Tell us about your VERY FIRST dulcimer

D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
2 weeks ago
114 posts

 

 

Susie
@susie
2 weeks ago
250 posts

My first was a FolkRoots hourglass, spruce/walnut, purchased at Elderly Instruments. Beautiful tone and looked really nice. I have since purchased a FolkRoots with a shorter scale length that I have converted to a baritone and a Folkcraft Custom. Still loving their dulcimers. 

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 weeks ago
858 posts

@majajog, that's a great story, and probably one that is repeated often, for one of the aspects of the dulcimer that we celebrate is how accessible it is even to those with no musical experience.  Thanks to the McSpadden salesperson who just sat you down and put a dulcimer in your lap!




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
majajog
@majajog
3 weeks ago
14 posts

Our first dulcimers were a ginger for my spouse and a standard for me, both bought from McSpadden.  We sort ended up in Mountain View five years ago, basically by accident.  We had a good time listening to the music and eventually went to McSpaddens to see the dulcimers we fell in love with 40 years earlier.  Thought they were beautiful but knew neither of us had any talent at all so we looked around and left.  Went back a couple of days later for a last look before heading home.  The door to the shop has a sign that says "if you can to 10, you can play."  We both laughed at it, knowing that neither of us could ever play an instrument.  

This time, after looking around for awhile, a salesperson talked me into sitting down and holding a dulcimer.  I thought that was pretty cool but, I knew I could never play and I said so and besides I was left handed anyway.  She took the dulcimer away and laid a left handed dulcimer on my lap and said "here, play it."  I said "huh, I don't know how and don't have any talent anyway". She said you don't need talent just a desire and some tab.  I said "what's tab?"  She showed me some tab, explained the numbers and told me to try and play.  I got through the first 2 measures and could tell it more or less sounded like "Ode To Joy". Couldn't believe it.

My spouse then went through the same thing with the same outcome.  We promptly said we'll take two.  Spent the next couple of hours deciding on size, shape, woods etc., gave them a credit card and told them ship them to us when they were done.  Best thing we ever did.

They turned out great, at least to us, sound great and we play almost everyday.  Started our own little group that meets every week to practice, learn new stuff and play old favorites.  Unbelievably, my spouse and I even played at a nursing home with some members of our group.  The people there seemed to enjoy it so we were pretty excited.

We still don't have any talent, we will never be very good players but we have fun practicing and have met some wonderful people and hear music all the time now.  Best money we ever spent.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
3 weeks ago
28 posts

My first dulcimer was an hourglass Folk Roots dulcimer purchased in about 1985 or 1986 from Elderly Instruments.  While visiting one of the Toledo Metroparks I stopped to listen to a lady playing a dulcimer at a very small gathering organized by one of the park rangers.  I ordered my first dulcimer from Elderly Instruments shortly thereafter.  About three or four years later I organized a dulcimer club for students at the local elementary school.  By then I owned three or four dulcimers, so I sold my Folk Roots model to one of the students at a fraction of its value to help them obtain their own instrument.

Steven Berger
@steven-berger
last year
63 posts

A Hughes hourglass I bought in the late '80's. I still play it occasionally. Solid walnut back and sides, solid spruce or cedar top (it's darkened considerably over the years). I knew both Virgil and Norman Hughes when I lived in Denver. I was still somewhat active in Civil War re-enacting with my infantry unit back in NJ and I was thinking about joining an artillery unit (run by Virgil). I ended up not joining although I did participate in a couple of events with them. I remember their shop where they made a number of different folk instruments...they played them too (quite well!).

My Hughes dulcimer was well made with a laminated headstock, floating bone bridge, and a 3-piece inlay strip in the back of different woods, and heart-shaped soundholes...an attractive and nice sounding instrument.

D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
last year
114 posts

My first love was a little kit purchased from a man at a Georgia arts and crafts festival back in 1984-87ish. I never played it.  It doesn't have too good of a tone but it was good enough it got my interest some years later and I took it to a group and learned to play. Never looked back. 

D. Chitwood
@d-chitwood
last year
114 posts

My first love was a little kit purchased from a man at a Georgia arts and crafts festival back in 1984-87ish. I never played it.  It doesn't have too good of a tone but it was good enough it got my interest some years later and I took it to a group and learned to play. Never looked back. 

