One of the most exciting parts of the Colorado Dulcimer Festival is the opportunity to participate in workshops with local and nationally renowned Dulcimer players and experts, teaching both Hammered Dulcimer (HD) and Mountain Dulcimer (MD) as well as a variety of other instruments and skills. This page provides descriptions of the workshops being offered at the 2023 Festival.
There is no pre-selection for workshops. You can review the schedule and decide what interests you. Just show up and attend the class of your choice!
Workshops will take place during the workshop times shown on the Festival Schedule.
Following the workshop descriptions are definitions of the skill levels to which each workshop is geared so attendees can choose according to their level, including Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
2023 Workshop Descriptions
Karen Alley (Teaching Hammered Dulcimer)
Beginner HD – The Trilingual Dulcimer Player
When you’re new to the hammered dulcimer, all the different strings, bridge markings, and note patterns can be overwhelming. I’ve found that people usually approach the instrument using three “languages:” notes, chords, and shapes. We’ll discuss each of these approaches, and hopefully by the end of the workshop you will feel more confident about how to make sense of the instrument and find your way around.
Intermediate HD – Double Trouble: Exploring Double Strokes
Playing two strokes in a row with one hammer is a valuable technique for switching lead hands, handling accidentals and other difficult patterns, maintaining a strong rhythm, and adding ornamentation. We’ll work on the hammer technique that will allow you to play double strokes at many different speeds, and practice some exercise that will help you improve your technique over time. Then we’ll use some examples from tunes so you can see how to incorporate double strokes into your playing.
Advanced HD – “The Clergy’s Lamentation” by Turlough O’Carolan
This slow air is attributed to Turlough O’Carolan and is typical of the beautiful and wandering nature of many of his slow tunes, although there is no definitive proof that he wrote it. Regardless, it is a lovely melody to explore. We’ll work together through an arrangement that will challenge your hand separation with parallel motion and cascading scales.
Advanced HD – Arranging in Two Parts
We spend a lot of time learning to play lead and backup, but sometimes it’s fun to play with two parts that are arranged more equally, intertwining melody and harmony in a duet format. We’ll go over some of the basics of how to approach this sort of arranging. Then we’ll try our hand with arranging a few excerpts from a tune in this style. You’ll also go home with a full two-part arrangement to play with a friend (or with yourself on a recording!).
All levels HD – Preparing for Performance or Competition
Most people deal with nerves when performing, and the pressure can feel even higher if you decide to enter a competition. There are many strategies you can use to help you prepare, and everyone meets these challenges differently. I’ll share the strategies I use to prepare for performance or competition. We’ll also spend some time talking more specifically about how competitions (such as those at the Walnut Valley Festival each year in Winfield, Kansas) are formatted, and what sort of tunes tend to work well.
Sam Edelston (Teaching Mountain Dulcimer)
Absolute Beginners 1 MD – Let’s Start At the Very Beginning
A very good place to start is some dulcimer fundamental: How to hold the instrument, tune it, use a pick, etc. You’ll learn how to play basic melodies and basic chords.
Absolute Beginners 2 MD – We’ve Only Just Begun
More chords and more about how to play melodies. You’ll get a chord chart, and you’ll also learn how to read tablature. The goal of this workshop is to give you the tools you need to start learning songs or tunes that you love.
Intermediate MD – Unexpected Songs That Don’t Need Extra Frets
Although I’m best known for playing surprising songs that require one or more extra notes, in this workshop we’ll broaden your palette with a few DAD songs that you probably wouldn’t have thought of, and that won’t require you to add any “clutter” to your fretboard. (If you’ve ever taken this workshop with me before, it’s all-new songs every time.)
Advanced MD – Two-Hand Tapping
This two-handed playing technique is most associated with rock music, but actually dates back much farther. We’ll demystify it and get you comfortable enough to try it on some interesting tunes.
Bob Elieson (Teaching Mountain Dulcimer)
Absolute Beginner – MD
I will demonstrate how to tune to DAD, and assist participants in getting their instruments in tune. We will practice some basic strum techniques and discuss basic rhythm. We will discuss the D major scale and relate that to tablature. We will play a few easy tunes. We will talk about choosing an instrument and what to look for when picking one out. I’ll share some online resources available to learn more about the mountain dulcimer.
Beginner MD – The Next Step
Building on what we learned in the Absolute Beginner class, we will learn the most
frequently encountered chords and continue with strumming techniques to accompany
ourselves singing and/or playing some simple tunes and songs. We will explore how to
determine which chords to play and when. I will share some online resources available
to learn more about tunes playable on the dulcimer, and share with you some of the
smart phone applications and web sites I find most useful.
Steve Eulberg (Teaching Mountain Dulcimer and Guitar)
Beginner MD – Traditional Noter Style
We’ll find and play songs using a noter or a noter finger/thumb to better understand the fretboard and how to find and play the songs we love on our dulcimers. DAA or DAd tuning (come tuned either way!)
