Joe does a wide range of music including unique arrangements of traditional hymns, Celtic, original compositions, and anything that he thinks sounds “cool” that usually isn’t played on the dulcimer. A folk singer who has a passion for writing and performing humorous pieces, he enjoys being accompanied by the laughter of an audience.
Festival Performer and Teaching Experience
Buckeye Dulcimer Festival, OH
Central Florida Dulcimer & Autoharp Festival, Mt. Dora, FL
Chautauqua on the Wabash, IN
Cincinnati Dulcimer Society in Cincinnati, OH
Chattanooga Dulcimer Festival, TN
Dulcimer Association of Albany Festival; Albany, NY
Dulcimer Building and Playing Class at Cleveland Community College in Shelby, NC
Dulcimer Days in Coshocton, OH
Dulcimer Daze, VT
Dulcimer Jamboree in Mountain View, AR
Dulcimer Retreat; Madisonville, TX
Dulcimer Retreat of the Knoxville Dulcimer Club, TN
Dulcimer U at Western Carolina University, NC
Dulcimores Festival in Columbia, SC
Florida Dulcimer Tour with clinics in Fort Myers, Sarasota, Bradenton, and Orlando
GitterPicker String Factory in Twinsburg, OH
Guntersville Senior Center Workshops, AL
Hartwell Art Center Workshops & Concert, GA
Harmony Harvest in Lancaster, OH
Heritage Dulcimer Camp in Parkville, MO
Hills of Kentucky Dulcimer Club
HymnFest in Shelby, NC
Knoxville Area Dulcimer Retreat in Townsend, TN
Lagniappe Dulcimer Festival in Port Allen, LA
Lee County Gathering in Loachapoka, AL
Lone Star State Dulcimer Festival in Glen Rose, TX
Memphis Dulcimer Gathering in Memphis, TN
Mid-winter Dulcimer Festival in Shelby, NC
North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association Fall Festival in Helen, GA
North Mississippi Fall Dulcimer Festival in New Albany, MS
Ohio Valley Gathering, OH
Shamrock Dulcimer Blast, GA
Spring Thing (NGFDA) in Winder, GA
Southern Tour with clinics in Canton & Dalton, GA; Guntersville & Killen, AL
Southern Strings Festival in Hattiesburg, MS
Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Camp in Maryville, TN
Summer Dulcimer Workshop in Shelby, NC
Summer Solstice in Calabasas, CA
Waterbound Dulcimer Festival in Kinston, NC
Winston-Salem Dulcimer Festival in Winston-Salem, NC
Winter Creek Reunion, OK
Winter Weekend; Lake Junaluska, NC
Yellowbanks Dulcimer Festival in Owensboro, KY
Hymns for the Hearth (1994) – folk arrangements of traditional hymns
The Dancing of Time (1999) – a mixture of Celtic, hymns, and original pieces
Erin’s Wish (2002) – a collection of Christmas instrumentals
For the Fun of It (2003) – a collection of funny and feel good songs w/ vocals
Looking Ahead (2008) – mixture of traditional, original, popular songs by artists like James Taylor and Carole King, and more. The CD demonstrates how much versatility and rich chordal possibilities there are with what used to be considered a simple, Appalachian instrument.
Included on Great Players of the Mountain Dulcimer (2001) – a collection of players from all over the country.
1998 – Simple Tunes for the Mountain Dulcimer (out of print)
1999 – Christmas with the Mountain Dulcimer (out of print-see below for newer version)
2000 – Simply Celtic (out of print)
2002 – Simply Hymns (a collection of hymns in three versions: DAD, DGD, and DAA)
2003 – Around the World with the Mountain Dulcimer
2005 – Christmas with the Mountain Dulcimer: Revised & Expanded Edition
2006 – Dulcimer Basics
2008 – Sacred Hymns of the Old Church
2010 - Simply Celtic: Revised & Expanded Edition
2011 - Civil War Songs for the Mountain Dulcimer
2015 - Round After Round
2015 - Irish Charms
"Levels of Playing: Unraveling the Mystery" Dulcimer Players News, 36:4 (Fall 2010), pp. 26-27.
“Winning at Winfield” Dulcimer Players News, 34:3 (Summer, 2008)
“Hot Licks and Cool Sounds: A Mountain Dulcimer Workshop on Ornamentation.” Studio, 50:4 (November-December, 2005), pp. 21-22.
