Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer

How to play Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah

"It's ... a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion.... It's a rather joyous song."
~ Leonard Cohen.

I enjoy learning songs that may not be on the usual dulcimer playlist,
and hope to pass this on to others. (I don't claim any great ability to play a dulcimer).

Read on to learn this song, including my dulcimer version, some other demos, and a guitar lesson. I've also included the chords, and you can clearly see the fingerings in my video. I don't think I got the 6/8 timing just right, though.

I'm in D A d, and playing the song in D on the low end, changing keys to G for the second verse, ending with D on the high end. Here it is, from about a year ago.

I don't read music, so the first thing I try to do in learning a new piece is to get the song in my head. Here are some of my favorites.

Jeff Buckley

k. d. lang

This is a great version by four famous singers in Norway. The video owner does not allow embeds on this, so its a regular link.

Now for an excellent lesson from Siggi Mertens on playing this song:

The lesson is for guitar, and is great for figuring out the 6/8 timing and the strumming pattern. It begins in the key of C, and switches to D at the end.

You can play along with the almost the whole lesson if you drop your dulcimer tuning down from D A d to C G c, or just stay in D and play along with the last portion.

Siggi Mertens and I think much alike in doing our own melody-chord arrangements, only he has a lot more talent than I do. If you play the right chord, the note for the melody line is probably in there. Or, start with the melody line and then find a form of the correct chord that includes that note.

Here are the chords, first in D:

And then in G:

Here are the chord forms I use, with a few words from the first verse to keep our place. This is in the same order that I play in the video.

D, low end:

I heard D 2 0 0
secret Bm 2 1 0
you don't G 3 1 0
do you A 1 0 1
It goes D 2 0 0
Fourth 3 1 0
Fifth 1 0 1
Minor 0 1 2
The major 0 1 3
Lift A 1 0 4
Composing F# 2 2 2

Here it is in G, using a 1-and-a-half fret. I like the sound of this the best, and find it easiest of the three versions to play.

I heard G 3 1 0
secret Em 3 1 1
you don't C 1 1+ 3
do you G 3 1 0, D 2 0 0
It goes G 3 1 0
Fourth C 3 1+ 1
Fifth D 0 0 2
Minor Em 1 1 3
major C 1 1+ 3
Lift D 2 3 4
Composing B 5 5 5

D, high end:

I heard D 2 3 4
secret Bm 0 5 5
you don't G 3 3 5
do you A 1 0 4
It goes D 2 3 4
Fourth 3 3 5
Fifth 4 4 6+
Minor 5 5 7
major G 5 6 7
Lift A 4 4 8 or 6+ 7 8
Composing F# 6+ 5 9

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Tags: Cohen, Hallelujah, Leonard, lesson


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Comment by Tom McDonald on March 9, 2012 at 10:05am

Thanks, Greg! Glad you enjoyed it.

I've been playing this in C lately. It's easy to play, and allows one to follow the Siggi Mertens lesson above. I need to record that version and update this blog.

Comment by Greg Cimmarrusti on March 9, 2012 at 9:28am
Tom, thank you so very much for your composition. I really like this song and can not wait to play it. I ordered my Dulcimer from Folkcraft and it should arrive early next week. I ordeered with the 1 1/2 fret so I like your rendition with the 1 1/2.
All the best,
Comment by Nancy Snyder on May 18, 2010 at 5:31pm
Wow, thanks. I can't wait to try it!!! Your so generous to share your work on this.
Comment by Tom McDonald on May 17, 2010 at 7:49pm
I just checked my links again. The ones for the chords now cut off the first line of the song. Start on second verse, and all will be OK. I'll try and fix it later.
Comment by Tom McDonald on February 6, 2010 at 11:25am
There are a few glitches in the suggested chords, which I am working on. I also fixed a problem with the links to the chords. Last but not least, I accidentally had this tags for 'friends only' viewing. Sorry about that.

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