Janis Lewman
@janis-lewman
last year
2 posts

My first was/is a Bill Taylor.  My grandmother left me some money after she passed away so I figured the dulcimer was best purchase to make.  To this day I can remember standing there at Bardstown contemplating which one to buy.  Ron Turner came over and stood beside me then pointed to one and said "That is the one you need." Great choice - small holes in the top so I could not drop picks inside - and a sweet sound.  Sad to say Ron passed away not long after that, but I'm forever grateful for his assistance.  

SuzanneBailey
@suzannebailey
last year
2 posts

marg:  

suzannbakkey & jan

Do you feel Warren May dulcimers sound better played with fingers or does it also sound sweet with a pick or noter? Warren uses his tick tock strum with fingers and that is the only way I have hear one of his dulcimers. Also do you tune in any tune or do you keep it in DAA?

Right now I am just learning so I stick with DAA.  I like the sound of the noter and use a pick.  Like the sound of a turkey feather to strum with as Ms Jean Ritchie did.  

marg
@marg
last year
430 posts

guy,

Both music and the dulcimer are great therapy, it is so nice you have passed your dulcimer on with it's 'big voice' -  Hopefully it continues to sing.

marg
@marg
last year
430 posts

They may have different sounds, the noter better slides sounds but with the finger you could add additional notes for sometimes a fuller sound. Both nice and nothing wrong with either or both ways at different times. As we learn we grow, as we grow we learn - a wonderful adventure.

Kusani
@kusani
last year
148 posts

Thanks Kathy and Marg.  It's going to be an interesting experience. I am anxious to get lessons started and learn if I can play by fingering or if I will be a 'noter'.  Either way is fine with me.


updated by @kusani: 01/11/16 07:54:34AM
marg
@marg
last year
430 posts

Loved your story dusty but was worried a 13 year old was off across the country on his own.   

Kusani, your dulcimer is beautiful and wish you lots of enjoyment with it.

 

marg
@marg
last year
430 posts

 

suzannbakkey & jan

Do you feel Warren May dulcimers sound better played with fingers or does it also sound sweet with a pick or noter? Warren uses his tick tock strum with fingers and that is the only way I have hear one of his dulcimers. Also do you tune in any tune or do you keep it in DAA?

joe sanguinette
@joe-sanguinette
last year
87 posts

my first was a kit i bought from a gift shop here in branson about 1970.  it was a box of parts with no instructions.  i put it togther and while it

didnt look like much it sounded pretty good......at least to me.  as it turned out i became more interested in building dulcimers than playing them

and launched a 30 year business.  it became a wonderful life style traveling to arts and craft shows and music festivals.

Kathy Ford
@kathy-ford
last year
5 posts

Good luck to you Kusani, and I must say, I love your dulcimer, it is beautiful.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
858 posts

Good for you, Kusani.  Your dulcimer voyage begins . . . 




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Kusani
@kusani
last year
148 posts

My first, and only so far, dulcimer was purchased by my mother in 1976 when she visited John Maxwell's dulcimer and craft shop in Cookeville, Tn.  She never played it and it has been hanging on my wall for the past 30 years.  Day before yesterday I took it down, cleaned it up, started reading volumes on line, went to a music shop and had it restrung and learned about the difficulty of tuning with wood pegs.  I also made the noter today, using some deer antler I had in my shop.  Learned what DADD tuning is, and last night started practicing on a couple of simple songs.  I am scheduled to start lessons at church week after next.  Wish me luck. :)  The last musical instrument I played was a trombone in high school. 


updated by @kusani: 01/07/16 06:31:02PM
Kathy Ford
@kathy-ford
last year
5 posts

My first dulcimer is an E. Dale Eckard, purchased in Sevierville TN about 5 years ago. Made from walnut and maple, it's a beautiful instrument, and it has a great sound. At the time I did not play, nor did I know anything about dulcimers. I had heard a group playing them once at a festival and I fell in love with the sound, and just had to have one. At the shop where I bought this dulcimer were several more from different makers.  I strummed them all and picked this one because of its beauty and sound. It is still my main playing dulcimer and I really love it. 

Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
last year
113 posts

Mine was an old Ruggs and Jackel Folkroots that someone didn't want anymore and they gave to me. I played it for about 10 years, and then donated it to an organization who uses dulcimers in their music therapy programs for rehabilitative purposes. It had such a BIG voice!

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
last year
1,395 posts

Kerry was a real Lady.  I knew her pretty well.  She'd come over to Prescott and Phoenix a couple times a year during the years I lived there (2000-2003) and we'd jam.  Fabulous player, beautiful voice.  I miss her a lot.

