Mountain Dulcimer

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Dulcimer Class at John C. Campbell Folk School

Dulcimer Class at John C. Campbell Folk School

Jim enjoys playing the dulcimer. He learned to play the instrument during two one-week-long classes at John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. Both classes were taught by Anne Lough who is not only a great instructor, but also an outstanding performing musician on both mountain and hammered dulcimers. The photo above is of the first class he attended. Everyone in the class had prior music training except Jim. Is this a thorn in a bed of roses or what?

Dulcimer Class at John C. Campbell Folk School
Jim at His Second Dulcimer Class at J.C. Campbell Folk School

Wormy Chestnut Mountain Dulcimer

This is Jim's first dulcimer. He purchased the instrument from Walton, West Virginia natives Jim and Brenda Good. He met the makers of Mastertone Dulcimers at Cedar Lakes Art and Craft Fair near Ripley, West Virginia. There were several other vendors at the fair who also made very nice instruments. However when Mr. Good was observed hand-carving instruments from wormy chestnut--that was it. While most dulcimers have flat tops and bottoms, the wormy chestnut model has beautiful flowing lines. When we last talked to them we were told that because of the labor involved, they no longer make this model. So we may actually have a collector's model. Jim now has four Mastertones. Question: How many dulcimers can be played at the same time? (Answer: only one, but having more than one allows you to have a dulcimer of a different tuning all ready to play.)

The Goods use slices of walnut shells for sound holes as seen in the close-up above. Their dulcimers are not only works of art, but sound wonderful.

Jim usually removes all but three strings. Most of his tuning of the three strings is DAA and DAD.

When Jim and Elizabeth travel in the big truck, he plays for hours while Elizabeth drives.

Mastertone dulcimers are made for five strings. Tuning for these strings which the maker recommended is DD D GB. Wire gauges are 13, 13, 15, 24 and 15. While Jim (the maker) and West Virginia state champion dulcimer contest winners use these dulcimers with this tuning, Jim (this writer) has not yet mastered the chords which are simply sought out by practice and more practice.

The dulcimer on the left is made of lacewood with an ebony fret board. On the right is a hand-carved wormy chestnut model. Both made by Jim Good.

Dulcimers don't have to be made from exotic woods or costing hundreds of dollars. They can be made from just about anything. Above is a dulcimer made from a scrap on wood and a cookie tin. This view is of the back side. The two strings on the other side are noted on frets made from common staples. It has a "diferent" sound, too.