by Linda Ratcliff
I’m not weird . . . I’m a limited edition musician!
When you finally pack your new dulcimer in the bag, load it in the car, and find your way to your first jam session, you’re going to find out that not everyone plays the same way you do. As a matter of fact, some musicians’ styles aren’t even going to sound good to you. And if you’re going to a jam or workshop to learn, not everything you see and hear is going to make sense to you.
My style is to play slower tunes with a flowing backup. But others play with a hard beat – and fast. I play the melody louder than the background chords, and the total effect is a moderate level of volume. But you will encounter people who like to play really loud. And then there are those who are happiest when they can play even louder.
You will see mountain dulcimer players who play only one string at a time, and always press their strings with the same finger – some the thumb, others the pointer finger, and a few with a noter. But there are many who make use of all their fingers. Most mountain dulcimer players sit and hold the dulcimer on their laps. But I know people who can play standing up with a strap on their dulcimer.
On the hammered dulcimer, I tend to alternate right-left, right-left. But I see players who do much of their melody work with the left hammer, and use the right hammer to build chords between the bass bridge and the right side of the tenor bridge. And everyone seems to have a different way of holding their hammers!
I believe our dulcimer gatherings should be a “live and let live” environment. When a certain style or manner of playing works for a musician, appreciate their style. Celebrate their quirky techniques with them. Seeing others utilize unique tactics that help them play better may liberate you to discover some of your own original licks and tricks.
Above all, have fun. Dare to be different. Develop your own style. You may actually catch others imitating your quirky style!
As always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.