“Teaching the Dulcimer: Knowing Where Your Student Needs to Begin” Dulcimer Players News, 28: 2 (May-July, 2002), pp. 36-37.
“Choosing the Right Tuning for Your Students” Dulcimer Players News, 28:3 (August-October, 2002), pp. 39-41
Mtn. Dulcimer Workshops
Present titles taught by Joe Collins. (He is willing to develop others.) Each workshop is reinforced with songs that illustrate the topic, but the primary goal is to get students to apply the content to songs that they enjoy playing (unless it is a repertoire-building workshop). The depth that these workshops explore depends on the time allotted, of course. Most can range from 1 hour to 3 or 4 hours.
Analyzing How You Play (Intermediate & up) A masters workshop to help good players figure out what they are doing so they can teach others or create a plan to improve their own playing.
Autumn's Fancy: An Exercise in Inverted Chords and 6/8 Rhythm (Advanced). This workshop will use an original piece by Joe Collins entitled Autumn Fancy" to help you work on several very useful skills - playing inverted chords, pulling off while playing inverted chords, and keeping a smooth 6/8 rhythm even when things get a little fast. These are great techniques for playing some of those faster Celtic tunes.
Basic Harmony (Intermediate and up) - a workshop in playing basic harmonies on the mountain dulcimer. In addition to learning some harmonies to popular dulcimer tunes, we will investigate how to develop harmonies for other songs. To get the most out of this workshop, it is helpful to understand basic chords and have a willingness to experiment.
Being “Chordial” in DAA (Intermediate) –a workshop for understanding chord structures in the DAA tuning. This is a workshop for those DAA players who want go into full chording while staying in the DAA tuning. Covers the basic chords in the key of D and how to play them anywhere on the neck of the dulcimer. Also includes some exercises on finding the right chord to play when given only the melody note and a chord symbol.
Capoes, Tunings, and the Diversified Dulcimer (novice and up) – workshop on how to use capoes and tunings to play in a wide variety of keys. With a little bit of this knowledge, playing in jams with other instruments in other keys becomes much simpler, and one’s dulcimer becomes a much more diversified instrument.
Caring for and Tuning Your Mountain Dulcimer (Beginner & up) - A crash course on things you need to know to keep your instrument in good playing condition. Topics will include changing strings, caring for the finish, storing your dulcimer properly, tuning the dulcimer with and without technological assistance - i.e. an electronic tuner.
Combining Your Picking & Strumming (Intermediate & Above). This workshop will focus on picking out the melody in between and in combination with the strums that give body to arrangements. We’ll use exercises to develop effective strum/flatpicking technique and two tunes to incorporate the technique, an original waltz and a challenging O’Carolan piece entitled “Lord Inchiquin.”
Creating Your Own Tablature (novice and up) – the basics in how to take regular sheet music and turn it into dulcimer tablature. Deals with transposition from one key to another, melody lines, and chords. Trains participants in how to use several tools for their own adventures in “tabbing.” (Requires a minimum of 2 hours – 3 would be preferable.)
Crossing Over to the Fun Side! (Novice and up) – This workshop gently guides players to leave the security of playing the melody on one string to exploring the world of cross-picking. In addition to some work with scales and hitting individual strings, we'll learn to cross-pick some familiar songs effectively and efficiently.
Crossing Your Tab (Intermediate and up) - Once you get the hang of cross-picking, some of those very difficult pieces that are all over the fretboard can become relatively simple by using a cross-picked version. This workshop will focus on taking any piece of tab and transposing it into a very playable cross-picked arrangement. A working knowledge of primary chords on the dulcimer in DAd is necessary to navigate this workshop well.
Designing a Medley for the Mountain Dulcimer (Adjustable for Novice & up) – This workshop looks at the basics of creating a musical arrangement from various melodies or parts of a melody. It covers choosing the right melodies for a medley and transitioning between melodies when they differ in timing, tempo, or key (especially from major to minor keys.
Developing Good Practice Habits (Beginners and up). This workshop covers basic principles of good practice, offering advice and useful exercises to get the most out of one’s practice time. Most of the material here is also covered in the workshop entitled “Playing with Grace, Humor, and Smiles.” This workshop, however, has a greater focus on practice habits while “Playing with Grace, Humor, and Smiles” focuses more on preparing for performance. Because of the overlap, one should choose one or the other of these workshops instead of both.
