Before setting out to tell a jaunty story about people who like to play the dulcimer, you could go on the Internet and read up on dulcimers and their Appalachian origins.
You could even look on YouTube and check out a clip of famous singer Cyndi Lauper, whose voice can sound like a dulcimer, playing one of the boxy instruments on her lap to the tune of “True Colors” and 9.8 million or so “views.”
Or you might drop by a music shop out off Zebulon Road at Interstate 475, as you could have Saturday, and ask the folks who gather there with their dulcimers on the first Saturday of each month, “So, what’s the deal with the little guitar thingies?”
They might laugh for a second, as they did Saturday, but odds are, even if you’re clueless about their stringed wonders, they won’t tune you out.
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They have lessons for beginners and can have you strumming a passable rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” inside of 3 minutes. Never mind that you might’ve never so much as laid a finger on a dulcimer.
“It’s very easy to play,” said Jeanne Gibbs, one the Middle Georgia Dulcimer Club’s dozen or so regulars. “The fingering is not hard. ... The teenagers like to play it like a guitar.”
You don’t need to know how to read music to play. A man who showed up for a lesson Saturday said he’d had his dulcimer for 20 years but never learned to play it.
Gibbs lives in Gordon and has an extensive musical background. She sings, plays piano, trumpet, guitar, autoharp and handbells. She started playing the dulcimer after her husband took an interest in the instrument and started performing at festivals.
“I’m not a good spectator at all. I want to do,” Gibbs said.
She said musicians who have played other instruments all their lives sometimes turn to the dulcimer for its sweet sound.
“It has a very pure, clean sound,” Gibbs said. “It goes real well with other acoustic instruments -- autoharp, fiddle, guitar.”
The club’s members play what are known as Appalachian mountain dulcimers. They were invented, or at least re-invented, in America.
Frank Worley of High Falls, another regular, said, “The original dulcimer is a Biblical instrument. In some of the old Biblical movies, you’ll see a man that has a one-string instrument across his back. ... The (dulcimer) name is two words, Latin and Greek. Latin ‘dulcis’ means sweet, and ‘melos’ means melody or music.”
Club member Karen Stewart of Lizella said playing the dulcimer is a pastime for her.
“It’s keeping the old music alive,” she said. “Before you had TVs and before you had boom boxes, people would get together and sit on their porches and play music. You’d sing, you’d pick, you’d play.”