Category: Mountain Dulcimer Tunes

A Sweet Fingerpicked Melody for Mountain Dulcimer – “Dream Stream”

Jan’s tips on playing “Dream Stream”: 


This is a tune that I wrote with a mystical, dreamy and arrhythmic feeling in mind. The solo recording was made with my dulcimer in a C-G-C, Mixolydian tuning. The tab is written in the standard DAD tuning and is indicated to be played with a flat-pick. It is important to hold the chord shape as long as possible in order to keep the music smooth and flowing. On the recording, I actually fingerpicked this piece with a series of harp-like strums from the bass string to the melody strings along with various, fingerpicking roll patterns. I encourage you to first listen to the sound file to get to know the piece, then take your time trying the tablature arrangement on your dulcimer. Once you know it, experiment and be creative with this tune, as it is one that I seldom play the same way twice.

“Silent Night” arranged for Mountain Dulcimer

“Silent Night” was sung first as “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht” in Oberndorf, Austria in 1817. Written a year earlier as a Poem by Fr. Joseph Mohr, he took it to Franz Gruber on December 24, 1818 to inquire about a melody being put to it for the Christmas Eve service. So “Silent Night” was sung first by Mohr and Gruber, backed by the church choir and accompanied by only a guitar, at midnight mass in St. Nicholas Church December 25, 1818. There were six original verses to the song. They sang the verses in unison and then repeated the last two lines in four-part harmony.

Karl Mauracher, a master organ builder and repairman working on the church organ, took a copy of “Silent Night” to his village in the Ziller Valley, and thus this carol began its trip around the world. It was performed for kings and royalty around the world and for the first time in New York City in 1839 by the Rainer Family at the Alexander Hamilton Monument outside Trinity Church.

Many stories have been passed around about the origin of this hymn and also about the real composer, but original manuscripts were found in recent years that had, in Mohr’s handwriting in the upper right corner, “Melodie von Fr. Xav. Gruber”. Fr. Joseph Mohr was born in 1792 and died penniless in 1848, having given all his money to the poor and helpless.


Listen to Linda Brockinton play this arrangement of “Silent Night.”

Linda’s notes on playing “Silent Night”:

My tablature arrangement below looks a little intimidating if you are not used to playing chord-melody style on your mountain dulcimer. Actually it is much simpler than it looks if you just focus on the first three numbers in each measure. These numbers make a chord, and if you put your fingertips down on the chord at the beginning of each measure and then pick the proper string, all the notes you need are there without moving until the next measure, unless of course the melody moves on the melody string.

If you look at the first measure you see that the chord is 4-3-2 or a reverse slant chord. To make this chord I use my thumb on the melody string, middle finger on the middle string, and ring finger on the bass string. Fingerings vary from player to player, so whatever you choose is fine.

Then we switch to a 2-3-4 slant chord. With my fingerings you simply drop the pinky at fret 2 on the melody string and index finger at fret 4 on the bass string, lifting the ring and thumb. By using the middle finger at fret 3, you can switch chords without lifting, and this is what allows your playing to be smooth.

Whatever fingers you use, hold all chords down until you are physically forced to move for a melody note or until it’s time to change to another chord. By doing so you will have a smooth, sustained playing style similar to the piano with the pedal down.

Slower practice is also recommended, as it is all about muscle memory. So go over each measure until it sounds like “Silent Night” and there is no hesitation. Adding one measure at a time helps you to learn the finger movements and helps you to memorize. You can also focus on looking at your hand and what you are doing instead of just concentrating on the numbers on the page.

“Auld Lang Syne” for Mountain Dulcimer

by Madeline MacNeil

This book and companion CD offer a very simple and reliable introduction for new mountain dulcimer players. The following sample from the book is a simple one-string arrangement, along with a recording. Author Madeline MacNeil is using the DAA (‘Ionian’) tuning, which places the tune comfortably on the fretboard; however, if you like to play in DAD tuning, just play the melody on the middle string. It will still play the same melody notes as the recording included below.

If you wanted to play it along with Jeanne Page’s hammered dulcimer arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne” in this issue of DulcimerSessions, you can re-tune your DAD dulcimer DGD (loosen middle string one whole step), and play the melody on the first (treble) string just as the music shows you.

Ed note: Bill Taylor built the dulcimer on the right on the cover for me and it’s for sale!

Listen to Madeline MacNeil play “Auld Lang Syne.”

“Off She Goes” for Mountain Dulcimer

Traditional Irish Jig

arranged by Mark Nelson

This energetic jig is often played in music sessions and dances in Irish, English and Scottish traditions. It is a popular tune for New England contradances as well. Here are some words that go with the A part:

Off she goes to Donnybrook Fair

She has time and money to spare

Looks like rain but she does not care

Off she goes to Donnybrook Fair

Mark Nelson suggests flatpicking or fingerpicking his arrangement, or adding notes from the chords above the music and strumming it in chord/melody style.

Mountain Dulcimer: “Aura Lee” an Easy Jamming Tune!

