Sharpen Your Skills

Sharpen Your Skills is a 52 week online course - all recorded videos, all self study. You may join any time to get started. 

Sharpen Your Skills is all new material — completely different from our Mastering Theory class. In fact, it is designed to get that theory out of your head and into your hands with 3-4 short videos per topic for a full year. Lifetime access included. All pre-recorded; all self-study. Go at your own pace! All you need to invest is about 10 minutes a day while ML guides you through each skill from basic to more advanced.

Sharpen Your Skills builds on the theory topics presented in Mastering Theory and helps you sharpen your execution of and technique for skills such as: one, two, and three octave scales, arpeggios, three note chord patterns, and more (scroll down for the full list of skills and topics). Please note that unlike Mastering Theory, the skills class does not follow the Theory book in order. We do provide page references so that you can integrate the skills with the theory.

Everyone knows they should practice skills but when it gets down to it, who's got the time? You're already trying to learn new tunes, and keep up the old ones. Who wants to spend their limited time with techniques practice when there are all those tunes out there?

And just having a list of skills doesn't cut it. It's overwhelming, so you end up playing a couple of arpeggios and stopping. Or you play a few Contrary Motion Scales and think: "well, maybe that's good enough..."

Let's add just 5-10 minutes to your already scheduled practice time and busy life. The goal of this course is to guide you to add 10 minutes to your practice daily—or take a part of the time you already use for practice—all the technique practice you'll need for the year. That's doable isn't it? 

With Sharpen Your Skills, each week you'll get access to at least 3 (short 5-10 minute) videos by ML focused on anew topic. The videos are designed to guide you through the skill from basic to more advanced.

Each group of videos will progress in tempo or in adding difficulty so that you can begin slowly and simply, adding skill as you practice. After each set of 4 topics, we provide 2 week review periods, where we will suggest review and practice—combining and maintaining skills previously taught. After all, you cannot expect to master any skill in one week. 

Please remember, there is no expectation that you will master any of these skills in one week! Mary Lynn has been working diligently on these skills for 9 years now, and she will be the first to tell you that she has not mastered them. It is a process and a practice. This course will expose you to essential skills and give you a permanent library of exercises to come back to over and over.

As the year progresses, Laurie will make 5-10 minute review videos with various skills chosen from all previous topics so that you will have a library of short "Play along with ML" videos to become a part of your regular routine and help you maintain your skills and techniques.

A Note from Mary Lynn

As a result of taking our Mastering Theory class (based on the book, The Complete Guide to Theory and Mapping for the Hammered Dulcimer), Ken Kolodner and I saw a huge boost in people's comprehension of music theory as it applies to the hammered dulcimer .

I predict that there will be an equivalent jump in our ability to take these concepts and actually play them on the hammered dulcimer after completing the Sharpen Your Skills class with 10 minutes of practice a day.

Throughout the year, we will take those theory concepts you learned in Mastering Theory, and instead of just talking about them, we'll apply them—hands on—topic by topic.

Can you imagine being able to fluently play a chord progression like F#7 to B7/A to Em to E7/D to A7/G to D? (Note from Laurie: I'm exhausted just typing that).

Review Periods

An important part of this class is to maintain all of these skills, not just play them one week and forget them the next. That's why we have designed this course with nine review periods built in.

Each review period lasts 2 weeks, and is meant to be a time for you to go back and work on any of the preceding skills to make them more fluent. We will even guide you through that!

Let's get started!!

All videos can be slowed down or looped here in HD Homeland so that you can practice along at different speeds.

Scroll down for the complete list of topics covered in Sharpen Your Skills.

Some questions we've received:

I'm going on vacation for two weeks this summer; I'll never keep up!
Here's the good news. There is no race or finish line involved in this course. If you take a week or two off due to fun or necessity, come back and start where you left off. Put in your 10 minutes a day on whichever topic you ere working on, and then continue.
But what if I don't get finished in a year?
You have lifetime access to the course. There is not going to be a graduation ceremony in 52 weeks. In fact, you will probably want to start over again. Or go back and pick skills that are a little harder for you and work on them again. If you create a habit of focusing on skills for 10 minutes a day, you will have graduated with honors in our eyes, no matter where you are in the list after a year. You'll see an improvement in your playing!

