Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Mountain Dulcimer

When I was in the fourth grade, I had a music teacher who was fresh from the hills of Kentucky. She was a young, energetic woman, but alas, she did not last. I do not think our school could keep a music teacher for more than a year at a time. But I digress. One day she brought in her grandfather's prized musical instrument: a mountain dulcimer. I had never heard of such a thing and I was intrigued. Once I heard it played, I was enthralled. I never forgot that day.

Years later, I met a lady who taught dulcimer, both mountain, or lap, or Appalachian dulcimer, as well as the hammered dulcimer. By now I was hooked. I just had to have one. My first mountain dulcimer is truly akin to a toy: yes, it got me started, but it is like playing a kazoo when one wants to play the trumpet.

On the left is my 'real' dulcimer. The one on the right is my first. Both were handmade by local artisans. I will always cherish them.

Fortunately, our town boasts a good "People's University" program. My friend was able to get her beginner mountain dulcimer class into the program and I eagerly signed up. Well, the best I can say is that I am enthusiastic. I certainly am not diligent in playing (no, we don't 'practice') the dulcimer. Too many excuses, too few true reasons to play.

But it did inspire me to part with some of my hard-earned money and I bought a real dulcimer.

My 5 string dulcimer (2 melody strings, one drone string and 2 bass strings). The body is black walnut, the fret board is maple while the overlay is purple heartwood and the head is cherry. Please don't tell my husband, but I would love to have at least one more mountain dulcimer. I have my heart set on a sassafrass dulicmer with kitty-cat 'soundhole' cut-outs. Okay, a girl can dream, can't she?

All this cannot keep me from remembering the joy I first felt when I heard the mountain dulcimer played. Truly, that has to rate as one of the happiest days of my childhood.

Suggested mountain dulcimer music sources:

Please check out this authentic American musical invention (okay, it sprang from Celtic roots). In true American fashion, this instrument translates well from Northern European folk music, to African-American soul music, to American folk music.

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