Susan Trump                                                         

Americana in Song

Here is an alphabetical listing of all 42 lessons. Also included below are brief descriptions of each of the tunes in the lesson series. These lessons are available to current subscribers only.

America The Beautiful

Angel Band

Arkansas Traveler

Away in a Manger

Ballet from Terpsichore

Barbara Allen/Ellen



Cold Frosty Morning (capo)

Coleman's March

Country Garden

Down in the Valley to Pray

Drink to Me Only

Going Home

Greensleeves (capo)

The Highland Park Waltz/Fling

(a Susan Trump original)

Home Sweet Home

I'll Tell My Ma

I Love to Tell the Story

In the Bleak Midwinter

I Wonder as I Wander (capo)


Keep on the Sunny Side

The Minstrel Boy

Morning Has Broken

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

Planxty Irwin

Red Wing

Ruthie’s Dream

(a Susan Trump original)

Salley Gardens

Santa Lucia

Scarborough Fair (capo)

Shall We Gather at the River


Shepherd's Wife's Waltz

(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow

Spanish is the Loving Tongue

Spotted Pony

Star of the County Down

Turkey in the Straw


Waltzing Matilda

The Water is Wide

Wild Mountain Thyme


Each lesson includes an arrangement and instruction for Novice (advanced beginners); Intermediate; Back up Chords; a Duet Part; Introductions and Endings!

Hear samples at

"America the Beautiful." The lyrics to this beautiful song were written by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929), an instructor at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, after an inspiring trip to the top of Pikes Peak, Colorado, in 1893. Her poem, America the Beautiful first appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. Ms. Bates revised the lyrics in 1904 and again in 1913. In addition to those changes in the words, it is notable that the poem was not always sung to the tune that we know ("Materna," composed by Samuel A. Ward in 1882, nearly a decade before the poem was written). In fact, for two years after it was written it was sung to just about any popular or folk tune that would fit with the lyrics, with "Auld Lang Syne" being the most notable of those. The words were not published together with "Materna" until 1910.

"Angel Band" is an American Gospel song written by William Bradbury and Jefferson Hascall in the 1860’s. It was originally entitled, “My Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast." The song became widely known in the 19th century, both in folk traditions and in published form, and is very popular today.  It has been recorded by many musicians including The Stanley Brothers and yours truly on my CD, “Songs of Faith and Hope” where I medley it with Down in the Valley to Pray.

“Arkansas Traveler” was a hit play in the mid 1850s in the Taverns of Salem, Ohio, where travelers would spend the night. In the play, a traveler finds a squatter at a cabin playing this tune. The squatter is trying to remember the end of the tune, which he learned in New Orleans. Although this tune is now a favorite in bluegrass and old time circles, I first heard it played and sung by Michael Cooney in the 1970’s. I had fun arranging this piece for you. It sounds great strumming all the stings, and also is fun to play with hammer-ons and pull-offs. You’ll notice that each arrangement has more notes to play and becomes more intricate.

“Away in a Manger” – was first published in 1885 in a Lutheran Sunday School book. There are at least two major melodies for the song. One melody, “Cradle Song” is more popular in the UK. For our arrangement, I used the tune, which is more commonly heard in the United States. It was written by James R. Murray (1841-1905). The author of the first two verses is unknown.

“Ballet from Terpsichore”  by Michael Praetorius (1571–1621), a German composer, organist, and writer about music. Terpsichore (pronounced terp-SI-kery), a compendium of over 300 dance tunes, is his most well known and is his only surviving secular work. Just like our present day fiddle tunes, the dance tunes were short, and musicians played variations throughout the dance to make it more interesting for the listeners, and themselves, no doubt.  So, “Ballet from Terpsichore” is a lesson in variations with lots of practice for the right hand in accuracy.

"Barb'ry Ellen/Allen." Barb’ry Ellen, also known as Barbara Allen, and by many other names is thought to be English or Scottish in origin. It was first published in England in 1750, but had existed in oral tradition for at least a century prior to that date. It was first mentioned in Samuel Perry’s diary in 1666. Barb’ry Ellen is included in the Child Ballads, a collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, collected in the late nineteenth century by Francis James Child an American scholar and folklorist.

