Class teaches dulcimer’s ‘unique’ sound

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Connie Harmon, left, and Elaine Weinberg, both of Jasper, practice playing the dulcimer during a beginners' dulcimer class at the Dubois Branch Library on Thursday.


Sweet string music filled the air at the Dubois Branch Library Thursday evening as the amateur musicians plucked their trapezoidal-shaped instruments.

Randy Tuell, a member of the Corydon Dulcimer Society, taught class participants the chords, rhythms and hand placements of the mountain dulcimer.

“This instrument is yours,” he told the group of seven people. “Don’t compare yourself to someone who has been playing for five or 10 years. Play it the way you want to.”

The mountain dulcimer is a stringed folk instrument that evolved in the Appalachian mountains in the 1800s, and is the American addition to the fretted zither family. A zither is any instrument featuring strings running across the body without a neck.

Tuell said the sound of the dulcimer is what makes it unique.

“When you hear the sound of the dulcimer, it’s just so peaceful,” he said.

The name “dulcimer” is a combination of the Greek word “dulce” meaning “sweet” and the Latin word “melos” meaning “song.”

Karen Krodel of Jasper practices playing the dulcimer during a beginners' dulcimer class at the Dubois Branch Library on Thursday.

Tuell learned how to play the instrument 15 years ago, and has been teaching others how to play for 10 years.

“To see them play an instrument that they never could and suddenly get the hang of it in an hour is amazing,” he said.

Jasper resident Connie Harmon said she had “a ton of fun” at the class, but it was not her first time playing the dulcimer.

“I’ve gone to a couple of workshops, but it seems like if you don’t keep practicing, you forget and you look at the music and you’re like ‘what was that?’” she said.

Harmon, who plays four other instruments, said learning the chords is the most difficult part about playing the dulcimer.

She said she plans on coming to the next two classes at the library from 4 to 5 p.m. on June 13 and 20 to help her reconnect with the instrument.

“I want to get better at it, but finding the time is just hard,” she said.

Holland resident Lori Austin began playing the dulcimer 15 years ago, but hasn’t picked it up in four years.

“We moved to Dubois County four years ago, and I haven’t found anybody to play with,” she said. “I knew that there would be people here, so I decided it would be a good time to get out and play.”

Austin said her favorite part of the instrument is the drone, or the harmonic effect, created from one chord being played continuously throughout the piece of music.

“It has that underlying tone that is always present, and I think that just adds a real richness to it,” she said.

Those interested in the classes can register online at or call the library at 812-678-2548. No musical experience is required and a dulcimer will be provided. Classes are open to ages 16 and up.

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