You Can Learn to Play an Instrument: the Seagull Merlin M4

If you’ve ever wanted to play a musical instrument, but for some reason haven’t, this is for you. Maybe you thought “I’m not musical enough,” or “I’m tone deaf,” or “I tried piano/guitar and it just didn’t stick.” This is different. This is for you.

The Seagull Merlin M4 dulcimer guitar is a somewhat unique stringed instrument that finds its heritage in the Appalachian mountain dulcimer family (aka “lap dulcimer” or just “mountain dulcimer”). And the reason that matters to you is that it’s so stinkin’ easy to play

So Easy to Play

First, these are tuned in what’s known as an “open” tuning. That’s important because it means they sound beautiful when strummed open (that is, when no strings are pushed down). By contrast, guitar strings are tuned to different intervals and strumming them without pushing the strings down into chord shapes will sound fairly unappealing.

Second, the frets on a Seagull Merlin dulcimer guitar are spaced so they can only play in one key! That means it’s really hard to play “wrong” notes. Again, for contrast, a guitar’s frets cover every note on the western scale (12 total), making them far more complex.

It’s nice having the extra notes and being able to play in a variety of keys, but it also means the learning curve for guitar is way steeper than a Merlin dulcimer. Which means your fun factor went down. The Merlin offers a guitar feel with the “bad” notes removed. It’s like having a piano without the black keys.

Just One Finger & One Hour

Don’t believe it? You don’t believe you could – no, CAN – play this instrument? I’ll bet you can learn your first song in under an hour.  Maybe less than 30 minutes if you pushed. It only takes one finger. Here’s an example of such a crazy claim:

There’s instructional videos for “Yellow,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Someone You Loved,” (Lewis Capaldi) and “Rainbow Connection” (Kermit!), just to name a few. 

It really is as easy as one finger and one hour (or less). 

“But I Like to Sing Along!”

Great, this is even more perfect for you. The easy fret and string tuning combination means you can play all the primary chords of a scale with just one finger. One finger! So then your challenge is to learn the coordination of singing and playing at the same time.

That’s a skill you can learn, though it will just take longer than actually learning the Seagull Merlin. But having an easy instrument means you can concentrate even more on that singing coordination. You can do it. I believe in you.

Which Seagull Merlin is Right for You?

The real question becomes which version should you consider? The one tuned to D or the one tuned to G? That’s right, there’s two sounds to choose from. 

Before you get too flustered, it’s really about which sounds nicer to you. Period. The D model is tuned to the same notes as a mountain dulcimer, but the G version is tuned lower than the D, giving it a more rich sound. And if you’re considering the D model, they come in spruce or mahogany tops, as well as with or without a built-in tuner and pickup (to plug into an amplifier, rock on!).

For reasons we don’t yet know, the G model only comes in a mahogany top and includes numbers on the frets. It’s labeled as the “education” model, but there’s nothing fundamentally different about it whatsoever.

Seagull Merlin Lessons

While the Seagull Merlins (and similar instruments like The Woodrow or Strumstick) are currently only known to a small number of people, there is a growing amount of instructional material available on websites and YouTube. So lest you be concerned with trying to figure out how to play all on your own, Seagull Merlin lessons and videos abound, and the Facebook groups are quite welcoming and informative.

So what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to put a little music in your life. And if not this, then what? The recorder?