 “Blackbird” -  not the Beatles version, although that is nice too.  This is a banjo tune with lyrics that was written by my good friend Jerry Rasmussen who wrote “The Screen Porch Door,” “Alfred,” and “May My Heart Find Rest in Thee,” all of which I have recorded on my CDs.  I like his music a lot!  Blackbird is really fun to play on the dulcimer and gives you practice with my favorite harmony shape.

Carrickfergus” – a popular classic Irish song which has been recorded by many singers including Celtic Women (from PBS) and Charlotte Church, and is Joan Baez’s mother’s favorite song. It shares some of the imagery of “The Water is Wide,” and is a “wishing for home, and lost love” type of lament. Carrickfergus is a large town in county Antrim, Northern Ireland. The name means “Rock of Fergus.”

“Cold Frosty Morning” is first mentioned as having been played in a 1931 account of a LaFollette, northeast Tennessee fiddle contest. In the 1960’s, Alan Jabbour from Glen Lyn, Virginia, collected the tune from fiddler Henry Reed (born ca. 1855, Peterson, West Virginia). Jabbour popularized it with his late 1960’s recording with the Hollow Rock String Band. You will have the choice of playing this “old-timey” minor key selection in DAC tuning, or DAD Capo 1.

“Coleman’s March.” This is a fiddle tune, although it’s played slowly like a march. It’s a variant of the hanged-fiddler legend of "Mac Phearson’s Farewell." Joe Coleman, a shoemaker, was accused of stabbing his wife to death near the town of Slate Fork, Adair County, Kentucky, as recorded in the Burkesville Herald Almanac for 1899. Convicted on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of his sister-in-law who was living with them at the time, Coleman was tried in nearby Cumberland County and sentenced to death. While being driven to the place of execution in a two-wheeled ox cart, Coleman sat on his coffin and played a tune that has come down as "Coleman's March."

“Down By The Salley* Gardens” (Irish: Gort na Saileán) is a well-known poem by William Butler Yeats included in his book, The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems, published in 1889. The verse was subsequently set to music by Herbert Hughes to the air  “The Maids of the Mourne Shore” in 1909.

Also, I’ve included another Mini-Workshop!!!  I just couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to explain about harmony shapes. It has been my experience that new players love this technique because you get such a big, full, beautiful sound from your dulcimer without a lot of finger gymnastics. More experienced players may have an “aha” moment, as they realize where these harmony shapes come from.  So enjoy this one. It’s one of my favorites! I wish I could be in “your” living room to watch you.

*"Salley" is an Anglicization of the Irish saileach, meaning willow.

"Down in the Valley to Pray" The traditional Appalachian song “Down in the River to Pray” is well known, especially since Alison Krauss and the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”(Released in 2000) popularized it. Research indicates that the song was written in the 19th Century by slaves who worked in the fields. It seems that the song as originally composed was known as “The Good Old Way”, and is attributed to a G.H. (George H.) Allan of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1867 it was published in “Slave Songs of the United States” with words uniquely colloquial to black slave spiritual songs of that period. The song may also be known as “Down to the River to Pray”, and alternately as “Down in the River to Pray”. However, as originally constructed by Mr. Allan (or perhaps some other contemporary, most likely a slave), the song entreats worshippers to go to a valley, not a river.

“Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes” is a popular English song set to the lyrics of Ben Johnson’s 1616 poem “Song to Celia.”  It is thought that the poem was set to a preexisting tune, or it could have been an original composition by John Wall Callcott in 1790.  Either way it is a classic. It has been a standard in student classical performances throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is said that this was the first song that Johnny Cash ever sang in public, at a high school commencement when he was a junior. I first learned it from my early days of piano lessons and had no idea what it meant, but it was a pretty tune and I liked to play it.  I hope you’ll enjoy it too.

