Ruth's Workshops



 "Your classes pushed me to a new level.  By “push,” I mean that your course descriptions were exactly what you taught in class.  Your gentle prodding and simple explanations of difficult issues helped me understand concepts that I had heard many times before but couldn't understand. Your teaching style—demonstration of the entire song, then explanations measure by measure—was a perfect match for so many of us who had been to other dulcimer workshops over the years.  I also enjoyed your blend of using printed music and helping us hone our listening skills.  Thank you for adding so much to my playing this year, and the entire class was grateful for the individual attention.  Next year, I will probably take any class you offer, at any level, just to continue my musical growth. 

- Thomas, Kentucky Music Week

Workshop topics include the following, and may be configured for different length sessions and customized for various skill levels (New Player, New Player/Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, Intermediate/Advanced):


      Ruth's Signature Workshop:
  • From Heart to Hands
    Learn to play with greater expressiveness. We'll study specific arranging tools and exercises to help make your music sing! Repertoire will be drawn from expressive, lyrical music such as a slow air, waltz, or lament. (Intermediate or Advanced)

    Sample Beginner Workshops:
  • Starting off Right with Arranging
    Beginning arrangements can be simple and yet beautiful, so in this class we’ll start playing with feeling right from the start. While building an arrangement “bag of tricks” we’ll learn a beautiful waltz, air, or Celtic tune.  (Beginner)
  • Making Sense of All Those Strings 
    Are you intimidated by the “sea of strings” on your hammered dulcimer? In this class we’ll start from the beginning and cover everything you would like to know as a new player, including how brilliantly simple the layout is on the dulcimer. We’ll cover hammers, tuning, technique, instrument layout, chords, and lots more, plus we’ll learn a great beginner tune. (Beginner) 

  • Hymns for Beginners 
    Beautiful hymns deserve to be played with feeling, and even simple arrangements can sound musical. While learning popular hymns, we’ll play with expression right from the start and we’ll work on where to go to find additional notes to add to the melody.  (Beginner)
  • Celtic Music for the New Player
    Everyone needs a little Celtic music in their repertoire, so let's learn some of the universal favorites that are often played in jam sessions so you can jump right in and have fun! (Advanced Beginner)
  • "Where do I begin?" Basics - Forum
    You get to ask questions about what you want to know as a new player. Nothing is "too basic" or "too dumb!" (Beginner/Adv. Beginner)
  • Hammers and Tuning 
    Hammers – How to Choose and Use
    Tuning Basics and Hints (Things I wish someone had told me!) (Any Level)
  • Help For What Ails You
    Have you been playing a little while but think you have missed something important and are too embarrassed to ask?  This class will help fill in the gaps, covering tips like how to navigate around the dulcimer, how to choose and use hammers, tuning basics and hints, and things I wish someone had told me when I was a new player. Bring questions about what you want to know - nothing is "too basic" or "too dumb!"  (Beginner through Intermediate)

    Sample Intermediate Workshops:
  • Creating a Beautiful Arrangement
    So you've learned all the basics and can play a number of melodies, but how do you start adding notes to create a nice arrangement? This class will focus on those first steps to creating your own beautiful music, including building chord-based arrangements, adding those fun "dulcimer-sounding" embellishments, and techniques to make your music more expressive. Repertoire will draw from beautiful music, including lovely waltzes, charming Celtic music and inspirational hymns. (Intermediate)
  • Duets for Fun! 
    Playing hammered dulcimers together is fun and makes such beautiful music! We'll learn duets that you can take home to play with your friends and club members. These tunes and arrangements can work as well for two people as they do for a group. (Intermediate)
  • Beautiful Hymns
    Hymns on the hammered dulcimer are simply inspirational. We will study a favorite hymn in this class, learning the melody, chord-based harmonies, arpeggios and embellishment techniques which can also be added to any type of music you play.  (Intermediate)
  • Celtic Music
    Celtic music repertoire can be beautiful and lyrical, fun and rollicking, or anywhere in between. We'll study some Irish and Scottish tunes, including some popular and lesser-known Celtic melodies. (Intermediate)
  • Playing Back-Up
    Making music with others is the the best part of playing music and it’s fun to play more than just the melody. In this class we’ll study different ways to play back-up to vocal and instrumental melodies using chords, rhythm and fill licks to add interest and support the melody. Steve will join this class for vocals. (Intermediate)

    Sample Advanced Workshops:
  • The Original Music of Ruth Smith  
    Learn some of Ruth’s compositions while learning how to play with greater musicality. See how Ruth approaches writing music, and learn how to develop your own more elaborate arrangements using chord notes, arpeggios, fill notes and runs, with a focus on techniques to make your music more expressive. (Advanced)
  • Hands That Cooperate
    Get your brain and hands working together better to strengthen and gain more control over both your dominant and non-dominant hands. We’ll practice hand separation exercises and learn some nice tunes to put these skills into practice with the ultimate goal of incorporating these techniques to make more interesting arrangements. (Advanced) 
  • Advanced Hammering Patterns 
    Don’t shy away from music that has tricky hammering patterns – it often makes for music that is fun to play! We’ll learn how to work out tricky parts of tunes, and we’ll also delve into right and left hand lead patterns, understanding how they work, while working out the best ways to play difficult, but fun, passages. (Advanced)
  • Name that tune
    Technique exercises don’t have to be dull. Have fun and be productive as we discover musical phrases used in many common tunes and, before you know it, you’ve learned a new tune! (Intermediate or Advanced)
  • Prepare for Performance
    Would you like to learn practice tips to prepare for performing? Do you have a performance coming up and want some additional help in prepping? We’ll cover practical tips to prep for performance, and we’ll perform for each other – a friendly bunch – and help get those 
    performance jitters under control! (Advanced)
  • Beautiful Hymns
    Hymns on the hammered dulcimer are simply inspirational. We will study a favorite hymn in this class, learning the melody, chord-based harmonies, arpeggios and embellishments, which can also be adapted to any type of music you play. (Advanced)

