How did you first discover the mountain dulcimer?

Mary
Mary
@mary
5 years ago
5 posts

My cousin built one in the early 70's. I tried it but I wasn't crazy about it. I went back to it about 10 or 12 years ago after a car accident & I could't play the guitar anymore. I was able to take a workshop with Aubrey Atwater.  I am a singer first & use my instrument as a bsck-up to my voice. During her workshop I found out I can play chords on the dulcimer! I was off & running! I'm now with a Cavil War Living History group and I sing and play period correct songs.

Bucko Futreal
Bucko Futreal
@bucko-futreal
5 years ago
8 posts

My family took vacations in the North Carolina mountains when I was young, and we'd sometimes see them in shops in places like Black Mountain and Maggie Valley, as well as at places like the Folk Art Center outside of Asheville.   I don't recall ever seeing anyone playing the instruments; they'd just be there -- mysterious and inviting.  In the summer of 1989, my folks moved to Asheville and I stayed the summer with them before leaving for college.  I spent a lot of time that summer investigating dulcimers and I purchased a Folkcraft teardrop from a store near Pigeon Forge, TN.  At my school, NC State, I got involved with the annual "Madrigal Dinner" production, playing that dulcimer as a roving musician.

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
5 years ago
172 posts

I saw and heard the mountain dulcimer in the fall of 1991 at Epcot Center in front of the America Pavilion. They were being shown and sold by a young man from a cart-like vendor space. He was from the Walnut Valley Dulcimer company in Burns, KS. I took a brochure home with me and after debating with myself and studying about it a bit I ordered the Wildwood Mountain model custom made for me in Feb 1993. I now have others but this is the one I play the most. It has been a great joy.

Lucky Dave
Lucky Dave
@dulcimer-dave
5 years ago
16 posts

At Merlefest in 2004, heard an old fella playing what he referred to as his "Hog Fiddle". Fell in love with the sound and spent six months looking for a "Hog Fiddle". Finally rescued an old (number 3) Folkways from 1973 that someone had hanging on their wall. Used to belong to their Dad but it'd hung there for ten years, no one played it and would I like it. We negotiated a good price and I am still playing that instrument today. It needs refinishing, and lately I've gotten the idea that I'd like to build them as well. I also love to hand the instrument to kids too and watch their faces light up when they can make "music" without having to learn complicated chord forms.

kypfer
@kypfer
5 years ago
3 posts

I'm not really sure what my first meeting with a Mountain Dulcimer was ... I was probably researching some of the old "Child" ballads and found either a video or recording that I liked the sound of, then spent some little while both convincing myself I really wanted one and then finding one at a price I wanted to pay ... they're a bit thin on the ground on the east side of the Atlantic, and, as everywhere, what might be considered a novelty item often commands a high price!

With instrument found and purchased I ended up with a "no-name" 4-string that needed a drop of glue and a new string ... the glue glued and the string got knotted (I didn't have a spare string long enough) and it gives me a great deal of pleasure :)

Inkdork
Inkdork
@inkdork
6 years ago
7 posts

I just purchased my first one on Friday, and when I picked it up, I didn't even know what it was. I went back to the thrift shop it was at 3 times before handing over my money, and only after I brought it home did I go on YouTube to see what it should sound like. I paid $45 for it, it's not fancy (a '96 Dulcimer Factory DF1 Backpack model) but it's pretty and I'm looking forward to learning how to play it. 

I have two ukuleles I'm learning to play as well and this just called to me when I saw it in the shop. 

marg
@marg
6 years ago
572 posts

lexie

(" Mountain dulcimers are my therapy and solace for both my mental and physical well being.")

I think anyone of us could say this and probably have and also the part about how helpful everyone is on this site and how sweet our dulcimers are.

What calls to our heart will make our heart sing, very true - happy we are to have answer the call.

      All the best to everyone and thank you for the help on my dulcimer journey.

Lexie R Oakley
Lexie R Oakley
@lexie-r-oakley
6 years ago
232 posts

Bernuk1, what a fine story and I guess the MD was calling to your heart. Enjoy your Dulci Journey and if you can get in touch with Robin Clark as Ken H. suggested, I bet he would answer any questions and get you strumming. I also know folks on this site will answer questions and help you along also.

The beginning of my Dulci Journey began with a MD that wasn't up to snuff, but I learned the basics on it until I bought 2 dulcimers which really fit my style of the old time sound and noter playing. They are both just fun to play with that silvery old time sound that I love.

I began my journey because of some challenged times with severe aggressive Rheumatoid Arthritis, my MD's became my therapy and challenged distraction of finding ways to play with painful hands.

If I remember correctly I accidentally found this site along with Strumelia's Noter/Drone Blog and took lessons from her videos, it was amazing to not have musical experience and be able to learn from her wonderful lessons. Thank you so much Lisa..HUG

Along with this wonderful woman, I then found many very helpful folks who guided and suggested and taught me along my journey, very wonderful friends from this site who are able to explain and answer my questions to help me understand what to do with my wooden instruments with sweet strings. I am very grateful and fond of this site. 

