Music Education
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Teaching the Dulcimer
Dulcimer Level 2
Dulcimer Level 3

Dulcimer Level 2

Use a browser with the Quicktime Plug-in, or an iPad, to view the links on this page. 
Dulcimer Level 2 is an intermediate level that builds upon the skills developed in Level 1.  In Level 1 students were limited to the pentatonic scale.  In level 2 students will play pieces covering all of the notes of the major scale (Ionian mode). 
At this level, students should now be able to work independently.  They should listen to a song or piece and then try to figure it out.  Ideally, they should be encouraged to attempt to work out a piece from only hearing it.  If they get stuck, they can then look at a video demonstration for additional help.  They will have to figure out where a piece starts, they will have to hear half steps as well as whole notes, they will have to remember longer and more complex sequences, and they will have to figure out more complex rhythmic patterns, and they will have to play and sing notes over a much wider singing range.

In addition, in Level 2 students will also focus on learning to hear chord progressions.  In each section of level 2 there are several pieces listed that should be sung and accompanied only with chords.  These songs are organized by chord progression.  Students should be taught to recognize that they are playing in the key of C.  In actuality, they tune their dulcimer to the key to which they want to sing.  The bottom string is tuned to the key of a piece.  Through level 1 and level 2 all the pieces are in the Ionian tuning and the key of "C." This tunes the bottom string to C (below middle C on the piano), the middle string to G (one fifth above the C), and the closest string to the same G. See Tuning

In level 1 and level 2 the dulcimers are kept in the key of C for several reasons.  One, this helps in ear training.  In this way, each note represents a specific sound.  These sounds and notes can be named.  The child can be taught that the first fret can be called "A," the second fret can be referred to as "B," etc.  This can aid learning to read and write music.   Children can be shown where these notes are placed on the musical staff and children can write out the songs they figure out.   In addition to ear training, and facilitating writing and reading of music, keeping the dulcimer in one key minimizes having to re-tune the instrument.  Later, in level 3 children will be introduced to tuning the dulcimer to different keys and different modes. 

In any case, in addition to picking out new and longer melodies, children are being introduced to hearing and recognizing chord progressions.

Since  the dulcimer is kept in the same key in level 1 and 2, it is easier to help children recognize basic patterns in music.  They can learn some general rules that will hold mostly true for the pieces they are going to learn.

Rule 1:  When chording a piece, the first chord is usually the chord of the key.  For level 1 and 2 in which the dulcimer is in the key of "C," this means the pieces will start with the "C" chord.
Rule 2:  Chords can be named by number.  The chord of the key (in the key of "C" this is the "C" chord) can be called the 1 chord.  In the key of "C" the 4 chord would be based 4 notes higher. This the "F" chord which would be called the 4 chord.  The chord based 5 frets higher would be the "G" chord and would be called the 5 chord.  "A minor" would be the 6 minor chord. 
Rule 3: Chords can be played in different positions on the fret board. It is the individual notes in a chord that define a chord.
Rule 3:  You keep playing a chord until it isn't going to sound right anymore, and then you change to a different chord.  For the two chord songs introduced in level 2, the two chords are "C" and "G7".    When the "C" chord isn't going to sound right, you change to the "G7" chord.  When the "G7" chord is no longer going to be right,  you change back to the "C" chord (the 1 chord) if you are in a two chord song.
Rule 5:  If the piece uses more than two chords, most likely it will either shift to either the 4 chord or the 5 chord.  Sometimes, the piece will move to the 6 chord or a substitute chord (a chord that substitutes for one of the basic chords by changing one of the notes in the chord. 
Rule 6:  Pieces usually end on the first chord ("C" chord when tuned in the key of "C."). 
Rule 7:  In order for a chord to sound right with a melody, it has to have the melody note in it or be passing to a melody note. 

These rules can not be effectively taught all at once.  So, the patterns are taught a little at a time.  To facilitate the discovery of these patterns, the songs are played in the same key and a number of songs using the same pattern are utilized so the pattern becomes clear.  So, the first songs in level 1 were one chord songs (all the 2 note songs and 4 note songs are one chord songs).  The 3 note songs in level 1 are two chord songs using a 1 - 4 (C and F) chord progression.  The first 5 note songs introduce a different 2 chord progression of 1 - 5 (C - G7).  The last 5 note songs utilize a 3 chord progression 1 - 5 - 4 (C - G7 - F).  In level 2 the first songs that focus on just chording are two chord progressions using the 1 -5 (C - G7) chord progression.  The Lyrics page lists all the songs with lyrics.  It also lists additional 2 chord, 3 chord, and 4 chord songs by group.  Next students are introduced 3 chord songs and then 4 chord songs and are given a number of songs using these progressions so they develop the ability to anticipate chord changes by ear rather than by memorization. 

In Level 2 students focus on a number of 2 chord songs, a few 3 chord songs, and some 4 chord songs.  In level 3 students review some two chord songs, play a number of 3 chord songs, some 4 chord songs, and are introduced to the concept of "substitute" chords.  They also are introduced to tuning to different keys and different modes.

Below is the progression and links to resources for Level 2. Currently, these must be viewed in the Firefox browser.

How to Strum
 Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star melody
Twinkle with Strum.
Twinkle Duet
Two Chord Songs for accompaniment of singing:
He's Got the Whole World
 Lemon Tree
Yellow Submarine (just the chorus part).

(for all songs)

Old MacDonald
Old MacDonald with Strum
Old MacDonald Duet
Done as 2 Chord Songs:
London Bridge Melody
London Bridge Chord
London Bridge Strum
London Bridge Duet
Ten Little Monkeys


Updated on Feb 29, 2012 by Bob Blodget (Version 13)