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COURSES – MOUNTAIN DULCIMER

Individual lessons follow this general progression, at the student’s pace.

For every class, students will need an Appalachian (mountain) dulcimer with three courses of strings*, a pick (plectrum), a noter, and an electronic tuner. You will also need a three ring binder for handouts.

*I do not work with dulcimers with four equidistant strings, or chromatic dulcimers. Traditional 3 string (double strings allowed) instruments only. If your dulcimer does not have the 6+ fret, you may take the first course, “Introduction to the Dulcimer’s Sweet Sound,” because the lessons and repertoire are crafted to fit the traditional modal scales without the 6+ fret. But you’ll need that extra fret for all of the other courses.

 

Session I: Introduction to the Dulcimer’s Sweet Sound

This study is about learning where the mountain dulcimer came from, how it’s constructed, and how to tune it simply so that we can play songs from day one. We will be using DAA tuning, to learn about the Ionian (natural major) mode. We’ll also have a brief introduction to three other modes traditionally used in old time and Celtic music, and in hymns and gospel – Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Dorian, and their chords. Students new to music theory will begin to learn about keys, chords, modes, rhythm, dulcimer tablature, and standard notation.

Study materials:  Handouts and songbook created by the teacher.

 

Session II: Intro to DAD – Chords and Tablature

This study is about learning to play in DAD tuning, which is the tuning most often used in midwestern dulcimer clubs and jams. We’ll learn our DAD skills through tablature – playing old-time, Celtic, traditional, and gospel songs.

Study materials:  First Lessons in Dulcimer by Joyce Ochs, and handouts created by the teacher.

 

Session III: Fiddle Tunes and Flatpicking

Students will learn to play fancier and faster! It’s time to add more chords, more music theory, and step up our strumming and fretting skills. Most of our work in this course will be in DAD tuning, but the “fiddle tunes” part of the course will also introduce tunings beyond DAD and revisit the modal tunings we learned in the first course. We’ll also learn more advanced techniques such as hammer-on, pull-off, slide articulation and harmonics.

Study materials: Fingerpickin’ Good by Stephen Seifert, Dulcimer “Fiddle Tunes” by Lois Hornbostel, and handouts created by the teacher.

 

Session IV: Duet, Trio, Ensemble

Some dulcimer musicians enjoy playing in dulcimer (or multi-instrument) ensemble groups. A few new skills help the music sound nice – more work on dynamics, some study of harmonies and counter-melodies, and training the ear to listen for the other players. If possible, we will learn these lessons in a group with other friends who are ready for this level.

Study materials: Melodies and More, for Mountain Dulcimer by Martha Einan, Trio and Quartet Ensembles for Mountain Dulcimer Players by Madeline MacNeil, and Tunes for Two or More by Nina Zanetti and Beth Lassi

 

Session V: Shall We Gather at the River

This is a repertoire-building course. Gospel hymns and spirituals are a big part of America’s folk tradition in song. Most of our selections will be Christian in origin but not dogmatic; we will also learn some spiritual songs from other faith traditions.

We will also add a new skill: Learning to create our own intermediate to advanced arrangements, using old (public domain) shape note hymnals.

NOTE: The first course, “Introduction to the Dulcimer’s Sweet Sound,” is prerequisite for this course, because students must understand modal scales and harmonies and how to sight read them for mountain dulcimer.

Study materials: Handouts created by the teacher.

 

Session V, option 2: Arrange Your Own Tunes – Secular/Inclusive

If gospel hymns are not your favorite, I can still teach you to arrange your own songs. 🙂 We will use standard notation tunes, transpose them to the modes we play in the key of D (Ionian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Dorian), and add chords, hammer-ons, slides, harmonics, and other neat stuff. This is easier than it sounds, and fun. You do not need tablature software; we can just make our notes directly on our music sheets.

Note: The first course, “Introduction to the Dulcimer’s Sweet Sound,” is prerequisite for this course, because students must understand modal scales and harmonies and how to sight read them for mountain dulcimer.

 

Session VI: The Versatility of DAD

Everyone knows I love old-school modal tunings! But I’m a DAD player, too, for the same reason that everyone else plays in DAD: Versatility. I can play in many other keys and modes*, without capo’ing** or retuning or hauling around half a dozen dulcimers. But for me, it’s not enough to be able to play other people’s tablature for DAD. I want to arrange my own music, just as we’ve done with the modal tunings, beyond the key of D major. If that description fits you, too, come to this class to learn about mapping and arranging in multiple keys, in DAD tuning.

NOTE: The first course, “Introduction to the Dulcimer’s Sweet Sound,” is prerequisite for this course, because students must understand the processes of mapping the fretboard, arranging songs, and embellishing with chords, plucking, and other techniques in simple modal tunings (with melody on melody string) before trying it in DAD.

Study materials: Handouts created by the teacher.

*Some of the scales and keys we’ll be learning in DAD: D major’s relative modes, which are E Dorian, A Mixolydian, and B Aeolian; and G major and its relative modes, which are D Mixolydian, E Aeolian, and A Dorian.

**We will also learn more about using a capo in DAD; once you know how to play it without a capo, you might prefer to play it WITH one.

 

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Contact Info:

Please contact me if you have any questions, or if you’re ready to sign up! Email me at chicoryfolkmusic@gmail.com with your name, your contact preferences such as whether to email or call or text, and a good time to reach you if you’d like me to call.