Workshop Descriptions2022-01-21T15:18:04+00:00

Workshop Descriptions

Not sure of your skill level?  See how the instructors define skill levels HERE.

Remember to bring a music stand.  For your comfort you might also bring a cushion to sit on.

Bowed Dulcimer

All Levels

Historically mountain dulcimers were not only plucked and strummed, but also bowed with a violin or homemade bow. The bowed dulcimer has a curved bridge similar to a violin. The curved bridge allows for one or two strings to be played at the same time, like other instruments in the bowed family. Come give it a try, find out some history as well as instruction on playing it. Practical technique and repertoire will be included. Consider adding a bowed dulcimer to your ensemble.


How it All Works

All Levels

Look at how to use your hands without injury, how to get the most sound out of your instrument, and how to play more expressively by understanding better how the instrument and the body work together. 


Preparing to Play in Public (Gigs)

All Levels, No Instrument Needed

Playing for your own enjoyment is great, but why not share your music with others?  It can be difficult to feel comfortable performing, especially when you are just starting out, but preparation will make your performance experience go more smoothly.  The class includes tips such as what questions to ask before accepting a gig, making your playlist more interesting and appropriate to your audience and making a check list of what to bring (don’t forget the clothespins).  An open discussion will be included, so if you have some experience in playing out, come and share your experiences – good and bad – with the group so that we can learn from each other.


Fingering with Finesse

Novice & Up

Why does it matter which fingers you use on your fretboard?  Using all of your fingers and thumb allows you to play more efficiently, resulting in both smoother sounding music and the ability to play faster.  However, how you use your fingers will depend on your manual dexterity and your instrument.  In this class we will investigate “anchoring” your hand, stretching your hand and what fingering patterns work best for you to become a smoother or faster player. (Tuning: DAD)

REQUIREMENTS:  Students should be familiar with D,G and A chords


Using a Capo to Play in “G” and “A”

Novice & Intermediate

Do you feel like a deer in the headlights when someone calls a tune in a key other than D at a jam?  Would you like to be able to play tunes in keys other than D to make your concerts more interesting for your audience?  It’s easier than you may think.  All you need is a capo and a good look at your dulcimer’s fretboard.  In this class, we will work on using the capo, both to play back up chords and to play the melody in the keys of G and A.  (Tuning: DAD)

REQUIREMENTS:  Bring a capo (a few will be available to borrow), be able to play Boil Them Cabbage in the key of D in DAD tuning and be familiar with the basic D, G and A chords (at the left end of your fretboard, 002, 013, 101 from bass to melody string), be able to quickly find frets up to the 10th fret and read basic tablature.

High Five

Novice & Up

Jim and Phyllis will review the pentatonic scale for the key of D and how to use it to start picking up melodies in sessions. This class is specially designed for students who took last year’s “Fake It ’til You Make It” class. We will explore specific tunes and expand to the additional keys of G, A mixolydian and A dorian. We’ll share a few tips on backing vocals too. Students who missed last year’s workshop can benefit by getting started with the basics and getting plenty to build on from there.

Beginning tuning: DAD, Retune to DGD and be prepared to use a capo.


Cracking a Fiddle Tune

Novice & Up

Have you ever tried to learn a fiddle tune from a fiddler? Do you want to improve your “learning by ear” skills? Jim and Phyllis will give you some helpful tips and actually have you practice your listening and “cracking” skills to learn a tune. An audio recording device would be helpful but not required.

Tuning: All Ds or DAD


Noter Style Workshop for Beginner/Novice

Beginner & Novice


Are you interested in adding the noter style of dulcimer playing to your “bag of tricks”? For many folks the drone of the strings is what attracted them to the instrument. There are techniques for noter playing that help utilize the drone to its best affect. There are also noter and strumming techniques that help emphasize melody and/or rhythm. The emphasis will be on the technique of playing noter style not just the learning of tunes. We may utilize tunes you already know or maybe a new tune or two.

Tune possibilities are: Liza Jane ,Walkin’ in the Parlour, Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Cane.

Tuning: all Ds or DAD


Play Slow Songs Beautifully

Novice & Intermediate

Learn how to play slow melodies by plucking the notes out one at a time; secrets which facilitate smooth play; and chords and techniques to accompany others playing slow songs. 

Tuning: DAD


Hymns of Faith

Beginner – Intermediate

Praise God with these popular hymns. Learn left and right hand techniques to improve the play of both slow and fast songs. Build your repertoire of popular hymns and learn how to sing (optional) and play the dulcimer. 

