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Morning Class Descriptions

Choose one class from the list below. Your morning class will meet each morning, Monday-Friday with the same instructor.

Note: The classes listed below are the regular Morning Classes.

Help me decide what level I should be in

LEVEL I - New Player Skills - Carol Crocker

Hooray! You have chosen to begin the exciting journey of learning how to play the mountain dulcimer. During our week at Dulcimer U you will be introduced to and become familiar with basic skills for a new or beginner player.

Goals for the week are for you to be able to play several simple and familiar dulcimer tunes and to come away with basic mountain dulcimer playing skills that will allow you continue to play, expand on what you have learned, and add to your repertoire for the mountain dulcimer.

Some topics will include:

  • How to hold, tune, and care for your dulcimer
  • Basic strumming techniques
  • Becoming familiar with basic music reading skills including note values and time signatures
  • How to read dulcimer tab and play by ear
  • Explore playing basic chords that will help when playing with others (or even in a jam!)
  • Explore some left-hand fingering techniques
  • Learning about other tunings, DAA, DAC, and DGD

Come enjoy learning to play the mountain dulcimer in a relaxed and encouraging environment…enjoy the music and enjoy the fellowship with other dulcimer players!

Contact Carol Crocker if you have any questions regarding this class.

Level II Skills (Advancing Beginners) – Laurie Alsobrook

Tired of Bile them Cabbage Down?  Well then, this is the course for you!!  Welcome to Advancing Beginners!  During your week at Dulcimer U, we will focus on continuing your journey with the mountain dulcimer, specifically in:

  • Reviewing and reinforcing beginner level skills
  • Advancing your left hand skills, both fingering and chording
  • Developing confidence with right hand skills - gaining comfort with your strum!
  • Gaining confidence with two and three finger chords
  • Playing well with others J (chords in the keys of D, G, and A)
  • Providing an introduction to finger-picking
  • Demystifying the capo
  • Developing listening skills to play a tune by ear
  • Getting out of a “jam” in a jam
  • Preparing you for the next level by increasing your level of confidence in your playing

The joy of playing a dulcimer is contagious!  Enjoy this fun class filled with lots of encouragement, laughter, fellowship, and smiles...not to mention beautiful music!!

Questions about this class? Please contact Laurie Alsobrook at 

The Sigogglin Flow of Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions – All skill levels welcome – Phyllis & Jim Gaskins

What a wonderful opportunity to learn about our dulcimer heritage through the eyes of a pair of Virginia treasures – Phyllis and Jim Gaskins!  This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity you don’t want to miss!

Phyllis writes - We all share a common journey in life of finding, learning to play, and loving the Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer.  Along the way, we have encountered various makers and players of the instrument.  We fell in love with the sound and beauty of these handcrafted instruments. 

The body structures of the instrument and the playing techniques vary, but it all started somewhere. That somewhere is the Wagon Road through the Great Valley of Virginia and into the mountainous regions of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  My journey took me from playing a traditional Tennessee dulcimer to a very different, older Virginia style of playing. 

Through demonstrations, recordings, slides, and actual hands-on activities we will explore the various tunings used by traditional players.  We will listen to and play many tunes and songs.  Each day, we will share stories and tunes using your dulcimer and several instruments from my collection of dulcimers, scheitholts, and hummels from VA , NC, TN, and Germany. 

Contact info: 


Level III Skills - Lower Intermediate – Tull Glazener

At this level, you have mastered basic strumming, are comfortable reading tab, and have used simple chords to play both melody and backup.   We'll begin to expand your knowledge of different chords, where to find them up and down the fretboard, and how and when to use them in chord-melody style playing.  We will primarily be using D-A-d tuning.

We'll also explore how to start to make your playing smoother, more expressive, and more efficient, introducing techniques such as slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and more.  We'll talk about different ways to strum, and introduce some flat-picking and finger-picking techniques. 

The repertoire we work on as examples for these techniques will be pulled from a wide range of musical genres, such as hymns and gospel songs, old-time fiddle tunes, waltzes and aires, international folk music, classical, rag-time, Tin Pan Alley, and more. We'll talk about how to play tunes in other keys by using a capo.

Finally, we'll spend some time exploring how to start coming up with your own arrangements of tunes.

Please have a capo, and also a pencil (with a good eraser!). 

If you have questions or need more information, feel free to drop Tull an e-mail at 

Arranging Music for the Dulcimer: Making Your Music Come Alive (Level III Lower Intermediate and up) - Irma Reeder

This class is being taught by one of the country’s most imaginative and expressive music arrangers, Irma Reeder of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  This is a wonderful opportunity to take your music to the next level by exploring creative ways to arrange the songs you love in a comfortable, hands-on environment.