Dulcimer Duets: the Marriage of Standard and Baritone (Novice & up) – a workshop that focuses on using two differently pitched dulcimers to make beautiful music together. One does not need a baritone dulcimer to attend.
Finger-Pickin’ Good (Novice and up) – a workshop covering the basics of finger-picking on the mountain dulcimer. Materials available for both DAd and DAA players.
Focusing on Basic Chords (advanced beginner and up) – a workshop on playing in DAd out of major chords. Includes exercises and songs to improve one’s ability to change chords efficiently.
From Bum-Diddy to Rock-n-Roll (Advanced) - a workshop for strumming/picking hand technique. Participants work on accuracy of picking individual strings and strumming/picking out a number of rhythms outside the norm for mountain dulcimers.
Getting Jiggy with It (Intermediate to advanced) – basic dulcimer techniques and strumming rhythms for playing Celtic jigs.
Getting Started on the Mountain Dulcimer (Beginner) – a workshop for rank beginners. The goals are to make students familiar with their dulcimers, successful at playing a song or two, and knowledgeable about tablature and other resources for helping them to continue to learn.
Hot Licks and Cool Sounds (novice and up) – a workshop on how to do those cool things that make people say, “Wow! How did he/she do that?” Covers ornamentation techniques like hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, grace notes, trills, bends, harmonics, and muting. Gives simple songs in which these techniques can be applied and practiced.
How to Teach Rank Beginners (intermediate & up). Basic principles and skills for effectively teaching beginners how to play mountain dulcimer. In addition to his experience in teaching rank beginners, Joe also pulled from his doctoral studies in Adult Education in put this workshop together for you.
Making Arrangements (Novice and up) – This workshop takes a simple tune and progressively takes students through several different ways to play that tune – in different octaves and keys, all in the same tuning. It also shares some basic ways to make transitions between keys. The purpose is to help students learn skills that will enable them to make their own arrangements of tunes they love to play.
Making Arrangements for Beginners (Beginners). This is a slower paced version of the workshop described above. It doesn’t go into key changes.
Making Arrangements for Christmas (Novice and up) – a follow up workshop on the “Making Arrangements” workshop. Focuses on a few traditional Christmas tunes that I arranged on previous recordings.
Master Class (Intermediate/Advanced) - a workshop to analyze and work on playing technique at the intermediate/advanced levels. Participants should come prepared to play a tune or two for the instructor and fellow students. Technique will be critiqued by the instructor and discussed by supportive participants. One of the primary goals of the workshop is to help participants think about and develop some focus on what they need to do next to improve as players. They will learn not only from the critique they receive, but also from the critique fellow participants receive. Class size limited to 8 participants.
Multi-part Hymn Arrangements (various levels) - These workshops introduce small groups or clubs to Hymn arrangements that include 2, 3, or 4 parts. Joe will talk with you about what hymns are available and how many can be done in the time allotted for the workshop.
Noting the Dulcimer with the Greatest of Ease (Advanced) - a workshop designed to work on the finer points of noting strings through exercises in chording, playing melody while holding chording positions, and noting fast sequences of notes.
Noting Hand Technique (All levels) This is a workshop similar to the one immediately above, but it is designed for multiple levels of players. There is something there for the beginner trying to establish noting technique, but there are some challenges for most intermediate and advanced players as well.
Patterns & Rhythms (Novice-Intermediate) – a workshop on strumming and picking patterns. Focuses on strumming-hand technique, helping the player to create rhythms, broken chords, and arpeggios that will give the instrument a fuller sound.
Playing in DGd (Advanced beginner & up). An introduction to basic chord fingerings that can be used to play up and down the neck efficiently and effectively in this Ionian tuning in the key of G.
Playing in DGd and DAd (Novice to intermediate) – a workshop to demonstrate the versatility that playing in both of these tunings gives a player. Students will learn to apply everything learned in one tuning to the other.
Playing Upside Down! (Intermediate and up) – a workshop on playing inverted chords in DAd. The workshop will focus on building proficiency in playing out of inverted chords through skill-building exercises and learning songs which emphasize the technique.
