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Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?

30 Jul 03 - 02:49 PM (#993614)
Subject: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: mike the knife

OK, I've finally bought one and am starting to have a little fun. What's the next step? Are lessons recommended? Any books/tapes that are better than others? Or do I just need to keep playing? Any & all help appreciated.


30 Jul 03 - 02:58 PM (#993628)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Amergin

the jean ritchie book....


30 Jul 03 - 03:04 PM (#993630)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: GUEST

What tunes are you playing so far?


30 Jul 03 - 03:12 PM (#993633)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: mike the knife

As far as tunes, just the stuff in the book that came with it- "I've been working on the railroad", "Amazing Grace", stuff like that- but I have been trying to play around & create my own melodies & messing w/ chording a little. Still don't know what I'm doing exactly, but it's fun & starting to sound OK- even on my cheapie dulcimer.


30 Jul 03 - 03:13 PM (#993636)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: mike the knife

Thx for the tip on the Jean Richie book! I'll look for it.


30 Jul 03 - 05:20 PM (#993709)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Peter T.

You might try searching the many, many threads we have had here on dulcimer. You might like to know that Jean is a Mudcatter, though I personally would not have enough nerve to ask her elementary questions (in fact, would personally approach her on bended knee).

yours, Peter T.


30 Jul 03 - 05:31 PM (#993718)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: mike the knife

OK- I waited patiently & let my computer make all sorts of whirring, clicky sounds while the search info loaded up. Should have done that before, but I didn't have the time here in the office to let this relic of a computer do the requisite chewing, swallowing, processing & delivery of the data. Impressive bunch of stuff here! Thanks!


30 Jul 03 - 05:37 PM (#993724)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Amergin

also the jean ritchie book can be found at www.elderly.com...


30 Jul 03 - 10:24 PM (#993889)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: KateG

One of the best ways to learn the dulcimer (or any instrument) is to play with other folks. There are a bunch of dulcimer clubs scattered about the US and UK. If you put Dulcimer Player News or Gila Mountain Dulcimer into your web browser's search engine you will come up with sites that have pretty good listings of dulcimer clubs and events. And if you're in the northern NJ/PA area, the Pocono Dulcimer Club would be glad to welcome you!


31 Jul 03 - 02:17 AM (#993977)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: JohnInKansas

One of the helpful elves attached links to a large list of Dulcimer-related topics in this thread - Building a Mountain Dulcimer. Click to the thread and then just pick the ones that look interesting; or take a look to see if your search got the same one.

Of course, doing your own searches is always recommended - but there's something to be said for using the easy way if it's available.

John


31 Jul 03 - 11:16 AM (#994201)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: GUEST,dulcimer

I highly recommend Everything Dulcimer website.


03 Aug 03 - 02:46 PM (#996006)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: GUEST,felipa

see also recently refreshed thread learning to play mountain dulcimer and all the other dulcimer threads given at the top of that page


03 Aug 03 - 06:58 PM (#996101)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: GUEST,leeneia

I have been playing mountain dulcimer for ten years. Here's what I tell beginners:

First you gotta learn to use it. So do this:

Tune it to DAA. (You can leave off the second melody string, it just makes it hard to tune.) Now start sounding out tunes on the melody string (the highest one)

In most cases, if you want harmony, you will get it by putting your fourth finger on the D string one fret behind the fret where your index finger is.

Exceptions are the note A (7th fret) where your fourth finger goes on the middle string, fifth fret.

For the note B, the fourth finger goes on the middle string, 6th fret. As you play, you will quickly pick up these exceptions, as your ears will tell you about it when you forget.

When you count frets, remember that the G# (the middle fret of the three small ones about in the center of the instrument) is known as "the 6 1/2th fret."

Now play lots of tunes, using different strums and picking patterns. Make up new strums. Play arpeggios, whack it, brush it, play it using no chords at all, try the "dreaded bum didddy strum" on long notes. Keep a list of the tunes you've thought of and what the first note of the song is.

When you know a couple tunes, start using other fingers besides your index finger on the melody string, to avoid putting too much stress on one finger.

When I play, I pick the melody string with my thumb, using a Herco light thumb pick, which is bright red, rather soft, and heart-shaped. It brings out the melody without producing an ugly twang. Experiment to find what method you prefer.

