How Long Does it Take?

by Linda Ratcliff
Playing your dulcimer with confidence is evidence of time well spent. - Linda Ratcliff  

How Long Does It Take?
How long does it take to learn to play the dulcimer if you have no musical experience?  Well, I'd like to give you a definite answer like ... "By three months, you should be able to jam with the best."  And that is true for many people.

But there are others who still aren't able to play "Boil Dem Cabbage" without their tabs after six months.  It's totally an individual thing.  I could say that people who sign up for lessons with Dulcimer Crossing or attend jam sessions, and folks who go to the festivals may progress more quickly than those who don't - but again, it's an individual thing.
Colorado Dulcimer Festival
Here's what some have may have noticed.  They buy their new dulcimer and, within a week or two, they can play a few tunes with relative ease.  They're walking tall, telling everyone about what a fun instrument the dulcimer is, and how easy it is to learn.  But then, a funny thing happens ... their ears become more discriminating. They hear the little technical things that don't sound so good, and they want to learn to play better.  So they go back home and practice some more.

That's how it was for me.  Someone heard I could play the hammered dulcimer, and she invited me to play for the historical society's banquet while they were eating. Well, by then my ear was hearing every little nuance of things that I could do better. Preparing for that banquet took quite an investment of time!

Now, as a seasoned player and sometime performer, some days my hammers fly and I strike every string correctly. Other days, it can be a struggle, and my confidence slips. Sometimes I seem to advance by leaps and bounds, and other times I reach plateaus that may last a few months.

So here is my conclusion - you may agree or not. It takes a lifetime to learn to play the dulcimer. I will never reach a level of perfection that I can say, "I'm done - I don't need to practice any more."  I plan to practice as for long as I am able to hang on to my hammers.

What about you? 
Keep in mind - you're never too young and you're never too old to begin! 

As always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.



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