Opinion on the best beginner books to start with

Martha E
Martha E
@martha-e
5 years ago
8 posts

Carol Walker's "DNA* Dulcimer Ditties" Book 1 is a great starter book, especially if you're interested in chord-melody style playing. The dulcimer club here recommends it for newer players. She teaches techniques using a lot of familiar songs, and she provides fingering recommendations so you'll learn how to play the chords as you go. Her store page has a sample tune from the book so you can see what it's like: http://www.musicladycarol.com/store.html

If you're interested in fingerpicking, I'd also recommend Janita Baker's "Fingerpicking Dulcimer" book to go with it, and Sue Carpenter's "Patterns and Patchwork."


updated by @martha-e: 04/03/17 02:24:51PM
Patty from Virginia
Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
5 years ago
230 posts

I will also add something to this long ago conversation. I just finished Stephen Seifert's Dulcimer Intensive. It was a local event of which I am truly grateful. It was literally three days. We started about 9 in the morning and ended at 4:30 pm. I have to say that is the best dulcimer workshop I have ever attended. It is well worth the money. Some of the topics were more advanced but I did learn about them. From the beginners to the advanced players, everyone came away with something. And if you felt like you were going to forget what was covered, Stephen provided links to videos for a review. He has a very easy going teaching style. He showed us various different fingerings for chords. That alone for me was worth the price. He discussed chord shapes, fingering exercises, breaking down difficult sheet music into easy, strum patterns, flat picking, finger picking, easy chords, safe notes, etc. If you ever get a chance to take his work shops, do it. You won't regret it. Even if you feel like something is more advanced than your current playing level you will learn it and you will (if you put in the work) feel like it's attainable. He is very encouraging and a really nice guy. He's always willing to answer questions. Yes, he had us work on a line of music over and over again but we all finally got it. That's a taste of putting in the work and it's worth it. I would rate his work shop a 5 star on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best. 

Mark C
Mark C
@mark-c
5 years ago
1 posts

Hi, this topic is from a while ago, but I'm new here so thought I would chime in - I have a copy here of "The Dulcimer Book" by Jean Ritchie, Oak Publications, 1974. Actually it is about to be overdue to the library - I rather not return it! Before reading this, my knowledge of the dulcimer was pretty much that I own one and mess around with. This book gave me a valuable background on the instrument and the musical tradition it comes from. Plus she describes tunings for different modes, and it is a song book.

Two things I thought were interesting to mention about it are;

The full title is actually "The Dulcimer Book; being a book about the three-stringed Appalachian dulcimer, including some ways of tuning and playing; some recollections in its local history in Perry and Knott Counties, Kentucky; some observations on the probable origins of the instrument in the old countries of Europe; with plentiful photographic illustrations and drawings; and with words and music for some sixteen songs from the Ritchie Family of Kentucky" (!)

At the same time I got this from the library, I check out another book called "The Appalachian Dulcimer Book" by Michael Murphy, Folksay Press 1976. I note the dates because this later book contains the most blatant plagiarism I've ever seen, with entire sections of Jean Ritchie's book repeated without changes, and in some other cases slightly paraphrased. So I returned it and stuck with the original!

 

patriotic
@patriotic
6 years ago
7 posts

Just a follow up for those that responded on this forum to me. I purchased off Amazon "You can teach yourself Dulcmer" by Madeline MacNeil and just don't like it. To me isn't really beginner friendly and I just don't like it. I sent my check off today to Anne Lough for her book like John has suggested and will try that. I've decided that I'm not going noter style, but like to "walk my fingers" so probably will concentrate on that method. From various Internet sites and Strumelia's videos I've been working on strumming techniques and a tune or two to work in some finger exercises. I've also read all the material suggested here and downloaded the PDF's which were very helpful.  Thanks everyone for all your help with this!

John W. McKinstry
John W. McKinstry
@john-w-mckinstry
6 years ago
39 posts

Mike, I think it is great that you can try different sources.  One thing I would like to point out about Anne Lough's book is that she plays noter style. My students and I play with our fingers and we are free, however, to choose our own fingering.  I suggest to my students in D A A that they start with the ring finger on do and then use the middle finger for re and the index finger for fa.  Going up the scale use the index finger and then going down the scale reverse everything. The high do is the index finger, ti is the middle finger and la is the ring finger and using this same ring finger now  end up eventually back on the 3rd fret do with the ring finger. Have fun. John