You will find that you can't sound out certain tunes, probably all of them minor. When you want to move on to minor, come back to the Mudcat.


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03 Aug 03 - 07:33 PM (#996120)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Bill D

there are many ways & styles...some involve chording, and some are mostly playing a melody string with harmony strings. There are also various ways to set up the strings (3 string vs. 4 string) and LOTS of tuning variations.

easiest way to start is very much like what you have been doing...picking out melodies and getting used to the feel of it. Then add a good book like the Jean Ritchie book for traditional styles or a couple others for more 'uptown' stuff...

you also will gravitate toward finger picking or using a something like a plastic pick.....the wonderful think about a dulcimer is that you CAN be playing recognizable tunes pretty fast.

have fun!


03 Aug 03 - 11:51 PM (#996215)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Amos

No disrespect, or anything, but everytime I read this thread title in the lists I think it is about Learning Lap Dancing Tricks. Maybe it's just me....sigh....



A


04 Aug 03 - 04:44 AM (#996282)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Kaleea

The Mountain Dulcimer is one of my favorite instruments. I have lived in several cites where there was a nearby organization for Dulcimers &/or Traditional Music. They often teach all about the playing of the instruments during the meetings! Ask around at the local Music shops if they know of any organizations in the area, and also, I suggest you ask about a Mountain Dulcimer teacher. Or, ask about local Traditional Music Jam sessions. There are many tunings, many styles of playing, and thousands of tunes to play. Cindi Lauper doesn't have to be the only famous Musician to play Mountain Dulcimer--it is a truly versatile instrument.


04 Aug 03 - 05:12 AM (#996292)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Dave the Gnome

Lap dancing dulcimers and mounting dulcimers? Sheesh, you guys are sick...;-)

Cheers

Dave the Gnome (Who only started playing Anglo Concertina because he thought it was an angling concertina and could be used with his fishing rod!)


04 Aug 03 - 11:27 AM (#996490)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Les B

This has nothing to do with the musical part of playing dulcimer -- well, maybe it does -- I glued a couple of pieces of velcro (the hooked surface) on the bottom of mine where each of my legs support it. Kept it from sliding off my lap while I was fingering notes. A stable fretboard is a lot easier to play.


04 Aug 03 - 05:49 PM (#996686)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Bear Meadow

Be sure to look in on the Sweet Music Index. It's a compendium of info about how to play the dulcimer, how to choose one, care for it, all sorts of music, books, advice, and other things. It was put together by many people in the mountain dulcimer community, and I host it on my websiste:

http://www.bearmeadow.com/smi

Dwain


04 Aug 03 - 06:03 PM (#996691)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: JohnInKansas

Les B

Quite a number of our locals use a small chamois across the knees for non-skid performance. And some use a sheet of that "gummy mesh" non-skid stuff that that's touted for cabinet lining and such. The non-skid mesh works pretty well, but has a tendency to make you feel like you've got something sticky between your knees.

Quite a few around here seem to prefer a stand or low table to holding the "lap" dulcimer in their lap. A good rigid surface does, sometimes, make the dulcy sound a little louder.

John


05 Aug 03 - 11:30 AM (#997141)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: GUEST,dulcimer

I think buttoms for a strap that goes around your waist is probably the most effective way to keep the instrument on your lap. Other ways work, but....


05 Aug 03 - 12:08 PM (#997170)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: mooman

The mountain dulcimer is a excellent fun instrument and fairly easy to play and experiment with. I never had any lessons and have worked out a playing system I like by trial and error. My own dulcimer is a Breton hand-made six string and I use a variation on the usual 2:2:2 tuning with three strings each in two courses for a very full sound. I don't bother with the additional frets, e.g. 6.5, as it's not my principal instrument and I'm happy with the basic scale and lack of a middle course for the stuff I do on it. If you can't find a club I would suggest just experiment and you'll quickly find to make progress.

moo


05 Aug 03 - 02:39 PM (#997305)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Ely

I couldn't bear to glue anything to the *beautiful* book-matched walnut on the back of my newer dulcimer, so have a guitar strap on mine (we jokingly call it a "seatbelt"). Other people cut up pieces of non-skid rug liners and to put between their thighs and the dulcimer.