I can't remember but I actually began 4 yrs ago and had to pull away due to illness of my parents for a couple years and I came back a year ago again for emotional and physical recovery. My Mountain dulcimers are my therapy and solace for both my mental and physical well being. I am very grateful to have the ability to play my mountain dulcimers, they are beautiful! happydance

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
6 years ago
408 posts

John and Karen--love your video!  You make lots of good points.  Buy an instrument that calls to your heart...and if you do that it will make your heart sing!

Great advice!




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
1,890 posts

Welcome Bernuk!!  You'll want to contact Robin Clark, a memeber here, who lives up in Snowdonia, and runs a business called Birdrock Dulcimers:  www.dulcimers.co.uk   I hope you find your Seagull sounding true scales... there have been a number of posts about how mis-fretted some folks have found them....

marg
@marg
6 years ago
572 posts

 Great story of your discovery bernuk1, now the journey begins. Have fun as you learn and become good friends with your dulcimer and the members on this site. Always at the ready to help out other members

Bernuk1
Bernuk1
@bernuk1
6 years ago
1 posts

Three weeks ago someone on a Ukulele forum mentioned Mountain Dulcimer-I had no idea what that was so googled it. I then spent hours listening to this strange haunting instrument on YouTube.

The next day we were at friends for the weekend,and,at dinner,I mentioned this amazing sound that I had heard and described the instrument-our host left the room and returned with a MD " something like this?" he said.

He'd bought it at a Craft fair in UK,had never played it,it had been on wall as decoration. I won't say I tuned it,but I tightened,with great difficulty,the strings 'till it sounded a bit musical and strummed as much of Pretty Betty Martin that I could remember from a YouTube vid I had watched.

Just as we were leaving on mon morn he gave it to me saying that I'd make more use of it than he had !! With a bit of work I got the tuning pegs working (sort of) and started learning from YouTube tutorials. Now I'm waiting on a set of Geared viola tuning pegs and in meantime have bought a Seagull Merlin for fun.

 

John Keane
John Keane
@john-keane
6 years ago
182 posts

Wow...this thread was originally started right after Karen and I discovered the mountain dulcimer.  Like so many, we first saw it at Silver Dollar City.  It's nice to read this thread and remember some of the posters who have come and gone over the years, and to take a moment to really miss a couple of folks who are no longer with us.  We made a little mini-documentary about our dulcimer discovery that pretty much tells it all. 

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
6 years ago
408 posts

In the mid-70's a couple came to the elementary school where I worked and performed at a school assembly.  I was familiar with folks songs and various instruments, but had never seen a dulcimer before (not that I could remember, anyway) and I loved the lively songs they were singing, like "Groundhog". Sometime in the next decade I got to hear Jean Ritchie perform in person, and in another 5 or 6 years I was making a cardboard dulcimer from a kit and trying out tunes on the melody string.  I wish I knew who the couple was who performed....I've wondered if our paths have crossed again in the past 40 years.  Could be...




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Sean Ruprecht-Belt
Sean Ruprecht-Belt
@sean-belt
6 years ago
32 posts

I think the first time I ever heard a mountain dulcimer was on a Richard and Mimi Farina record back in the late 1960's. A couple of years later, when I was about 15, I had a big crush on a girl who went to school with me. She played the dulcimer and I played the guitar. So, of course, I got real interested in the dulcimer. Unfortunately, Barbara wasn't as interested in me or my guitar as I was in her and we remained acquaintances. I ever after did like the sound of the dulcimer, though.

Terry Wilson
Terry Wilson
@terry-wilson
6 years ago
296 posts

Sometime in late Spring, 2011, at a Casita travel trailer rally.  

      Terry and Pam Lewis were playing for the campers by a camp fire.   Terry and Pam and their music made a huge impression on my wife and I.

      I waited awhile to purchase one, 04/2012, but I never forgot the music.   I would imagine that this wonderful couple has influenced hundreds of new dulcimer players.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,018 posts

Thought I'd revive this old thread in case some of our newer members wanted to add their own stories of how they first discovered the mountain dulcimer!  bananawave




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Bill Calhoun
Bill Calhoun
@bill-calhoun
12 years ago
4 posts
In high school days I attended the yearly Arts and Crafts Festival at Cedar Lakes, Ripley WV. There I heard Rus Fluharty play the mountain dulcimer. I will never forget the sound. When I graduated from college I promised myself that I would buy a dulcimer. After college graduation I went directly to grad school, marriage and first child. I put the dulcimer on the back shelf.While working on my doctorate my wife and daughters promised a dulcimer built by Paul Beagle as a graduation gift. In 1988 when graduation was delayed a year Paul and Patty gave me a dulcimer that had been given to them. I started playing. A few years later our oldest daughter asked for a dulcimer. We gave her a dulcimer built by Paul Beagle. In graduate school our daughter loaned me her dulcimer. The instrument is price less--especially since Paul passed away a short time ago.I am now living in Elkins, WV--a great place for traditional music. I go to our art center for the dulcimer classes and hope to attend Augusta for a week of classes. I continue to play the original that Paul and patty gave me as well as the one he built. My wife recently gave me a Clemmer Dulcimer. What a wonderful instrument.
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
12 years ago
1,249 posts
Cindy, what's not to love about your fellow's tastes? Smile.gif Dave, what a neat story! I live in the county just below Licking; small world.
Cindy Smith
Cindy Smith
@cindy-smith
12 years ago
6 posts
The guy I'm seeing plays banjo, dulcimer, fiddle, and some guitar. He lent me his dulcimer, knowing I'd love it, and he was right!
Paul Rappell
Paul Rappell
@paul-rappell
12 years ago
35 posts

CD said:
Nah. But I get a little green with envy because he won't let me play his and it is green.

