about anything that I can think of, but I'm still fairly old-school in terms of my shots and composition.  

In order to maintain the chill atmosphere of Expedition Dulcimer: Stone Mountain Manor, I limited when I would take video, and so ended up shooting much of it with automated rails that I could set and forget.  

Please, share this with anyone who wonders what this series is all about.  In two minutes, this is a pretty good summary!

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Dulcimerica Episode 695 - "Georgia On My Mind"


This arrangement of "Georgia On My Mind" was created in Stone Mountain, and was used to teach a workshop during the retreat.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2024



What a time in Stone Mountain! Big thanks to our inaugural guests for making the first Expedition Dulcimer so incredibly wonderful! We had great fun in the intensive workshop sessions, had lots of time to relax, reflect, and visit, plus Jae knocked out three amazing meals for us each day. Here are just a few photos, and I think they really speak for themselves; it was an extraordinary retreat. THANK YOU!
We are really pumped now for Expedition Dulcimer: Roundhouse Lodge in Forest City, Pennsylvania, July 25th - 28th, 2024. 15 registrations are available for our second all-inclusive expedition!

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Stone Mountain Registration Closed - The Adventure Begins!


Jae and I are here in Stone Mountain, about to check in to Stone Mountain Manor.  We have a few last-minute grocery runs to make before getting ready to welcome our first guests to the very first Expedition Dulcimer!

Registration has been closed, and we're looking forward to a beautiful weekend here at the manor.  

Watch for posts this week from the retreat, and if you find yourself wishing that you could join us for the next expedition, be sure to check out Expedition Dulcimer: Roundhouse Lodge, taking place July 25th - 28th in Forest City, Pennsylvania! (2 hours north of Allentown, 2.5 hours south of Albany, NY)

I'll be back with more soon!


Bing Futch

Sunday, March 3, 2024

8 spots remaining for Expedition Dulcimer: Stone Mountain Manor


We're just 3 weeks away from launching Expedition Dulcimer, and only 8 spots are remaining at Stone Mountain Manor in the great state of Georgia!

It's not too late to sign up and join us for this all-inclusive music retreat focusing on intermediate mountain dulcimer fundamentals, exercises, improvisations, and guidance for self-evaluation and goal-setting.  Meals and lodging are included with the four-day immersive session.  Scroll down and check out some of the other blog posts for details on workshops, accommodations, menu items, and the philosophy behind the retreat series.

We're looking forward to offering our guests a warm southern welcome in just a little while.  We hope you will join us for music, food, relaxation, and fun times in Stone Mountain!

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Curating the Menu Part 11: Peanut Butter Pie

Fun fact = I absolutely loathe peanut butter!  I love boiled peanuts and I will occasionally eat roasted peanuts, but peanut butter flat out grosses me out.  Thus, Bing and our neighbors were the taste testers on this one. They all agreed it is a winner.   Can't wait to see what y'all think!

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

M.O.D.E. - The First 3 Steps

The M.O.D.E. Method is your passport to dulcimer mastery on the winding paths of musical exploration. Crafted with precision and insight, this method unveils a transformative journey from novice to virtuoso in seven meticulously curated steps. Embracing a holistic philosophy integrating hands-on learning, ear training, muscle-memory shaping, and essential music theory with insights on self-guided assessment and effective goal-setting. In other words, I help you to become the player that you desire to become!

Expedition Dulcimer is a 4-day retreat created for intermediate students who are ready to take their playing to the next level. Here is the start of our musical road map:

Step 1 - Ionian (Stability & Foundation) 

As the foundational mode in Western music, the Ionian mode, also known as the major scale, serves as a stable and conclusive musical structure. Its starting point in many musical compositions contributes to a sense of resolution.  The Ionian mode's emphasis on the tonic note provides a grounding effect, anchoring the listener in a specific key and creating a sense of musical home.

The first step of The M.O.D.E. Method is to make sure that students have a stable foundation upon which to build their music.

Level 1: Beginner

Music Theory:

  • Concepts: Basics of notation and rhythm. Introduction to major scales. Understanding simple time signatures.
  • Performance: Play basic melodies and exercises with proper finger technique. Demonstrate rhythmic accuracy in simple pieces.

Exercises and Studies:

  1. Rhythm Basics: Clap and count basic rhythms (whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes). Play simple rhythmic patterns on the instrument.
  2. Scale Exploration: Learn and play scales. Understand the relationship between scales and melodies.
  3. Reading Sheet Music: Practice reading and playing from tablature.


By the end of Level 1, students should have a solid foundation in basic notation, rhythm, and introductory scale concepts. They can play simple melodies and understand the fundamentals of sheet music.

