The Mountain Dulcimer is a unique stringed instrument that was born in the Appalachian mountains. The fact that it is already tuned to a known chord, AND that is that it is played on the lap, makes it easier for young children to learn than the ukulele or the guitar. With 4 strings tuned typically in the key of D, the melody is played on the 1st string, with the other strings droning the D chord as it is strummed. At least that’s how we START to play it. Those who continue to play, learn to use more and more of its unique abilities.
In the second year of Kindermusik for the Young Child, our students get to build and decorate their own dulcimer before the rosewood fret board with 2 strings is attached. Although OUR two strings are both tuned to C, so we can easily play many of the songs we learned on our glockenspiel. During this time, we are studying music from the Appalachian Mountains.
Here are some video examples of mountain dulcimers being played by musicians as various stages of development.
In this video, a man plays Amazing Grace – only the melody is played with noter on first string, while the D chord is strummed. This is much like the Young Child students play familiar melodies on their own dulcimer. We also give them the opportunity to use their musical memory to pick out familiar songs on the dulcimer.
This fun folk song, Turkey In the Straw, is played amazingly well by a 7 year old using his fingers and more of the strings to add harmony. I’m inspired !
A folk musician at a dulcimer festival uses “All the fingers, and ALL the strings” to play Eight More Miles to Louisville.
THEN, for another step up, to the modern world of dulcimer playing, Bing Futch introduces us to the Double Dulcimer. I actually got to watch him play locally at a folk music festival, and I was blown away.
So, I hope these musicians will inspire my young musicians, in our ongoing musical adventures, as well as maybe a few other friends along the way.
You may even want to listen to some LIVE dulcimer music. Search your area for Dulcimer festivals or live events, and you may find a lot more than you expected. If you live in Polk County, Florida, we are fortunate to have a Dulcimer Night on the THIRD Friday night of every month, starting at 5:30 – 7 pm in the Central Park of Winter Haven. Don’t look online for it… just show up !
Please share if you know of any websites that list festivals or events that feature live dulcimer music, or even if you are familiar with a video that would also be inspiring.