Rookie Mistakes --

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
1,346 posts

Jan's posting reminded me to caution against picking up/handling a dulcimer with any pressure in the area of soundholes.  Though soundholes may be braced from below, it's a vulnerable area on the top of the instrument. 

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
6 years ago
408 posts

You also need to be careful of how you pick up your dulcimer.  Using 2 hands and evenly distributing the weight, of course, is the smart way to do it.  I can stress this for newbies, having picked up a favorite dulcimer with just one hand at the tail end, resulting in a crack several inches long.  And I knew better.....I just didn't do better!  frowner




--
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
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
1,346 posts

Skip:

And DON'T carry your MD using the strap over the shoulder. A friend did, the strap came off the button, resulting in a major [12"] and several minor [1-2"] cracks in the top. It also happened to me and my wife but without any damage.

A friend's husband was carrying her bowed dulcimer by the strap. . . The fall broke the headstock.  A painful lesson it was.  I felt badly for the wife and her poor husband. 

Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
340 posts

And DON'T carry your MD using the strap over the shoulder. A friend did, the strap came off the button, resulting in a major [12"] and several minor [1-2"] cracks in the top. It also happened to me and my wife but without any damage.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
6 years ago
1,346 posts

@iiilovemd I'm glad it was just a scratch!  Nearly all of us have similar stories and we learned a lesson; a few had more disastrous consequences.  Your posting may just save a few others from a similar fate.  Thanks! 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
1,970 posts

Your lesson should be about more than just a strap.  It's what some folks call "situational awareness".  Always be aware of where you and yours are in space at any given time -- what and who is around you, entering and leaving your space; what is near and far; static and in motion.  Use all your senses to hear, see and feel what is going on around you -- even while you are concentrating on playing dulcimer or talking or whatever.  

Fortunately, or unfortunately in this modern day and events, those who practice situational awareness tend to be survivors -- of dulcimer accidents and other things.

iiloveMD
iiloveMD
@iilovemd
6 years ago
6 posts

MD taught me right quick to use a strap! in the first week, I was seated by a door. Someone walked right in and caught the tip of the neck with their leg. I and everyone in the room gasped. My new lil' buddy hit a coffee table and landed on the ground. Miraculously, just a slight scratch. 

I fell in love with my MD 11 years ago precisely because it is (and continues to) so forgiving (and playful and soulful...)! 

 


updated by @iilovemd: 03/26/16 11:03:34PM
Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
6 years ago
179 posts

Ken Hulme:

Celtic Diet:  Haggis.  Whiskey.  Tatties & Neeps (potatoes & turnips).  

The name of the tune was originally "Boil That Haggis Down", but it's a well-known urban myth that when the tune was imported to Amerikay, the name was changed to protect a guilty sheep-rustler named MacBaah.

"'Tis true, Coinneach.........MacBaah was known to be of a questionable ethic........I believe he also wrote, "I like My Haggis just a Little on the Salty Side." I think he may also have been the one who wrote, "Fresh Muggies do Come from the Ocean."   I think thateventually became a tune having to do with someone named Bonnie or the likes.


updated by @salt-springs: 03/24/16 11:25:40PM
Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
340 posts

 I wear bib overalls so I'm forcing myself to hold off on suspenders right now since I'm still in the process of paying of the new Folkcraft resonator dulcimer I  needed for Christmas. No Sheitholt yet.

Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
6 years ago
179 posts

Skip....................you're an Advanced Traveler..............Have you bought a Scheitholt yet?  I got the Deluxe from June Apple, 6 Drones and I would think that it would ride in one of those little closets next to the driver's command module in your RV.  It is a grand instrument.  I am envious of your amenities.   By the way I did have a set of Ben Seymore suspenders a few years back........if your interested they are still available from select sellers.

