Workshop Schedule

At the Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering you choose 3 out of 12 classes taught by 6 teachers, with subjects including repertoire, dulcimer history, and technique. As the finale, everyone plays in the Grand Dulcimer Orchestra.  The day is planned for maximum time in community with about 50 mountain dulcimer aficionados. Some dulcimers will be available for loaners and to purchase.

After you’ve registered and paid for the Saturday Workshops, you’ll be redirected to a form where you can choose which classes you want to attend.


Saturday Workshop Descriptions & Schedule

9:45-11am – Class Period 1

Mountain Dulcimer 101 (Beginner) Dusty Thorburn
This workshop is for the absolute beginner; no experience with any musical instrument is necessary.  We will learn the parts of the dulcimer, how to position the dulcimer on your lap, what to do with the right and left hands, and how to read tablature.  We will then begin with multiple versions of a song or two, starting very simply and slowly adding new elements until lo-and-behold, we’re playing music together! 

“Chop and Groove” (Advanced) Erin Mae Lewis
Learn to play Erin’s signature percussive chop.  Learn to add “groove” and syncopation to familiar tunes.  Get comfortable playing closed-position chords.  Above all, learn to make an awesome “groove face”!”

Traditional & Holiday Duets (Adv. Beginner-Intermediate) DJ Hamouris
Making sweet music with a friend is always delightful. These duets will challenge both players, with chord/melody and bass-leading parts, as well as simple harmonics & playing the lead on the middle string. Includes “Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine,” “Ashokan Farewell,” “Good King Wenceslas,” and “Silent Night.” DAdd

Chords for Beginners in DAdd (Beginners) Steve Eulberg
Beginning with barre chords, and then learning chords shapes in the 1st position, we’ll have what we need to accompany singing, join in a jam or play back up for a friend who is playing melody.  The right  hand will be strumming so we’ll be focused on where and how to play the chord shapes with the left hand.

11:15am-12:30pm – Class Period 2

44 Pistol Under My Head: American Murder Ballads (advanced beginner/intermediate) Dusty Thorburn
This workshop examines a handful of traditional American murder ballads.  We will approach each one in two ways: strumming chords to accompany singing and also playing basic melodies with chordal accompaniment.  We will also examine one or two songs in depth to find ways to personalize the songs by adding filler strums and rhythmic licks.  Among the songs will be the ballad “Banks of the Ohio,” the blues “Frankie and Johnnie,” the Louvin Brothers’ “Knoxville Girl,” Mississippi John Hurt’s “Louis Collins,” and more if time allows. 

Fiddle Tunes (Beginner) Erin Mae Lewis
This is a repertoire building class to help you learn more tunes. We’ll also discuss how to memorize and internalize tunes so you don’t forget them at the end of the day!

Scottish Tunes & Ballads (Intermediate) Neal Hellman
Tunes include: Loch Lavan Castle, Leaving Lismore The Last Time I Came O’er the Moor and “The Heroes of St. Valéry. Ballads: Skye Boat Song, If I Were A Blackbird, Ye banks & Braes and Both Sides the Tweed. Students should be familiar with the basic embellishments – hammers, pulls and slides.

Half the Frets/All the Music (Intermediate) Steve Eulberg
The 3-string, diatonic mountain dulcimer has “half the frets, but ALL the music,” of a 6-string, chromatic guitar! While no instruments are “easy to play”, some instruments are more accessible than others, and you can enjoy playing a wide range of tunes beyond the folk world on the mountain dulcimer. We will explore rock, blues, classical, jazz on our dulcimers as a way to let how the dulcimer is laid out help us learn the music we already know! We will use these tunings today DAd, DAC, FAC

2:15-3:30pm – Class Period 3

Aeolian Mode for Beginners (Beginner) Neal Hellman
Students will tune to the Aeolian mode of D (D-A-C where D is the bass string).  This is both a simple and rewarding workshop, especially for beginners. Students will be taught basic melodies as well as how to utilize the dulcimer to back up the voice. Selections include The PratiesKojo no TuskiGoddessesBreton Tune and Nonesuch.

Improvising Melody, Chords and Rhythm: Take the Risk! (Adv. Beginner-Intermediate) Joellen Lapidus
This is a hands on class. You are expected to risk hitting right and wrong notes. We will use a simple song in DAdd with a basic chord progression as the canvas on which you can learn to create new phrases and musical ideas. This gives you an opportunity to get off the written page and take a risk, beginning to create new music – another way of saying “improvise”.

Bluegrass Jam Skills (Intermediate) Erin Mae Lewis
Learn to competently play with other musicians and other instruments. You will learn to chord, play rhythm, improvise a solo, and play in multiple keys. 

Fingerpicking Joy (Advanced) Steve Eulberg
Using Beethoven’s Familiar Melody (Ode to Joy), we’ll work through several different exercises that develop both our right and left hand techniques for comfortable, accurate and beautiful fingerstyle playing.

Grand Dulcimer Orchestra – Jenny Pluck Pears

3:35-4pm – Sectional Rehearsals (4 parts, all levels available)

4:10pm – Grand Dulcimer Orchestra

Sunday Workshop Description


With Erin Mae Lewis
Bluegrass Mountain Dulcimer for Everyone – Erin will teach some basics of playing rhythm, understanding keys and chord changes, and melodic improvisation. Bluegrass is Erin’s first musical language and there’s something in it for every player at every level. Bring a capo, pick, music stand, and pencil. All levels welcome. 


Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering: Class Levels

About the skill levels:
To help you pick the best workshops for your experience, all of our workshops are classified by the skill level of the material. Although you’re welcome to attend any classes you’d like (and there will be no test), you’re likely to get more from classes designed with somebody of your skill in mind.

Absolute Beginner: You do not need previous dulcimer experience or musical background.

Beginner: You know how to hold your instrument, and can strum and play some simple tunes. You may not feel confident yet, but you love the music that your instrument can make! These classes will help you learn some chords, gain more comfort with your instrument and your ability to find and play tunes by ear and from music and tablature.

Intermediate: You have the skills of the previous levels and you’ve learned the basics of strumming and reading tablature, you need to expand your playing techniques and musical theory. You are learning to embellish your basic music with hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides; to adapt an arrangement with different chord positions; to play in and modulate to different keys with and without a capo or retuning; to flat-pick and fingerpick a tune. You can play in different tunings.

Advanced: You have the skills of the other levels plus the ability to play at least 4 chords in DAd or DAA tuning, to use 2-3 fingers (left hand), and be comfortable with at least 2-3 basic rhythms, utilize melody runs on all the strings using scales, then adding arpeggios and patterns from within chords, as well as a strummed chordal melody.