 

Salt Springs
@salt-springs
2 years ago
91 posts

The first dulcimer I owned was built by Kerry Coates, Gila Mountain Dulcimers.  I either emailed her or called, I can't remember and we decided on the shape, wood and design.  I had her paint two Carolina parakeets, Ike and Izzy, the last two in existence from a painting I found of them.........she did a magnificent job, using the sound holes as wings........perfect.  Kerry stopped building shortly thereafter.  She told me that she was having health problems that she thought were related to the materials she used, so she was going to stop and get back to playing, as she put it, "the darn thing."   We more or less stayed in touch for a few years since she was a great teacher and helped me learn to play that great dulcimer she built.  Sadly, Kerry passed on April 29, 2014 after a heroic struggle.........now that dulcimer sits in a corner of my office out here in the forest........a treasure built my a master craftsman and grand musician...I play it every now and again and always remember her wit and creativity.........that dulcimer has the sweetest ring of any I own and I hope will bring my grandchildren the same pleasantries it brought me.  When they are a bit older I will tell them the story of the last two Carolina parakeets and about the artistry of a lady who was an artist in the truest sense of the word.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
858 posts

Hey folks, it wasn't my intention to derail this discussion by offering my fictional version of a dulcimer discovery.  I really enjoy hearing about everyone's first instrument and hope people continue to post.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Sheryl St. Clare
@sheryl-st-clare
2 years ago
333 posts

Dusty, you had me going. What great story. ROTFL

John Gribble
@john-gribble
2 years ago
66 posts

Both versions of your story are excellent.

Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
2 years ago
434 posts

 Dusty, was you possessor of any of the early John Fahey albums?

 

Colleen Hailey
@colleen-hailey
2 years ago
65 posts

Haha Dusty.  That's how we all wish we had found our first dulcimer.  Even better than winning the lottery and buying up a whole music store...

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
858 posts

Well, during the infamous "Blizzard of '78" I had had enough of the New England cold.  At the age of 13 I sold my record collection to get enough money for a train ticket to the west coast.  I traveled with nothing to eat but a jar of peanut butter and a couple of apples. But I had an old Marine Band harmonica to keep me entertained.  The train across the country seemed to take weeks, but it was my first time leaving my native land, so I was entranced watching the scenery roll by. The train dropped me in Los Angeles, but Union Station did not look like California to me.  Somehow I found some local buses to get me to Santa Monica, which looked just like the movies: bikini girls playing volleyball, muscle men roller skating, you get the point.  I still had no place to sleep and no food to eat, but I was adopted by a group of evangelical surfers. Yes, these folks claimed that G-d spoke to them through the ocean waves.  I never learned to surf with these folks, but they did feed me and offered me a ride up north. We drove up the California coast, and on the drive I got to practice my harmonica, for when they weren't surfing, these kooks were smoking weed and singing a mixture of gospel tunes and Hawaiian surfing songs.  Indeed, I smoked my first joint with these kind folks, but also ate my first tofu and seaweed soup.  I have to admit that I learned more about music and food than I did about the Bible.

We eventually got to Santa Cruz, but that's where they left me. One day we were hanging on the beach and I fell asleep while they surfed the waves. But when I woke up, they were gone. I figured I'd check some of the church soup kitchens, which they frequented, but while I lay there on the beach I saw a small dark object in the ocean. I couldn't tell what it was, but in the haze of the sunshine I kept watching it as it slowly moved to shore. It must have taken a couple of hours, but when it was just beyond the break in the waves, I waded out there and found this soggy, weather-beaten wooden canoe paddle. At least that's what I thought it was at first.  After it dried out  I could make out a label on the inside that said "Capritaurus Dulcimers."  I knew nothing about astrology, but I had heard of a dulcimer before.  I traded my harmonica for a hamburger and a set of guitar strings, strung that thing up, and began playing.  I just sat cross-legged on the Santa Cruz boardwalk and started picking out simple tunes.  And what would you know?  People started giving me change!  Yes I was busking on an instrument I didn't know how to play. But people saw this 13-year-old kid playing a weird instrument and dropped money and sometimes food in my lap.  I don't know whether those surfing hippie Christians led me to this instrument or whether it was astrological fate, but I knew at that moment that my life would only have meaning because of the dulcimer.

