How to Play Chords on a Mountain Dulcimer

By Charlotte Johnson
Mountain dulcimers can have three or four strings.

A mountain dulcimer is a stringed instrument that also is commonly referred to as a "lap dulcimer" or an "Appalachian dulcimer." The instrument gains its name from its origins in the Appalachian mountains of the United States. The mountain dulcimer is primarily used in folk music. Playing chords on a mountain dulcimer is a basic technique that you should learn if you want to play this instrument. A chord consists of two or more notes that are related to each other in a harmonic manner.

Sit and place the dulcimer in your lap with the head pointing left.

Hold a pick in your right hand between your thumb and index finger. You can use a regular guitar pick, although many dulcimer players favor a larger, triangular-shaped pick.

Hold the noter in your left hand between your thumb and forefinger. A noter is a small wooden dowel that is used when playing chords on a dulcimer.

Strum the notes of the dulcimer with the pick in your right hand. Use a motion that starts near your body and moves outward. If your dulcimer is in standard tuning (D, A, D), you will be playing a D chord.

Place the noter over the first fret of the dulcimer (the space between the head and the first horizontal line that crosses the neck). Apply mild pressure with the noter and strum the strings. This is an E chord.

Hold the noter over other frets and practice strumming. The rest of the frets are as follows: second fret - F sharp, third fret - G, fourth fret - A, fifth fret - B, sixth fret - C sharp, seventh fret - D (one octave higher than the first D), eighth fret - E (higher octave), ninth fret - F sharp (higher octave) and 10th fret - G.


You can also use your fingers to fret various notes in order to form chords, but using a noter is the best way to begin playing the instrument.

About the Author

Charlotte Johnson is a musician, teacher and writer with a master's degree in education. She has contributed to a variety of websites, specializing in health, education, the arts, home and garden, animals and parenting.