Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Arranging and Embellishing for Hammered Dulcimer Players

Video 1

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VideoAbout the Lessons

1. Demonstration & Theme Beginning with a familiar nursery rhyme tune, we explore 10 different variations that are tools for learning how to arrange and embellish any tunes that we wish to play—a transferable skill!

Steve starts by playing the theme melody in the D box.

2. Adding a High Drone Here Steve plays the melody with his right hammer, and "answers" every note with a high drone on the high D with the left hammer.
3. Adding a Low Drone In this variation, Steve show us how to play the melody with the left hammer, and answer every note with a low drone, one octave lower. If your dulcimer is too small, just move this arrangement up to the G box.
4. Adding a 5th Drone In this arrangement, you can "answer" with a 5th drone tone on the A string (if playing in the key of D), either one octave below, or one octave above.
5. Changing the Rhythm Steve repeats each melody note three times in a short - short - long pattern. Another variation is heard if you accent (play more strongly) either the first melody stroke or the second stroke.
6. Melodic Variation Here Steve fills in "gaps" in the melody by playing over, under, and around each melody note.
7. Minor Variations If you move up one course or string in the box, and continue to play "in the box", you will hear the Dorian mode of this tune in E minor. You can also move up one string, and then play the tune straight up and down. With this variation, you will be playing the Aeolian mode in E minor.
8. Ornamented Melody Check out this ornamented rhymic variation. Practice it starting with the right hammer, and again beginning with the left hammer as a drill. You may not want to play this variation completely through when performing, but rather just replace one section of the tune for variety.
9. Adding Triangle Chords Steve demonstrates how to add broken chords, quick little 3-note arpeggios, to change the treatment of this tune. The chords can be rolled going up or going down.
10. 4-Note Chords This arrangement is quite similar to the one above, with the difference that you will use 4 notes in each rolled chord.
11. Waltz in 3/4 Time Here Steve changes the entire flavor of the tune by converting it to a waltz, with a chorded backup. Practice this melody alone, until you get the beat, and then add the chords.

PDFSheet Music

Music GlobeExtras

  • The story behind Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

  • Lyrics for this charming nursery rhyme

  • If learning 10 variations seems a little overwhelming, view this video of 10-year-old Elliot Wuu, playing the 12 variations on this tune by Mozart on a grand piano.

  • Linda incorporated many elements of Steve's lesson in her own arrangement of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Listen carefully, and you will be able to identify two key changes, and sections featuring the theme, a low drone, a high drone, a minor key, a melodic variation, and her own grand syncopated finale.

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