Oh, you know the rest. I was discovered by Ry Cooder, given a recording contract with Atlantic Records, hired as VP of folk music at Mel Bay Publishing, appointed by the President to be Curator and Artist-in-Residence at the Smithsonian, yadda, yadda, yadda.

 

OK.  None of that is true at all, but it's better than my telling the truth: A middle-aged, balding man living in the suburbs and driving a mid-sized sedan, I saw a dulcimer on YouTube and then bought one for myself.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger

updated by @dusty-turtle: 11/30/15 01:33:50PM
Terry
@terry
2 years ago
2 posts

I'm a little embarrassed to say :)  A few years ago I wanted to learn dulcimer, and my husband came home with a First Act.  God love him, he has no idea about instruments - he just wanted to make me happy. I was learning on it when life began to act up, and I had to set music aside for a while.  These days I have a Cedar Creek teardrop and my Christmas present is one ordered from Ron Gibson.  I still have the First Act however, it's great for little ones to play on during our group jams.   For sure they can't hurt anything if falls out of small laps, and with new strings it doesn't sound too badly.


updated by @terry: 11/29/15 05:38:44PM
Estes George
@george-desjardins
2 years ago
96 posts

My first dulcimer was a kit I bought from a shop that no longer exists in Estes Park Colorado, The Dulcimer Shop, I think it only stayed in business for 2 seasons. I put it together with absolutely no experience whatsoever. It was a little rough around the edges to say the least! :-) But it held a tune, started coming apart at the seams a little over time, and got my love affair with the mountain dulcimer right then. I eventually gifted it forward to anther interested newbie dulcimer player, but have no idea where it ended up. 

 It was the only kit I ever built, but it did teach me enough aouyt them to be able to do some minor repairs in the future.

 

Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
2 years ago
276 posts

My very first dulcimer I purchased is a Cabin Creek made by Walter Messick. I was looking for something that I could make music with, something that was easy to learn to play a song. I did a lot of research and saw recommendations about dulcimers. I remember hearing dulcimer music at Tamarack in WV. I saw some videos on Youtube and was convinced that was the instrument for me. I decided to look for builders in Virginia. I'm not sure how I came across Walter's web site but that's where I landed. I called him up and he played a few over the phone for me. I wanted to order one I saw on his web site. He asked me to wait because he was in the process of making one that had butterflies for sound holes. He said if I didn't like it I could get the other. Well, when it arrived I was amazed at the craftmanship and how beautiful it really was..... a lot better in real life than pictures on a web site. I got the pick and started playing a tune. I was thrilled to be able to play a song right out of of the box so to speak and not having any music training I felt like I accomplished something wonderful. I still own that dulcimer and I wouldn't part with it for anything.  

John Gribble
@john-gribble
2 years ago
66 posts

I made my first one in about 1967 out of a sheet of unfinished mahogany paneling I bought for $3.00 and scrap 2x4s from under my dad's work bench. I got some fret wire and guitar tuners from a local music store. It was awful. The peghead canted off to the right about fifteen degrees. It was meant to be a symmetrical teardrop, but ended up rather "free-form." I don't remember if I used my banjo or guitar as a model for the fret placement, or if I fretted it by ear. I used something in a spray can to finish it. 

It was a pretty crude affair and the sound wasn't very good, either. I played it a bit and passed it around to others who wanted to try dulcimer. I don't know what ever became of it and I'm no longer in contact with any of the people I ran with then. But I do know a half-dozen people or more learned the rudiments of the instrument on the thing. At least one of them got pretty serious about dulcimer, and early on had a chromatic instrument made. I built a few more over the years, along with some other instruments, but never became much of a luthier.

James Phillips
@james-phillips
2 years ago
94 posts

My first dulcimer I got when I moved back the Urbana/Champaign area, where it was in a resale shop.  It was a 3 string AW Jefferey's model, with wooden friction pegs.  This was back in 1999.  I was mostly playing guitar and some autoharp at the time, but it intrigued me, so I bought it.  Even though I didn't play it, it did make a nice looking decoration in the couple of apartments we lived in.  I eventually in the mid 00's sold it to a member of the autoharp discussion list I was on to a member who also played dulcimer.  

Jan Potts
@jan-potts
2 years ago
405 posts

My first dulcimer was made in Berea, KY, too--by me!  I was serving as a chaperone at a national gathering of Girl Scouts who had come to explore Kentucky in 1991.  We stayed in Berea for several days, living in one of the older dorms and soaking up that great vibe that pervades the historic town of Berea.  The Cincinnati Dulcimer club came down and spent a day with us, helping us put together our cardboard dulcimers and teaching us a few songs.  It would be another 6 years before I bought a "real dulcimer"--an all cherry hourglass dulcimer with hummingbird soundholes from talented Warren May.




