Joellen Lapidus

Joellen Lapidus is one of the pioneers of contemporary mountain dulcimer playing, building, songwriting, and teaching. She is the author of the classic dulcimer instruction book, LAPIDUS ON DULCIMER 2(1978 and 2010), which was the first dulcimer instruction book to feature both traditional and contemporary styles. She teaches on zoom, at McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, CA, and at music festivals from coast to coast.

Joellen’s first musical instruments were the accordion and clarinet. She played in orchestras and marching bands and later studied classical Indian and Arabic music. All of these genres have influenced her music especially in the area of rhythmic improvisation.

As a dulcimer builder, her innovative shapes and exquisite inlay work influenced many of the dulcimer builders of the 70’s and 80’s. The shapes of her instruments were sensual and flowing with curves and carvings of soaring birds, rather than the traditional themes of hearts and violin scrolls. She wanted to push the envelope and make the most beautiful instruments she could imagine. And she did. Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Jackson Brown, Wendy Waldman, Garth Hudson and Harry Stiles all bought her instruments

Joellen performs a gourmet sound feast of traditional and non-traditional dulcimer music. She equally loves the old tunes, the fiddle tunes, the ballads, klezmer, Middle Eastern, Indian music, jazz and pop; and combines it all in her style. Her music is exuberant, fierce and tender.

Her recordings include a live solo dulcimer CD, “Joellen Lapidus in Concert (2004)”, and her first studio CD: “Dulcimer Music for the Pelican Ballet(20140″: a feast of dulcimer styles and moods accompanied by violin, viola, spoons, bass and jazz trumpet.

You can hear her music and see her instruments at



BEGINNERS BASICS: 2 + 2 + 2 + 3  Beginners
2 strums, 2 tunings, 2 fingerpicking patterns, 3 chords, plus reading tablature and singing with the dulcimer. Everything you need to get started as a new or beginning dulcimer player.

Learn how to create irresistible rhythm grooves for traditional and non-traditional dulcimer music. Really feel the differences between 2/4 (hoe down), 3/4 (waltz), 6/8 (jigs etc.) and 8 beat Indian and Arabic rhythms. Create variations of a melody by emphasizing the up beats(syncopation), doubling beats, playing the mandolin strum and playing double time. Learn to use rhythm as a backup to folk, pop, world music and jazz. In other words: lets “play” with rhythm!

You must be able to read standard music notation for this class!
Learn to write out your favorite songs in dulcimer tablature. We’ll learn how to figure out what key a song is in, whether it is in major or minor, what tuning might work, what strum might work, and how to find the notes on the dulcimer fretboard and write them down in dulcimer tab. Worksheets will be provided.

THE SLAP (OR CHOP) TECHNIQUE  Intermediate and Advanced
Play upbeat and sleepy Rock’n Roll rhythms. Play the strum that Joni Mitchell used on California, A Case of You and Carey. Use the dulcimer as a percussion instrument. Add punch and pizzaz to traditional and no- traditional tunes.

BEYOND DAD: EXPLORING ALTERNATIVE TUNINGS  Intermediate to Advanced or be proficient at tuning and re-tuning
Using the 4 basic tunings as our jumping off point (Ionian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Dorian), we will play bits of songs in each tuning and learn where the modes are in each tuning. We’ll discover reverse tunings, jazz tunings (a double melody string is necessary for jazz tunings), other tunings (bagpipe and major chord tunings) and tunings you discover while tuning to a piece of music you want to play along with. Explore the heretofore unknown regions of your dulcimer!