Step 2 - Dorian (Creativity & Expression)

Known for its unique blend of major and minor elements, the Dorian mode exhibits a fluid and versatile quality. The Dorian mode's malleability, with its unique mixture of major and minor tonalities, reflects an openness to change and adaptability.

The second step of The M.O.D.E. Method is to begin building upon a solid foundation of melody and rhythm, adding harmony and layers of theory.

Level 2: Early Intermediate

Music Theory:

  • Concepts: Introduction to minor scales and key signatures. Understanding diatonic chords in major and minor keys. Basic knowledge of music intervals.
  • Performance: Play intermediate-level melodies with expression. Demonstrate a basic understanding of harmony.

Exercises and Studies:

  1. Scale Mastery: Learn and play major and natural minor scales in different positions. Explore scale patterns and fingerings.
  2. Chord Progressions: Understand and play common chord progressions in various keys. Practice transitioning between chords smoothly.
  3. Ear Training: Develop ear-training skills through melodic and harmonic dictation exercises. Identify intervals and basic chords by ear.


Early Intermediate students will build on Level 1 by delving deeper into minor scales, diatonic chords, and basic harmony. They will continue to enhance their ear-training skills and play more expressive melodies.

These first two steps bring students from novice to the early intermediate level of comprehension.  A good portion of my teaching over the years has focused on these core foundational areas of musical development.  The curriculum for Expedition Dulcimer begins with the third step in the method.

Step 3 - Phrygian (Personal Power & Will) 

Musically, the Phrygian Mode often conveys a sense of passion and intensity, evoking emotions that range from melancholy to fiery.  The Phrygian Mode is characterized by its distinctive minor scale with a lowered second degree. This unique tonality contributes to its exotic and intense sound.

The third step of The M.O.D.E. Method introduces chromatic music theory into the mix in preparation for the next step.

Level 3: Intermediate

Music Theory:

  • Concepts: Mastery of major and minor scales and key signatures. In-depth understanding of diatonic and non-diatonic chords. Advanced knowledge of music intervals.
  • Performance: Play intermediate-level pieces with dynamics and phrasing. Demonstrate more complex harmonic accompaniment.

Exercises and Studies:

  1. Scale Extensions: Explore melodic minor, harmonic minor, and modes. Work on scale extensions and variations.
  2. Harmonic Analysis: Analyze harmonic progressions in intermediate-level pieces. Experiment with creating variations in harmony.
  3. Advanced Ear Training: Identify and replicate complex melodies and harmonies by ear. Develop proficiency in recognizing chord progressions by ear.


Intermediate students will achieve mastery of major and minor scales, delve into more complex chord progressions, and demonstrate a deeper understanding of harmony. They will play with greater expression and tackle more intricate pieces.

Intermediate players have established a strong foundation in music fundamentals. They feel confident while strumming, utilizing chords, and reading tablature. Whether playing from memory or sheet music, they're prepared to delve into more intricate rhythmic patterns, diverse chord progressions, and embellishments like hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. Intermediate players are also ready to tackle the challenge of playing in various keys and arranging songs creatively.  This is the launching point of each Expedition Dulcimer adventure.

It's at this point in the journey that many players begin to take real ownership of their music, doubling down on their efforts to improve.  It is the aim of each four-day Expedition Dulcimer retreat to provide plenty of opportunity, inspiration, and encouragement to grow, in an environment conducive to easy learning and retention of new concepts and ideas.  The schedule flows easily, smoothly, interweaving with home-cooked meals, breakout sessions, and personal time for reflection, sightseeing or naps!

Coming up, we'll look more at the workshops, and also at the next couple of levels that bring our advanced students into the picture.  But first up, Jae will reveal some more of what's been cooking in our test kitchens lately.  

Till the next!


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Curating the Menu Part 10: Chicken Fried Steak

Good morning, everyone.  Hope your week is off to a great start.  Last weekend, we made Chicken Fried Steak in the taste test kitchen here at Casa de Milagro.  I ain't gonna lie ... this one was meh (even with the gravy on it).  Probably not going to land a spot on our menu. Next up, more desserts.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Curating the Menu Part 9: Grits & Sausage Bake

Good morning, everyone.  I hope everyone is staying warm in this crazy weather.  Nothing to worry about here in Orlando where it is currently 63 with an expected high of 70 today.  It is lovely!  Bing and I have a go-to breakfast casserole that we love, but thought we'd try something different this time.  This is a grits and sausage breakfast casserole and it is delicious!

Introducing Expedition Dulcimer: Stone Mountain Manor! March 28th to 31st, 2024

Experience the magic of Expedition Dulcimer: Stone Mountain Manor - Stone Mountain, Georgia - March 28th to 31st, 2024 Are you an intermedia...