Neal Hellman - Biography and Workshop Information

For promotional photos of Neal, click here.

Neal Hellman, nationally acclaimed performer and teacher of the mountain dulcimer, has been active in performing, writing, teaching, and recording acoustic music for the past 25 years throughout the United States, Europe and New Zealand.

Neal’s latest recording, Emma’s Waltz, is a colorful dance through traditional and contemporary acoustic music styles. Featuring seventeen different musicians playing compositions from Ireland, Scotland, Finland, America and France.

Neal's other recordings include: Autumn In the Valley, Dream of the Manatee (with Joe Weed) and Oktober County , all on the Gourd Music label. Dirty Linen wrote of Oktober County “the material is first-rate and the musicianship is flawless;” and the Santa Cruz Sentinel said Dream of the Manatee is “just plain beautiful music. The San Jose Mercury wrote “Autumn In the Valley is well-played and impeccable engineered."

In collaboration with Joe Weed, Neal wrote the score for Princess Furball, a children's video by Weston Woods which won a 1993 American Library Association Commendation.

An original composition, written by Neal and performed by Jay Unger and Molly Mason, is featured on the Ken Burns production "The Story of Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton" which was boradcasted on PBS nationwide in the fall of 1999. Neal has placed a number of other tracks on the films of Ken Burns including "Horatio's Ride", "National Parks: America's Best Idea" and the upcoming "Dust Bowl" (2012).

He is the author of many books on the Appalachian dulcimer, including Celtic Songs & Slow Airs for Mountain Dulcimer, The Dulcimer Chord Book,
The Hal Leonard Dulcimer Method, Beatles Dulcimer Book and The Music of the Shakers For Mountain Dulcimer on Mel Bay and Hal Leonard Publications.

As founder, director and one of the primary artists of the Gourd Music record label, Neal has produced over thirty five albums, including Simple Gifts, Tree of Life, The Fairie Round, Tender Shepherd, The World Turned Upside Down and Celtic Sessions, creating a uniquely distinctive sound, featuring a variety of acoustic instrumental ensembles, rich in texture and tonal color. Gourd recordings were acclaimed by InMusic, the Schwann Catalog's journal of new releases, as “on the forefront of the new acoustic music movement ... well written, expertly performed, masterfully produced, and carefully manufactured.”

Neal was music director for a production of "The Grapes of Wrath" which played at The Crocker Theater at Cabrillo College in 2009.

Hear all of Neal's recordings on Apple iTunes

Click to hear a clip of Durango.

Click to hear a clip of Bianco Fiore.

Click to hear a clip of Canarios.

Click to hear a clip of Emma's Waltz.

Listen to some of Neal's music on Soundcloud:
Neal's You Tube Videos
Workshops Offered by Neal Hellman - Click here to see some of Neal's dulcimer arrangemets.

1) Swedish & Finnish Music on the Dulcimer: (Intermediate-Advanced).
Two of the Swedish compositions will be in D-A-C and the melody will be played on one string. However they will require an ability to execute hammers, pull offs, and slides quickly and succinctly. We will explore the traditional Swedish pipe tune Sackpiplat, a contemporary Swedish tune Konvulsionslaten by Anders Norudde.
Also from Sweden we will learn the beautiful ballad Lordagsvisa (D-A-D but the tune is in Bm). From Finland we will learn a popular waltz: Emma’s Waltz (D-A-D capo on 1st fret). These have a wonderful feel to them a represent quite a departure from the traditional Irish and American tunes.

2) Music of the World for Mountain Dulcimer:(Intermediate). Featuring arrangements from Neal's latest book of arrangements (2012).
Including: Arirang (Korea), Tourdion and Belle qui tiens ma vie (France), Längdance (Sweden), Ojos azules (Andes), Roselil' og hendes moder (Denmark) and additional arrangements from Ireland, Russia and The Netherlands.

3) Celtic Ballads For The Dulcimer: (Intermediate). Though its not a traditional Irish instrument the Mt. Dulcimer lends itself perfectly to Irish music. In this workshop the student will learn how to utilize the dulcimer in a classic Irish ballad such as A Stór Mo Chroí and Ye Banks & Braes. Playing the melody of each composition will be illustrated as well. Utilizing chords to both back up the voice as well as to add tone coloring and texture will also be emphasized.

4) Shaker Music for the Dulcimer: (Intermediate) The American Shakers made music an integral part of their daily lives and worship, from lively dance tunes and marches to reverent hymns. Selections include pieces as played on dulcimer from the albums Simple Gifts and Tree of Life: Love is Little, Tree of Life, Back Manner Tunes, I Will Walk With My Children, etc. The wonderful thing about Shaker music is that it has roots both in Europe (Celtic, English, Scottish) and Appalachia. The technique involved in arranging and playing these compositions will be covered as well as the repertoire.

5) Aeolian Mode for Beginners: (Beginner) Students will tune to the Aeolian mode of D (C-A-D- where D is the bass string). This is both a simple and rewarding workshop. Students will be taught basic melodies as well as how to utilize the dulcimer to back up the voice. Selections include The Moon Shines Bright, The Cuckoo, Goddesses, and Nonesuch.

6) Three Polka's: (Intermediate-Advanced)
“John Brosnan’s Polka” (Key of D) followed by “Daley’s Polka” (Em) and ending with “The Finnish Polka” (Bm).
All three are played in the D-A-D or the1-5-1 tuning. This workshop will illustrate:

•How to play in three different keys and modes without retuning the dulcimer.

•How to utilizing hammers slides and pull offs in an arrangement.

• How to create a medley of tunes.

7) Italian & Early Music For The Dulcimer: (Intermediate)
Ancient and Renaissance music of Italy and France for the dulcimer. Slow Airs, Laudas (Church Music of the 12th Century) and dance music such as El Tutu, Saltarello, Tourdion, Dance by Mouret and Bianca Fiore and airs such as Lauda di Maria Maddelena and just for fun Bach’s Minuet in G.

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Last Update: August, 2011