Two Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

This time we’ll have a go at some variations on Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I’ve been improvising over this one for decades, and it’s always fun. When you’re doing variations on a well-known folk melody like this, the process is a little “tighter” than improvisation: you are working with some of the main pitches that the original melody has, but you are connecting them with passing tones, sometimes moving them around a bit in the measure, and sometimes going up or down a 3rd (two frets on the dulcimer) for a bit of harmonic color.

Before we get to the two full variations on the pdf, I’d like to show you a little bit of the process I use — with just the first two measures in TAB on the melody string (tuning DAD):



one possible variation:


or another:


So it’s not really that hard: you just keep some of the main notes in place where they should be and throw in a few different ones of your own choosing—connect a few notes of the original with eighth-note connectors. Try it!! The sky’s the limit, really…..see what you can come up with!

Here are my two 12-bar variations in music and TAB, with a blank second page so you can continue on your own. Try playing this as slow and dreamy as you can:


On the way to Cranberry!

Mary and I are about to sample the splendor of at least two of the Finger Lakes near Penn Yan in upstate New York. Tomorrow we will arrive in Latham, NY for the 39th Cranberry Dulcimer and Autoharp Gathering. I will be teaching three workshops and also doing a featured concert set on Saturday night. If you are in the area, please check it out: it is a great festival with a long and wonderful history, and this year there are so many great workshop leaders:

2015 Cranberry Dulcimer & Autoharp Gathering

A Country Waltz Project

Here are a few 32-bar arrangements of a little country waltz I wrote in the last week. The first one is in D out of DAD tuning, and the second one is in G, while still in DAD (with no capo). These are both bare-bones arrangements, though the one in D has more fills added on the TAB, but not in the music itself. The one in G is really bare-bones, allowing you to use your imagination with what you might add.

Country Waltz #1 in D

Country Waltz #1 in G

Enjoy these!

Just Starting Work Here

I’m just getting started now with a mountain dulcimer oriented blog After some research and reading of some other blogs (as well as reading the excellent WordPress the missing manual, by Matthew MacDonald, I have decided to make a kind of “blog-in-progress” and let the structure and categories gradually sort themselves out.

We’ll see what happens with this. In the meantime, you may want to check out my main web site:

As time goes on, I’ll try to share lots of stuff about mountain dulcimers and dulcimer music with you. Thanks for reading!