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).

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 review periods, where we will suggest review and practice—combining and maintaining skills previously taught.

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!

54 Lessons

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54 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

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

3. G Scale in Thirds (Left Hand)

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

Week 15-2: Down & Up With Stops

Week 15-3: Up & Down

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)

20. Inversion Patterns

21. Valley Rolls

22. 2 Octave F#m and E7 Arpeggios

23-24. Review 4 (2 weeks)

25. Full Range D7 Arpeggios / 2 Octave Scales

26. Harmonizing a G Scale (LRL)

27. Full Range G Arpeggios

28. Roll Chords LRL into a tune

29-30. Review 5 (2 weeks)

31. Secondary Dominants

32. Full Range Em Arpeggios

33. Compact Pattern (Key of A)

34. Octave Scales / Contrary Motion Scales / Chromatic Trick

35-36. Review 6 (2 weeks)

37. Harmonizing a D Scale (RLR)

38. 3 Octave D Scale

39. Tops & Bottoms (G) - Bass Bridge

40. Compact Pattern (Key of G)

41-42. Review 7 (2 weeks)

43. Full Range Arpeggios for a Tune

44. Roll RLR & LRL Chords into a Tune

45. Harmonizing a D Scale (LRL)

46. Duplicate 3 Note Chords

47-48. Review 8

49. Tops & Bottoms (D), Treble Bridge

50. Full Range Arpeggios for a Tune

51-52. Review 9