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


JIMMY COOPER - interviewed by Alan Ward - 3 of 11

(The cornet player) could only read, and when he got a piece of music, we had to learn the tune off him 'cause we couldn't read it. But I had to play it on the key it was written on. And the dulcimers were all tuned to G. Well I fixed my dulcimer that I could play in B flat, I could play in F, I could play in all these keys which no-one else has ever done with a dulcimer, I know except the big cymbalom.

Later on I made a discovery by accident. I had a dulcimer tuned to G. I could play it in F, I could play it in G, I could play it in C, I could play it in D. But one time I went to the dulcimer and it (had gone) down... a tone... from G to F. I found when I was playing in G, I was playing in F... c was B-flat ... F was E-flat. The result is I had two so I could play in whatever key you wanted. If you'd a singer - if he sung in three flats I'd go onto this dulcimer that's tuned to F. If he sung in D or G I could do it on the one in G. I conquered all the keys - just by pure accident... but then I played with a 10-keyed accordeon.

But y'know those fellers had good ears because they could camouflage - they could skip over things that had a half-note - there was no note there ... you didn't notice... marvellous! Then when you didn't read (music) y'learned it by ear and y'done what y'wanted with it. It wasn't as the composer meant it to be nevertheless but it was music and it suited dances.