Teacher or Self-Taught?

Teacher or Self-Taught?

by Linda Ratcliff

A self-taught man usually has a poor teacher and a worse student.
– Henry Youngman  


Teacher or Self-Taught?

I am pretty much self taught. Peggy Carter got me started with a few lessons in Houston. And then I joined Rick Thum’s Song of the Month Club to learn several jammin’ tunes over time. And I had the opportunity to attend a few festivals in the early days. But, for the most part, my arrangements are self taught. 

What do you think … is that the best way to go?

I went online to see what others say, and found a wide variety of comments. Those in favor of having a teacher said …

    • I progress faster and further with a teacher to encourage, cajole and generally be a critical pair of ears.
    • A teacher already knows and can explain what you might spend hours trying to learn from the internet.
  • A teacher can point out details you would likely never notice yourself, such as how you hold your hand/fingers or if your rhythm is unsteady.

Those in favor of being self-taught said …

    • I’m glad that I taught myself because now I feel like I have my own style of playing.
    • I like to watch other people play, and I probably learn more from that than I would from the lessons themselves.
  • I like to “homeschool” my music lessons. I have learned to play several instruments by simply watching videos on YouTube.

I have TWO suggestions.

1. If you don’t want to take weekly lessons, it’s perfectly OK to self-teach for a month, then book a one-hour lesson to get pointers on your technique, areas for improvement, and suggestions on exercises. If you don’t live near a teacher, there are several who will Skype a lesson with you, including our own Steve Eulberg.

2. You could sign up for lessons online with Dulcimer Crossing. Then you can set your own schedule, and login to learn new tunes when you have time. You can cancel at any time, but you probably won’t. We keep a steady influx of new lessons coming in, and you won’t want to miss a single one.

Taking lessons or not, PRACTICE will be the main thing that makes the difference with your dulcimer skills. No teacher can change that. And make sure you spend time learning the songs you love – which might not be the tunes most dulcimer players are playing. Nothing kills your motivation like trying to learn tunes that don’t interest you. 

As always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.


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Peekaboo Waltz for Hammered Dulcimer

Peekaboo Waltz for Hammered Dulcimer

Steve Eulberg has created a new lesson for this delightful old-time waltz, the Peekaboo Waltz to be played on the hammered dulcimer.

This lesson features two different ways to play chord back up (such as Steve plays in his duo Fiddle Whamdiddle with Vi Wickam) as well as a fancier solo version.

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New Lesson! Asika Thali

New Lesson! Asika Thali

Neal Hellman is providing us with a new lesson that features a 4-Equi-Distant String set-up (but could also be played on a mountain dulcimer in the familiar DAdd tuning.)

This song comes to us from South Africa where it was sung regularly as part of the freedom struggle under apartheid rule.

This is Neal’s introduction to the tune.

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Caledonian Club for St. Patrick’s Day`

Caledonian Club for St. Patrick’s Day`

by Steve Eulberg

We have a new Strathspey to learn in time for St. Patrick’s Day for both Mountain and Hammered Dulcimers!

Steve introduces the Mountain Dulcimer series here:

He introduces the Hammered Dulcimer series here:

Subscribe to and you’ll have access to all of these lessons, and MORE!


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New Navigation FAQ Video

New Navigation FAQ Video

Here at DulcimerCrossing we are always seeking to improve the learning experience and the latest is a new system of Navigation on the Lessons Page.

Steve has created a new FAQ video which explains these new features.

Here is summary:

Lessons arranged by Playing Level.

Lessons arranged by Genre.

Lessons arranged by Teacher/Instrument.

Please ask us if you have any questions so that we can help you bridge the gap between what you know and where you want your music to go!


Skill Levels? How do I compare?

Skill Levels? How do I compare?
by Steve Eulberg

All of us ask this question at some time or another.

What is my skill level as a musician?  What is my skill level on THIS instrument that I am learning to play?