patriotic
@patriotic
6 years ago
7 posts

John I found the book at Anne Lough's book on I guess her web site. Looks like I can order from her direct and will do so. Ken I've read your paper/book and it was very informative and a great thing for a new person to read for sure. Rob my musical background is that I love music. ha ha. Actually my father played guitar and Hammond Organ and my brother has played guitar since he was 12 in the early 50's. He's played all kinds of music but now mostly jazz and still plays professionally a couple times a week. I took organ lessons for awhile when I was 18, a long long time ago but the music school I was going to kept changing teachers on me and of course each teacher always wanted you to forget what the other teacher told you to learn his or her way. Got frustrated and Quit. My music taste is vast from oldies 60/s 70's to 1920's music, some 40's and some jazz. I also listen to some country. I listen to what I'm in the mood for. I have a place I go to in the mountains of Georgia and often over the years have visited the Bryson City NC area of the Blue Ridge. Love those mountains! I contacted a local Dulcimer group in the next city over and was advised that they tune in DAA and the coordinator suggested TK O'Briens Guide to playing Mountain Dulcimer, Fun with the Dulcimer and You can teach yourself Dulcimer by Madeline MacNeil. She also suggested "The Dulcimer book" by Jean Ritchie. At this point I'm sure not going to buy all of them, but I did order You can teach yourself Dulcimer by Madeline Macneil so far. Haven't got it yet but it should be here this week. Will probably also order what John suggested the Anne Lough's book too and see if I can get started with these first.  I really appreciate all the help.

 

Mike

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
1,974 posts

It's what I do...

Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
6 years ago
415 posts

I agree with Lisa G, In Search of the Wild Dulcimer is fantastic. What is your musical background?  Jerry Rockwell's Music Theory and Chord Reference for the Mountain Dulcimer is great, too.  I have said if I had to begin my dulcimer journey from the beginning, those would be the 2 books I'd get. In fact, a copy of In Search I found in a thrift shop in Washington state was what got me back into playing after laying off for about 10 years.

patriotic
@patriotic
6 years ago
7 posts

Thank you all for your reply. I too read Strumelia's blog and I think I've watched all her videos as well as many others on You Tube. I will also check out the books mentioned.

Black Dog Bess
Black Dog Bess
@black-dog-bess
6 years ago
18 posts

I can respond to this as I just spend some of the holiday weekend binge reading Strumelia's (member of FOTMD) blog from the very beginning. I have only had dulcimers for about 2 months and have had difficulty because I have small hands that do not do the chord stretches. Strumelia managed to make modes, different tunings, and different styles of play make sense to this bewildered beginner. What is really unique is her insight and comparison of noter style and chord style of play and the reasons for choosing DAA and DAD tunings. Add to this her excellent You Tube videos and you have a wonderful resource.

Thank you, Strumelia!    Barb

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
1,974 posts

It's not a Tune Book, here's a revised edition of the piece I wrote several years ago called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?  It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms (so we all know which bits we're talking about), plus answers to many beginner questions about tuning, playing, care and feeding of your new friend.

My favorite beginner book is long out of print, but still available, called The Dulcimer Book by Michael Murphy.

 

Lisa Golladay
Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
6 years ago
108 posts

The best book ever written for beginning dulcimer players is out of print (boo! sob!) but now available free on the internet because coauthor Robert Force is a great guy (hooray!)  You can read it online or download PDFs.  http://www.robertforce.com/SongsAndInstruction/ISWD-cover.html   I quite frankly refuse to help friends learn MD unless they first pledge to read this book and do what it says.  Once they do, they no longer need me :)

Check out Strumelia's beginner videos here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEDA7958CA5FC2EEA&feature=plcp

Even if your heart isn't into noter/drone style, it's a good way to start learning your way around the instrument. 

John W. McKinstry
John W. McKinstry
@john-w-mckinstry
6 years ago
39 posts

The best beginner book that I like is "Welcome to the Mountain Dulcimer: by Anne Lough. She covers D A A, D A C, and D A D. She also includes a C.D.. I have had five students use this book and all love it.  I, myself, often like to use the C.D. to play along with and at times to add harmony. I love her choices of tunes that are known by so many and seem to be dulcimer classics. The book is simple and basic and uncomplicated. And that is just the way I like it.

Kristi Keller
Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
6 years ago
84 posts

One of the best educational deals is right here on FOTMD. There are really good videos which are super helpful and fun. And seeing and hearing what is available can be very useful in determining what style you may want to play. I don't think you can go wrong with Margaret Wright's music books and CDs.

 

Have fun!

patriotic
@patriotic
6 years ago
7 posts

I just was given a Dulcimer last week. It came with no books. Over the weekend I've been watching videos on You Tube and would like everyone's opinion on the best or must have books to get me started playing this thing.  I know that many of you started with all types of books, but if you had to start with one or two which one would you pick? Also has anyone started with Steven Siefert's "Dulcimer School" online and what were your experiences with that.  There is a local Dulcimer club in the nearby town, but I will not be able to get over to their sessions until August probably. Would like to get started on something before then. 


updated by @patriotic: 02/19/20 10:58:22AM