Paul Rappell said:
CD, is it a little green dulcimer?
Green is the new black.
CD
CD
@cd
12 years ago
61 posts
Nah. But I get a little green with envy because he won't let me play his and it is green. Paul Rappell said:
CD, is it a little green dulcimer?
Scotty Lee Shuffield
Scotty Lee Shuffield
@scotty-lee-shuffield
12 years ago
2 posts
I sure hope that CD is wearing his aluminum foil hat...
Paul Rappell
Paul Rappell
@paul-rappell
12 years ago
35 posts
CD, is it a little green dulcimer?
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
12 years ago
2,018 posts
CD, better lay off the No-Doze.


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
12 years ago
1,249 posts
Hey, CD, that sounds like the same guy I take lessons from! Grin.gif
CD
CD
@cd
12 years ago
61 posts
Now that's what I tell folks so they don't worry about me. What really happened was I was driving along close to Area 51 and just minding my own business when this little green man comes sitting on the dash of the coach. His was playing this hourglass shaped thing and I fell in love with it. He helped me get one and has been teaching me how to play since that night!Grin.gif Now you can see why my playing is "outta this world" (LOL no ROTFLOL). This little green man has ridden with me ever since being my navigator and friend.CDP.S. As Paul Harvey would say now you know the rest of the story!
CD
CD
@cd
12 years ago
61 posts
I had a group out at Silver Dollar City and Troy sold me a cardboard one. At the time he said if I kept the original receipt and kept it in good condition I could trade it up for a better model. I took it to the bus and a half hour later traded it up for a nice teardrop. I had heard them but never imagined I could play one. Now I am still wondering if I will ever learn to play one. That is how I got started. Just liked the sound.CDGrin.gif
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
12 years ago
1,249 posts
Tom, there's nothing to do but build it! I know when I get something in my head, a person can't crowbar it out. Smile.gif Good luck and keep us posted!
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
12 years ago
1,249 posts
Tom, you'll have all kinds of fun with it! :)KenH, you're too funny! :)
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
12 years ago
1,890 posts
Welcome Tom;With your record Grin.gif I would buy a completed instrument, and get started playing, before tackling either a kit or scratch built instrument. We only get 25,000 sunrises, remember!!We'll definitely help you decide which instrument or kit will be most suitable. Just ask!!
Paul Rappell
Paul Rappell
@paul-rappell
12 years ago
35 posts
I knew about the Appalachian dulcimer long before I ever saw a "live" one. In September 1965 I was in third year university at Loyola in Montreal, my home town. A friend dragged me to a meeting of the Folk Music Society, which wasn't a meeting but hanging around singing. Within a week I'd bought a guitar. Over the Christmas break I found a copy of Sing Out!/i>i> in a local store. (For you fans of esoterica, it was the January 1965 issue which said January 1964 on the cover - I still have it.) Inside is an advertisement for "The Jeffreys' dulcimer", with a photo of a good looking hourglass instrument. "It is the easiest of all stringed musical instruments to learn to play. Many can learn to play a familiar tune within five to twenty minutes."That's all I knew, however. I got caught up in rock music (it was a great time for it!) and was attracted by electric guitars.In 1971 I was a volunteer with the Mariposa Folk Festival and saw Jean Ritchie perform. By then I'd known about her, and had seen a dulcimer, made by Tam Kearney, at Fiddler's Green. Some hammered dulcimer player was mocking it and its little rubber feet. But I was upgrading my guitar inventory, and even bought a cheap banjo.Finally,in 1974, an Oskar Graf dulcimer, hanging on the wall of the Toronto Folklore Centre, called out, "Buy me!" I did ( I could afford the $150), and It's still the only dulcimer I've ever owned. One of the first projects, at the insistence of a friend (and at his house) was the fabrication of a hard-shell case, with wood, masonite, glue, screws, foam, hardware, and vinyl covering. It's a bit crude, but very strong, somewhat heavy, quite protective, and still in use. I purchased Jean Ritchie's book, and later In Search of the Wild Dulcimer. Both those books have since gone missing. I still can't figure out what all that "Dorolydian, Mixylonian, Iorian" stuff is all about. For years I played in "Torontonian" mode, and currently in "Kingstonian".A very short time later I bought a fretless banjo by Oskar Graf. He now makes high-end guitars and, I suppose, has a long waiting list. His dulcimer has been through some trials. Once one of my students put his hand through the thin top. I got fed up and finally replaced the friction pegs with tuners. The tiny ebony dowel that held the strings in place snapped; I just happened to have a piece of metal the same size and shape.A few years ago I made the ten kilometre walk into Kingston (where we currently live, outside of town) on a damp February day to attend Oskar Graf's presentation on lutherie at the Queen's University guitar festival. When it was over, and people gathered around to ask questions, I got out the dulcimer and showed it to him. He was somewhat impressed (definitely surprised); people around were more so, as they didn't know what it was! I was pleased to finally meet the man who'd made my instrument over thirty years before.Currently the dulcimer is at a friend's house. Cary, a member of our cycling club, wanted to try it to see if he'd like to take up dulcimer. Well, he has now ordered a dulcimer of his own, and before long the "the Oskar" will be back home.P.S. When Cary e-mailed me and said he'd ordered a dulcimer, I replied, "Gotta jam sometime." He wrote back, "Now there are words to strike fear into the heart of someone who's been learning an instrument for all of a month now!"
