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The Complete Guide to Theory and Mapping for the Hammered Dulcimer

Formerly known as: Chord Theory and Mapping for the Hammered Dulcimer, 4th Edition, this book has been significantly revised and expanded! 

This is the digital version (PDF) of this book. 


Click here to order a hard copy. 


The hammered dulcimer is in many ways unique as a visual/spatial instrument. We can significantly accelerate our mastery of the instrument via thorough knowledge of the patterns. Much like a guitarist uses chord patterns, we can do the same. This book focuses on the spatial nature of the hammered dulcimer and integrates chord theory with the purpose of gaining mastery of the organization of the instrument. The charts and diagrams are supported by detailed discussions of supporting theory.

This book summarizes a vast amount of material that is vital to a broad understanding of the layout, patterns and chord theory that are foundational for playing the hammered dulcimer. A well-rounded musician should strive to develop these areas:

  • Instrumental technique
  • Listening skills (our ears)
  • Musicality
  • Understanding and applying theory

Through repetition, we develop muscle memory. But without vision and understanding, muscle memory typically is insufficient. We can significantly accelerate our mastery of the instrument via the integration of patterns and theory, informing our muscle memory and our ears. Developing conceptual memory is often longer lasting.

What others say about this book:

"I kept waiting for the 'Oh..I can't read anymore! This is way beyond me!' I thought it would come at the Modes Chapter. I actually read thru that and 'GOT IT'....mostly! HA! The overwhelmed feeling never took over! They knocked it out of the ball park! Really folks....buy the book....you will learn so much and reinforce what you already know! Awesome!" 

- Bob Flory

"This covers all the bases! It will be an invaluable resource--complete & concise." 

- Susan Hartness

"Finally! A 'how to' dulcimer book that's really worth buying!
Since I started teaching in 2006, students have asked if there's a particular book from which I teach. The answer has been 'no'. I typically make my own handouts and information sheets based on the method from which I learned, i.e. the Ken Kolodner method. I am thrilled that Ken has recently put together a book that contains everything you need to know to master the hammered dulcimer. Those are BIG words, but seriously, there's a LOT in this book! This spiral-bound, easel-style book began as a collection of cheat sheets and charts to help students navigate the instrument. In subsequent editions, information and explanations were added to create a compact, easy-to-read summary of music theory for the hammered dulcimer. The information presented is essential to mastery of the instrument. Self-motivated players can work through this book on their own, although it might be helpful to have an experienced teacher give some guidance. If no such teacher is available (and even if there is) or if you simply want more "foundation" information to explore all of this on your own, check into Ken's "Big Bundle" on his website. That'll keep you busy for awhile :-)"

-- Sue Wilson, published in "Trapezoids of the Triangle" blog, May 2018


For every concept, the book uses charts supplemented by a discussion page:

  • Organization of the HD
  • Shortcuts for Learning the Notes
  • How to See Intervals on the HD
  • The circle of fifths organization of the hammered dulcimer
  • Scales: Four Methods, Duplicate Notes, Scale exercises (Octave Scales, Opposite Direction Scales, Thirds Scales)
  • The "Chromatic Trick"
  • Intervals: Harmonic Intervals, Octaves, The Rule of Nine
  • Triad Theory & Arpeggio Patterns
  • Root Arpeggios (5 patterns); Full Range Arpeggios; Inversion patterns; Moving Inversion Patterns
  • Derivation of Three Note Chord Patterns (Three Right and Three Left Hand Patterns)
  • Duplicate Three Note Chord Patterns
  • Harmonizing a Major Scale with Triads
  • Harmonization Exercises
  • Harmonizing a Major Scale with the Most Likely Chord
  • Definitions of Various Types of 7th Chords
  • 7th Chord Theory & Patterns: Major 7ths, Minor 7ths, Dominant 7ths, Diminished 7ths
  • Dominant 7th Chords in Minor Keys
  • 7th Chords Contain Two Triads
  • Comparison of Dominant & Diminished 7ths
  • Full Range 7th Chords
  • Inverting 7th Chords
  • Theory of Secondary Dominants
  • The Secondary Dominant Zig-Zag Pattern
  • Slash Chords, Suspensions, Augmented Chords, Relative Major/Minor, Parallel Minor/Major
  • The Chord Palette
  • Modes (Ionian, Dorian, Mixolydian, Aeolian - location, formation, likely chords)
  • Backup: The Compact Pattern, Universal Backup

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  • 2 PDFs - one for printing (single pages), and one for display on computer/tablets (double pages spreads)

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The Complete Guide to Theory and Mapping for the Hammered Dulcimer

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