Kids can play, build own instrument

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 7, 2010

Even though it’s past Christmas, it’s still not too late to give a child a gift — the gift of music.

Chuck Simon, county extension coordinator, will help lead a workshop at the county extension office where kids will get to build their own dulcimers.

The dulcimers will include a wooden fretboard, machine tuners and a soundboard made of … cardboard.

“I’ve played the dulcimer off and on, and I’d have to say this dulcimer sounds as good as any with a wooden soundboard,” said Simon as he demonstrated one of the dulcimers. “It basically comes in a kit. The kids will fold up the soundboard and put it together, and then they can paint it or decorate it any way they’d like.”

A dulcimer is a stringed instrument, usually made of wood, which is played on a flat surface with either a pick or a bow. It is especially popular in certain styles of folk music.

The workshop will be Thurs., Jan. 21, and Fri., Jan. 22, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. each night. The workshop is limited to the first 15 builders who sign up and pay the $25 registration fee.

“This is the first time we’re doing something like this, but if it’s a success I’d like to do more,” Simon said. “This is something I’ve been researching for a while and I think it might be popular here.”

For more information about the workshop, call 334-222-1125 and ask for either Simon or Tanya Bales, 4-H agent assistant.

Simon said during the Thursday portion of the workshop, the kids will assemble the soundboard and glue it and the fretboard together. After it dries overnight, the kids will add the strings Friday night, and then learn a few basic skills for playing the instrument.

Each youngster who builds a dulcimer will also receive the book “Meet the Friendly Dulcimer,” by David Cross. The book features a variety of exercises and songs, and covers a wide spectrum of skills from simple notes to complex chords and tuning patterns.

“These are traditional three-string dulcimers,” Simon said. “It’s a simple instrument that is easy to learn, but it’s also very versatile. You can adjust the tuning and play almost anything you can imagine.”

Simon said the $25 fee only covers about half the cost of a kit for a student. However, he added the workshop has been made financially possible thanks to assistance from Covington Electric Co-operative.

“We really appreciate CEC’s help with this project,” Simon said. “With our state’s schools facing budget cuts, it seems like music programs have especially suffered. I’m hoping that this workshop will be able to give the gift of music to a child, and just introduce them to how fun it is to play your own instrument.”