Dusty Turtle


Location: Northern California
Country: USA

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Dusty's Flatpicking Guitar Technique for Modern Mountain Dulcimer

musician/member name:
Duration: 00:15:39
This is the first of a three-part series. Part 1 helps you develop a basic back and forth, eighth note strumming pattern. Part 2 builds on that pattern with a variety of techniques aimed at creating really complex rhythms. And Part 3 moves from chords to single notes, demonstrating how the same right-hand technique can allow you to play single notes as embellishment to chorded playing and as rhythmic patterns in place of strumming, as well as finding places to add filler licks.

For part 2:

For Part 3:
Dusty Turtle
08/31/19 01:21:15PM @dusty:

Hey @Fatcat.  I'm glad you found the videos helpful. At some point I'll re-do them with better video and editing equipment.

There are round picks out there, and some people like them a lot. However, I find that without a pointy edge it is too hard to play delicate or precise single-note stuff.  So the round picks are great for strumming, but not so great for picking.

You definitely do not want to hold your picks too tight.  Aim for a loose, relaxed grip. Some pick material seems to stick to my fingers better than others. I also add a tiny bit of moisture by licking my fingers and then wiping them on my jeans.  If you ever see me in concert, I tend to do that before every song. It's kinda gross, I know, but it helps with the grip on the pick. 

There are also some picks that are made to help with the grip.  Some have a bumpy section on the sides that's supposed to help.  Check out the Dunlop Max Grip picks, for example, or the Dava Grip Tips, or the Cactus picks, which seem to have their share of fans. Others have a hole in the middle, so your thumb and index finger come in contact, holding the pick in place.  Check out the Wegen picks, Star picks, Everly picks or the Gravity picks. And there are also some picks that actually attach to your thumb, not unlike a thumb pick.

So there are lots of options out there.  Finding the right pick is important, but what works for me might not work for you, so you need to experiment and play around with different options. Also remember that as your playing evolves, so might you pick choice.


Dusty Turtle
10/10/16 05:29:58PM @dusty:

Linda Fackeldey: One thing I noticed on my second viewing is that the fingers not holding the pick are held loose, where I had almost been making a fist.  When I loosened those 3 fingers, it freed up my strumming a lot.

I'm glad you found the video helpful, Linda.  Someday I'll re-do it with more professional production.

The question of how to hold your strumming hand is more complicated and more personal than you might imagine. You can see how I do it, for I let my extra fingers hang loose. I find that gives me a freer strum.  Others don't strum like that.  Erin Mae (formerly Rogers) makes a fist with her strumming hand.  Her main strum is also in rather than out, as I demonstrate here.  

The other question is whether to anchor your strumming hand with one or more fingers touching the soundboard at the base of the fretboard.  You see this same question among guitarists, mandolin players, and others.  And people differ. Erin Mae keeps her hand in a fist and doesn't anchor at all.  Mark Gilston anchors all the time.  There are advantages to both. Anchoring helps with accuracy when flat-picking, especially at high speeds.  Keeping your hand free allows for more expressive strumming.  What I do is a kind of hybrid.  I usually keep one or two fingers on the soundboard, but they are not actually anchored there, so they help me maintain consistency when flat-picking, but they move freely when I want to strum in more expressive manner.  Check out the first verse of Needle Case and you will see me alternating between anchoring my fingers on the fretboard and allowing them to move around when I strum

Dusty Turtle
06/22/15 07:51:10PM @dusty:

Thanks, Neil. Yes, parts 2 and 3 had been embedded as the first two comments here, but neither is there now. When I get a chance I'll fix that. In the mean time, you can follow the links in YouTube to get parts 2 and 3.


Remember that you really have to master one aspect of this before you move on. The first video ends with a smooth, swinging, eighth-note, back-and-forth strumming pattern. Until you get that down, you won't really be able to work on the stuff in videos 2 and 3.

Neil W. Millard
06/22/15 06:21:22PM @neil-w-millard:


Really enjoyed and found these lessons very helpful. Now I just need to practice what you preach!

I don't think Parts 2 and 3 made the move to the new site but I was able to see them on the old site still.

I viewed them on YouTube and bookmarked them.  Thanks for putting the time in making these lessons.

Dusty Turtle
03/08/14 11:56:40AM @dusty:

Hi Lesley and welcome to FOTMD. If you go to the beginning of the comments following this video you will see parts 2 and 3 as well as a table of contents for all three. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and click to navigate to the highest numbered page. Right now that is 4.

Please keep in mind that parts 2 and 3 move really fast, and if you are a beginner you might not be ready to start doing all the techniques I demonstrate there. Just know that you will get there eventually.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Dusty Turtle
08/24/13 05:05:58PM @dusty:

Thanks so much, Susan. I recognized the soundholes on your dulcimer right away. My first dulcimer was a Unicorn Woodworks dulcimer. Mine has mahogany back and sides with a spruce top, but I've got those same rose bud soundholes!

Let me know if you have any questions about the videos. The first one goes pretty slowly to help you develop a basic back-and-forth strumming style. But the other two videos move quickly, just demonstrating variations rather thangoing slowly so everyone can keep up. Don't worry if you can't get that advanced stuff right away. It takes time.

