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Mountain dulcimer

Why don’t you name the mountain dulcimer as an instrument. Which lessons work best to learn this one? Thanks

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In the jam group I visited they all used your books, but nowhere says “ mountain dulcimer”, so which instrument in your book is the same fingering as the m.d.?

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This question has come up in the past on this forum. It might be helpful to view those posts:

Mountain dulcimer is not one of the six bluegrass instruments. It is in its own 'niche' (mountain music). Compare the oddly-shaped fret pattern on dulcimer to bluegrass instruments' evenly spaced fret patterns. Dulcimer is the only one with a gapped scale. None of the bluegrass instruments have the same fingerings as dulcimer, though with knowing how, we can play some of the same songs. There is some crossover.

Wautauga County was home to many of the historic dulcimer families - Proffitt, Hicks, Presnell, etc. I have some teaching videos on Youtube that might help, where you can see the dulcimer fret pattern. I love going to both bluegrass jams and dulcimer jams, but they are very different!

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They are probably using the song section of the books, as there are not any playing instructions for the mountain dulcimer specifically.

It is quite easy to teach yourself. I’m a beginner md player. To actually learn to play the various chords I used the “First Lessons in Dulcimer” by Joyce Ochs. This is very basic, only showing about nine chords and basic technique.

For technique drills and more advanced technique I have “Hands-On Dulcimer” by Mike Casey. This book includes fingerpicking drills, scales, flat picking, strums etc.

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Thank you so much, Gwen and Deborah. This is a huge help. I’m ordering the books D suggested. Also, I’m relieved to know why things haven’t meshed for me with the fingerings, while all the other instruments in this mountain music jamm seemed to fit! As a rank beginner, I really appreciate your help. I had no idea that md is not a true bluegrass instrument! I do know about some of the Watauga County names. I knew Ed Pressnell years back. Anyway, I’ll now regroup my thinking and start again. I’m an old person and just doing this for my own pleasure. Being at the jamm was such fun!

Edited Mar 15, 2019 by Dudley Gilmer
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You're welcome, Dudley. Having taught dulcimer for more than 30 years, I have seen all the books (mine included - intermediate/advanced levels, but am finishing up a beginning book today - Fresh Start Fiddle!) and know those who wrote them. Do you have a dulcimer? Is it the traditional kind (with only a 6 fret, tuned to DAA) that were made in your area before the 1950's, or the modern kind with a 6 and ½ fret, tuned to DAD? Those two books are only for the modern DAD dulcimers with a 6 and ½ fret - not the old traditional ones. You might want to talk to Bill & Jewell McGee at The Dulcimer Shop in Blowing Rock, NC (the closest to you) and ask for book /teacher recommendations. They are also good beginner teachers and wonderful people.

There are well-known books by those who are great players in their own right and are also well-known teachers - check out Maddie MacNeil's “Dirt Simple Mountain Dulcimer” and the standby in it's 19th or so printing “Larkin's Dulcimer Book - http://www.riverlark.com/books/index.html.
Mike Casey is a wonderful player and person (though no longer playing). He is into technique exercises and drills - I found him helpful for fingerpicking technique. A dulcimer club will be most helpful to you, it is very hard to learn from books - you must watch and listen to learn. There are many clubs! My website has learning materials, too - www.gwencaeli.com. Also 18 Youtube videos to watch - a few helpful for beginners! And, if you like the bluegrass instrument sound, instruments are made to play dulcimer sounding like banjos, strange but fun!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf9NAfnrL8U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKNou43opwo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAwEEBVJmW8

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Dudley

Google Rhody Jane Meadows. She is in your area. She knows every
thing you might want to know about playing mountain dulcimer and lots of other stuff. She is also director of The Sounds of The Appalachians music camp held every July at Mayland Community College in Newland. They always have dulcimer classes.

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Wow! I’m just thrilled to get so much help. I never expected so many good answers. I’ve heard Rhodyjane’s group but didn’t know about her dulcimer lessons.So all of you have given me ideas to pursue and I’ve learned so much. Thank You! (Btw, I’m a woman despite my name, and I’m 85. I’ve been trying to learn a new skill each year over 80th and am delighted to be finally trying the dulcimer. Quite a fun challenge.)

One of the previous notes from Gwen about how the dulcimer can ruin some bluegrass music has given me a valuable heads up, but the group here plays only Appalachian folk tunes. They are overly kind to me, but I now have a good instruction about sitting out a few!
I have loved reading all this.

Edited Mar 15, 2019 by Dudley Gilmer
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