Dulcimer Music for Civil War Songs

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I am learning to play the Mountain Dulcimer.
As such, I want to play it in camp at my Civil War reenactments.
I am in search of Civil War music that I can learn for my instrument. I have "Googled" it and found 2 sources for purchase, but I am wondering if anyone has the music that they would be willing to share, or if anyone knows of website where I can find the music.
Thanks! I appreciate it!
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Is it just regular sheet music you're looking for? If so, Hathitrust and Internet Archives has a ton of ACW era songs, words and music.

Hutchinson family, " Tenting On The Old Camp Ground "

" Songs for the Union ", 1861

" War Songs For The South "

A few books of English folk music, too- some look familiar. Dulcimers are so haunting, what a wonderful instrument to learn!
 

7thWisconsin

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If you read music, you can play any melody on the dulcimer. No matter what "key" you're tuned to (I tighten my strings until they "feel right" in Aolian mode AAAD) the starting note of your scale is "Do." Pretend you're playing "Tenting Tonight" in D. The first note is A "Sol" and the next F# "Mi. So that's the open string, followed by the fifth fret. (What we're doing is sight reading in "movable Do." Music teacher technical term.) Since you can only play in one "key" at a time without retuning, I just move the instrument to the key, rather than the key to the instrument. The old anthology "Singing Soldiers" has an outstanding collectiion of songs in mostly easy keys, with almost all the words, and often variant or parody lyrics too.
 
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Mrs. V

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Is it just regular sheet music you're looking for? If so, Hathitrust and Internet Archives has a ton of ACW era songs, words and music.

Hutchinson family, " Tenting On The Old Camp Ground "

" Songs for the Union ", 1861

" War Songs For The South "

A few books of English folk music, too- some look familiar. Dulcimers are so haunting, what a wonderful instrument to learn!
Ohh, thanks for the info..more songs for me to learn!
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Messages
4,416
Location
Aledo, IL
Is it just regular sheet music you're looking for? If so, Hathitrust and Internet Archives has a ton of ACW era songs, words and music.

Hutchinson family, " Tenting On The Old Camp Ground "

" Songs for the Union ", 1861

" War Songs For The South "

A few books of English folk music, too- some look familiar. Dulcimers are so haunting, what a wonderful instrument to learn!
Thanks!
I will check them out!
 
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Joined
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Aledo, IL
If you read music, you can play any melody on the dulcimer. No matter what "key" you're tuned to (I tighten my strings until they "feel right" in Aolian mode AAAD) the starting note of your scale is "Do." Pretend you're playing "Tenting Tonight" in D. The first note is A "Sol" and the next F# "Mi. So that's the open string, followed by the fifth fret. (What we're doing is sight reading in "movable Do." Music teacher technical term.) Since you can only play in one "key" at a time without retuning, I just move the instrument to the key, rather than the key to the instrument. The old anthology "Singing Soldiers" has an outstanding collectiion of songs in mostly easy keys, with almost all the words, and often variant or parody lyrics too.
Thanks!
 
Joined
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7thWisconsin

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The mountain or Appalachian dulcimer seems to have developed in the 1750s on the southwestern Pennsylvania frontier, or the western Virginia frontier (that area that's now West Virginia). It may be the attempt by Irish settlers to imitate a traditional German instrument called the scheitholt. (These 2 ethnic communities populated that frontier; the Irish being poorer and somewhat transient, and the Germans more inclined to settle and build homes and businesses.) The oldest dulcimers were crude and ugly - literally a wooden box with nails at both ends to hold the strings, and round tone holes. The first shape that starts to appear towards the end of the 18th century seems to have been the pear shape, with the hourglass appearing a little later. Possibly it was a very local instrument with very little exposure to the outside world. It died out quickly after the Civil War because its small size and soft tone made it difficult to compete with the larger, louder 19th century string instruments. It was almost unknown outside Appalachia when a college student brought one to school in the early 1950s, during the folk music revival. Because it's easy to play, study and easy to transport and folky, it caught on and makers began to produce kits for them and instrument makers started making them again. My dad made one for me when I was 14 from an Appleseed John kit. He was no craftsman, and it was ugly, but it played just fine. It has been estimated that there are now more dulcimers in existence than there ever were in the historical period. I have a little pear-shaped one made by (don't laugh) First Act. Lovely bright tone, stays in tune, indestructable body. I think it was $12. Irish and English folk tunes play on the dulcimer really well, as do French folk tunes. They have that modal, Celtic sound. I only fret the melody string, and let the others ring open as drones, but I know people who play on the inner strings too. I chord if I'm accompanying singing. The dulcimer really only plays a I, IV and V chord easily, but for music in our period that's usually enough.
Although it would have been an unusual instrument to find in any of our camps, I think it's an important instrument for us to play and use if you have the desire. Fewer and fewer people play anything but Pandora in our autotuned musical world, and need to be exposed to different sounds.
 

