Private Hammered Dulcimer Lessons - Introductory, In-Person, and Online

Comments from some of my students:

"Jon is a gifted musician and teacher with a flawless technique and a vast repertoire of music. His easy going manner and generosity of spirit create a relaxed atmosphere in which to learn. It is a joy to take lessons from Jon!"
Carmita from Holliston, MA

"I came to Jon as an advanced beginner dulcimer student. He helped me advance in ways that required me to stretch, but were still fun and attainable. Jon makes playing the dulcimer a joy! He's helping me develop the skills necessary to do what I want to be able to do with my dulcimer and to play with confidence."
Jane from Lancaster, MA

"I tried two other teachers around the Massachusetts/New Hampshire area, and they didn't quite fit what I was looking for: someone to challenge me, keep me interested, listen to what I most wanted to play, and give practical advice on how to turn a simple song on the dulcimer into a beautiful one with chords and different arrangements. Jon was the third teacher I tried in the area, and as they say, the third time is the charm. I thought after having some of the best teachers in the mountains of North Carolina, I wouldn't grow as a dulcimer player any more. Jon is right up there with the best of them."
Lorraine from New Hampshire

Updated: 3/1/2018

An Introduction to the Hammered Dulcimer for Aspiring Players

Do you think you might be interested in learning to play the Hammered Dulcimer but don't know the first thing about it? Are you queasy about investing the money in an instrument without any inkling that you'd take to it or not?

You need the musical equivalent of a SCUBA diving "Resort Dive". A resort dive is an introductory session in a pool to become familiar with the equipment and practice breathing underwater, followed by a limited-depth dive with an instructor at your side. It's a low-cost, low-risk way to experience diving to see if you like it before spending the money and time on getting certified, buying equipment, etc.

Here's your chance to have Jon give you a personal 60-90 minute "resort dive" into the Hammered Dulcimer - how the instrument is laid out, how you play it, hold the hammers, know which hand to use, etc. and let you get some hands-on time with his instrument. You'll leave with all your questions answered and

All this for only $50 - please use the Contact link in the menu at the top of this page to email me if you're interested in taking your own HD resort dive...

In-Person Lessons

I teach private dulcimer lessons at my house in Marlborough, MA (close to the intersection of routes I-495 and US-20), and charge People who travel a distance for lessons and who come less frequently often opt for a lesson longer than an hour.

I prefer scheduling lessons on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the day, but other arrangements can be made if needed.

My teaching philosophy is to teach people how to learn from written music at a speed which is comfortable for them, and to be a guide. If you don't know how to read music I will help you learn how.

I try to provide structure, demonstrate techniques, give pointers and feedback, make recommendations, show you different ways things can be done, and improve your musicality and musicianship. The dulcimer is a folk instrument that is logically laid out and (in my opinion) not very difficult to play once you know or have figured out a few things.

My goal is to get you proficient in a reasonable period of time at your own pace. I encourage you to bring a small recorder, tablet or smartphone to your lesson so I can play each tune you'll be learning so you can hear what it is supposed to sound like.

Once you get going I will accompany you on guitar so you can get comfortable playing with another instrument and hear how great it sounds playing with another instrument playing chords with you.

What I will NOT do in lessons:

If you are interested in taking lessons with me please send me email by clicking on Contact link in the menu at the top of this page.

Beginning Hammered Dulcimer Players

Many of my students are novices that I help get started. For your first lesson you will need:

For information about these and other beginning dulcimer questions I suggest visiting my FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) web page.

For your first lesson I recommend planning on an hour and a half to two hours. If we spend less time I'll only charge you for the time we actually spend together.

After that plan on an hour lesson every week to start with, moving to one every other week after 2-3 lessons. After a while you'll probably want a lesson every 3 or 4 weeks depending upon your progress, what you want to learn, etc.

If you can find a copy, I recommend getting Lucille Reilly's Striking Out and Winning book which contains a lot of good information plus the music for 50 tunes that are often played at jams and dances. Unfortunately is is curently out of print and it's unknown when a new edition will be available. You can check on this at:

However, because this book is no longer available I have entered many of the tunes into music notation software and will provide printed versions to my beginning students at no charge, as part of their lessons. My version uses the same notation as Lucille's so if you later get her book the tunes will look familiar to you. My version also includes the chords for each tune so your friends can accompany you on guitar or piano.

I find that new players can work up to learning 1 to 2 new tunes a week - a reasonable goal for most people. This will teach new patterns and techniques, and will help build up your repertoire for playing with other people, performing for friends and family, etc. Think of it - in a year you will know close to 100 tunes!

For beginners our first lesson will cover:

  1. tuning and layout of the dulcimer, how to hold the hammers, answering all your questions
  2. scales and notes and reading music
  3. learning and playing tunes (reels)

In subsequent lessons you'll learn:

all the while working on playing rhythmically and fluidly!

After you have a number of reels and jigs under your belt, if you're interested in solo embellished arrangements I teach from Carrie Crompton's Hammer Dulcimer Solos book(s). You do not need this to get started, though.

For Intermediate-Advanced Players

Lessons for more advanced players focus on what they want to learn or perfect, including: In some cases long-time players have come to me frustrated and asking for help: they seemed to be stuck and/or are having difficulty with their repertoire. I've helped them correct some basic problems and re-tool their technique so they're much happier with their playing style and are once again progressing in their musical development.

Online Lessons via Skype

For students across the country who have asked to take lessons from me I now offer private lessons online via Skype. These are the same lessons I offer in-person except I can't accompanying you on guitar (like I do in-person).

For Skype lessons I charge $50 an hour. You can save $25 by purchasing a 3 lesson package for $125. My rates are a little higher for individual online lessons to help defray the cost of my equipment and the additional preparation and setup required. Payment can be made by Paypal or via mailed check. All lessons are pre-paid and non-refundable, and with at least a 12 hour advance notice you can cancel and/or reschedule a lesson without forfeiting its fee.

You can email me to tentatively schedule a lesson but payment must be received in advance of me sending you formal confirmation that you have that time reserved. Alternatively you can just purchase a lesson(s) and then we'll schedule a confirmed time that is mutually convenient for both of us.

Since we will be video calling computer-to-computer you will not incur any Skype charges.

Basically, there are 3 things you will need for Skype lessons:

  1. a computer near your dulcimer with a good internet connection
  2. an external video camera, preferably one with a built-in microphone
  3. a basic (ie. non-premium) Skype account (this is free)
If you are interested in Skype lessons click on and print out this Skype lessons setup document that covers what equipment you will need, how to get setup, making a preliminary test video call, how to schedule a lesson, etc.

Only after reading this document, setting up your Skype account and equipment, and we have made a test video call, should you then purchase your first lesson(s). You can do so with Paypal or a credit card by clicking on the link below. On an ongoing basis you can purchase additional lessons via the same link below whenever you'd like.

Click here to purchase online Skype lessons.