    A very popular duet class with Steve:
  • Duet Playing - Hammered Dulcimer and Guitar
    Learn to play with a partner. In the first half of this workshop, the hammered dulcimer players learn a tune while the guitar players learn the backup part to this tune in a separate concurrent session. In the second half of the workshop, the hammered dulcimer and guitar players join together to play the tune, focusing on techniques to help the instruments complement one another and making the results more musical by use of dynamics and expression.  (Intermediate/Advanced)

  • Arranging Christmas Music 
    The hammered dulcimer is the perfect instrument for Christmas music. Learn various arrangements of well-known and not-so-well-known tunes for the season. (Appropriate arrangements are chosen for each specific skill level being taught.)
  • Using Written Music (even if you can’t read it) to learn a tune 
    So much helpful information can easily be learned about a tune from sheet music, even if you haven’t yet learned how to read the notes. Geared for non-music-readers or those wanting to brush up on their reading skills.
  • Practice Tips and Techniques 
    A grab bag of ideas and exercises to help improve skills and make practice time more valuable .
    (Any Level) 
  • Hammers and Tuning 
    Hammers – How to Choose and Use
    Tuning Basics and Hints plus "Things I wish someone had told me!" (Any Level)
  • Sharing Your Music
    Sharing music with others is one of the best parts of playing music, and you don’t have to be a seasoned player or professional to share your gift of music!  Whether you simply want to share your music with friends or you perform regularly, this class is designed to help you gain confidence in playing for others. We will cover helpful practicing tips including how to practice for performance, hone our song introduction skills, and discuss how to prepare for the unexpected while performing. Come with several tunes to play for each other. This is a fun and ”judgment-free” class where we’ll play for each other – offering friendly support  and advice – to help get those performance jitters under control!  (For any level player who is interested in playing for others.) 
  • Learn A Tune
    Learn a specific tune (which will be named in the class description) - chosen for skill level. 

    Hammered dulcimer is the perfecft wedding instrument. Learn everything you need to know about performing for weddings of all sizes and locations. Ruth manages Steve and Ruth's busy wedding business, and has seen and dealt with it all! 
  • Wedding Ceremony Songs
    Discuss the basic musical elements of the ceremony, examine sample songs, and learn a good wedding favorite. (Any level)
  • Weddings – Business Aspects (discussion)
    Everything from the first contact with the couple to thank you notes at the end. Includes building your business, internet use, customer contact, ceremony elements and song choices, contracts, fees, getting the information you need, sound systems, etiquette, preparation, event day details, and more. (Any level)


Ruth's workshop teaching credits include:

MerleFest, Wilkesboro, NC
Black Mountain Music Festival, Black Mountain, NC
The Quarantunes Dulcimer Festival - online
The Swannanoa Gathering, NC
The Dulcimer Jamboree, Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View, AR
Walnut Valley Festival, KS
Kentucky Music Week and
KMW Winter Weekend, Bardstown, KY
John C Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, NC
Southern California Dulcimer Heritage, Culver City, CA
The Buckeye Dulcimer Festival, Ashley, OH 
Winter Creek Reunion, Bennington, OK
Gebhard Woods Dulcimer Festival, IL 
ODPC FunFest, Evart, MI
Dayton Dulcimer Society Festival, Troy, OH
North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Assocation, Helen, GA
Florida Acoustic Winter Gathering, Mt. Dora, FL
Central Florida Dulcimer and 'Autohop' Festival, Mt. Dora, FL 
Indiana Hammered Dulcimer Festival, IN
Wood-n-Strings Dulcimer Shop and Pickin' Porch, Townsend, TN
Cranberry Dulcimer and Autoharp Gathering, NY
Great American Dulcimer Convention, Pineville, KY
Heartland Dulcimer Club Traditional Music Festival, KY 
Western Carolina University Dulcimer Winter Weekend, NC
Pocono Winter Dulcimer Fest, East Stroudsburg, PA
Upper Potomac Spring Music Weekend, Sheperdstown, WV
New Mexico Dulcimer Festival, Albuquerque, NM
The Winston-Salem Dulcimer Festival, Winston-Salem, NC
The Smoky Mountain Dulcimer Retreat, Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club, TN
Dulci-more Festival, Lisbon, OH
Harmony Harvest Dulcimer Festival, Lancaster, OH 
The Suwannee Dulcimer Retreat, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, FL
The Ola Belle Reed Music Festival, Lansing, NC
MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove, NC
Perelandra, Asheville, NC 
Riverhouse Dulcimer Retreat, Grassy Creek, NC

and more...