Before choosing your class...
Explanation of Skill Levels - Not sure of your ability level? Below you will find a list of specific skills and techniques you might expect to be addressed in each of the classes being offered at Dulcimer U. This information should serve as a guideline to help you determine which class is best suited for you.
LEVEL I - New Player/Beginner
- Tuning and caring for your dulcimer
- Finding the most comfortable playing position
- Learning to play in time
- Identification of note values - whole, half, quarter and eighth notes
- Understanding common time signatures - 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 time
- Playing from tablature (an easy form of music notation) and by ear
- Introduction of basic chords to help you play with others
- Basic right hand techniques for strumming, flat-picking and finger-picking
- Basic left hand techniques for noting and chording
LEVEL II - Beyond Beginner
- Review and reinforcement of basic beginner level concepts
- Provide a transition between beginner and intermediate levels
- Develop and encourage confidence in playing
- Discussion of chords and ways to backup other musicians in the key of D and other keys
- Continued improvement of various strumming and picking techniques
- Basic knowledge of the most used chords - two and three fingers
- Ways and means to get away from the tab and play tunes by ear
- Introduction of the capo
- Preparation for future advancement into Intermediate level instruction
Level III - Lower Intermediate
- Review and reinforcement of the Level II Beyond Beginner level concepts
- Improvement of tab reading skills (a separate elective class in tab reading skills will also be offered for those needing extra help)
- Basic music theory as it applies to the dulcimer (a afternoon theory elective will help to reinforce these concepts)
- Expansion of more intricate strumming and picking patterns
- Development of the most useful practice habits
- Improvement of counting various rhythms
- Understanding three finger chords and exploration of their various positions on the fretboard
- Transitions up and down the fingerboard
- Playing music in multiple styles
- Introduction to hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides
Level IV - Upper Intermediate
- Review of 3 finger chords. (this level assumes that the participant already has a working knowledge of these chords)
- Use of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides to facilitate speed and fluidity - where and why to use them
- Use of the capo at various locations on the dulcimer fretboard
- Smoothing out your playing - playing more expressively and dynamically
- Embellishment of basic tunes to create a more interesting arrangement
- Enhancing fretting hand techniques, ornaments
- Playing above the seventh fret to generate more interest
- Exploration of alternate tunings
- Hearing chords changes and improving ability to play by ear
LEVEL V - Beyond Intermediate
- Focus on musicality in an effort to make your music sound less "mechanical"
- Rearrange basic tunes in a more dynamic and creative manner
- Exploration of a wide variety of music styles and genres in an effort to add variety to your performances
- Efficiency and consistency of fingering
- Playing in different keys while tuned DAD
- Performance skills
- Ornamentations, tips, tricks and twists
- Effective memorization techniques
THE SKILLS CLASSES
These classes are from the 2013 program. 2014 information will be posted soon. Please check back.
LEVEL I - New Player/Beginner Skills – Janita Baker
This course is designed for those who have never played the dulcimer or have only been playing for a short time and wish to begin at the beginning. The curriculum will help new players to establish basic dulcimer playing skills and give them the foundation needed to continue learning and making music on their instruments. This is a unique opportunity to learn from one of the most patient and nurturing mountain dulcimer instructors in the country. No musical or dulcimer playing experience is necessary for this class. The only requirement is a desire to play the dulcimer, make music and have fun.
Course goals: to enable you to play the dulcimer with confidence, and to give you the desire and fundamentals to continue your dulcimer experience.
- Tuning and caring for your dulcimer
- Playing from tablature (an easy form of music notation) and by ear, learning to play in time and to use basic chords to enhance melody
- Timing and rhythm
- Basic right and left hand techniques for both strumming and fingerpicking
- Simple left hand embellishments including slides and pull-offs and hammer-ons
The class will be playing a wide variety of music including well-known traditional, folk and classical songs; we will focus on learning at the speed that suits each individual member of the class — no players left behind!
