New EP Release!

I have a brand new 7-track album of meditative instrumentals on my dulcimer, available at bandcamp. This collection is focused mostly on my baritone dulcimer (tuned AEAA in 4-string equidistant spacing). Some of the selections are out here on bandcamp before their official release dates: Mystic Light Meditation, and Lullaby for Kate.

Along with the extra warmth and richness of the acoustic/electric baritone, these are more ambient and immersive productions than most of my recent output. They should be great for meditation, yoga, daydreaming, or just getting some restful sleep.

QuaranTUNE 8.0 Registration

The best virtual dulcimer festival on the planet is coming your way on October 6, 7, 8, and 9, 2022, and I’ll be teaching four one-hour classes.

For registration and more info about the festival:

For my classes below, the titles will link to the registration page for each class (in a new tab).

Here they are in the order I’ll be teaching them:

Soothing & Magical Chord Loops

(Level 3 INT) FRIDAY, October 2nd – Session 5: 3-4PM

In this workshop, you’ll learn some soothing and magical chord progressions that are easy to play and fun. These progressions only have four chords and they are mesmerizing and addictive! We’ll also explore a few arpeggio patterns and melodies that go with each loop. You already know most of these chords, so the challenge will be to keep them flowing along smoothly.

Getting Started With Two-Handed Tapping

(Level 5 ADV) SATURDAY, October 8th – Session 1: 9-10AM

Experience the exciting world of tapping on your mountain dulcimer! Using a tried-and-true method I’ve developed over three decades, you’ll learn to hammer-on and pull-off with your right forefinger, while your left hand holds down familiar chord positions in the first few frets. With a little practice, you will be getting your groove on in no time! This technique is easier than it sounds and it is FUN!!

Peaceful Irish Airs and Lullabies

(Level 3 INT) SATURDAY Session 2: 10:15-11:15AM

Get totally enchanted with these slow, meditative airs from Ireland. “Irish Lullaby No. 1” is an original lullaby that we’ll be doing in a simple, chord-melody arrangement. “Eibhlí Gheal Chiúin Ní Chearbhaill” (“The Fair and Charming Eileen O’Carroll”) is much more mesmerizing and circular.

A Relaxing, Meditative Journey With “Skip’s Heavenly Round”

(Level 4 UpperINT) SATURDAY Session 6: 4:14-5:15PM

You’ll learn one of my original rounds in this session. We’ll be playing this as a solo “Jam-A-Round” here, rather than as a traditional round. This just means that we have the harmony parts and jazzy chords all baked right in. Although the tempo is slow, there is a lot going on in this arrangement. You’ll be able to see my left hand for help with fingering.

QuaranTUNE 7.0 is OPEN for Registration!!!

Here are the three workshops I’ll be offering:

Peaceful Irish Airs and Lullabies (Level 3)

Friday Session 1 (9-10AM EDT)

Get totally enchanted with these slow, meditative airs from Ireland. “Báidín Fheilimí” (“Phelim’s Boat”) is a 3/4 time lullaby that we’ll be doing in a simple, sparse arrangement using a lot of open strings. “Eibhlí Gheal Chiúin Ní Chearbhaill” (“The Fair and Charming Eileen O’Carroll”) is much more mesmerizing and circular.

Soothing and Magical Chord Progressions (2 hour session) (Level 4)

Friday Session 4 (12:45-2:45PM EDT)

In this workshop, you’ll learn some soothing and magical chord progressions that are easy to play and fun. Most have only four chords and they are addictive! You’ll also learn a few of my original melodies that go with them. In the last part, we’ll explore some longer chord progressions that you can use for your own melodies, and we’ll add chords to some descending scales and modes.

Freeing Up Your Playing With Pentatonics (Level 4)

Saturday Session 4 (12:45-1:45)

The ancient 5-tone Major Pentatonic Scale is a great way to jump-start your improvising. You’ll learn how to flatpick this scale, and then we’ll apply it to the main chords you know. You’ll see that there aren’t any “wrong notes” when you play the pentatonics over simple chord progressions. Finally, using the examples of some original pentatonic tunes of mine, you’ll get some insights into building your own pentatonic tunes.

These classes are filling very, very fast (not only for my classes, but for the other fine instructors you may want to study with.

Learning Chords in DAD Tuning (Part 3)

In Part 2 we covered some ways of moving through the D-G-D-A7-D progression that were mostly ascending chord forms. This time we will descend with the chord forms:

And since we also suggested applying these same chord forms to the “Cabbage Chords,” Here you go with the first four measures of the above TAB applied to the Cabbage Chord progression:

Just in case you were wondering, the 4th measure A is really A7, and the A in measure 7 is really an A7sus4.

Thanks for giving these a try!! Let me know what you think.

Magical, Peaceful Instrumentals Playlist

This is one of my favorite playlists of the ones I curate myself on Spotify. It has a wide variety of instruments and genres, but the common theme is a simple, folk-oriented approach to melody and harmony. You’ll hear some minimal pieces on piano by some of my favorite players, some great accordion work by the amazing Maria Kalaniemi, or some mesmerizing modal compositions by Whalebone (UK-based ensemble).

Axis of Awesome!

Four Chords for a mess of pop songs!

This Aussie comedy act is really amazing. Butch Ross told me about them in 2007 or 2008, when I was obsessed with my little four chord circular progression D – A – Bm – G… that I used for Light Into Darkness, Tapping at the Edge of Paradise, and Tapping Into The Light on electric dulcimer. I just found more and more melodies that went with these chords – and bass lines with chord inversions to make it WAY more interesting.

Now in 2017 it seems like new ideas are again coming forward when I mess with these chords. I even have a more detailed version now, with sub-cycles of chords on each of the four main chords.

Most of the work I’ve done directly on the mountain dulcimer, but its fun with guitar, keyboard (which I can barely play!), or whatever chording instrument is nearby.

So even if the mountain dulcimer is your main instrument, why not play around on a piano or little electronic keyboard and see what happens? I usually resort to the white keys when I work with keyboard, so in C you have: C – G – Am – F. Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!!

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Picks!

Ever since I first got acquainted with the mountain dulcimer in 1970, I have been fascinated by the variety of textures available when strumming across all the strings at once, or picking individual notes. The type of material that is used in a pick has a lot to do with the texture of the sound you get, and the flexibility is also an important factor.

In a general sense, I tend to use very flexible picks when strumming across all the strings (like the thin triangles above), and medium-to-thin picks when I want some individual notes and some strums here and there (like the nylon .60mm or .73mm gray picks above). If I’m playing arpeggios I tend to favor really chunky, massive picks like the black nylon or the 1.14 Ultex.

There are some radically different new materials now in picks: some of the black picks above with “COOL” written on them have a very rubbery feel and there is no click whatsoever. Sometimes this is exactly what I’m looking for. Other times I need more high end and more of the traditional dulcimer sound, and I go for the red Herdim picks or the round “pointless” picks (the red ones are the thinnest). I LOVE these round picks! Here is the link where you can order a trial pack:

pointless picks

Most picks aren’t expensive, and the smaller music stores do MUCH better than the big chain stores as far as selection and ability to get your hands on the picks. Go wild and buy a whole bunch of picks made out of completely different materials. Get some real soft super-thin strumming picks, get some medium nylon or tortex, and try a variety of materials in the thick chunky style.

Happy Pickin’ and Happy Happy New Year!!!

Jerry Rockwell