Paul Certo
Paul Certo
@paul-certo
12 years ago
242 posts
My wife bought me a kit dulcimer for Christmas, 1989. I had read about dulcimers in the Fozfire books, and building things I could use always fascinated me. I had previously built a muzzle loading rifle to hunt with. I put the kit together by the end of January(I dated the inside of the dulcimer). Then I set about learning to play it. I bought Bonnie Carol's book "Dust Off That Dulcimer & Dance" and went at it.I've since acquired a number of books, but I still think hers was one of the best available at that time. Later I learned of a dulcimer club in our area and joined it. I am still a member, but don't get to many club sessions lately. But I still play at home, and the occasional festival.Paul
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
12 years ago
1,249 posts
Scotty, there's just something about a dulcimer that gets hold of a person. I don't know quite what that something is, though. Smile.gif
Scotty Lee Shuffield
Scotty Lee Shuffield
@scotty-lee-shuffield
12 years ago
2 posts
The basic story of my dulcimer experience is described (in detail) on my profile. My friend Matt Maccarron put the first dulcimer in my hands and helped me begin my journey, but my first exposure to the MD, was on Joni Mitchell's BLUE album. I was haunted until I held Matt's dulcimer in my hands and made music for the first time on a MD!
John Henry
John Henry
@john-henry
12 years ago
259 posts
Carolyn. Snap!!. when I retired from lecturing I resolved that I would not get involved with sitting in front of a computer, and that I would endevour to learn to read music!!! Failed on both counts; wish that I had met all the great people on this site a long time ago, both of the previous remarks seem to be somewhat misplaced, all down to messing with bits of timber and metal!. regards, JohnH
B. Ross Ashley
B. Ross Ashley
@b-ross-ashley
13 years ago
59 posts
I can't believe I never replied to this thread ... I first heard the mountain dulcimer as a kid in a 4th grade music appreciation class at school in deLand, FL, we would file into the band room where the acoustics were good and listen to recordings. One of them was a John Jacob Niles 78 of music from the hills, accompanying himself on one of his own dulcimers. Years later, in University, I heard Richard Farina, again on record. Over the years since I have heard various other players, from Joni Mitchell to Jean Ritchie. Finallly this last spring I was just browsing musical instruments on eBay and found my 1989 cherry Folkcraft teardrop, a steal at $50 plus shipping. I have really taken to it.
Bill Lewis
Bill Lewis
@bill-lewis
13 years ago
48 posts
Kool story Carol, i'am sure your dad is looking down and smiling and enjoying the music you are making Carol Hatfield said:
I had heard dulcimer music here and there throughout my life, and my boyfriend (a professional musician who plays everything) has three mountain dulcimers, so I've been exposed to them, but I actually started playing in October of this year. Why? Because of a gift I received. Over the course of Sept. and Oct. I was selling off some of my instruments to raise money for a new saddle for my mule, and just for some extra money (things are kinda thin right now). Well, after selling off my fiddle (I didn't have time to mess with it anymore), I was feeling kinda sad. Then when I got home one day, a package was on my doorstep - it was a mountain dulcimer!! My stepmother sent it to me. It belonged to my late father. It's a solid cherry tear drop made my Elmo Allen of Prestonsburg, KY. I've been playing dulcimer every day since! I am officially hooked!
Dale McCubbins
Dale McCubbins
@dale-mccubbins
13 years ago
1 posts
My only dulcimer (so far!) is a big 5 string, walnut & spruce 1985 "stock" model from Hickory Ridge Dulcimers. My Mom and I were on a road trip to Berea, KY for the Ky Arts & Crafts show, I'd promised to take her at least once, especially before I got married; she was big fan of "older" music, as several of my great-greats played in barn dances, etc. I was still in college, and listening to "my" music, but because of the family tree was not closed minded to different styles (ahem...altho' not a HUGE fan of country music of the 60s & 70s)... Anyway, we heard and found dulcimers at the show, got hooked; neither one of us felt we could afford it, yet both of us really wanted one... so we got together at lunch, and decided to go halves on it, I'd learn first, then teach her... I plunked it for a couple of years, left it with her, "borrowed it" brought it back and forth, then about 3-5 years ago, she made me keep it as her arthritis never let her really play it (good excuse, Mom!). I went to Yellowbanks Dulcimer fest, Dulcibrrrr at Falls of Rough, took a few workshops, bought a decent case for it, then ran into some friends about 2 years ago, at YBDF, and they got me really hooked on it. I play it for her and Dad, when I get a chance to pop in for a visit, and drag it with me to the moonlight job, so I have something to do while checking meters and gauges. Lately, I've been playing it way more than my guitar!!! I think they're getting jealous!!
Rod Westerfield
Rod Westerfield
@rod-westerfield
13 years ago
109 posts