“English Country Garden” – a well-known English folk song, which seemed like the perfect mid-summer song. I first played it as a child while taking piano lessons. I liked the tune, but didn’t come across the lyrics until a few years ago. Thought they were really cute, and so have decided to include them for the singers among you as a little memory challenge!

“Going Home” – melody from the Largo (second) movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. He composed this work, his most well known, during a visit to the United States from 1892 to 1895. It always brings back memories of the Mohican River near my Grandparent’s house in Brinkhaven, Ohio, where I spent my summers as a child.

"Greensleeves" is a traditional English folk song and tune. There is a persistent belief that Greensleeves was composed by Henry VIII, for his lover and future queen consort Anne Boleyn. However, Henry did not compose "Greensleeves", which is probably Elizabethan in origin and is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after his death.

“The Highland Park Waltz/Fling” - an original waltz which came to me one morning while I was the house guest of Janet and Walter Swartz in – you guessed it- Highland Park, IL.  The lesson is presented as a waltz for the basic version and then as a jig for the more adventurous players.

"Home, Sweet Home" is a real American classic that has remained well known for over 150 years. Adapted from the 1823 opera Clari, Maid of Milan, the song's melody was composed by Englishman Sir Henry Bishop, with lyrics by American John Howard Payne. It was very popular with troops on both sides of the American Civil War. Home, Sweet Home was a particular favorite of President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, who requested it in an 1862 performance at the White House by opera singer Adelina Patti.

"I Love to Tell the Story." Arabella Catherine Hankey, commonly known as Kate was born in 1834 and grew up in a fashionable London suburb as the daughter of a wealthy British banker. However, Kate had a passion for the gospel that sent her into the world to share the Good News. In her thirties, Kate became seriously ill and was ordered to maintain strict bed rest for twelve months. It was during this time that she wrote a poem that became the hymn Tell Me the Old, Old Story about ten months later she wrote I Love to Tell the Story.

I remember this from my childhood summer Sundays in the old stone Methodist Church on the main street (the only street) in Brinkhaven, Ohio. It was my grandfather’s favorite hymn and he sang it loud and not always in tune or with the proper rhythm, but he certainly enjoyed it! I hope you will too.

“I Wonder as I Wander” was collected by John Jacob Niles in Murphy NC in July 1933 from a young traveling evangelist Annie Morgan. According to Niles, he asked her to sing the song repeatedly until he had memorized it. It was published in his 1934 Songs of the Hill-Folk. Written in a minor key, the haunting and pensive tune, make it one of today's most popular carols.

The key to this tune is simplicity.  It captures the feeling of wonder on a crisp, clear Appalachian night with twinkling stars and the sharp outline of the mountains against the night sky.

“I’ll Tell My Ma” - a lovely children’s song from Belfast.  This lesson presents the tune in D and then in G for variation, and then back to D.  *This tune comes with a warning.  It’ll get stuck in your head and you’ll be humming it for days!

"In the Bleak Midwinter." The lyrics for this beautiful Christmas carol were written as a poem by English poet, Christina Rossetti in 1872.  Some sources say that she wrote the poem in response to a request by Scribner’s Monthly.  The poem was published posthumously in 1904 in Rossetti’s Poetic Works, and became a Christmas carol after appearing in the The English Hymnal in 1906.  Although several different settings are known, the most popular is the one by Gustav Holst.

“Keep on the Sunny Side”  was written in 1899 by Ada Blenkhorn, whose invalid nephew always asked to have his wheelchair pushed down the sunny side of the street. His constant wish inspired this popular gospel song. It later became the theme song of the singing Carter family from Virginia. According to Mother Maybelle Carter, of the original Carter family, A.P. Carter has a gold record of this song on his tombstone. Sunny Side has a relaxed “country” feel, and cheerful message.

"The Minstrel Boy" is an Irish patriotic song written by Thomas Moore (1779–1852) who set it to the melody of The Moreen, an old Irish Air. It is widely believed that Moore composed the song in remembrance of a number of his friends, whom he met while studying at Trinity College, Dublin, and who had participated in (and were killed during) the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

However, the song gained widespread popularity and became a favorite of many Irishmen who fought during the United States Civil War and gained even more popularity after World War I. The song is notably associated with organizations that historically had a heavy representation of Irish- Americans, in particular the police and fire departments of New York, Boston and Chicago and those of various other major US metropolitan areas.

