~ I’ve recently purchased a hammer dulcimer and was wondering what advice you would have for a raw beginner.

Dear Half-baked.

I speak with folks in your shoes almost every day. Life is great and the music grows for days and weeks when they first get started but a few months later it all seems to come to a screeching halt. The hammer and mountain dulcimer aren’t hard to learn, especially compared to the guitar or piano and such. The key is simply to be around other players as often as possible. Don’t be a closet player – get around to club meetings, festivals, seminars, concerts, private or group lessons and even craft shows or such where someone is playing constantly and you can watch. It’s simple enough that you learn from just watching. Also, set your instrument up, and leave it up, in a well-traveled area in your home where you are tempted to stop and play for 5 minutes – maybe it will turn into 55 minutes! If there isn’t someone to learn from try a video or two and books with accompanying CD’s. Be sure to get materials that address chords and scales. You just can’t believe how important and relevant to all playing subjects chords and scales are. Sorry! But, I promise if you’ll jump on these ideas you’ll be impressed with the speed at which you’ll improve and joy you will inherit from your efforts. In no time you’ll be cookin’ up a smorgasbord of well-done music.

Posted in: Ask Russell