And let me know if you have any questions. In the meantime, enjoy the Unicorn Woodworks dulcimer. Johnie does really nice work; his dulcimers have a soft sound with lots of sustain.

Dusty Turtle
08/18/13 01:29:48PM @dusty:

No problem, Marion. You can mute with either hand, after all.

Dusty Turtle
08/18/13 12:47:19PM @dusty:

Marion, hopefully something here is helpful regardless of what style of music you play, but obviously, the main emphasis in theses videos is right hand flatpicking technique. To be honest, I do a lot of fingerpicking as well, but I am no expert on that technique. I do know that one common mistake on the part of beginner fingerpickers is keeping their fingers on the strings, thus muting the sound and not letting them ring out. If you do that occasionally on purpose for effect, that's fine. But to get a smooth sound you often want the strings to continue ringing while your fingers move to the next notes. I heard both Linda Brockinton and Stephen Seifert give mini lessons on the importance of doing that to create smooth music that doesn't sound choppy.

Dusty Turtle
06/24/13 12:45:01PM @dusty:

There are two ways to find the other two videos. Either click to the first page of this discussion, which will be the highest page number (currently 3) where you can find the second and third installments as well asa table of contents, or you can view the video on YouTube directly by clicking on the little YouTube icon in the video box itself. In my YouTube description, I put links to the other videos.

And always, feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

Dusty Turtle
05/07/13 03:26:03PM @dusty:

Mike, I'm so glad you are finding the videos helpful. Take your time with the techniques in videos 2 and 3. I don't think you can master that stuff all at once. You might want to work on one specific technique a lot until it becomes second nature and then move on to the next one. When I play I never think consciously "let's stress the up-beat here" or "how about muting with the right hand here." That stuff just happens when I play. But you have to be really comfortable with the techniques to be able to do that.

With the possible exception of the last song on video 3 ("Rosalie McFall" or "East Virginia") I don't think I use the 1-1/2 fret anywhere. You certainly don't need it to create the rhythms I discuss in video 2.

Feel free to ask any specific questions that come up. And thanks for your comments!

Dusty Turtle
05/06/13 11:58:43PM @dusty:

Thanks, Mike. Parts 2 and 3 are already available. I posted them as the first two comments in this discussion. So if you go to the beginning (right now that means clicking on page 2 and then scrolling all the way down) you will see parts 2 and 3 and a table of contents for all three videos.

I hope they are helpful. And if you have any questions, let me know.

Dusty Turtle
04/15/13 10:07:21PM @dusty:

Thanks, Paula. If you are a real beginner, you might consider the first video to be a realistic short-term goal. That will give you the basics that will enable you to eventually employ some of the techniques in videos 2 and 3. But some of that advanced strumming and picking might take a while. Don't get discouraged. Take your time with the basics and enjoy playing. The rest will come in due time. And of course, if you have any questions, just holler.

04/15/13 07:52:12PM @paula-gautreau:
Dusty! Thank you for the three wonderful instructional videos - I am a beginner and this helps tremendously!
Dusty Turtle
04/12/13 08:50:54PM @dusty:

Yes, Geekling, the right-hand techniques I outline should be helpful to noter players as well. The only part that might not translate at all would be the stuff on muting with the left hand. Thanks for listening.

Dusty Turtle
04/12/13 01:57:41PM @dusty:

Thanks so much Peter and Patty from VA. That first video represents a step-by-step breakdown of how to achieve that basic back-and-forth strum. The other two videos move faster, just providing taste of what one can achieve with some minor variations on that strum. I do hope you find them useful.

Patty from Virginia
04/12/13 11:55:02AM @patty-from-virginia:

Dusty, I watched this first one and your technique for holding the pick has helped meSmile.gif . Thanks! Now I need to watch Part 2 and 3 and hope to keep up.

Peter W.
04/12/13 08:46:21AM @peter-w:

Thank you, Dusty - your video is very helpful (and the lively way you explain things makes it easy to follow - even for me as a foreigner!) Great job!

I realized that I did not think about my strumming technique for a very long time, but I'll try that! I already tried to hold the pick like you demonstrated, and I think it really is a more "relaxed" way than like I did it so far!

Dusty Turtle
04/12/13 01:04:40AM @dusty:

Thanks for the comments, Lorraine, and I hope you find the videos helpful.Since you already play guitar and mando,you might not need the first video at all. But hopefully the others will help foster some ideas on how to make really interesting and fun music. If you ever have any questions or feedback, pass them on.

Dusty Turtle
04/11/13 02:54:16PM @dusty:

Yes, Shawn, there is a lot of information there. But if you can master the basic back-and-forth strum (and "swing" it) demonstrated at the end of the first video, then you have the basics down and will be able to experiment with the other techniques and have a lot of fun. You have to have that building block to move on, but the rest of it can be approached in any order you want. If one technique doesn't speak to you, ignore it. If another seems reallycool, then you might want to work on it a bit. And if you have or come up with any questions about any of it, let me know.

Shawn McCurdy
04/11/13 01:12:30PM @shawn-mccurdy:
Tons of good information there - will take a long time to assimilate, but thanks for sharing all that with us!