  • 3-String Standard Dulcimer
  • DAD Tuning
  • Bring a Capo
  • Knowledge of Chords and Keys

Irma writes - At this level, you have a handle on the basics, have a working knowledge of chords and keys, and are ready to move on and explore ways to create fresh, original arrangements. You are comfortable reading tab and using basic chords. We will build on your knowledge of chords and keys to learn how to create arrangements that are uniquely yours.   By using various songs throughout the week, we will become familiar with a number of techniques.  Each day we will practice an element, break into small groups to create examples using that element that you will then share with the class.  By the end of the week you will have learned six techniques to help you produce wonderful, emotive arrangements. Throughout this class, we will focus on thinking ‘outside the box’, exploring and imagining exciting possibilities that you can add to the music you love.

If you have questions or need more information about this workshop, feel free to email Irma at 

BASS DULCIMER SKILLS I (Lower Intermediate Level 3 and up) - Jim Miller

In addition to reading this class description, you should also read the class prerequisites at the end of the description.

The bass dulcimer is a magnificent addition to the mountain dulcimer family and adds a needed foundation and tonal warmth to standard dulcimer groups and music jams. Perhaps you’ve been intrigued with its sound but haven’t quite figured out how to best utilize it yourself to its maximum potential.  Participants will explore its strengths as an accompanying instrument especially in mimicking the techniques used by the upright or electric bass player.

The class will focus mainly on the alternating bass line which fits the bulk of the traditional mountain dulcimer repertoire.  Participants will learn what to do on the bass whether in 4/4, 3/4, or 6/8 time signatures and how to “get fancy” (walk-ups, walk-downs, etc.) between chord changes. There will be time devoted to interval ear training which will allow participants to become not solely dependent on tablature to play bass lines.  A variety of ways to experience these skills will be offered during the week including practical applications like being the lone bass player in a group. As time permits, students will be exposed to other types of bass line patterns that fits other genres of music such as cowboy, blues, boogie woogie, and rock ‘n roll.

Prerequisites:  bass dulcimer with 1+ fret, ability to perform barre chords efficiently, and knowledge of chord shapes.  Required texts (available in class): “Bass Dulcimer Basics,” by Jim Miller & “It’s All About the Bass Dulcimer,” by Elaine Conger.

Questions about this class? Contact Jim Miller at 

The Art of Fingerstyle Dulcimer (Level III Lower Intermediate and up) – Nina Zanetti

This class will focus exclusively on learning to play fingerstyle mountain dulcimer. We will assume no prior knowledge of how to fingerpick, and therefore will begin with a step-by-step approach to the basics. Later in the week, we will work on how to make fingerstyle playing sound musical, and we will explore some special applications of the fingerpicking technique.  Specific topics will include:
“How to”: role of right-hand technique in creating various arpeggiated chord patterns; role of the left hand in playing chord transitions; consideration of different approaches to fingerpicking; coping with fingerstyle tab.
Refining your sound: how to bring out the melody notes and create smooth melodic lines;  how to incorporate dynamics and phrasing into your playing; how to produce a mellow, full sound.
Some special applications: use of fingerstyle playing for accompaniment and special arranging styles (e.g. Travis picking).
Fingerstyle arranging: How to create a fingerstyle arrangement from tab that was arranged for strumming or simple chord-melody style.
This class will be appropriate for LEVEL III (lower intermediate) and LEVEL IV (upper intermediate) players with no prior experience in fingerstyle playing.   Players of more advanced levels who have limited experience in fingerpicking may also find it helpful but do be aware that a considerable part of the class will focus on presenting the basics of fingerstyle technique. Materials will include both “etudes” (practice exercises) for mastering the technique, as well as lovely tunes for gaining experience and expertise in applying what we’ve learned.
Repertoire will include Celtic airs, lullabies, and other gentle types of music.  Tablature will generally be aimed for the lower intermediate level, so that we can focus on the technique and on playing musically and expressively; somewhat more challenging tab may be introduced as the week progresses, to illustrate the potential of fingerstyle playing.
 In order to be able to enjoy and learn from this class, participants need solid intermediate-level skills, including the ability to read tablature and fluency in  playing 2- and 3-finger chords and in chord-melody style playing.
Tuning: will be primarily DAD, with occasional excursions into DGD, DAC, and possibly DAA.
String setup:  3 strings (preferably only one melody string)
Other instrument-related needs: your instrument will need a 6.5 fret and, if possible, a reasonably wide fingerboard; please bring a capo; fingerpicks are not required (I will be teaching bare-finger style of finger-picking)
Questions about this class?  Contact Nina at  

BASS DULCIMER SKILLS II -  (Level 3 Lower Intermediate and up) - Elaine Conger

In addition to reading this class description, you also need to read the class prerequisites at the end of the description before enrolling.
This class takes your bass dulcimer skills beyond the alternating bass line pattern which fits with so much of the traditional dulcimer repertoire.  (If you’re not fluent with that technique – that is, being able to alternate the 1st and 5th degrees of the scale dependent on the chord, knowing when to walk up or down, and to do both by ear without tablature – then you should consider the Bass I class instead of this one.)
Even though the alternating pattern is the foundational skill of all bass instrument players, man cannot live with just “boom, boom,” right?  In this class, you’ll explore how to make the bass play “back up,” meaning in an accompaniment style while simultaneously adding bass lines. Participants will have additional bass line accompaniments added to their vocabulary including walking bass lines and patterns that fit genres like blues, boogie woogie and rock ‘n roll.
Prerequisites:  bass dulcimer tuned DAd with 1+ fret, ability to perform barre chords efficiently, knowledge of chords and chord shapes, and mastery of the alternating bass technique without depending on tablature.