--
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
Site Moderator

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
Annie Deeley
@annie-deeley
2 years ago
68 posts

Suzanne, what a wonderful post!

I tried piano in Grade 2, too shy. In Grade 11, an autoharp ---- too many strings! Ditto the 12 string guitar I bought after I retired. Pain in the ...um... wrist. Hated walking past where it hung on the wall, taunting me.

But music was still in me, wanting out. Maybe a dulcimer? Found this site, Stumelia's Noter/drone blog, maybe I could play that way.

On March 19th of this year I came home from work to find a long box with a forklift puncture in it, left on our back deck in just-above -freezing weather courtesy of a Canada Post person who chose to ignore David Lynch's "fragile" all over the box! All was surprisinly well with the Sweetwoods student dulcimer inside, and soon little tunes were startling the canaries in the next room. Like the sentimental high school girl I am on the inside, I still mark the 19th of each month as an anniversary of the beginning of a love affair with the dulcimer that shows no signs of cooling off.

SuzanneBailey
@suzannebailey
2 years ago
2 posts

Greetings friends!  Born, raised in Hazard, KY and lived as the crow flies just a few hills and hollows over from Ms Jean Ritchie in Viper, Ky.  Loved to hear her play and sing.  During a Berea, KY visit on a beautiful sunny fall day we stopped by Warren May's shop.  There on the wall was his Hummingbird dulcimer he had made.  I stood there in a trance looking at all the different kinds, styles he built  but kept going back to that Hummingbird.  In my mind I heard/saw Ms Jean sitting in her swing on the front porch of her log cabin playing & singing and heard the tapping of our boots on the wooden porch floor.   The deep green forest was all around.  Mr May smiled, came over, took this dulcimer from the wall and he began playing. I was hooked!  That Hummingbird has a new home! Now it is time for me to learn and carry on our  mountain heritage.  Looking forward to this new and exciting journey! Thank you for accepting me into Friends of The Mountain Dulcimer!!!

Colleen Hailey
@colleen-hailey
2 years ago
65 posts

Ack!  I mispoke.  My first dulcimer was made by my father from a Virgil Hughes church dulcimer kit back in the mid-1970s.  I forgot it was my First Dulcimer because I rarely played it and it is now a dulcimer shaped piece of wall art.  Sorry Dad!

John Shaw
@john-shaw
2 years ago
65 posts

The first dulcimer I bought was just a fretboard with strings.  The idea was that you put it on a suitable surface/table to increase the resonance.  This was in about 1971 or 2.  I bought it at a stall in Cecil Sharp House, the London headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.  It cost £4.  It had a pleasant sound and was not a bad way to get acquainted with the dulcimer.  I put a magnetic pickup on it and played it for a while as an electric dulcimer - it had a very satisfying electric sound.  The down side was that it was made of rather soft wood and did not last too well.

Ken Backer
@ken-backer
2 years ago
32 posts

The first dulcimer I owned was an original JE Thomas made in 1912.  As many of you know, I found it at a flea market.  Not recommended as a "first dulcimer".

Sean Ruprecht-Belt
@sean-belt
2 years ago
22 posts

My first dulcimer was one that I built from a McSpadden kit way back in 1969 or '70. I am far from being handy with tools and the instrument that resulted was pretty terrible. because of my 'craftsmanship' it was virtually unplayable. But I was sweet on a girl (Barb Schlemm... I wonder whatever happened to her) who played dulcimer back then and it seemed like the best idea in the world to be able to play dulcimer with her, so I gave it a shot. Of course, that didn't work out since the strings were so high off the fretboard they could barely be pressed to a fret to make an out-of-tune note. 

That little instrument (and I use the term loosely) sat in my closet for 10 years or so and eventually got disposed of in a yard sale.

