Playing “tips” for Instruments


One of the advantages of being very much an “amateur musician” (I am, rather, a “craftsman”) is that you sometimes have to “improvise” in your “playing methods”.

For the Mountain Dulcimer and the Strumbly:

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  1. -use a thin kevlar (meat cutting) glove on your “fingering hand” (look closely at my “left hand” in the videos for each of these instruments), Doing so - (1) avoids having to “develop callouses” on your fingers, and (2) allows you to “rill” the strings, like a “noter”.

So I thought it would only be fair if I “passed along” some of my “tips” which I have intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally) developed for some of our johnRodie Heirloom Instruments.

Please - I know that the musical professionals will be upset with this approach, but I am assuming that a lot of your folks viewing this website are like me.  You have always wished that you could “make music” (or some form thereof).


For the Thumb Piano:

  1. -instead of playing with your “thumbs”, use a “soft rubber pick”.  It gives a much less “tinny” sound, and also allows you to “strum/chord” adjoining tongs.

For the Bowed Psaltery:

  1. -with a little practice, you can actually play the Bowed Psaltery with “two” bows !!  This allows you avoid some of the “sound gaps” that invariably occur when you move from “low to high notes” when the “tempo” wants those extended notes to be “more fluid”.

For the Hurdy Gurdy:

  1. -use “rubber matting” on your lap/thighs, as described above to hold the Hurdy Gurdy.

  1. -to keep the instruments from “slipping off of your lap/thighs”, (see videos), place pieces of standard woodworking rubber matting (used to “hold” your material to your workbench top, while you “sand” a flat piece of material) on your “laps/thighs.

How about Improvisation ??

  1. -Playing any one of the johnRodie Heirloom Musical instruments is very easy.  You really don’t have to “take lessons”, to enjoy them.  As a matter of fact, my personal preference is to just “improvise” and “play whatever comes into my head”.

  1. - This not meant to discourage anyone from seeking professional musician training - that is  

   certainly what a lot of you may want, or intend, to do.

For the Hog-Nosed Psaltery:

  1. -“finger” picking is my preference; but you can use a “soft rubber pick” very well, also.

For the Therapy Harp:

  1. -“picking” can be done effectively and pleasingly with either “your fingers”, a somewhat  

   “flexible plastic pick”, or a “soft rubber pick” - user preference - they all sound great !!!

  1. - you can also “strum” and “chord” the harp (see instructions that come with the harp)

by: John Rodie Hamilton Jr.


  1. -please note, in the video, that I have used a standard “camera tripod” to support the Bowed Psaltery.  I built a little “platform” which is secured to the tripod with standard camera fittings.  Also, I used a piece of “rubber matting” on the platform, to keep the Psaltery from sliding.  This “tripod holding method” is almost a “necessity” when playing with two bows.