Tuning: DAD


Play in Different Keys! 

Novice & Intermediate

It’s super easy! Learn how to play songs in different keys, how to use a capo, and how to retune to play in “G”, “A”, “Em”, “Am”, and “C”. Learn chord shapes and names when using a capo. 

Tuning: DAD

Old-Time Songs & Playing Tips for Beginners 


Have fun learning simple songs from the mountains. Develop playing skills for strumming and noting at your own pace. 


Old-Time Songs, Tunes, & Playing Techniques

Intermediate / Advanced

Old-Time Songs and Fiddle Tunes for Dulcimer. Develop economy of motion for strumming and noting while increasing your repertoire of traditional mountain music. 


Sacred Songs for Dulcimer

Intermediate / Advanced

Old-Time Sacred Songs and Hymns in both Major and Minor Keys.  

Beyond Beginners (3-Part Series)


Part 1 – Getting Your Hands and Brain in Sync!

We’ll reinforce some essentials first, including strumming techniques, reading tablature, basic chord positions, and more.  Then we’ll dig more deeply into efficient left-hand techniques including new chord shapes and fingering patterns.  The right hand will experiment with various strumming ideas and fingerpicking techniques.  Soon you’ll be confidently coordinating left and right hand techniques and starting to build your repertoire.

Part 2 – The WOW Factor!

Continuing to work sequentially from Part 1, we’ll add those special touches that will have you sounding like you’ve played dulcimer for a very long time! Focus will be on smooth left-hand chord progressions, anchoring and sliding, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and using a noter. The right hand will add expressive musical touches, using fingers or a pick.

Part 3 – Easy-Peasy Chords

Using the time-honored “Power Chord” system, you’ll learn how to play any chord you’ll ever need in several different keys. The knowledge of these chords will open all kinds of doors for you, giving you confidence and flexibility in any setting, including jams, performing at an open mic, or arranging a song in a key that’s comfortable for your own voice.


Variations on the Tune 

Intermediate / Advanced


Are you tired of playing the same old tune the same old way? In this workshop we’ll get creative, adding a countermelody and passing tones, using different chords or positions, and using the entire fretboard.  We’ll take our tab from the basic bare bones to a fancy version suitable for performance.

…This workshop uses “John Brown’s March” and “Columbus Stockade Blues” as the foundation to which we add all the fancy stuff

DAD Tuning


Adding New Dimensions

Intermediate / Advanced

Wow! I Never Knew a Dulcimer Could Sound Like That!
You’ve been playing your dulcimer for awhile, but are now looking for a fresh, new approach that will bring your playing to a new level. With your right hand you’ll learn various ways to fingerpick and brush, coaxing out the melody against a supportive harmonic background. With your left hand you’ll master the subtleties of smooth fretting techniques, including vibrato, anchors and slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and adding unique chord shapes and colors. Your packet of music will include an extensive and varied collection of familiar favorites treated in a completely different way, along with new, unfamiliar tunes that will challenge you, and add a new dimension to your repertoire. The result will be exquisitely beautiful playing, stylistically reminiscent of the best classical and jazz finger-style guitarists; you’ll create a mood that will have your audience exclaiming, “I never knew a dulcimer could sound like that!”

DAD Tuning / CAPO

First Class on Mountain Dulcimer (3-Parts)


Learn what the dulcimer is all about… You will learn about parts of your instrument, what a tuner is, different options for tuners, how to use it and how to read it.. You will learn about different types of strings, different gauges and where available. You will learn about different styles of playing, frets, notes, chords and strums. All of these terms refer to playing with a pick or picking with your fingers. A fret is the space between the vertical bars on the fingerboard. Learning where to put your fingers on which strings and in which frets. What that note in that fret on that string is and why knowing that will help you to play this instrument. How to put two or more notes together to play chords. And then Strumming.. learn how to create different rhythms by how you strum the strings.


Fingers don’t know where to go?

All Levels

We will experiment with several different methods for hand positions to optimize ease of motion. I hear all the time..”I get my fingers all twisted up and don’t know where to put them…” I will help you to become consistent with your choices.


Learn How to Play Harmony

Novice & Up

More about chords and how to find which ones to choose. How to play melody out of chords. A bit of beginner theory but not confusing or too in depth, just the basics.

We have compiled a list of common mountain dulcimer tunes that are often played during jam sessions. You may view or download a copy of the list as a word document here.