After playing the mountain dulcimer for an number of years; it is challenging to branch out to learn new instruments. So I’ve taken up the penny whistle. The penny whistle makes a nice compliment to the dulcimer and the two instruments are similar in several respects. I found a beautiful Scottish tune, “Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon” while browsing through tin whistle books and decided to arrange it for whistle and dulcimer.
While sorting through stacks and stacks of dulcimer tablature that I have accumulated over the years, I ran across a partially finished version of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer.” This is one of my favorite Stephen Foster’s songs. It is very melodic, beautiful. And I see why I never completed the tablature — it is difficult to play on the mountain dulcimer.
After attending the Galax-style old-time string band jam in Virginia in May, I became intrigued with this type of dulcimer and decided to learn more about them. Could I tune one of my own dulcimers to DDDD above middle C to get the same sound? It meant changing strings–several times. Here’s how it turned out.
I recently visited my mother, who lives in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and was fortunate to sit in on a Galax-style dulcimer and old-time string band jam. I was told that the dulcimers would be tuned to DDD — all the strings pitched to the same note — for this jam. Continue reading
Last summer our librarian dulcimer member, Bonnie, lead a very successful community out-reach program, “Teaching Children to Play the Dulcimer.” This summer she had the creative idea of reading a book to the children and adding dulcimer music to go along with the story. She selected the book, “Giraffe’s Can’t Dance,” by British author, Giles Andrease, with illustrations by Guy Parker-Rees.
Our annual Lagniappe Dulcimer Fête in March brings dulcimer players from all over the country to teach workshops and perform in concert. It’s a good way for local members and dulcimer players to become introduced to new music, ideas and techniques. As always, I am impressed with the talented musicians that come join in our festival. I’d like to share some of what I learned. Meet Joe Collins. Continue reading
Mardi Gras comes early this year–February 9, 2016. This is carnival time in south Louisiana — parades, pageantry, costumes, balls, parties, king cakes. We play many of the traditional Mardi Gras songs on the dulcimer and I credit the tablature for the music to Paul Andry of Mandeville, Louisiana.
I look forward to the holiday season each December, especially the music. Christmas carols have been a part of my holiday tradition for as long as I can remember. Carols are melodic and joyful–even the sad ones–and it is difficult to pick a favorite carol. One is “What Child is This?” which is set to the melody of Greensleeves, an old English carol. This minor song sounds beautiful when played on the mountain dulcimer. Continue reading
The music to “Silent Night”, was composed at the last minute for a Christmas Eve Mass in 1818. However, the organ was broken. At the evening service, the priest and organist sang the song accompanied by guitar and choir. The Christmas carol is a fitting song to play on the mountain dulcimer; but let’s play in the Key of G so we can sing along. Continue reading
My new baritone dulcimer from McSpadden Dulcimers has provided a chance to try out playing several songs. Songs with a deep pitch such as Grandfather’s Clock especially sound appealing when played on a baritone dulcimer. I thought of lullabies, too. Here are two duets for baritone and standard dulcimer along with an explanation of the tunings used. Continue reading