124 Lessons

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124 Lessons in Sharpen Your Skills:


Welcome to Sharpen Your Skills

How to Get the Most Out of This Class

More Technical Bits and Useful Info

Habit & Study Trackers

Spreadsheet Habit Tracker

1. One Octave Scales and Arpeggios

Week 1-1: Ascending Scales / Descending Arpeggios

Week 1-2: Scales Down & Up / Arpeggios Up & Down - Treble Bridge

Week 1-3: Scales Up & Down / Arpeggios Down & Up - Bass Bridge

Week 1-4: Five Minute Practice: Random Scales & Arpeggios

2. Big Dipper / Little Dipper / Smooshed Nevada

Week 2-1: Big and Little Dippers

Week 2-2: Smooshed Nevada (3rd Inversion 7th Chords)

Week 2-3: Resolving 7th Chords / Chord Progressions Practice


Test Your Knowledge!

3. G Scale in Thirds (Left Hand)

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

Week 3-1: Descending G Scale in Thirds - One Octave at a Time; then Full Range

Week 3-2: Ascending G Scale - One Octave at a Time; then Full Range

Week 3-3: Turnaround; Then Full Range Up & Down

Week 3: Practice Track Increasing through 10 Speeds, 2 Times Each

4. 2 Octave G Arpeggios

Week 4-1: Slowly with Stops

Week 4-2: Up & Down without Stops; Down & Up with Stops

Week 4-3: Review

5-6. Review 1 (2 weeks)

Read This: A Few Changes in the Class

Week 5: Review 1-1

Week 6: Review 1-2

7. One Octave Dominant 7th Chords

Week 7-1: From a Marker & From One Above a Marker

Week 7-2: From Below a Marker

Week 7-3: Descending—See the Shapes Backwards

Week 7-4 Random Review and Practice

8. G Scale in Thirds (Right Hand)

Week 8-1: Descending G Scale in Thirds - One Octave at a Time; then Full Range

Week 8-2: Ascending G Scale in Thirds - One Octave at a Time; then Full Range

Week 8-3: Turnaround; Then Full Range Up & Down

Week 8 Practice Track Increasing through 10 Speeds, 2 Times Each

9. 2 Octave Am and Bm Arpeggios

Week 9-1: Up & Down Slowly With Stops

Week 9-2 Up & Down without Stops; Down & Up with Stops

Week 9-3: Up & Down AND Down & Up without Stops

10. Compact Pattern (Key of D)

Week 10-1: Introduction and Random Practice

Week 10-2: Play Compact Pattern with a Tune (slowed down)

Week 10-3: Play Along with a Tune (Full Speed)

11-12 Review 2 (2 weeks)

Week 11: Review 2-1

Week 12: Review 2-2

13. Derivation of 3 Note Chord Patterns

Week 13 Extra: Simon Speed (with Sticky Dots)

Week 13-1: See the Shapes

Week 13-2: Treble Bridge (Key of D)

Week 13-3: Bass Bridge (Key of G)

Week 13-4: Review

14. Intervals / dim7 Chords

Week 14-1: Intervals

Week 14-2: Intervals Across the Bridge; Extended Intervals

Week 14-Bonus Example: Abide With Me Using 10ths

Week 14-3: Diminished 7th Chords

15. Full Range D Arpeggios

Week 15-1: Down from Top With & Without Stops

Simon Says Slow Down!

Week 15-2: Down & Up With Stops (& Without)

Week 15-3: Up/Stop at Top; then Up & Down Without Stops

16. Roll Chords (RLR) into a Tune

Week 16-1: Learn the Melody of Sommarvals

Week 16-2: Walk-through of Three Note Chords and Shapes

Week 16-3: Practice Tracks

17-18. Review 3 (2 weeks)

Week 17: Review 3-1

Week 18: Review 3-2

19. Harmonizing a G Scale (RLR)

Week 19-Simon

Week 19-1: Play the Full Shape; then Play the Tops Only

Week 19-2: See How Your Hands Move to Play the Three Patterns

Week 19-3: Name the Chords

20. Inversion Patterns

Week 20-1: Stacking the Shapes

Week 20-2: Reading Intervals and Identifying Chords

Week 20-3: Random Practice

21. Valley Rolls

Week 21-1: Gravity Bounce, Catch After 3, Catch After 2

Week 21-2: Add Your Left Hand

Week 21-3: Play a Valley Roll

22. 2 Octave F#m and E7 Arpeggios

Week 22-1 Two Octave F#m Arpeggios - Up & Down

Week 22-2: F#m Arpeggios - Down & Up

Week 22-3: Two Octave E7 Arpeggios

23-24. Review 4 (2 weeks)