This morning skills class will continue into the afternoon on Monday and Tuesday with other members of the Dulcimer U staff stepping in to tutor and reinforce the concepts learned during the morning session. Contact Janita at firstname.lastname@example.org for more detailed info on this class.
LEVEL II - Beyond Beginner Skills - Madeline MacNeil
This class reinforces skills learned as a beginner while adventuring onward to other levels desired by the dulcimer player, acting as a bridge between two popular skill levels. If the Level I Beginner Skills Class seems a bit too elementary and you don't think you're ready for the Level III Intermediate Skills Class, this is the place for you.
Directed by one of the most well respected, patient and thorough instructors to be
found anywhere, Maddie MacNeil will methodically work with each class participant
to improve skills and techniques. Ease with strumming will lead into fingerpicking
while notes played by the left hand on the melody string will lead into notes easily
played on the middle and bass strings. The class will explore methods of arranging
melodies on the dulcimer using written tablature as a guide instead of “This is the
only way to play this tune.”
Not sure if you’re suited for this class? Be sure to read the Explanation of Skill Levels to help you decide.
Useful items to bring to the class include a tuner, capo, extra strings, pen and paper and a music stand. For any questions, please contact Maddie at email@example.com
LEVEL III - Intermediate Level Skills - Sue Carpenter
Want to build on your existing skills and further hone your techniques to become a more polished player? Then Sue Carpenter’s highly organized methods and energetic enthusiasm will be your passport to the intermediate level. This is a wonderful opportunity to study with the 2005 National Mountain Dulcimer Champion.
You will go home with a full load of new skills, exercises to practice, and musical arrangements covering both strumming and individual string picking. Hand-outs will also include helpful chord, fretboard, and mode charts. Repertoire will be varied from around the world and will serve as a means to teach such skills, topics, and concepts as:
Developing your knowledge of chords—fingering, shapes, positions, progressions
- Improving your tablature reading skills
- Embellishing and polishing your playing using hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and harmonics
- Using a capo in DAD and DGD tunings
- Understanding basic music theory as it applies to scales, modes, keys, tunings, and timing
- Expanding your strumming rhythms and picking patterns
- Discovering how to play melody and scales across the strings and in different octaves
- Learning good practice habits to increase speed and accuracy plus helpful tips to play from memory and by ear
- Playing with sensitivity, expression, and dynamics
What do you need to bring to the class? Along with a positive can-do attitude, you’ll need an adventurous spirit to explore new possibilities and to stretch your abilities to the next level. Physical gear to bring to class: music stand, flatpick, fingerpicks/thumb pick (optional), tuner, capo, extra strings, pencil, highlighter, blank tab paper, and note pad.
The course will be challenging, but Sue will make sure you have fun along the way and will serve up a healthy dose of nurturing when needed. Be sure to register early because space is limited and this class is a popular selection. If you have questions regarding Sue’s class or would like to receive a detailed course syllabus, you can contact Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org
LEVEL IV – Beyond Intermediate Skills – Gary Gallier
This is a very comprehensive study in Melodic Flatpicking on the dulcimer, taught by the 1987 National Mountain Dulcimer Champion, Gary Gallier and directed toward the player who is moving beyond Intermediate.
Even experienced players can benefit from new skills, and the techniques covered will open up new musical realms, new voices to your arrangements, more precision to your playing, and a broader pallet of creativity. From high energy to beautiful and flowing, we will draw from all the notes available on the dulcimer, on all strings, whether those are found in cross string scales, individual notes in chords, or full chord melody. The class starts with the basics of what it’s all about, and moves sequentially into more advanced specifics in techniques, using new repertoire that exemplify these new skills. Integrating flatpicking into your existing style will also be covered, allowing the participant to come away as a more advanced player. Subjects to be covered include:
- Sources of Cross String Melody – Scales and associated chords
- Patterned Chord Arpeggios – picking hand approaches and patterns
- The Alternating Pick Method – understanding pick direction, become automatic with your picking hand
- Effective Use of the Thumb – improve reach and efficiency of movement
- Arranging in Fretboard Regions – same melodies, different voices
- Playing Cross Key - scales and songs in various keys out of full open DAD, no capo.