I learned first in DAA but quickly switched to DAD because, especially if you intend to play with other instruments, it's more versatile. Another thing I did, although this approach is disputed, is I'd play a tab through a few times on just the melody string, to get the hang of it, and then I'd go ahead and try to play it with the chords before I got too used to playing on the melody string alone. It takes a lot longer to learn tunes this way, especially if you're just starting out, but I think it kept me from becoming "afraid" of the chords and ultimately made me more comfortable with the instrument, and a better player.


05 Aug 03 - 04:15 PM (#997368)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Amergin

I use the non skid mesh stuff...it is kind of rubbery and i put a small piece on each knee....works very well...


06 Aug 03 - 11:00 AM (#997940)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: KateG

The non-skid mesh stuff works very well. BUT...don't store it in your case next to your instrument. It can do nasty things to the finish on long contact. I keep my squares in my tote bag along with the music, and try to remember to wipe the back of the dulcimer after I've been using them. Fortunately, I find that I can often dispense with them if the chair is the right height or my clothing is of the right material.


06 Aug 03 - 04:28 PM (#998128)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: maldenny

Don't wear a mini-skirt if you're playing one up on a stage. Heh Heh.


07 Aug 03 - 12:35 PM (#998393)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: GUEST,P

I guess you could write a book -- a chapter, anyway -- on how players keep the durn things from slipping away. I usually play a Bear Meadow (owner Dwain Wilder drops in here from time to time and may have additional wisdom to shed on the subject) that came with four nicely placed half-discs on the bottom that fit over the thighs and keep it from moving too much. Pioneer dulcimer builder Uncle Ed Thomas did something similar, at least on his earlier models. I have another one that came equipped with a Carpenter Strap (named for player Susan Carpenter, I'm told) that snaps under the thighs and holds it firmly. Atwater-Donnelly, a wonderful duo from R.I., use a loop of string (thick stuff; looks like yarn from a distance). Sally Rogers uses what looks a scarf; I can't say exactly how it's fastened, but it has a lot of visual appeal.
Then there's the matter of the "perfect chair" for playing. That varies from player to player -- height of the legs, angle of the back etc. I found mine in an old wooden office chair (designed for lumbar support, an old label said) at a flea market (oops, I'm taking credit where most of it should go to my wife. She found it; I sat down and said "this is it").


08 Aug 03 - 12:50 PM (#999006)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: KateG

Another trick, especially on fast tunes, is to strum towards yourself, playing the bass notes first. This is actually the traditional way of playing, but is counterintuitive for those of us who started life as guitarists. However, it helps a lot, and the percussive thump of the bass notes on the beat adds to the bounce when you're playing jigs and other dance tunes.


08 Aug 03 - 02:15 PM (#999046)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: Ely

My "perfect chair" is an *old* rawhide-seat ladderback my mother bought me for $20 at a junky antique store. I assume it's homemade because it's such an odd size, shorter than most (modern, at any rate) chairs, but it helped me keep my knees up and the dulcimer in place before I had strap buttons on it. Sofas, and chairs with arms, are your worst enemies.


08 Aug 03 - 03:15 PM (#999082)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: mike the knife

Wow- Thanks for all of the great info- The mesh idea is super- I've been chasing the thing all over my lap. (perhaps this may be referred to as the "Dulcimer Lap Dance"?) I also am learning to widen my "stance" ie: keeping my left knee/leg close to/under the headstock- I've almost catapulted the thing across the room end-over-end by quickly dropping back down to the first fret with my knees too close together.
I've found a place to take lessons & I start Monday- Looking forward to being shown the "right" way to play, tunings, etc. I'm going to pull some tabs for a couple of tunes & see how badly I mangle them initially. I really love the idea of the quick learning curve on this instrument. Thanks also for all of the websites referenced. I suppose Jean Richie is a Dulcimer Deity of some great renown based on the responses here.


08 Aug 03 - 03:18 PM (#999085)
Subject: RE: Learning Lap Dulcimer- Tips? Tricks?
From: mike the knife

Oh, BTW Maldenny- I'm a 39-year-old former rugby player- NOBODY wants to see me in a mini skirt ;-)
cheers,
Mike