“Morning Has Broken” has long been a favorite of mine. I first heard it on the Cat Stevens 1971 LP, Teaser and the Firecat. It is based on a traditional Gaelic tune, “Bunessan.” English poet and children’s author Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) is credited with writing a poem to fit the lovely Gaelic tune for the second edition of Songs of Praise, published in 1931. The tune was also used for the 19th century Christmas Carol, “Christ in the Manger.” The Roman Catholic hymnal also uses the tune for the hymn, “This Day God Gives Me.”

“Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” is the opening song from the musical “Oklahoma,” written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein. It is sung by Curly McLain at the beginning of the first scene, and was the first a capella opening to a musical. It seemed like the perfect song for our August lesson.

"Over the Rainbow" (often referred to as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") is a classic Academy Award-winning ballad song with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. It was written for the movie, The Wizard of Oz, and was sung by Judy Garland in the movie. Over time it would become Garland's signature song. This is such a wonderful song that I really wanted to include it in our “Lessons” library, so I could help you learn to play it.

“Planxty Irwin” is one of the better-known works of the famous blind Irish harper and composer Turlough O’Carolan. Planxty means “a tune in honor of.” I hope Irwin appreciated his lovely tune.

“Red Wing” is a popular song written in 1907 with music by Kerry Mills and lyrics by Thurland Chattaway. Mills adapted the music from Robert Schumann’s composition for piano “The Happy Farmer, Returning From Work” from his 1848 work Album for the Young, Opus 68. The song tells of a young Indian maid’s loss of her sweetheart who has died in battle. It is most memorable for its chorus, which you will find on the lyrics page.        In 1940 Woody Guthrie was asked to write a union song from a woman’s point of view.  He used the tune to write the song Union Maid. The song/tune has been recorded numerous times in many different styles, and is also popular in jam sessions. As a song, it would be played slower than if you play it as a fiddle tune.  Either way it’s a catchy tune and fun to play.

"Ruthie’s Dream" was written the day following the 5th Annual Mt. Dora Dulcimer and Autohop Festival.  This was one of the first, if not the first dulcimer festival in Florida.  Ruth Harnden, a snowbird, turned resident of Mt. Dora had run a festival in Leominster, MA for several years, and it was there that I first met Ruth. 

In 2005, after being in Florida for several years, she decided to start a small festival in Mt. Dora.  She contacted me, Maddie MacNeil, Anne Lough, Susan Boyer Haley, and Ray and Cheryl Belanger to see if we would come, and could make it fly.   Well we did and it did.  After five years, over two hundred participants gathered the second weekend in February to make music together, and celebrate the first five years of the Mt. Dora Dulcimer and Autohop Festival.

Yes, “autohop.”  Remember that Ruth is from the Boston area.  Well, they don’t say their R’s the way they do in Florida, so when she ordered the signs for the first festival (over the phone) the sign maker heard autohop.  So began the tradition.

“Santa Lucia” is a traditional Neapolitan song, translated from Napolitano into Italian in 1849. The lyrics of “Santa Lucia” celebrate the picturesque waterfront district, Borgo Santa Lucia, in the Bay of Naples, with the invitation of a boatman to take a turn in his boat, to enjoy the cool of the evening.

“Scarborough Fair” – a song dating back to medieval times. Scarborough, on the coast of North Yorkshire, hosted a 45-day fair, which drew tradesmen from throughout England and the European continent. The song was originally a courtship riddle in which an elf tells a maiden he will marry her if she makes a shirt in an impossible way (ultimately, the elf is outwitted by the maiden). This selection resulted from requests for the song, and for a song requiring the use of a capo. If you don’t have a capo, your local music store may have one, and you will find many vendors by doing a Google search for dulcimer capos.