This traditional Irish song captured my attention on folk radio. What struck me was the beautiful melody and rhythm in conjunction with the quirky counting chorus, and the story: a young man is smitten by a woman of questionable reputation washing her feet by candlelight on a late-night street in Dublin. I’ve heard different theories about the counting chorus: that it is “mouth music” or score-keeping for a game, but mostly that she is counting money. As always with the old songs, there are many variants of “Spanish Lady,” as well as other traditional songs with the counting chorus and the floating verse of “Round and round goes the wheel of fortune.”

The version I fell in love with is from Maighread Ní Dohmnaill, Tríona Ní Dohmnaill & Dónal Lunny. You can hear it here:


They, in turn, got it from Irish source singer Frank Harte (1933-2005):


I am now a link in this chain and you can hear and see me sing and play “Spanish Lady” here:

I have tabbed this out in D-A-D mountain dulcimer tuning, but I actually play this in C-G-C-C (bass to first string) with four equally-distant strings, one of my favorite ways to play. If you have not experimented with four equally-distant strings, this is a good opportunity to get your feet wet. I play this way a lot, letting the second string drone, forming the chord shapes like I would with three strings, but skipping over what is now the second string. There is something so haunting and lovely about that dronal effect and the rich addition of that extra string—you’ll be hooked!

The quirky rhythm escaped me until I started to tab the song for a student, realizing it is a mixture of 6/4 and 4/4. These are the kinds of fascinating nuances that make songs unique and emotionally compelling. I want to thank bandmates Heidi Cerrigione and Kevin Doyle for helping me understand this rhythm.

My strumming is percussive and strong, and the beginning instrumental part has an intentionally different chord order in one section—a way to mix things up a bit but not necessarily on a conscious level for listeners.

My vocal style, as for any singer, is an expression of my generation, heritage, and creative influences: traditional Appalachian and Celtic styles blended with influences such as Joni Mitchell, Mary Black, and of course, Jean Ritchie. Enjoy! Feel free to write to me at

Printable Version


Lyrics to “Spanish Lady”:

As I was walking through Dublin City, about the hour of twelve at night

It was there I spied a fair pretty maiden washing her feet by candlelight

First she washed them, then she dried them, over a fire of amber coals

And in all my life I never did meet a maid so neat about the soles…


She had twenty eighteen sixteen fourteen, twelve ten eight six four two none

She had nineteen seventeen fifteen thirteen, eleven nine seven five three and one


I stopped to look but the watchman passed, said he, “Young fellow, now the light is late

And away with you home or I will wrestle you, straight away to the Bridewell gate.”

I got a look from the Spanish lady, hot as a fire of amber coals

And in all my life I never did meet a maid so neat around the soles…


As I walked back through Dublin City, as the dawn of day was o’er

Who should I spy but the Spanish lady, when I was weary and footsore

She had a heart so filled with loving, and her love she longed to share

And in all my life I never did meet a maid who had so much to spare…


I’ve wandered north and I’ve wandered south, to Stoneybatter and Patrick’s Close

Up and around by the Gloucester Diamond, back by Napper Tandy’s house

Old age has laid its hand upon me, cold as a fire of ashy coals

And gone is the lovely Spanish lady, neat and sweet about the soles

‘Round and around goes the wheel of fortune, where it rests now wearies me

Oh fair young maids are so deceiving, sad experience teaches me…

“Grandma’s Dulcimer” for Mountain Dulcimer

by Linda Brockinton

Several years back I went into a flea market and found a dulcimer abandoned on the floor. How sad it was to see this instrument that once held so much music just tossed away after someone died. It always makes me sad to see music and instruments discarded, knowing that someone

who loved music used to play them. To me it’s like seeing little orphan children abandoned. I was wondering, “If it could talk what would that instrument say?” So I made of list of questions that the dulcimer might ask if it could talk, and after making the list I sat down and wrote “Grandma’s Dulcimer.” A year or so later I wrote the music.

Grandmas Dulcimer

Grandma’s Dulcimer


I quietly hang upon the wall, recalling days of old.

Your Grandma, she was meek and mild, your Grandpa big and bold.

Many a night when they were young she’d play a little song

On her calico lap she held me tight while he laughed and played along.


But you pass me by day by day, I call but you don’t hear.

So unlike your Grandma; she always held me near.

I feel her fingers trip my strings, and not just notes, you see.

All of her songs came from her heart, thru her fingers right into me.


I fear the songs inside of me may never again be found.

I worry every day that I’ll not make another sound.

I see the way you look at me, with longing in your eyes.

Please take me down and play me. It’s easy; don’t be shy.


Yes, take me down and play me; play what’s in your heart.

You’ll never know what real joy is if you never start.

Hold me tight and strum me; I’ll give you gifts untold.

Gifts straight from your Grandma’s heart, and from deep within her soul.


Play me when you are full of joy, and play me when you’re blue,

And all the comfort I have to give I will give to you.

Yes, play me sweetly, play me loud, or play me with a drone,

And all the love you leave with me I’ll someday pass it on.


                                                                        Linda Brockinton

The playing of this tune is simple. The verses alternate playing the A part of the music for the

first verse and the B part for the second. This continues until you get to the last verse and there

you repeat the B part. Enjoy.