Patterns and Patchwork: Mountain Dulcimer Fingerpicking Made Easy
Reviewed by Carrie Crompton
Dulcimer Players News
Volume 18, Number 3
July/September 1992

I know a flautist who knits as avidly as she plays music; a guitarist who quilts; a mountain dulcimer player who spins. All will attest that there are connections between the textile arts and music at the levels of patterning and rhythm. I’ve never seen the connections articulated so clearly, though, as in Sue Carpenter’s Patterns and Patchwork.

Sue’s introduction states: “In patchwork quilting, four basic geometric shapes-the square, the rectangle, the triangle, and the parallelogram-are used in various combinations to create an overall design. In a similar way, melody-pattern picking uses four basic picking patterns-the brush, the pinch, alternating fingers, and the roll-in various combinations to create a melodic instrumental arrangement.”

The next 152 pages give step-by-step instruction in these picking patterns, with exercises and musical examples to illustrate each pattern, as well as combinations of patterns. The repertoire is basic: “Shady Grove,” “Shortnin’ Bread,” “Long, Long Ago,” and so forth; but the arrangements are the nicest I’ve ever played and allow the player to concentrate on technique.

I believe this is the most complete instructional manual on right-hand technique for the mountain dulcimer yet published. It is very clear and easy to read with computer-generated notation and tab, and attractively illustrated. Perhaps the most valuable part of the book for me is the way it reveals patterns I normally perceive intuitively (ears and fingers “knowing” things my mind didn’t bother to analyze) in a very clear visual, logical fashion.

This is a finely crafted, useful book, one that is sure to become a standard tutor for dulcimer players. And what a boon for us teachers!

Used with permission:  Dulcimer Players News