Questions about this class? Contact Elaine Conger at 

Level IV Skills (Upper Intermediate) – Butch Ross

This class is a soup-to-nuts look at playing the dulcimer from the ground up.  We will learn fingering and strumming techniques, chords, improvisation, ear training and even music theory in fun and enlightening ways.

We will take familiar tunes and strip them down to their simplest fundamental elements.  Then we will build them back up to create even
more complicated arrangements.  You will learn to strum smoothly, expressively and fast (as fast as you care to anyway) with eye towards learning complete control of your instrument. Learn to play what you hear in your head.
This is a 3-string class in DAD tuning.  A double-melody string is fine, but not necessary.  An instrument with a 1.5 fret is helpful but not required. A capo is required.  We will learn to play in multiple keys with and without a capo, sometimes in the same song.
Learn to play or pick ALL the notes in common fiddle tunes, as well as how to play very sparsely (You’ll be surprised at which one is harder).  Learn when and where to add new notes and embellishments into fiddle tunes without getting in the way of other players.  Learn chords—and more importantly—voice leading.  And finally, learn to make noises on the instrument that just sound cool.
Sound too good to be true?  It isn’t.  But it does take time, and you will change as a player.  Not all of this can be completed in 4 days, but in 4 days you will have learned the tools and techniques to bring your playing to the next level.
This class does expect you to do some homework, but ample time will be provided in class as well to absorb concepts.  There will be handouts, but also bring a notebook of some sort.  Finally, recording devices are welcome and encouraged.  And I will set aside some time at the end of class to demonstrate/review what we’ve done, so you can film it with your phones if you want.  Any questions about this class please write me make sure that you include the words “Dulcimer U” in the subject line.

Questions about this class? Contact Butch Ross at 

Master Class – Level V Beyond Intermediate - Aaron O’Rourke

Please read this entire description before enrolling to be sure that this class is suitable for your skill level.  No class time will be spent reviewing the skills you should already know.
The difference between a Master Class and a normal workshop is in the structure. Unlike a typical dulcimer workshop where the teacher passes out sheet music, in this Master Class, participants will bring their own music to class and have the opportunity to get feedback from the instructor as well as their peers in a supportive and fun atmosphere. The goal of this class is for participants to refine the music they already enjoy for the sake of improving flow, dynamics, phrasing, overall arrangement, and performability.
Each participant is asked to bring 3-4 pieces they have been working on and play these pieces for Aaron and the other members of the class. Everyone will be active participants in helping each other grow as Aaron along with other classmates will offer ideas to explore in order to improve the piece. Time will be given for participants to start exploring and implementing the ideas offered in the critique. Time permitting, each participant will have an opportunity to follow up and get feedback of the changes made to the arrangement.
This Master Class is geared towards Level V players and is not limited to solo participants; small ensembles and duets are welcome (aka strongly encouraged) to participate.  The only absolute requirements for this class are a dulcimer and a positive attitude; however, it is highly recommended that all students come to class with a notebook, pencil, eraser, music stand, tuner, and capo.  To help get the most out of this experience, students are encouraged to bring the arrangements they plan to play in class and have the tablature available for Aaron and the other members of class.
Questions about this class?  Contact Aaron at 

Dulcimer Building (all welcome) Ed Gaunt

In this year’s building course, Ed Gaunt has teamed up with Mike Clemmer to introduce a new creation: The Dulcimer U Whee-Jammer!  This is a unique dulcimer-banjo hybrid that we have developed specifically for this year’s WCU Dulcimer U Building Course.  You can build this instrument even if you have never done any woodworking at all!  Ed will guide you through each step of the process and will provide all the tools and materials needed for the build.

Although the Whee-Jammer is unique, Ed will also give a good explanation of those building techniques that are common to the construction of the traditional mountain dulcimer.  These include fingerboard preparation, fret installation, string selection and set-up, sound-hole design, wood inlay and ornamentation, gluing and clamping techniques, and the all-important wood finishing process. We will also discuss on-going dulcimer maintenance, and at the end of the course Mike Clemmer will provide instruction on how to play your new Whee-Jammer.

This course will require attendance at both the morning and afternoon sessions each day to complete the build. Due to space limitations and sharing of tools, the class will be limited to the first five students to enroll.

In addition to the class tuition and other expenses, each student will pay a $250 fee to cover the cost of the Whee-Jammer kit, building supplies, tool usage, and other expendable materials needed to build the instrument. This fee will be paid to the instructor on the first day of class.

If you have any questions regarding this course, Ed can be contacted at 


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