Tag Archives: drone

I Wonder as I Wander (DAC) by Steve Eulberg

I Wonder as I Wander (DAC) by Steve Eulberg

Steve Eulberg has long been taken by this traditional American tune from Appalachia, collected and added to by John Jacob Niles.

Here Steve introduces the tune and tells the story and describes how to tune for the Aeolian mode, in which this tune resides.

Here is the lesson set.

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Traditional Noter and Drone Style Lessons

Traditional Noter and Drone Style Lessons

by Linda Ratcliff

Traditional Noter Style


Many mountain dulcimer players play their instruments by pressing the fatty pads of their fingertips down on the strings to create the different notes. But there is another option.

The traditional, old-time way of playing a mountain dulcimer is to use a noter. Your noter can be anything from the broad side of a popsicle stick to a wooden dowel – or anything around the house that can be used to press down on the strings.

In this series of 14 videos, Steve introduces the traditional noter/drone style of playing, shows us some of the tools (noters) that he uses, and explains how to use the noter with different tunings. Listen to Steve play a spirited rendition of Golden Slippers with his noter and quill, and check out the titles of the videos right here.

Holy Manna, O Susannah, Joy to the World, Old Joe Clark and Shady Grove are used to demonstrate noter playing with different tunings.

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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in lessons, mountain dulcimer


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What is Drone Style?

What is Drone Style?

by Steve Eulberg

Once we have learned the melody of a tune we can begin adding notes in order “fill out” the sound of the tune.  The easiest way to do this is to play “drone style“.  This is actually the traditional way to play the old mountain dulcimers which did not have frets that extended all the way across the fretboard, but only were present under the melody strings.

Md DrawingAngle

On the mountain dulcimer, the player plays the melody on the string(s) which are required for the melody and simply strums all the way across the strings to hear the drone of the unstopped strings, which often are reminiscent of bagpipes.  It doesn’t matter which D tuning is being used, either DAA or DAd, the drones will sound the same, because while the melody is being played on the melody strings, while the middle and bass strings are ringing on the same pitches.

HD Drawing

Drone-style is possible on Hammered Dulcimer, too!

On the hammered dulcimer, after each melody note that the player plays a drone note can be added as an answering tone.  This is a perfectly legitimate way to play this instrument, too and it is what can make the hammered dulcimer sound so exciting and full.

“Which note should I choose?” is the question most commonly asked by my students.

The first note to try adding is the tonic or the root of the chord which is being played at the moment, or which is the home chord for the whole song.

The next note with which to experiment is the fifth (5th) step of the chord or the dominant.  If the chord that accompanies that part of the melody is a D chord, the root or tonic will be:  D and the fifth or dominant will be:  A.  Another interesting variation is to play the drone note above the melody, in the next octave.

This is certainly not the only way to play music on either instrument, but too often (in my opinion) we forget about this option when we are arranging and performing our favorite tunes.

As one of my mountain dulcimer students used to say:  “Play drone-style looks too easy, but it sounds SO nice!”

To which I replied, “so go forth and drone!”


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