CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in Scotland

The second generation - Jimmy Cooper

Playing styles

Jimmy's skill in many ways recalls that of William McNally, but he only uses hammers:

"I tried with the fingers," he says, "but I never got much out of it".

He has a variety of styles, from a slow tremolo, using alternate left and right hands (e.g. Danny Boy), to playing the tune note-for-note, but decorating it with single-handed rolls and two-handed trills and twiddles (Lass of Bon Accord). Jimmy was playing the xylophone in the 1940's, and it would be fascinating to work out what aspects of his dulcimer-playing might have been influenced by that experience: I can't quite think now [2002] why it never came up in our conversations.

It's clear that the rolls characteristic of dulcimer-playing are very widely used, not only by those players who have also played other percussion instruments: they were even described in the printed tutors from around the turn of the century. Perhaps the extended tremolos which Jimmy uses to render long notes in slow pieces remind the listener of xylophone techniques, but they reflect equally well the way the mandolin is used in the same situation, not to mention mechanical pianos and organs ...

He quite often fills in the harmonies with chords (Amazing Grace) or arpeggios (Schön Rosmarin).

The trio or middle section of Under the Double Eagle features a bass solo in the right-hand, while the left fills in with the "piccolo part".

"After all these years the notes just come - if I had to think about it, I couldn't do it ..."

next is an interview with Jimmy made by Alan Ward