 “Shall We Gather at the River” – a good old hymn which has been a favorite since I was a child.  We sang it in my grandparent’s church and made the rafters ring… all twelve of us! (It was a small town.)

 “Shenandoah”- that old American favorite brought to you just as the lazy river flows.  The arrangement is a shimmering, fingerpicked version, which captures the constant movement as the scenery slowly glides by.

“Shepherd’s Wife’s Waltz” – one of the prettiest waltzes I know, and gives new and intermediate players great practice on dotted quarter notes. The “right hand only” and back-up chords will give you the experience you need to become experts in waltz rhythm and strum patterns.

"Spanish is the Loving Tongue." Of all the cowboy love songs, which sang of sweethearts true or false, this touching literary ballad by the well-known western poet Charles Badger Clark, Jr., has enjoyed the most sustained popularity. Written under the title, "A Border Affair," originally published in his collection, Sun and Saddle Leather, Boston, 1915, it was later 

included in N. Howard Thorp’s, Songs of the Cowboys, Boston, 1921. 

There is a sentiment that appeals to us all in this bittersweet ballad of a rough-hewn cowpuncher who doesn't "look much like a lover" and 

the senorita who whispered, "Adios, mi Corazon.” 

 “Spotted Pony” – a bouncy traditional American fiddle tune that’s equally fun to play as a fast-paced high-energy piece, or a slow and gentler tune. It’s a great piece to help you master American fiddle tune structure.

“Star of the County Down” is one of the most beautiful tunes I know. It is an old Irish ballad set near Banbridge in County Down, in Northern Ireland. The words are by Cathal Garvey, 1866-1927, from County Donegal. The song shares its melody with many other works, including the almost identical English tune “Kingsfold.” The folk tune was the basis for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Five Variations of Dives and Lazarus. If you enjoy classical music and have not heard this recording, it is well worth searching out. Your local library may have a copy.

“Turkey in the Straw” was a popular minstrel song on the late 1820s and early 1830s. It’s still quite popular today among fiddlers and ice cream trucks, and seemed a perfect selection for the Thanksgiving month. The song was already in public domain by the start of sound films, and was frequently used in depictions of rural and farm life. Disney used it in his animated film Steamboat Willie. It’s a lively tune, but is playable at all skill levels.

"Waltzing Matilda" The hero of Waltzing Matilda is a migrant farm laborer ("swagman") who is cornered under a eucalyptus tree ("coolibah") beside a waterhole ("billabong") by a landowner ("squatter") and his hired policemen after stealing a sheep ("jumbuck," from the Aboriginal word jimbuc) for his dinner ("tucker"). He escapes arrest -- and certain hanging -- by leaping into the billabong, where his ghost may be heard by all who pass by. The song, which has become the unofficial national anthem of Australia was first published in 1903 and has its own museum, The Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, Queensland.

"The Water Is Wide" (also called "O Waly, Waly") is an English folk song that has been sung since the 1600s and has seen considerable popularity through to the 21st century. The roots of the song are unclear, with some claiming an English origin and others claiming a Scottish origin, which they support by comparison to the ballad Lord Jamie Douglas. However, it is also similar to the Northern Irish song Carrickfergus, which has the lines "but the sea is wide/I cannot swim over/And neither have I wings to fly."

The song made its way to America where it was collected by Cecil Sharp, the famous English folklorist and collector during his journey to America during WWI. It has been recorded by numerous artists including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and yours truly on my Tree of Life CD where I paired it with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Ewan MacColl.

 “Wild Mountain Thyme,” also commonly known as Will You Go Lassie Go,” was first recorded by Francis McPeake in 1957 for the series “As I Roved Out” on BBC. According to the song’s publisher, McPeake “learned it from his uncle, which gives it true Ulster credentials.” So it’s probably a traditional Irish song. Another source lists it as a variant of a Scottish song by Robert Tannahill, “The Braes of Balquidder.” Our goal is to make the dulcimer “sing” the song. That means a lot of sustain, dynamics (loud and soft), phrasing, and feeling! 

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