Instruction books & videos I’ve used
There’s actually a fair amount of instructional material available for the hammered dulcimer. Here I’ll discuss the books and videos that I’ve used, along with information about where to purchase this stuff and some links to other book and video information on the web.
Hammered Dulcimer Instruction Videos
John McCutcheon – “Hammer Dulcimer.” This tape really helped me to get a feel for how the instrument is tuned and played. He also teaches some nice tunes. Available at Homespun Tapes.
Walt Michael – “Hammer Dulcimer Tunes and Techniques” Here Walt Michael “teaches a wide variety of tunes on this 90-minute lesson, breaking them down and describing the techniques (drones, chords, rolls, tremolos, harmony lines, etc.) that will enable you to play them smoothly and proficiently.” Tunes include “Snowblind”, “Bermudaful”, “McKimm’s Reel”, “Devil’s Dream”, “Hawks and Eagles”, “Little Rabbit”, “Gray Cat on the Tennessee Farm”, “The Breakdown”, “The Black Nag”, “Rock the Cradle Joe” and “Pirate’s Prayer”. Available at Homespun Tapes.
Walt Michael – “Celtic Tunes for Hammer Dulcimer” “Concentrating on the great Celtic musical tradition, Walt Michael draws on tunes from Ireland, Scotland, Northern England and the Shetland Islands, slowing them down and taking them apart for the learning instrumentalist. Tunes include “Sh’beg Sh’more”, “Planxty Irwin”, “Morgan Magan”, “The Final March of Mary, Queen of Scots”, “Down the Brae”, “Slockett Light”, “Cuckoo’s Nest”, “The Fair-Haired, White-Skinned Calf”, “The Rights of Man”, and “South Wind.”Available at Homespun Tapes.
Hammered Dulcimer Instruction Books
Carrie Crompton – “Hammer Dulcimer Solos, Vol. 1.” I like this book because it focuses on full arrangements for solo hammered dulcimer. It has 21 tunes including stuff by O’Carolan (“Planxty Irwin”, “Planxty George Brabazon”, “Carolan’s Concerto”), other Irish music such as “The Road to Lisdoonvarna”, and some “classical” stuff such as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, “Greensleeves”, “Minuet from the Lute Suite in E”, etc.
Carrie Crompton – “Hammer Dulcimer Solos, Vol. 2.” Another 35 tunes arranged for solo hammered dulcimer. Includes Carrie’s beautiful arrangement of “Simple Gifts”, along with a wide variety of tunes from around the world.
Linda Lowe Thompson – “Hammered Dulcimer Christmas” Linda makes great books. This one is a pretty large collection of Christmas tune arrangements. This is a “must buy”.
Linda Lowe Thompson – “Classical Hammered Dulcimer” Solos and Duets for All Levels.
Linda Lowe Thompson – “Hammered Dulcimer Notebook” This book focuses on arranging techniques and ideas for embellishing arrangements.
Linda Lowe Thompson – “Sacred Hammered Dulcimer” Arrangements of hymns. I haven’t working with this one much, but it looks very promising.
Karen Ashbrook – “Playing the Hammered Dulcimer in the Irish Tradition” A fantastic, very thorough book on playing Irish tunes on hammered dulcimer.
Karen Ashbrook – “Hills of Erin” Music from Karen’s CD of the same name. It includes Karen’s arrangement of Bach’s “Prelude from the 1st Cello Suite”. I haven’t looked at that yet since I am working on my own arrangement of the Prelude, but I do know that Karen arranged it in the key of G whereas I am working in the key of D. I’m sure she knows something I don’t, but I’m going to keep plugging away at my version anyway.
Lucille Reilly – “Striking Out and Winning” A music-maker’s guide to the hammered dulcimer for beginning through intermediate players. This book is very good at describing the technical aspects of how you should hold the hammers and strike the strings, etc. It meticulously goes through all the little details you might want to think about to improve your technique. I used this book for about the first three months. The tunes are all contra dance type of stuff, though, which is not what I’m interested in, so I’ve looked elsewhere to build up a repertoire of songs that I actually like to play.
Most of the above books should also be available at Elderly Instruments.