CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > 'British' dulcimers 1800-1945

Printed tutors

Excerpts - 5 of 5

Walter Webber, Dallas' Complete Tutor for the Dulcimer: Ordinary, Chromatic and Cords [sic], London c.1920
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scale of G-dulcimer

chromatic system recommended
chromatic system not recommended
"The new vamping chord dulcimer", with strings tuned to 7 chords, and resonant tubes instead of bridges

Repertoire: March in Scipio; Blue Bells; Spanish Chant; Nelly Bly; Swiss Air; Cock o' the North; Vicar of Bray; Poor Old Joe; The Heavens are Telling; The Darkie's Dream etc.


The Dulcimer is one of the oldest musical instruments in history - it is mentioned in many ancient writings under the name of Psaltery. When the instrument is thoroughly well made, tuned and played, it gives a sweet enduring sound, very superior to the poorly made instruments heard sometimes.

Amateurs make a fairly good instrument, but their scales are usually incorrect, consequently the strings break and the frame of the instrument gives way. The tone of the properly made article is not only suitable for the open air but for the concert hall and home.

Improvements are continually being made which are lifting it out of its old obscurity and making it a popular instrument, considerably more attractive too lovers of music.

To those on the point of purchasing one of these instruments, my advice is, buy an English made Dulcimer for they are more reliable than those of foreign manufacture. Remember, the strain on an ordinary Dulcimer is equivalent to more than a ton, consequently the frame must be strongly made.

The Ordinary Diatonic Dulcimer (see diagram No.1) is at present the one mostly used, it has 23 bridges - 11 on the right and 12 in the centre. These bridges are not fixed to the soundboard but are held in position by the pressure of the strings upon them. There are usually four strings to each note, but in some smaller Dulcimers only three strings are used.

The right hand notes are low in pitch and the four strings over each bridge are tuned in unison as one note. The strings over the centre bridges form two distinct notes, those on the left being a fifth higher than those on the right. There are 35 notes altogether, and the compass of the instrument is three octaves from G1 to G2.

Another G. Dulcimer is constructed with only 21 bridges, being three notes less than the ordinary; the notes omitted are shown in the diagram by circles placed round them, the rest of the notes being the same.

The F. Dulcimer has twenty-three bridges and is a larger instrument, made on the same pattern as the G.

The C. Dulcimer is smaller with twenty-one bridges and has only got three strings to each note.

The numbers in the preceding diagram are applicable to all diatonic Dulcimers, so that the tunes in this book will apply to each.


There are three varieties of beaters, cane, whalebone or steel. The first is the most used, the third the best for tremolo, which means, to use both right and left hands alternately on the long notes. The quality of tone is affected by the quality of the beater, the hard giving a loud, bright tone, the soft, a mellow tone. The flat side of the beaters are mostly used, but the bowed side is best for tremolo.


Some players have a preference for the Plectrum Style, which gives a very bright tone. By passing it over the four wires a quick tremolo effect can be obtained. When playing hold them loosely and strike with the back, not the point; also strike about one and a half inches from the bridge.

When buying plectra for this purpose choose hard ones.