Bonnie Guelfo, Children’s Librarian at Bluebonnet Library in Baton Rouge, observed that there are really no places in town to teach children how to play the dulcimer. So she offered a summer class at her library branch to introduce children how to play the dulcimer.
The class of 20 spots quickly became full with a waiting list; and on class day every seat was taken. The children, ages 8 to 10 caught on surprisingly well — in fact, several excelled at playing the two songs taught.
You might wonder where we found dulcimers for 20 children. Over the years, the Lagniappe Dulcimer Society has assembled a supply of cardboard dulcimers that we used. Cardboard? These dulcimers are sturdy with a wooden fretboard — even being cardboard; plus they are inexpensive, sound good and are easy to play. They can be purchased from Backyard Music Dulcimers and Dulcimer Kits. The dulcimers are sold on the internet–either as a kit or assembled and ready-to-play (make sure you purchase a dulcimer with a 6-and-a-half fret).
Tuesday Night Classes in July for Beginners – Adults and Youth
Bonnie is offering follow-up sessions on Tuesday evenings in July at 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for both children and adults to learn to play the dulcimer. These beginning lessons are taught by members of the Lagniappe Dulcimer Society and are free of charge.
The dulcimer is a relatively easy musical instrument to learn to play compared to other stringed instruments such as a fiddle, guitar or banjo but it is still helpful to have someone show you how to get started. This is a great opportunity learn to play.
Tips for Learning the Dulcimer
Every dulcimer player was a beginner sometime. I asked our Thursday afternoon dulcimer group members to give tips that helped them learn the dulcimer. Some of their suggestions are the same as I recall that I used (and still use). Here are 10 tips:
- Mary – Practice, practice, practice. Even 10 – 15 minutes of strumming a day makes a difference.
- Joe – Don’t put the dulcimer back in it’s case when you get home. Leave it out on a stand so you can easily pick it up and strum for several minutes at a time. (And Joe makes a sturdy stand for mountain dulcimers – ask him about them.)
- Judy – Learn chords first — learn easy chords for D, G and A; that way you can easily chord along with others and sing without having to play the entire song.
- Marie V. – at jam sessions and club meetings, sit next to the same experienced person each time – someone willing to help you; you can watch what that person is doing for playing the songs.
- Jackie – learn where to place your fingers – both for playing chords and melody; rather than trying to use only one finger or struggling to form chords.
- Marie V. and Nora – remember that there are many ways to form a chord; if your hand can’t reach the suggested fingering – try something else – there are many ways to play chords on the dulcimer.
- Nora – play difficult measures (such as ones with many eighth notes) over and over until they are mastered; then the entire song becomes much easier to play.
- Jan and Linda – obtain a tape of practice songs that the club plays; listen to the songs on the tape over and over until you learn the songs. It’s much easier to play a song if you know the tune.
- Jan and Joe – go on the computer internet – there are many tutorials for learning to play the dulcimer; they are excellent. Check out You-Tube. There are lots of posts of songs played on the mountain dulcimer.
- And Maylee – steady strumming makes dulcimer tunes come alive – practice strumming several ways – strum out, strum out and back, alternate – but always with the beat in the same direction.
So come learn the dulcimer! See you at the library in July!