Fortunately, many years later, I got a good instrument and actually learned to play the thing. And the rest is history.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
858 posts

Charles, if those dings and scratches were earned in the line of duty, then they only add to the character of the instrument.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Charles Thomas
@charles-thomas
2 years ago
78 posts

My first dulcimer was an Applecreek teardrop. In 2008 my wife bought it for my birthday. She was a middle school art teacher and she saw it in a catalog of classroom musical instruments. I had never seen anything like it before, 4 strings?...why are only two close together?... what the heck is the wooden stick for? Thank heavens for the internet! I found the "Everything Dulcimer" website and Ken Hulme's article "I Just Got A Dulcimer-Now What?" and I was on my way. Shortly afterwards I found this site, Strumelia's blogs and Robin Clark's video lessons were invaluable. My Applecreek is now hanging proudly on my wall, frets a bit worn, a few dings and scratches.   

Colleen Hailey
@colleen-hailey
2 years ago
65 posts

T.K O'Brien student model. I really liked it but ended up selling it at a festival when I felt like I needed to thin the herd. Still miss it a bit, as it was a great instrument to start out on.

Robin52
@robin52
2 years ago
1 posts

Sparrow purchased from Pete Spaehling at Feather Dulcimers. 19" VSL, sycamore and walnut.

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Kristi Keller
@kristi-keller
2 years ago
95 posts

McSpadden purchased from The Folk Shop in Tucson

Stewart McCormick
@stewart-mccormick
2 years ago
27 posts

After playing Erin Roger's dulcimer after a Scenic Roots concert, I had to find one! My parents moved from Kansas to Missouri, and live in a town between Branson and Springfield. For my birthday, my mom surprised me by taking me out and we stopped by this little music shop called Cedar Creek Dulcimers... 

shawn wright
@shawn-wright
2 years ago
17 posts

A Jenny Wiley dulcimer we got for the family to learn.  I played trumpet and a little piano years ago and my wife played guitar.  We haven't taught the kids either but we way this at a festival and figured it would work well in the homeschooling curriculum.  My son is playing it now.

Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
858 posts

I still have my first dulcimer, though I don't play it very often.  Still, I can't get bear to part with dear Rosa.

When I decided to buy a dulcimer I checked all the local music stores.  None sold dulcimers.  But one told me (on perhaps my fourth or fifth inquiry) that they sometimes stock one or two.  About a month later there was one on the shelf, but it was unplayable.  I could tell it was cheap and crappy and what some would call not an instrument but a "dulcimer shaped object."  So I began scouring the internet for luthiers who were nearby.  I found one --Johny Nicholson of Unicorn Woodworks--whose phone number indicated he was in Northern California. But when I called it turned out that he had moved to Idaho.  I was stumped, for I wanted a decent dulcimer but I was afraid to buy one without seeing and playing it first, and on the west coast, dulcimers are few and far between. But when I explained all this, Johny told me that he still bought his wood from a shop in Berkeley, meaning twice a year he drove his little car along the highway a few miles from my house.  So on his next trip, we made a date.  I literally met him off the highway, where he got out of his car and opened his trunk, revealing not a bunch of illegal drugs, but three dulcimers. I chose the one with the rosebud soundholes, partly because the mahogany back and sides made it the least expensive of the three. But I played them all, enough to know that the intonation was good, the sustain was great, and this was a real instrument and not a mere collector's item.

On my drive home I propped the instrument up in the back seat so that I could see it in the rear view mirror, even though I had also bought a soft case. But I was so eager to play, I couldn't complete the 20-minute drive home. I pulled off the highway and into a fast food joint's parking lot, jumped in the back seat, and started to play.  In the three or four months from the time I first saw a dulcimer on YouTube to the time I bought my sweet Rosa, I had watched Bing Futch's demonstration of "Rosin the Beau" so much that I was able to play it (not very well, of course) from memory that very first day!

 

That was over 6 years ago.  Since then I have purchased more expensive and fancier-sounding dulcimers, but I still have Rosa.  Because so few people know of Johny Nicholson and Unicorn Woodworks, were I to sell it, I would not get close to what the quality of the dulcimer is worth, and for that reason as well as pure sentimentality, I still have it.  The tone may not be as big and round as my other dulcimers costing three or four times what Rosa cost, but Rosa still has that precise intonation, the great sustain, and a pop or punch that many fancier dulcimers lack.  Plus, she was my first.love




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

"A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think."
-- Pete Seeger
Richard Wojtulewicz
@richard-wojtulewicz
2 years ago
4 posts

Red KIte from Robin - he played 3 over the phone for me to choose from. It's now on loan (unlimited) to a musician friend of my sons, don't think it will come back, I don't mind as long as it is being played. I have moved onto noter drone 155, JI set-up with Kevin Messenger repros. Thanks Robin.

 
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