From a practical perspective, this is how many festivals and workshops ask us to assess ourselves as we enroll in classes and workshops.  I learned this first hand when I started the Colorado Dulcimer Festival many years ago.  This was the question asked both by the students and the teachers with whom we contracted to provide instruction as we asked them to aim their workshops to particular skills levels, so that all ranges of experience and abilities would be addressed, challenged and supported.

This is also the question which led us to create the Flow Chart above to help people navigate through all the many lessons we have at to help them reach their musical goals.

At one level this question also boils down to:  “How do I compare with other players?”   (I personally feel this is a less important comparison than this:

“How do I compare with my desired goals as a player of this instrument?”)

But we’ll leave that philosophical discussion for the moment.

Below are the Skill Levels that I developed for the Colorado Dulcimer Festival and they continue to guide the lessons that we provide at

About the Skill Levels

To help you pick the best workshops for your experience, all of our workshops are classified by the skill level of the material. Although you’re welcome to attend any classes you’d like (and there will be no test), you’re likely to get more from classes designed with somebody of your skill in mind.

Mountain Dulcimer (MD)

Absolute Beginner MD: No previous Dulcimer experience nor musical background necessary.

Beginner level MD: You know how to hold your instrument, and can strum and play some simple tunes. You may not feel confident yet, but you love the music that your instrument can make! These classes will help you learn some chords, gain more comfort with your instrument and your ability to find and play tunes by ear and from music and tablature.

Intermediate MD: You have the skills of the previous levels and you’ve learned the basics of strumming and reading tablature, you need to expand your playing techniques and musical theory. Learn to embellish your basic music with hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides; to adapt an arrangement with different chord positions; to play in and modulate to different keys with and without a capo or retuning; to flatpick and fingerpick a tune. You can find play in different tunings.

Advanced MD: You have the skills of the other levels plus the ability to play at least 4 chords in DAD or DAA tuning, to use 2-3 fingers (left hand), and be comfortable with at least 2-3 basic rhythms, utilize melody runs on all the strings using scales, then adding arpeggios and patterns from within chords, as well as a strummed chordal melody.

Hammered Dulcimer (HD)

Absolute Beginner HD: No previous Dulcimer experience nor musical background necessary.

Beginner level HD: You know how to hold your hammers, the basic layout of your Dulcimer and how to play within the box, and are comfortable playing some simple tunes by ear and/or music. These classes will help you learn some chords, gain more comfort with your instrument and your ability to find and play tunes by ear and from music and tablature.

Intermediate HD: You have the skills of the previous levels and you can play some simple chords. These classes will help you with ornamentation, finding those occasional weird chromatic notes, and hammering techniques.

Advanced HD: You have the the skills of the other levels plus the ability to lead with either hand, play by ear and/or music/tablature. You are very familiar with the layout of your dulcimer and can play in several major and minor keys.

What do You Think?  Do these match with your understanding of your self-assessment?  Do you have further suggestions?  Please let us know in the comments below.


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Bing Futch

Bing Futch

by Linda Ratcliff

I think one of our favorite mountain dulcimer players is Bing Futch. You never know what’s gonna happen next at a Bing Futch show. Using Appalachian mountain dulcimer, Native American flute, ukulele, drums and electronic effects, he deftly navigates the varied waters of traditional and modern Americana with passion, wit and a genuinely huge heart for sharing music with a crowd.

Bing can often be found teaching music workshops at various festivals and colleges, presenting music education programs at schools and libraries and producing episodes of his video podcast “Dulcimerica” which has been viewed by over a million people worldwide and is currently in its 10th year. This weekend, on Friday and Saturday, he can be seen performing at the Carolina Balloon Festival in Statesville, NC.

This year, at the 2017 Evart Dulcimer Funfest, Bing Futch closed the Friday night show playing Bricks in the Wall, with a bunch of friends including two other well-known favorites – Stephen Seifert and Butch Ross.

To see this quality of jamming’ and more, start making your plans NOW to attend the next Funfest, July 19-21, 2018, in Evart, Michigan.


As always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.

Happy dulcimering,