Ed Buhler said:
I am amazed at its simplicity - anyone can play it first day - but its complexity. A lifetime isn't long enough to master it.
well said statement... I agree simple but as complex as you want it...
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Randy, thanks for joining us here on FOTMD- you cigar box guys fit right in! LOLSpeaking of Randys, you should check out our own member Randy Adams here and see his videos of him playing the cigar box dulcimer he made. I guess Randys tend to 'rock' in general! ;D


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Randy S. Bretz
Randy S. Bretz
@randy-s-bretz
13 years ago
8 posts
I`ve been a memeber over at the cigar box nation for awhile now and started a group there called Dulciworld. We have close to 90 members to date. Wray posted this site in that group. I`m glad he did, this is a great web site and I`m glad I joined. I think alot of the dulci builders and players from the cgb nation will be coming here. Beleive or not there`s alot in common between both sites, we all love building and playing our homemade stringed instruments. There`s alot of cgb builders who never tried building a dulci fretted instrument and want to try one, and the ones who have built one are hooked for life on them. I`m glad to be here and to show you all my dulci creations.
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
13 years ago
1,249 posts
Suzanne, you honor Ann well with your dulcimer play.This is a wonderful thread.
folkfan
@folkfan
13 years ago
365 posts
Found my first back in the late 70's at a Renn. Faire here in Illinois. It was a Berg that I named Mae for Mae West. It has her figure.I thought it was just the instrument for me as I loved the sound and could play it with just one finger on the left hand. My brain is a bit cross wired and the left hand wants to do what the right hand is suppose to be doing which make typing a real pain. But on the dulcimer the hands are doing two different things and I only need to use 1 finger if I want to. I'm not into complicated tunes or complex finger patterns like finger picking so I'm as happy as a lark with my dulcimers. 14 babies now ;-)
Patrick O'Brien
Patrick O'Brien
@patrick-obrien
13 years ago
4 posts
Well that would be on the far side of Parkersburg way back in the hills....well at least it was far back then!
razyn
@razyn
13 years ago
40 posts