- All About Choices –effective execution strategies, which note, what finger, which string, and why.
- Playing for an Audience – mindset, stage presence, song selection, engagement.
There will be lots of hands on practicing as subjects are taught, but the goal of this course is directed at a confident understanding of the material more than how well you can execute while learning it. Feel free to bring a tape recorder, and a note pad could be helpful. If you have questions, or want more details about the class, please contact Gary Gallier at DulcimerCentral@Gmail.com
THE SPECIALIZED CURRICULUM
Beautiful Songs for the Dulcimer – Ralph Lee Smith (suitable for Level II, III & IV
Ralph Lee Smith is considered the foremost authority on the history and development of the mountain dulcimer in Appalachia. We are thrilled that Ralph is returning to Western Carolina University for Dulcimer U in 2013! Ralph describes his morning course in this manner:
The dulcimer comes to us from the mountain world. In this course, students will learn songs of the world from which the dulcimer came. Together, the songs and the dulcimer constitute one of America's great musical heritages.The songs that will be taught in this course were collected in the mountains in the early 20th Century, long before the post-World-War-II Folk Revival. A few, such as "Black is the Color" and "The Cherry Tree Carol," entered the Folk Revival in substantially the same form as originally collected in Appalachia. However, much more often, the original field-collected versions differ from the versions that were popularized by professional folk singers in the 60s, and some of the most beautiful songs never entered the Folk Revival at all. Now, for the first time, the original tunes are laid out in dulcimer tab, for you to learn and play.
Here are some pointers:
- Most of the songs were field-collected from 1916-1918 by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles, during 54 weeks that they spent collecting in the Appalachians.
- Tab and words will be provided for each song. All can be played by anyone from Level II skills and up, who has been introduced to basic chording and picking.
- In the interest of historical accuracy, DAA tuning is used for all Ionian songs and none of the arrangements require the us of the 6 1/2 or other additional frets.
- The tunes are in four different modes, Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian and Aeolian, just as collect in the mountains. Retuning for each mode will be taught.
- Emphasis will be on learning the tunes. Students can take the tunes home, practice singing the words to the ones they like best, and head for their folk club or coffeehouse.
Some comments from last year's students include"
- "Bring Ralph Lee Smith back every year"
- "A wealth of information"
- "A true American treasure"
- "I wish I could take him home with me"
- "Everybody's favorite dulcimer historian"
If you have questions for Ralph regarding this course, please contact him at email@example.com.
Dulcimer Building – Bob Magowan (all skill levels welcome – no dulcimer playing skills
One of the most sought after luthiers in the dulcimer community, Bob Magowan comes to Dulcimer U each year from Memphis, Tennessee to teach the dulcimer building class. In his course, participants will build a McSpadden Sweet Song dulcimer. You can do this even if you have never done any woodworking! Bob will guide you through each step of the process and will provide all the forms, tools and materials needed to construct the dulcimer.
This is an excellent opportunity for spouses of mountain dulcimer players or anyone interested in learning the mountain dulcimer construction process. In addition, students will receive the satisfaction from playing an instrument that they personally built. You will end up with a well designed, easy-to-play, great sounding instrument that will give you years of satisfaction.
If time permits Bob will teach the basics of playing the dulcimer for those who have never played. This course will require both the morning and afternoon sessions each day to complete the dulcimer. Due to space limitations and sharing of tools, the class will be limited to the first ten students to enroll. In addition to the class tuition and other expenses each student will pay a $200 fee to cover the cost of materials, supplies, tool usage and the forms on which to build the dulcimer. This fee will be paid to the instructor on the first day of class.
If you have any questions regarding this course, Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Caregiving and Comfort using the Mountain Dulcimer – An Introduction: Playing In Healthcare and Other Special Settings - Lorinda Jones (suitable for Level III & IV skills)
Do you enjoy playing your dulcimer for others? Are you perplexed by all the certification and degree programs in this growing field? Do you want to discover how YOU can use your dulcimer skills in an appropriate way that may benefit others? If so, this is the course for you!
