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"Harris Picking"

Roger Harris plays the mountain dulcimer in Winfield, Kansas during the national dulcimer competition.
Roger Harris courtesy of Bonnie Carol. All rights reserved.

"Harris Picking" was David's first submission to Dulcimer Players News.* It appeared in 1979, and he was twenty-six years old.

Allow me to indulge my inner researcher in this post to share why I chose to include "Harris Picking" in Pluck: It reveals a great deal about David's character. Let's walk down the article description and pick out just a few of the many interesting bits this historic document reveals:

  • In typical fashion, David doesn't make it about him. He pays credit to everyone who helped or inspires him. First, he coins a name for the technique with credit to Roger Harris, and calls him "my friend". He acknowledges Roger's work and the reader at the same time by providing the name of Roger's publication "Notes on Dulcimer Making." For readers, he provides the publisher's name, "Bois D'Arc Publications".

  • Even at this young age, David understands the importance of sharing what he learned from others by making a contribution to the "scholarship" and evolution of dulcimer playing.

  • The pride he feels in his work is evident by the tidy and succinct presentation. (Remember that article originates in the days before the internet and computer word processing. Those of us who remember those days can infer the meticulous work that was undertaken by everyone who contributed to its eventual appearance in Dulcimer Players News.)

  • Even though David had taken first place in the Winfield national dulcimer competition before penning the article, he doesn't even mention it. He does include the fact that Roger Harris won it; he knows that by pointing to Harris's win, he provides credibility both to Roger and the technique for readers who may not know who Harris is. ( Once again, he tips his hat to Roger by describing his winning song as "A beautiful rendition of "Starr of the County Down" in this unique style.)

  • He points to Roger as the person who helped him with a challenge David had set for himself. David's motivation to play and grow clearly comes from internal motivation rather than a wish for external approval.

  • Look at the tab; he credits Bonnie Carol here. If you've seen David's handwriting in his early years, you understand why he asked Bonnie to produce this handwritten tab. Another example of the kind of collaboration and sharing that was such a big part of that time period.

That's enough historiography; you can read more about Roger and David in Pluck. If you're a dulcimer student, give The Harris Technique a try. I'm an intermediate player at best, so it was a bit of a challenge for me in the beginning. However, with a just a little perseverance it became fun to work that arpeggio! Listen closely as you play; according to Bonnie Carol, Roger liked this technique because it allows the previously plucked string to ring as you pluck the next.

*David began work on his article in 1978 when the periodical was entitled The Dulcimer Players News. Editor Maddie MacNeil dropped "The" from the title in 1979.

"Harris Picking by David Schnaufer" 1979, Vol 5, No. 4 Courtesy of Dulcimer Player's News/Ashley Ernst.

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