Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

'Silent Night' for hammered dulcimer using 'thirds' harmonies

One of the great Christmas carols --- perhaps the most beloved of all --- is ‘Silent Night’, which was written by Franz Gruber in 1818 using a guitar when the church organ wasn’t working.

One way to play it on the hammered dulcimer is with ‘thirds’ harmonies.  This is very appropriate for the simple, sweet, and pure German approach to folk music employed by Gruber and his guitar: The harmony is a note two scale steps below the melody note, following the melody exactly every single moment in the tune.

But sometimes the chord doesn’t include that note, so the harmony doesn’t ring true.  To get the harmony note, then, you can play a ‘sixth’ instead: the third above, lowered an octave.  For example, if in the key of D the melody note is D and the chord is D, the best harmony note would be an F#, which is two steps above the melody note…. But if you want to play all harmonies below the melody (which is usually a good idea), then the F# would need to be lowered to the octave below: a ‘sixth’ below.  And it sounds great!

I’ve worked out a simple arrangement on the hammered dulcimer in which you can play ‘Silent Night’ using this beautiful kind of harmony.  I’m posting it in mid-November so any of you dulcimer players who would like to try it can get it ready in time for the season!

In the video here I mention that the sheet music with tablature is in my website; well, the old website had it, but now the new one doesn’t, so here it is again for you to download:


Many blessings on your holiday season!

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