This class was presented at Dulcimer U in 2012 and received an extremely enthusiastic response from the participants! Many folks who didn’t have an opportunity to take the class last year requested that it be offered again in 2013.
Lorinda Jones, a Board Certified Music Therapist from Elizabethtown, Kentucky has designed a wonderfully crafted curriculum to help participants learn about the varied training programs currently in existence, discuss ethics and guidelines of playing for others in a variety of settings, examine why we choose the music we play, and work on individual performance skills. PLUS, these new ideas will be put to practice in an off campus field trip to a nearby pre-approved healthcare facility toward the end of the session! This week long morning course does not offer certification, but it will serve as an opportunity to learn and decide which, if any, continued training or education in this field is right for you.
Please bring a variety of music that you like to play. Other helpful items for the class are: a music stand (or dulcimer stand) and a portable chair or stool for playing in a remote place.
Reviews from last year’s class include:
- “This class challenged me to be more purposeful with my playing,”
- “This class gave me a direction for my music and increased my self confidence.”
- “Applying what I learned in an off campus setting helped encourage me to go home and begin improving my skills for various healthcare performance opportunities.”
- “Without question, this was the most useful and inspiring class I have attended at any dulcimer event.”
Feel free to the contact Lorinda Jones by email email@example.com if you have questions as to whether or not this course is right for you. Please be aware that this course is designed for Level III and IV skill players (see Explanation of Skill Levels)
Master Class – Larry Conger (suitable for Levels III & IV)
Don't let the title mislead you. The Master Class is not designed for masters of the dulcimer ... rather it is intended for those who want to master their dulcimer. Geared toward Level III & IV players (see Explanation of Skill Levels), the Master Class will give students the opportunity to expand their knowledge and command of the instrument through one on one interaction with the instructor as well as with the other students in the class. The Master Class is being led this year by one of the Dulcimer U Directors, Larry Conger who is the 1998 National Mountain Dulcimer Champion.
Participants will be asked to bring 3-4 pieces they have been working on and play these pieces for Larry while in the presence of the other class members. It is preferred that these pieces be tabbed out on paper in advance with copies made available to the instructor and each class member. Larry will then provide insight and constructive recommendations as to how the musical arrangements can be improved, while allowing the other participants in the class to listen and learn from observation. Each participant will take a turn playing his/her pieces in the class and being evaluated. Participants will then be challenged to address the suggestions made in the class and begin incorporating the ideas into their playing. By the end of the week, participants will present the same pieces (as time permits) and will be re-evaluated to determine if the suggestions made in the class were beneficial. This interactive approach should help each participant to learn from the instructor as well as the other class members. The ultimate goal will be to give your playing a new direction and take it to the next level, while instilling confidence in your ability as a player.
The class is not only open to solo players but also to ensembles who are looking for help or a new direction with their playing. All class participants must be Level III or Level IV players (see Explanation of Skill Level Designations), come prepared to play 3-4 pieces each, be somewhat comfortable playing in front of others, willing to share thoughts and ideas in a class forum and be open to new ideas and suggestions. Students should come to class with a notebook, pencil, eraser and highlighter, electronic tuner, extra strings and a capo … Oh yes, and a dulcimer! A small digital recorder could also be a useful tool.