Patrick O'Brien said:he said yea there was a feller up the holler from his home place had one sumptin like it,
only it was slimer and he played it with a bow but he dident recall what he called it.This would a been about 1924 or so.I'd kinda like to know where in WV his home place was. A bunch of O'Briens and their kin are in Gerald Milnes' book "Play of a Fiddle," but as your dad said, they were playing fiddles and other stuff besides dulcimers. Milnes does discuss (p. 139) bowed zitters or "scheitholts" that were played in WV.Dick
Patrick O'Brien
Patrick O'Brien
@patrick-obrien
13 years ago
4 posts
As a youngin my Dads family all played back in the hills of W.V. started on guitar bout 1964.Well, been playin Mountain dulcimer since about1970.Found a place that had folk music coffie shop/music store that made dulcimers on site (Boulder junction) in Uniontown Oh. After seeing one played and a little history I had to have one.I took it over to my Dads place and ask if he had ever heard of a dulcimer...nope he hadent...but after he seen it and heard it played he said yea there was a feller up the holler from his home place had one sumptin like it,only it was slimer and he played it with a bow but he dident recall what he called it.This would a been about 1924 or so.
Foggers
Foggers
@foggers
13 years ago
62 posts
Wow - I just checked back on this thread and it is great to read all our stories, from people who have had decades with the MD to people like me who are very recent converts. That is one of the things that is so good about this instrument- you can just find your own level with it so much more easily than with other stringed instruments. Thanks for your stories everyone.Peace and music.
John Brownson (aka: Buffalo)
John Brownson (aka: Buffalo)
@john-brownson-aka-buffalo
13 years ago
5 posts
I fell in love with the sound of the mountain dulcimer first, more than fifty years ago, when I bought a couple of "samplers" put out by Electra records and heard Jean Ritchie playing and singing. "Notamin Town" went straight to my heart, and I felt a very strong desire to find out what that beautiful sound was (in addition to Jean's voice, of course) and make it happen for myself. I was in Nebraska, and this was long before the internet, so it was ten years before I encountered (thanks to a good friend who'd made one for herself) the instrument itself. Now in California, I played hers, always in Aolian- "mountain minor- and a few years later she made one for me. For decades it was enough for me to just play "traditionally", fretting the melody strings and singing border ballads, but eventually someone taught me DAd and a chord or two, and that was it. I perform now, with my wife, DJ Hamouris, as "The Dulcimates", and we do "Notamin Town", always giving credit to the woman who brought the mountain dulcimer out of the deep hollers, and into our lives. Next to my family, playing my dulcimers and singing is my greatest joy. Thank you.
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Nice story, John... John Shaw said:
It was the combination of a nice instrument and an inspirational book that excited me and really got my playing to start to develop. I date my real playing from that moment. I took some things from the new approaches in the book that really got my imagination going (even though I don't like to get too far from the instrument's traditional styles), and I had a nice dulcimer to try them out on!
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
My dulcimer journey is much more recent. Two years ago a new friend, in our new town, in NC, invited me to a mountain dulcimer recital of her class, held at the local community college. These folks had been playing, through the college, for about two years... most of them had never touched a musical instrument before taking up dulcimer. The vast majority were older women (like me) and were thrilled to be making music. They'd been studying Larkin Bryant's instructional book and, of course, played "Rhodie" and "Bile 'em Cabbage". Before that evening, I had never seen or heard a mountain dulcimer and I was intrigued by the sound. My new friend (well, not so new, now...) plays almost anything she can get her hands on: piano, organ, bowed psaltery, penny whistle, hammered dulcimer and... mountain dulcimer. Because I also play classical piano and pop organ, she thought I was a natural for mountain dulcimer and started working on me, but I was reluctant. I tend to be very compulsive, by nature, and didn't feel I could waste my time with another musical instrument. By August last year, after being prodded for months, I gave up and jumped in with both feet. We drove over to Blowing Rock, NC where I purchased my first dulcimer (Neely) from The Dulcimer Shop... two weeks before classes began. That dulcimer, beautiful as it was, had major flaws. The fretboard was bowed, which made the "action" very difficult to play... major finger blisters. After several months, phone calls and emails, it was determined that the dulcimer couldn't be repaired and I very unhappily returned it... the folks at The Dulcimer Shop graciously allowed me to choose whichever other dulcimer I wanted and refunded the entire price of the Neely. By that time, I'd been playing several months and chose a wonderful McSpadden and then, I was on my way! As I say, I'm lovin' it! Been playing furiously since last September and now, I need more folks to play with... my friends at class (actually, just Monday jams now) are very happy, playing once a week... I play hours each day! I don't consider it "practice" because practice insinuates work... this is definitely, not work! Thanks, Lisa, for setting this up... it's giving me an additional outlet.
John Shaw
John Shaw
@john-shaw
13 years ago
60 posts
I first heard and saw a mountain dulcimer at the Oxford University Folk Club (the Heritage Society)in 1963 or '64 when an American lady did a floor spot and sang and played one. I never learned her name, but I remember being enchanted with the sweet, archaic sound. Shortly afterwards I became a lifelong lover of Jean Ritchie's music when I bought what I think was her first LP release on a British label (actually a re-release on licence of some of her earliest Elektra recordings). A few years later I bought (for 4) a fingerboard-only dulcimer, clearly made under the influence of the John Pearse book that John Henry Charles Crocker has mentioned elsewhere in this thread. I stuck a magnetic pickup on it and played it as a second or third instrument in a folk/rock/theatre group (Elecampane) I was in for some years. (I was mainly playing bass guitar and occasionally guitar.) I didn't get deeply into MD playing at this time, and just used it for very simple occasional strumming. In 1979 I bought a much nicer dulcimer. It was only a Korean import (money was tight) but it had a lovely character and was a delight to play. I think the cheap Korean dulcimers of the late 70s and early 80s get a generally bad press in the dulcimer world, and certainly the quality could vary, but mine was very nice - and I know at least one serious MD player here in England who plays his Korean model from this era as his main MD even today. The same day as I bought mine I also bought Neal Hellman's "Dulcimer Songbook" which introduced me to a range of what to me were new styles and approaches. It was the combination of a nice instrument and an inspirational book that excited me and really got my playing to start to develop. I date my real playing from that moment. I took some things from the new approaches in the book that really got my imagination going (even though I don't like to get too far from the instrument's traditional styles), and I had a nice dulcimer to try them out on!
John Henry
John Henry
@john-henry
13 years ago
259 posts
Steeleye Span, a Folk/Rock group, did a series on TV MUCH longer ago than I care to remember! John Pearce put out a book to go with the series which showed how to construct a simple fret board with tuners (and strings of course) which if placed on a suitable box, or suitcase, produced a creditable sound. I made one for my son, and was hooked! JC
Rod Westerfield
Rod Westerfield
@rod-westerfield
13 years ago
109 posts
Dick.. thanks for sharing your story... amazing what four bits will do to you..lol
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Dick, that's a great story, thanks!