Beginner MD – Playing Chords to go with Melodies
Taking some familiar melodies, we’ll apply some chords that require NO fingers, 1 finger, 2 fingers (and we’ll peek at some 3 finger chords). DAA or DAd tuning (come tuned either way!)
Intermediate MD – Ode to Joy, Either Fingerpick or Flatpick
Using Beethoven’s familiar melody, we’ll explore several exercises designed to help us
develop accuracy, facility and confidence with both our right and left hands, while also
preparing some arranging ideas for performance.
Advanced MD – Songs from my First 50 Songs to Play on Mountain Dulcimer
We’ll focus on some of the more challenging songs in the collection. Because the copyrights for these arrangements are held by Hal Leonard, this class works best if each student has their own copy of the book and brings it to class. Copies will be available in the Festival Store. Autographed copies are available at: [bit.ly/First50Songs].
Guitar – Focusing on BOTH HANDS
We will focus on smoothing our Chord Changes (left hand) and adding variations to our strumming patterns (right hand) to play the songs we love.
Bing Futch (Teaching Mountain Dulcimer)
Beginner MD – You’ve got to start somewhere
You’ve got to start somewhere and we’ll do just that, beginning with the basics of strumming, picking, playing melody against the drone and how to read tablature. You’ll learn a few tunes and get to know your instrument a little bit better as we cover subjects like putting on strings, tuning, how to practice and learning the fretboard.
Intermediate MD – A Simple Way to Play D, G and A: Mountain Dulcimer Magic!
Bring your capo and learn a sweet trick that will get you playing hundreds of tunes easily in three different keys! Then, once we practice a bit using “Hangman’s Reel” as an exercise, we discover the source of the magic using scales to figure out options for melody and harmony.
Intermediate MD – How One Little Fret Will Change Your Life
More and more players are adding the 1+ and 8+ frets to their dulcimers and loving it! In this workshop, you’ll discover how these frets can be useful for not only playing tunes, but also understanding the basics of music theory. Includes a spin through a couple of really cool tunes that really take advantage of those extra frets.
Advanced MD – Key Changes Made Easy!
Key changes are an exciting element of music and you don’t need a chromatic instrument to make them happen! Taking a simple tune in one key and then switching keys somewhere in the song is a fabulous way of adding depth, complexity and emotion to your playing. We’ll look at the so-called “truck-driver modulation” and the “parallel modulation”, but will focus mainly on the stealthy “pivot chord modulation” for changing keys mid-song. You will need a 1+ fret for this workshop and a capo!
Advanced MD – Tune Writing Masterclass
This workshop is for anyone who has ever wanted to write their own instrumental tune. From idea to first attempts through editing and notating the music for printing, Bing will take students through the entire process as he composes a brand-new tune in class, based on their suggestions! Everyone will leave with the beginnings of a tune (or a complete one.)
Tina Gugeler (Teaching Hammered Dulcimer and Bodhran)
Bodhran – Learning How to Play Irish Frame Drum
We will learn how to hold the bodhran, and “tipper.” We will practice playing jigs and reels along with recorded music. We will learn to skip beats and maybe make up your own rhythm. I will have practice drums for class use.
Beginner HD – Johnny Cope Beginner Tune
We’ll learn to look for patterns and repetition in this tune to help memorize them quicker. We’ll also compare the difference in A major scale and A mixolydian mode.
Intermediate HD – Adding Harmonies to a Waltz
When tunes are played slower, we have more chances to add harmonies to the melodies. We will add harmonies to a waltz, Two Rivers, or Karen Mueller’s.
Beginner HD – Beginner Jam Workshop
How to listen to jam tunes. Using a bit of music theory, learn how to jump into a jam if you don’t know the tune. Also knowing some chord progressions, learn how to back up a tune or do a bit of improv to the tune.
Erin Mae (Teaching Mountain Dulcimer)
Beginner MD – Strumming for Beginners
From bum-diddy and beyond, Erin Mae will have you strumming your dulcimer with
ease and consistency in no time. We’ll talk about the technical details of picks, ways to
hold the pick, and body mechanics for strumming. Then, we’ll work through common
rhythm patterns, with tips for counting. Finally, we’ll apply those strategies to a fun
Beginner MD – First Chords for Beginners
Play more songs more quickly by first learning CHORDS! You’ll be able to chord
along to any song (just like ukulele and guitar players!) Start with playing open-string
and barre chords. Barre Chords are like magic on the mountain dulcimer – they allow
you to play chords in many keys without learning a lot of theory or difficult hand
positions. I’ll show you how they work, and then you’ll be able to play [almost] any song!
Beginner MD – Intro to Jamming
Playing with others is one of the greatest joys of being a musician. This class will help
you gain the confidence to join jams with dulcimers and even other instruments. You’ll
discover just how easy it is to make music together by learning predictable patterns
and chord progressions, reading hands, and training your ear.
