I first played a cardboard dulcimer made by Backyard Music in 1980. Up to that point in my life I had taken lessons on a number of different instruments; recorder, trumpet, guitar, etc. When I heard that first sweet sounding dulcimer I was immediately hooked!
I played that cardboard dulcimer for several years. Then, when I was able, I purchased a handmade, wooden dulcimer from a local dulcimer builder. At the time I didn’t know anyone who played so I had no one to learn from. However, the sounds I could make and the few simple songs I taught myself filled me with joy.
Unfortunately, after a couple of years that dulcimer was destroyed while I wasn’t home. I’ll never know what happened to it but it wasn't repairable. My life was taking a few twists at that time and having another dulcimer wasn’t possible for many years.
In 2001 my husband, who had heard my dulcimer story exactly once, purchased an Applecreek dulcimer for me. I played the heck out of that Applecreek. I also was fortunate to be able to join a couple of groups of players in Connecticut. Both the Shoreliners and the Nutmeg groups were inspiring and I’ll always be grateful for their encouragement.
During this time I purchased many different dulcimers. None of them was the right instrument for me. Finally in 2004 my husband encouraged me to go to Folkcraft in Winsted, Connecticut and have a dulcimer made specifically for me. I’ve played many other mountain dulcimers over the years, but my Folkcraft (pictured above) is the instrument that I return to again and again. I believe it has made me a better player because I always want to do justice to this beautiful dulcimer with my playing. And, because this instrument is so fine, I am certain that any off–sounding note is my fault and not the dulcimer’s fault!
In addition to my Folkcraft, I also own several other dulcimers which all bring me joy. A Blue Lion Bass, Georgy Handy Baritone, Jeremy Seger standard, and a Laurel Mountain Chromatic are part of my current collection. Each dulcimer provides a different range of both opportunities and challenges.
Many people say that the mountain dulcimer is an easy instrument to play. With only 3 strings and a diatonic fret layout you can learn to play tunes very quickly. However, I believe, the mountain dulcimer is also an endlessly challenging instrument to play. The mountain dulcimer's challenge is exactly the same thing that makes it easy to begin to play - It has only 3 strings! To make music, those strings have to be ringing and that is quite challenging for some tunes!
Because of this challenge, I believe, I will always be learning on the mountain dulcimer.