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
razyn
@razyn
13 years ago
40 posts
The most costly four bits I ever spent:(Initially, this is pasted in from the ED forum, where it was buried in a Scheitholt thread in the summer of 2007.)"I was a freshman at Vanderbilt in 1957. One of the first things I bought in the campus bookstore was Richard Chase's paperback, American Folk Tales and Songs, which was new in 1956. [My copy is the first printing, and the cover price was 50 cents.] In the back, it said, ask the old people in your family if they know anything like this... I did, they did, etc. When I sent one of the songs to him (Banner Elk, NC) he sent back a postcard telling me to share it with John Putnam, who was in grad school across the street at Peabody. John also wrote one of the early dulcimer history/method booklets (later), published at Berea College. And we were friends until he died, about 20 years ago."That's all I said on the other forum. But I should also mention that the song I sent to Mr. Chase was "Old maids, old maids, all ragged and dirty, You'd better get married before you are thirty," which my great-aunt Launa had told me she sang at the age of fourteen while playing the (hammered) dulcimer that my grandfather-to-be had made, and brought with him while courting her sixteen year old sister. This tale was told with a serious twinkle in her eye, since her sister (my grandmother) was also in the room, at the time. They were crocheting; I was interviewing my older relatives -- per Chase (1956), pp. 228-30, "Amateur Collector's Guide."So, that's when I heard about the hammered dulcimer; I eventually learned that my grandfather and two of his brothers had made these instruments in the 1890s and sold them in the lower Cumberland valley, mostly to the north and west of Nashville. I never found one of theirs, but I did get my first Cumberland valley hammered dulcimer in 1966 -- and many others after that. I think the most HDs I owned was 12, maybe 13 (not all at one time), by about 1970. I used to clean up an old one (they never cost more than $50), give it new strings, show someone the rudiments of how to play, and sell it for about $15 profit (and it was still well under $100). This hobby was more like salvage archaeology than a business.But this is a "Mountain Dulcimer" forum. I'm not sure whether anyone in my family even knew what that was, before I met John Putnam in the winter of 1957-58. He had a couple in his dormitory, and those were the first I ever saw. And played. I saw Tennessee Music Boxes in 1963 (the first was a "whatsit?" written up in the Elmer Hinton column of the Nashville Tennessean newspaper; I answered that query, and also tracked down the owner of the one illustrated). But I didn't find a TMB for sale until the summer of 1964. The first MD I owned was Homer Ledford's #738, bought at his home (after some correspondence with John Putnam, and then with Homer) with my Christmas money at the end of December, 1963.Getting back to my "four bits" topic: seeds sewn by the perfidious Richard Chase continued to grow. I dabbled in folklore for several years -- and also managed to stay in school, for most of them -- until one day I discovered, to my horror, that I had become an academic folklorist. This is not a wise career move. Luckily, I had married much more wisely. We had a nice little collection of American folk instruments -- which mostly went into storage, while our kids grew up. For a couple of years now (since I'm and old coot, and our kids are the ones who have to protect their instruments from little boys), I've been writing about our older mountain dulcimers on ED.And we do occasionally still play them.Dick
Gary Sager
Gary Sager
@gary-sager
13 years ago
1 posts
I saw David Schnaufer's "Fischer's Hornpipe" video that played on TNN and CMT in 1991. I had never seen a mountain dulcimer before but thought that sure was a lot of music to get out of a small instrument like that. I told a friend at work and he brought a book in to me explaining how to build one. The first one I saw in person is the one I built.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
As a child I played cello in school, but never studied music seriously. Later as an adult I decided I wanted to play a stringed instrument again, and took up mandolin and attempted to play renaissance music. I played alone in my kitchen, was not very good at it, but it was enough to make me happy. After a while I had an urge to play music with other people, and began attending a local open folk music jam session with my mandolin. I had no particular direction in mind. At one session, a fellow pulled out a mountain dulcimer and began to play a folk song on it. I was floored. I had never seen or heard such a thing and fell instantly and completely in love with its sound. It was a life changing moment. When the jam was over he showed me how I could play a simple tune by just fretting the melody string and strumming with the other strings left open. WOW! I quickly got myself a dulcimer and some books, and began to teach myself to play. I think that was about 13 years ago.