*A limited number of students will be admitted into this class. Master Classes traditionally ask prospective students to submit a recording of themselves in order to be considered for the class. The chosen songs for criteria auditions this year are Southwind, Greensleeves and The Water Is Wide. You may choose one of the three for your audition. The recording can be in the form of a cassette, CD, WAV or MP3 file, with the preferred format being MP3 attached to an e-mail. Audition recordings should be sent to Larry at the address shown below before June 15. Be sure to include your e-mail address along with your submission so that Larry can contact you. Larry Conger, PO Box 131, Paris, TN 38242 or TNDulciman@aol.com
How To Learn Tunes By Ear – Marsha Harris (suitable for Levels II, III & IV)
This class is a new offering this year and will be taught by Marsha Harris, a well-respected musician on the mountain dulcimer, bowed dulcimer, fiddle and Native American flute. She has been a regular staff member at past Dulcimer U events - always eager to share her knowledge and love for music with the participants. Marsha describes her class like this:
Heard a good tune, but can’t figure out how to play it without tab? Tired of taking your big ring binder full of tunes to jams? You can learn to play the dulcimer or any music instrument without written music. I will walk you through the process of how to listen and learn tunes without tab and then begin to play those tunes. The more you work through the process the easier it will become. A variety of tunes will be presented throughout the week and we should have a lot of fun learning them by ear. Be aware that the class is for those who are familiar with their instrument’s fretboard, DAD tuning will be used as will the capo.
The benefits of learning to play music by ear include:
- Eliminate or reduce your dependence on printed tablature
- The ability to learn new tunes without needing to search for them in print
- Improved aural skills
- Improved interval recognition
- Improved chord structure recognition
- Make tunes sound more musical and less mechanical
- Make interaction with other musicians easier and more fun
From Player to Teacher: Best Practices of Mountain Dulcimer Instruction - Joe Collins
(open to advanced intermediate and advanced players)
So, you’ve learned some great things on the dulcimer and wonder what the next step is? How about sharing the joy by learning the best ways to teach others what you have learned? It is one thing to become a good player; it is quite another to become an effective teacher. This is the core class for those interested in a certification program in dulcimer teaching being developed by WCU. Additional requirements for this course can be met in the afternoon during the elective schedule (see suggested topics) or during Winter Weekend in January. Whether you are giving private lessons in your home or at national workshops, this class will give you the tools to become a better mountain dulcimer teacher. The focus of this course will be on effectively teaching beginners, but it will serve as a pedagogical foundation for whatever level of teaching you plan to do. Some of the topics include:
- Analysis of your own playing technique and translating that into great instruction.
- Putting together plans of instruction.
- Putting together plans of instruction for different ages, from children to senior adults.
- Best teaching practices that will make your students want to continue to come back.
- Making use of good, instructional material.
- Teaching by demonstration.
- Finding an appropriate pace for students.
This class will be headed up by Dr. Joe Collins with input from some other experienced workshop leaders. You may know Joe as the 2007 National Champion and frequent instructor at festivals and workshops around the country, but in his real life, he has a doctorate in Adult Education. He has spent the bulk of his professional career teaching teachers how to teach in the context of Religious Education. He loves doing the same in the dulcimer world.
Geared toward Level III and IV players (see Explanation of Skill Levels), Students will be expected to bring three pieces with them that they are capable of playing very well at an Intermediate or Advanced level. If you are not certain whether you play at that level, please send a simple recording of your playing to Dr. Joe at 1010 Castlewood DR; Shelby, NC 28150 or to firstname.lastname@example.org and he will give you some feedback. If you are struggling with intermediate to advanced pieces of music, this is probably not the most beneficial course of study for you at Dulcimer U, and you may be asked to transfer to a skill-level class where your needs will be better served.
Mountain Dulcimer Ensemble – Larry & Elaine Conger (all skill levels welcome)
Enjoy the experience of playing with others in a group setting. This class will provide you with an opportunity to put to use the skills and techniques you will be learning in your morning skills class while offering you a chance to perform with a group of your dulcimer friends as part of a “Dulcimer Band.” The class is being offered to Dulcimer U participants in addition to the morning skills and afternoon elective classes. It will take place each afternoon following the elective classes and before the evening meal, so that it does not conflict with any other classes you may want to attend. All skill levels are welcome to participate. If you have a baritone or bass dulcimer, you are encouraged to bring them with you. Lorinda Jones has been invited to direct the class one day during the week. In the past, the Ensemble Class has been the highlight of the week for many Dulcimer U participants so plan to join the fun. Contact Larry Conger at TNDulciman@aol.com if you have questions regarding this class.