Week 23: Review 4-1

Week 24: Review 4-2

25. Full Range D7 Arpeggios / 2 Octave Scales

Week 25-1: Full Range D7 Arpeggios - Up & Down

Week 25-2: Full Range D7 Arpeggios - Down & Up

Week 25-3: Combine Patterns for Two Octave Scales

26. Harmonizing a G Scale (LRL)

Week 26-1: See How Your Hands Move to Play the Three Patterns

Week 26-2: Simon Wonders if Video #1 Was Too Fast For You

Week 26-3: Name the Chords as You Play

27. Full Range G Arpeggios

Week 27-1: From Top Down and Back Up with Stops

Week 27-2: From Bottom Up and Back Down With Stops

Week 27-3: From Bottom Up and Back Down with No Stops

28. Roll Chords LRL into a tune

Week 28-1: Learn the Melody of The Winter is Past

Week 28-2: Walk-through of Three Note Chords and Shapes

Week 28-3: Practice Track

29-30. Review 5 (2 weeks)

Week 29: Review 5-1

Week 30: Review 5-2

31. Secondary Dominants

Week 31-1: Key of G

Week 31-2: Key of D

Week 31-3: Random Practice

32. Full Range Em Arpeggios

Week 32-1: Em Arpeggios from Top to Bottom

Week 32-Simon Slows it Down!

Week 32-2 Em Arpeggios from Top to Bottom With Stops

Week 32-3 Em Arpeggios from Bottom to Top and Back Down

Week 32-Bonus: Three Octave E Major Arpeggios

33. Compact Pattern (Key of A)

Week 33-1: Practice the Compact Pattern & Listen for Chord Changes

Week 33-1B: Where Does the Chord Change?

Week 33-2: Dull Chisel Chord Progression

Week 33-3: Play along at Various Speeds

34. Octave Scales / Contrary Motion Scales / Chromatic Trick

Week 34-1: Octave Scales

Week 34-2: Contrary Motion Scales

Week 34-3: The Chromatic Trick

35-36. Review 6 (2 weeks)

Week 35: Review 6-1

Week 36: Review 6-2

37. Harmonizing a D Scale (RLR)

Week 37: Simon Previews the Skill

Week 37-1: Play the Full Shape; then Play the Tops Only

Week 37-2: See How Your Hands Move to Play the Three Patterns

Week 37-3: Name the Chords

38. 3 Octave D Scale

Week 38-1: Pattern 1

Week 38-2: Pattern 2

Week 38-3: Pattern 3

Week 38-4: Pattern 4

39. Tops & Bottoms of Shapes (Key of G) - Bass Bridge / Bass Bridge Lifts

Week 39-1: Play the Full Shape

Week 39-2: Divide Each Shape into 2 Three Note Rolled Chords

Week 39-3: Simon Pulls Out the Sticky Dots!

Week 39-4: This Week's Bonus: The "Lift"

40. Compact Pattern (Key of G)

Week 40-1: Practice the Compact Pattern & Listen for Chord Changes

Week 40-1B Where Does the Chord Change? (Answers)

Week 40-2: Old Chattanooga Chord Progression

Week 40-3: Play Along at Various Speeds

41-42. Review 7 (2 weeks)

43. Full Range Arpeggios for a Tune

Week 43-1: A Part for Archibald MacDonald of Keppoch

Week 43-Simon Says "Wait for Meeeee!!!"

Week 43-2: B Part for Archibald MacDonald of Keppoch

Week 43-3: C Part for Archibald MacDonald of Keppoch

44. Roll RLR & LRL Chords into a Tune

45. Harmonizing a D Scale (LRL)

46. Tops & Bottoms of Shapes (Key of D) - Treble Bridge, Treble Bridge Lifts

47-48. Review 8

49. Duplicate 3 Note Chords

50. Full Range Arpeggios for a Tune

51-52. Review 9