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Rod Westerfield
Rod Westerfield
@rod-westerfield
13 years ago
109 posts
We were on vacation in the Missouri Ozarks in the late 70's and saw several dulcimers.. loved the sound and playing ability.. so finally bought one... took it home to the Chicago suburbs area of course at that time there weren't any teacher or for that matter dulcimers in my area. So I just taught myself.. was playing guitar at the same time, then one day went to the music store a wow thay had a dulcimer... so I had to buy it..and that started the fun... when in college I had to take an art class, so I took a basic craft class, wound up that my project was to build a dulcimer..even got an A in the class..I continued playing dulcimer into the 80's, then I got married and the dulcimers went into the closet... but then one day several years later my duaghter found them in the closet, an out they came and have not been ignored since. I have now sold all my other stringed instruments, and just have dulcimers, dulcimers, and more dulcimers... currently in the house I think are 15 dulcimers, but one is my daughters...LOL...So now I teach and try to get others to keep their dulcimers out of the closet and off the wall....
Cheryl Forget
Cheryl Forget
@cheryl-e-forget
13 years ago
2 posts
Me and my husband were in N. Fort Myers visiting friends and didn't know she had a dulcimer. She brought this instrument out and started playing and that was all it took for me to fall in love with it. Then she had her instructor come over and they had me playing Boil Dem Cabbage in 5 minutes. I got my 1st dulcimer 2 months after that. Now will shortly receive my 3rd dulcimer (traded my 1st one in on my TK O'Brien at Mike Clemmer's shop) made by Mary Matarainen of Laurel Mountain Dulcimers. I am keeping my TK as I really love it - it's just that the vsl is a little too long for me. We are visiting our son and their children and will stop by in Connecticut to see this new one she has made for me. Can't wait!!! I just love to play my dulcimer and listening to the cd's and also reading about everyone else's experiences with their dulcimers.
Foggers
Foggers
@foggers
13 years ago
62 posts
Hi Luann - who did you inherit your dulcimer from?
Foggers
Foggers
@foggers
13 years ago
62 posts
First time I saw one was on TV in some footage of Joni Mitchell playing one. It must be a LONG time ago as I was young, married and broke and would not have even known where to start looking for one here in the UK.When I got into english traditional music and the folk revival of the 60s, I came across it on some recordings then and I was further enchanted by its sweet and lighter sound than the big old yamaha dreadnought style guitar I was generally thumping away on at that time.At that time I never saw one for real.....Then about 4 years ago when Richard bought me a 5 string banjo I started looking into US music more, not just bluegrass and gospel (though I like them and they suit my voice) but old time stuff and the traditional folk stuff. It was fascinating that the folk traditions from this side of the Atlantic had such clear descentants in the US. That was wneh I found Queen of the MD, Jean Ritchie and got some of her albums. But as I was kind of trying to get my head around the banjo at that time, Iwas not seriously thinking of another instrument too.By about 2007 I was starting to think I would like an MD and I know Richard my partner started to investigate the building of them (he has done other amateur luthiering projects). Then by chance in autumn of 2008 we found a couple of models with a vendor at a world music festival. Although his building project was well into the planning/purchasing stages by then, we decided to buy the cheaper, Romanian made one, just so that I could get started in learning. I was so taken with it I nearly spent the rest of the festival in the hotel room noodling around on it rather than actually catching any of the acts we had so wanted to see!In Jan 09 the dulcimer was finished in time for my birthday (I guess I can't call it Appalachian when it was made in Sheffield, S Yorkshire, in the north of England !!) . I have loaded some rather grainy pics of it on my profile page.SInce then we have purchased a Ledford 1972 MD via US Ebay, and Richard has completed a second, baritone MD.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
13 years ago
1,890 posts
Like Sherry, I discovered the MD whilst staggering around Manitou Springs, CO back in the early-mid 70s. Heard this weird music and followed it to this half-underground shop. There was this cute hippy chick - paisley dress, long hair etc. and her equally hippy fella. The place smelled of patchouli and "other things". Place called Cripple Creek as in Bud & Donna Ford. Today she wears 3 piece suits and sits on the town council. He dresses a lot better and hangs around the shop while Bud Jr. runs things. Every time I see Bud & Donna I tell them it's all their fault that 30+ years later I'm still tryin' ta learn how ta play this thang!
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
13 years ago
1,249 posts
When I was in fourth grade ('68-'69), a boy in my class brought a dulcimer to school that, I think, his dad had built. (If I remember correctly, the dad came that day, too, to show a muzzleloader that he'd also put together.) Kevin, my classmate, played with a noter to demonstrate the dulcimer for us.Fast-forward to 2005. I made a trip to Gary Sager's Prussia Valley Music Shop and, at the time, was primarily interested in the autoharp. Gary wasn't in the shop when I was there but I looked around; the idea of maybe getting a dulcimer/banjo hybrid got in my head. I started exploring on the internet, joined ED and read up on all things dulcimer and decided to buy a mountain dulcimer. Over time, I moved from liking mountain dulcimer to loving mountain dulcimer.
Dennis Waldrop
Dennis Waldrop
@dennis-waldrop
13 years ago
17 posts
I found the dulcimer through our long standing participation in 4H. We would always go to the fair with the 4Hers and every year there would be dulcimer players in a booth promoting the dulcimer. I would always wonder off and when the family could not find me they would look for the dulcimer people and yup that is where I would be. After many years of watching and listening I took the leap and bought a dulcimer. After buying I found a local group to play with. They ended up disbanding and pointed me in the direction of a group I have been playing with for several years. Two of the dulcimer players in this group also taught dulcimer so I ended up taking a beginning dulcimer class with them. I have now advanced to local jams and festivals. I find the dulcimer very rewarding and I have now converted my wife who is also playing the dulcimer!
Bill Lewis
Bill Lewis
@bill-lewis
13 years ago
48 posts
Built one for my brother, came home built one for myself. Trying to learn, easily frustrated, hard to learn by self. Went to a class in North Carolina built one with John Huron. Now i have 2 and still not make much music with them. The Internet is nice, like someone said in my other post, [Sherry] i just have to make a commitment and do it.Bill
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Tell us your story of how you stumbled upon the dulcimer and got started playing...


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 10/26/20 10:27:23PM