Claude Bauer

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The mountain or Appalachian dulcimer seems to have developed in the 1750s on the southwestern Pennsylvania frontier, or the western Virginia frontier (that area that's now West Virginia). It may be the attempt by Irish settlers to imitate a traditional German instrument called the scheitholt. (These 2 ethnic communities populated that frontier; the Irish being poorer and somewhat transient, and the Germans more inclined to settle and build homes and businesses.) The oldest dulcimers were crude and ugly - literally a wooden box with nails at both ends to hold the strings, and round tone holes. The first shape that starts to appear towards the end of the 18th century seems to have been the pear shape, with the hourglass appearing a little later. Possibly it was a very local instrument with very little exposure to the outside world. It died out quickly after the Civil War because its small size and soft tone made it difficult to compete with the larger, louder 19th century string instruments. It was almost unknown outside Appalachia when a college student brought one to school in the early 1950s, during the folk music revival. Because it's easy to play, study and easy to transport and folky, it caught on and makers began to produce kits for them and instrument makers started making them again. My dad made one for me when I was 14 from an Appleseed John kit. He was no craftsman, and it was ugly, but it played just fine. It has been estimated that there are now more dulcimers in existence than there ever were in the historical period. I have a little pear-shaped one made by (don't laugh) First Act. Lovely bright tone, stays in tune, indestructable body. I think it was $12. Irish and English folk tunes play on the dulcimer really well, as do French folk tunes. They have that modal, Celtic sound. I only fret the melody string, and let the others ring open as drones, but I know people who play on the inner strings too. I chord if I'm accompanying singing. The dulcimer really only plays a I, IV and V chord easily, but for music in our period that's usually enough.
Although it would have been an unusual instrument to find in any of our camps, I think it's an important instrument for us to play and use if you have the desire. Fewer and fewer people play anything but Pandora in our autotuned musical world, and need to be exposed to different sounds.
I got a mountain dulcimer a couple of years ago and learned to play it with a "noter," i.e., a small wood accessory that you slide along the string to create a melody. Alas, I haven't played it in a while--with a limited amount of time to devote to practicing, I usually focus on the fife.

I played the dulcimer on my porch a few times, and a neighbor came out and yelled, "Yee Ha!" What a bozo. Someone online called it a "bagpipe with strings" presumably because of the droning sound.

Regardless, as an adult beginner, I haven't been able to find anyone to play with, and I got a cool reception when I mentioned it to other Civil War reenactors--it's not period correct, no accounts of them in camp, etc., etc., one guy even sent me pictures of hippies playing them in the 60's. People are so weird.

Sounds like you've had more success with the instrument and found some folks who are more welcoming. I'm glad I saw this thread--reminded me how much I enjoy it. I'm going to get it out and play it tonight!
 
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Patrick H

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Folklore centers in various states will be good resources. Also check out roots and folk music festivals, which are popular in lots of places. We have a folk festival every April here in Boonville. You'll find dulcimer players who can point you to resources. The mountain dulcimer is a pretty easy instrument to play by ear, so you could collect a few recorded albums of Civil War songs and learn by playing along with them. In fact, most of the original dulcimer players probably learned just by listening to other people. Good luck.

The Friends of Historic Boonville can probably help with recordings and introductions to some musicians. They are one of several local historical organizations and they sponsor the folk festival. They maintain regular office hours. Call: 660-882-7977
 

7thWisconsin

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Nov 21, 2014
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I got a mountain dulcimer a couple of years ago and learned to play it with a "noter," i.e., a small wood accessory that you slide along the string to create a melody. Alas, I haven't played it in a while--with a limited amount of time to devote to practicing, I usually focus on the fife.

I played the dulcimer on my porch a few times, and a neighbor came out and yelled, "Yee Ha!" What a bozo. Someone online called it a "bagpipe with strings" presumably because of the droning sound.

Regardless, as an adult beginner, I haven't been able to find anyone to play with, and I got a cool reception when I mentioned it to other Civil War reenactors--it's not period correct, no accounts of them in camp, etc., etc., one guy even sent me pictures of hippies playing them in the 60's. People are so weird.

Sounds like you've had more success with the instrument and found some folks who are more welcoming. I'm glad I saw this thread--reminded me how much I enjoy it. I'm going to get it out and play it tonight!
I'm sorry - you are surrounded by morons. :bounce: My next door neighbor bought one a couple years ago and was sitting on his front porch trying to figure out how to play it all by himself one afternoon when I was coming home. I grabbed mine and took it over to him, tuned his and taught him a basic scale. He still plays with it sometimes. (BTW - do you know the definition of a gentleman? A man who can play the bagpipes and doesn't. :bounce:)
While it's probably true that a dulcimer would have been extremely rare in the hands of a Civil War soldier just because of the time and place in the instrument's history, I don't think this is one of the places to get bent out of shape about gnat's eyelash historicity. We have forgotten too much of what acoustic music sounds like at all to be that picky. The nay-sayers cluck their tongues at harmonicas and every other manner of thing - what do we get for it? Less music in camp. While I wouldn't recommend someone bring their Ovation 12-string out to the field, I think a dulcimer gets a pass. (Sadly, I think if a trooper got his hands on a dulcimer during the war, it probably meant he stole it from somewhere local. It probably got beat up and tossed on a fire when the regiment marched off. War is hard on old stuff...)
 
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