I had bought a hammer dulcimer almost on impulse. I was in my mid fifties, I had no musical education, and was unable to read a note of music or to sing in tune. There was no dulcimer teacher in my locality, or in even in my country, and most people in my musical world had never heard of the instrument. Not the best start you might say.

Luckily I had two plus points: my own motivation and this book/CD set by Madeline MacNeil.

Why is this book so good? Well , it provides almost all the ingredients to get you going; you just have to start be motivated. Written for the absolute beginner, it doesn't give you the feeling of being talked down to. You learn to read music from the start; a combination of clear diagrams in the text and letters under the music show you which notes to strike, and you are not taught a special system which you may have to unlearn if you want to read other music later. If you are already able to read music none of the text will be wasted on you, because the practical lessons start straight away.

Within a few pages you are playing playing attractive tunes and airs whilst at the same time almost unconsciously learning to read music. The accompanying CD gives a model to aim for, and is especially useful in getting the rhythm right. I aways like to know here I am going when I set out on a journey, and listening ahead to see what is to come later in the book stimulated my motivation, rather like reading the last page of a detective novel before reading the rest of the book. Hearing the tune being played properly before you start in a piece adds to the sense of achievement when you get there too.

As you progress through the book you are taught new techniques and little bits of musical theory are added, just enough to tell you what you are doing so that you can read more elsewhere if you feel the need later. And there are tips for overcoming various problems which you may encounter: rhythm, hmmaering patterns, memorising pieces, etc.

Buying a hammer dulcimer was a gamble for me. I can honestly say that 'You can teach yourself Hammered Dulicmer' made it pay off. Don't be put off by the cover, I am glad I bought the book unseen.