Playing Well with Others: The MD in an Ensemble. This workshop will help participants play mountain dulcimers effectively in an ensemble, whether it be an ensemble of several different instruments or an ensemble of mountain dulcimers. We’ll share knowledge and work on skills that will help players fit in and make unique contributions to a musical group.
Playing While You Warble (Beginner and up) – workshop on the basics of accompaniment. How to use the Mountain Dulcimer to accompany either yourself or someone else’s voice.
Playing with Grace, Humor, and Smiles (advanced beginner & up) – a workshop on performing in front of others. Covers basic principles that will help players, at whatever level, feel more comfortable playing for others. No intense work with the dulcimer.
Preparing for Mountain Dulcimer Competitions (intermediate to advanced) – This workshop will focus on little things that many champions have shared about their song selection and arrangements, their practice habits, and their mental preparation. If time and numbers allow, we may also play competition pieces for one another and discuss possibilities for improving chances of competing well with those pieces.
Repertoire Workshops – In a repertoire workshop, I generally teach songs from a particular genre. The level is negotiable except where designated. Titles for these types of workshops have included:
* Fun Songs for Beginners
* Slow Celtic Tunes (3 different volumes)
* Hymns for Beginners
* Tunes from Around the World
* Christmas Is a’Comin!
* Traditional Children’s Songs
* Original Songs by Joe Collins
* Fast Celtic tunes (intermediate to advanced only)
* Civil War Songs
* Classic Hymns for the Mountain Dulcimer
* Civil War Songs of the Union
* Dulcimers are for Lovers – Great Love Songs
* Civil War - The Cruel War (Tragic Ballads)
* Round & Round w/ the MD
* Celtic Harp Tunes
* Hymns of Fanny Crosby (beg/nov) & (int/adv)
* Advanced Hymns
* Funny Songs for Your Repertoire
* Traditional American Folk Hymns
* Appalachian Mountain Songs (2 levels)
* HymnFest for Beginners to Novice Vol. 1
- We Gather Together
- Shall We Gather at the River
- Like a River Glorious
- Stand Up & Bless the Lord
- Bound for Canaan
* HymnFest for Novice to Advanced Vol. 1
- The Old Ship of Zion
- Heavenly Armour
- Lord, I'm Coming Home
- Ring the Bells of Heaven
- By & By
- Jesus Is Tenderly Calling
* Wonderful Welsh Hymns
* Hymns of Charles Wesley (beg/nov) & (int/adv)
* Hymns about Heaven (beg/nov) & (int/adv)
* HymnFest - Hymns in Minor Keys (beginner) & (Novice & above)
* The William Tell Overture (advanced)
* Sweet & Gentle Tunes
* Waltzing in My Cowboy Boots
* The Wild, Wild West
* Multi-Part Hymns
- #3 Three Hymns in 2 or 3 Parts, I Surrender All in 4 parts
When Irish Eyes Are Weeping (Intermediate & above) For centuries, tragedy was a way of life for the Irish. Some would argue it may still be. This is a Celtic repertoire workshop of sad, sad songs from the emerald isle. Learn to play Irish songs that will make people cry in their Guinness!
I’m willing to develop other repertoire workshops to meet the needs of a particular group.
Strings on a Shoestring Budget (geared toward music educators in schools) Thought strings were out of reach for your school? Here are suggestions for building interest in and starting a dulcimer program, even if constrained by a tight budget. Need the capability to do PowerPoint or use an overhead projector.
Strummin’ Along and Sounding GOOD! (beginner to early novice) – a workshop on basic strumming skills designed to help inexperienced players develop versatility in the strumming hand. Focus is on learning to strum well in both directions, using dynamics with the strum, developing effective patterns of strumming, and how to hold the pick for greatest effectiveness.
Rank Beginners. A workshop for those who want
to begin effectively teaching beginners how to play.
The Mountain Dulcimer: An American Roots Instrument. No playing in this workshop. This is a historical look at the instrument's shrouded beginnings, near demise, and revival in American folk culture. Need the capability to do PowerPoint or use an overhead projector.
Tuning and Caring for Your Dulcimer (Beginner & up) A crash course on things you need to know to keep your instrument in good playing condition. Topics will include changing strings, caring for the finish, storing your dulcimer properly, tuning the dulcimer with and without technological assistance - i.e. an electronic tuner.