Intermediate MD – Strategies for Playing Faster
This class will be full of tips, tools, and tricks to help you play faster, without
sacrificing tone and accuracy. Using a couple of fiddle tunes as examples, I’ll show you
how to simplify a tune, create exercises based on the hardest sections, and work with a
Advanced MD – Exploring Alternate Tunings and Modes
This class will help you understand how modes and tunings intersect on the
mountain dulcimer. We’ll study Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Aeolian modes (the
most common in American music) and a variety of different tunings. Using actual
tunes as examples, you will begin to see how the patterns of whole and half steps lay
out for each mode. This stuff can be confusing; but you CAN understand it and even
have fun along the way!
Joshua Messick (Teaching Hammered Dulcimer)
Beginner HD – Get Started on the Right Track
The hammered dulcimer is an easy instrument to learn, and you can begin playing songs within minutes. But it is important to start with proper technique. Workshop topics include: how to properly hold your hammers, how to produce good tone, how to adjust the height and play with proper methods to please your chiropractor, and the fundamentals of the hammered dulcimer layout. Workshop will have an open discussion to answer your questions.
Intermediate HD – Shapes Distilled: Play Chords with Freedom and Agility
When I first started playing the hammered dulcimer, I learned the visual shape of chords and how to associate them with a sound. While these shapes are an extremely valuable visual guide, they actually are a compilation of smaller building blocks. I will teach you how to distill chord shapes into smaller pieces, allowing you to play chords with greater freedom and agility.
Intermediate HD – Controlling Sustain
The sustain of the hammered dulcimer is part of the charm and natural beauty of the instrument. However, it must be controlled to prevent it from becoming overwhelming. In this workshop, we will learn methods to control the sustain with timbre variation, chord voicings, muting, dampers, and many other tips and tricks. Questions are encouraged.
Advanced HD – Learn to Play a Drone with an Arpeggio: “Wellspring”
Learn excerpts from my composition “Wellspring” as it appears on my YouTube channel and album “Pure Hammered Dulcimer.” I will teach you how to play a right hand arpeggio in tandem with a left hand drone, a technique frequently used in this piece. It will open so many new possibilities! Participants will receive arrangements for both 15/14 and extended range HDs. Your questions and participation are encouraged.
Advanced HD – Japanese Embellishments & Pentatonic Scale: “Sakura Sakura”
Learn one of Japan’s most loved folk tunes “Sakura Sakura” from my album “Pure Hammered Dulcimer.” We will explore the hauntingly beautiful Japanese pentatonic this piece is built on. Next, I will teach you the piece and show you several Japanese embellishments. Participants will receive intermediate and advanced versions of my arrangement for both 15/14 and extended range HDs. Your questions and participation are encouraged.
Kendra Tunnicliff (Teaching Hammered Dulcimer)
Absolute Beginner HD – Hammered Dulcimer Foundations Part I
This is a groundwork class for new hammered dulcimer players who have never (or barely) played before. You will learn how to set up the dulcimer and hold the hammers, the order of the notes, tuning, best practices, how to play chords and scales, and how to care for the instrument. You will learn a simple folk song.
Absolute Beginner HD – Hammered Dulcimer Foundations Part II
Want a little more practice after HD Foundations Part I? In Part II, we will review any questions from Part I and then dive into new material. We will practice tuning and hammering, learn about the dulcimer world and discus resources for continued learning after the festival. You will learn how to play a folk song and a warm-up. We will also discuss how to continue learning after the festival!
Randy Zombola (Teaching Hammered Dulcimer)
Beginner HD – What Every Beginning Hammered Dulcimer Player Needs to Know
In this workshop we will cover hammering techniques, string layout, and a few simple chords that will make any tune more interesting. To improve hammer control, we’ll learn several exercises and drills to improve hammer control. Using this information to make music, we’ll apply it to the old-time tune “Red Wing”.
Beginner HD – Learn How to Improve Dulcimer Arrangements
As a follow-on to the Beginner 1 class, we’ll review chord layouts and learn how to add
drones, arpeggios, and harmony notes to improve the musicality of arrangements. We’ll
apply these techniques to a beautiful Celtic waltz, Stars for Leisbeth.
Intermediate HD – Spice Up Reels with Rhythmic Variations
In this intermediate workshop we’ll apply a few rhythmic tricks to make reels sound more authentic on the dulcimer. We’ll learn rhythmic techniques such as single stoke rolls, throw rolls, drones, and 3-against-2 embellishments. These rhythmic tricks will be incorporated into the familiar reel “Whiskey Before Breakfast”.
Advanced HD – Learn to Play a Fun French-Canadian Reel, “Mouth of the Tobique”
“Mouth of the Tobique” is a great 3-part reel that is very fun to play on the dulcimer. It has a unique 3rd part that uses the same rhythmic trick that is used in “Orange Blossom Special”. We’ll also learn a few hammer control tricks that make reels more effective on the dulcimer.