Bluegrass on the Dulcimer
For Mountain Dulcimer Players by Steve Eulberg

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VideoAbout the Lessons

1. Bluegrass Series Intro Steve explains why you might have felt less than welcome if you ever tried to join a bluegrass jam, and demonstrates how to overcome some of that resistance.
2. What is Bluegrass? Here Steve gives us some of the background about bluegrass music - when it started to gain popularity, some of the bluegrass pioneers, and the standard instruments used to create that signature sound. He says that, in a typical arrangement, everyone took turns playing the melody.
3. Learning the "Chop" There is no drummer in a bluegrass band. It's the mandolin, playing the chop on the off beat.
4. Learning the "Chop",
D-A-A Open Chords
Open chords contain one or more open strings. In this video, Steve shows the open chords you can play in the D-A-A tuning. In addition, he demonstrates how to stop the ongoing ringing sound to create an effective "chop."
5. Learning the"Chop",
D-A-A Closed Chords
For closed chords, every string is pressed to form a chord. No strings are left open or not pressed down. With closed chords, instead of resting your right hand on the strings to silence the sound on the 1st and 3rd beat, you simply lift your left hand off the strings that were pressed to play the chords on the 2nd and 4th beats. Steve teaches the closed chord positions for the D-A-A tuning.
6. D-A-A Open & Closed
Chop Chords in a song
Here Steve plays the open and closed chords we've learned in D-A-A to accompany "I'll Fly Away."
7. When to Play the Chop Now that we know what to play, Steve addresses the question of when to play. The "chop" shows up on the off beat, so we will rest on the first and third beat.
8. Learning the "Chop",
D-A-d Open Chords 1
Again with the "open" chords, Steve had to stop the sound with his right hand - to create the chop sound typical of bluegrass music. He rests his hand on beats 1 and 3, and plays on beats 2 and 4.
9. Learning the "Chop",
D-A-d Open Chords 2
Some people use their foot to tap the 1st and 3rd beats. You still have to use your hand to stop the dulcimer's sound on beats 1 and 3.
10. Learning the "Chop",
D-A-d Closed Chords,
3rd Fret
Steve reviews again the technique for silencing the sound when playing closed chords. Instead of resting his right hand on the 1st and 3rd beat, he lifts the fingers of his left hand on those beats. He also shows the postions of closed chords in the key of D around the 3rd fret.
11. Learning the "Chop",
D-A-d Closed Position
Chords, 5th Fret
In this video, Steve demonstrates closed chords you can form around the 5th fret, and then accompanies himself singing "I'll Fly Away" using these new chords.
12. Learning the "Chop",
D-A-d Closed Chords,
7th Fret and Higher
Some of these chords can be played in more than one place as you move up the fretboard to the 7th and 9th frets. And keep in mind, whatever happened around the 3rd fret can also happen at the 10th fret. With all these chord positions, there's never any reason to get bored at a jam!
13. Learning the "Chop",
D-A-A Closed Chords,
Octave Higher

Here we learn the closed chord positions around the 7th fret in the D-A-A tuning. No matter which tuning you prefer, what always stays the same in bluegrass music is the "chop."
14. Playing Bass,
Part 1
The bass player will usually play the root of the chord, the tonic (1), and the 5th tone. When playing the bass, you still stop the sound on the beat that you don't play. For the D chord, the bass player will play the 1st and 5th tone of the D scale - the D and A.
15. Playing Bass,
Part 2
For the G chord, the bass player will play the G and D strings. For the A chord, the bass player will use the A and E strings. For the B minor chord, the bass player picks the B and F# strings - always trying to play as low as possible on the instrument.
16. Playing Bass with a Song
Again Steve sings "I'll Fly Away" for us, as he plays the bass accompaniment on his D-A-A dulcimer and then his D-A-d dulcimer. Click on the backing track below to practice playing bass with an accompaniment.
17. The Bluegrass Lick Once we have the basic skills of playing the bass and playing the "chop" on the dulcimer, the next thing is to learn the bluegrass lick.
18. Where to Play the
Bluegrass Lick
Typically, you play the lick in a place where there's not a lot going on with the melody. You don't want to distract from the melody with a lot of extra notes. And as with taking turns playing the melody, you can take turns playing the lick.
19. The Bluegrass Lick
with Articulations
In the final video, Steve demonstrates on to play the lick on his D-A-A dulcimer, and more on how to use hammer-ons and pull-offs to incorporate the lick into the tune.

PDFTablature

Backing TrackBacking Track

AnimationAnimations

Mobile Devices

Music GlobeExtras

  • See the opening sequence (the first 10 minutes) of "High Lonesome - The Story of Bluegrass Music." The movie presents the patchwork of historical, moral and cultural influences that had a part in creating this style of playing.

  • Enjoy "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" played by Sam Edelston on a chromatic dulcimer. It's amazing the sounds he gets out of just 3 strings.

  • In this video, Stephen Seifert gives a good demonstration of how to play the "chop" on the dulcimer to accompany a bluegrass band.
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