Ride on my brother.......


updated by @salt-springs: 03/24/16 12:21:45PM
Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
6 years ago
179 posts

Aye, Coinneach,

Haggis, Glenfiddich 18, and pot of Muggies and Cranachan.


updated by @salt-springs: 03/24/16 11:19:16AM
Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
340 posts

salt-springs; Sounds reasonable to me. I'm a bit farther on the timeline [about 15 years] so the accessories have increased some. They now include a 38 foot top of the line RV and 1T truck to pull it down to the lot in south Texas. This is needed to reduce the stress on the MD's caused by excessive low humidity caused by cold weather, much better than a wet sponge in my opinion. This adds about 150 k plus annual fees, taxes and travel costs. So far the journey has been well worth it! 

I also needed to get additional instruments; keyboard, bodhran [adds interest to the celtic diet], pennywhistles, a HD, a TMB, and an electric bass, so I could produce backup accompaniment for the cd I was going to make for my family and friends. 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
1,970 posts

Celtic Diet:  Haggis.  Whiskey.  Tatties & Neeps (potatoes & turnips).  

The name of the tune was originally "Boil That Haggis Down", but it's a well-known urban myth that when the tune was imported to Amerikay, the name was changed to protect a guilty sheep-rustler named MacBaah.


updated by @ken-hulme: 03/24/16 06:46:34AM
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

I. am. dying. Celtic diet, ohmygosh, hahahaha!!!

giggle2giggle2giggle2

Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
6 years ago
179 posts

I do believe that the old adage that the journey of a thousand tunes begins with a single pick is true and I think it unfortunate that some ancient guy shamelessly swiped it, claimed it was an original thought and Philosophical Action Committee arranged to have it engraved in the mind of countless modern folk convincing them that it was about hiking. Every student of the Dulcimore knows, (thank you Dan) that original linguisitic terminology must be preserved as well as the wide variety of noters that have made their way into the urban Appalachian counter culture, only to be lost.  For several years I have read the posts found on this website and have found that there has always been considerable information available to assist me in my journey of a thousand tunes.  However, when it comes to advice to Rookies I have a .12 stainless steel string to pick.   Bones for picking are acceptable, though they have a tendency to wear out far to quickly when on Saturday evenings, Guinness inspired high speed Flamenco tunes burst forth from the heart.  Anyway, here is the string to pick....when I began my journey no one ever informed me off the tremendous financial burden learning to play the dulcimer would entail.   Since Ms. Chitwood stirred my conscience with her discussion topic I have meditatively evaluated the cost of my muse over the last five or six years.  Let me bring all of you up to speed in this regard.

1. It is imperative that a beginner carefully assess which six dulcimers they buy at the outset of the journey.  Since the relative obscurity of Capo's are virtually unknown to novice musicians, the only reasonable course of action is to buy one for DAdd tuning, one for DAaa, DAcc, AEaa, AEee, CGcc. (Oops, make it 7 dulcimers, CGgg.)  As you can tell this includes not only standard sized instruments, but those larger deeper body ones, known as Baritones.  It is not necessary to include Bass dulcimers or Ginger models as those I believe are reserved for those who have traveled further along the road less traveled.  This initital investment entails an expenditure of appx. $4,200.00, not including 3 packs of strings per instrument which will run you about another $150.00 with shipping.

2. While this might seem a bit outrageous to those unfamiliar with the necessity of being well equipped let me assure you this is the basic set up.  Now to this we must consider, music stands, dulcimer stands (Curley maple are best at $149.00), six beginner books, a high speed internet connection, top of the line TKL cases built to survive a late night brawl in any bar of your choosing........enter $1400.00 less shipping for an appx. total cash expenditure of $2,150.00 and change.  It is here that we discover the Capo and usually buy three  at $20.00 each.  But that is chicken feed and I don't consider that anything more than a basic expenditure and do not include it in the total cost of the muse.

3.  As one improves it becomes evident that history needs to have our skill preserved so we have to consider a recording studio.  It is of no concern that the only three tunes we can play are Old Joe Clark and Amazing Grace and the Battle Hymn of the Republic....these achievements must be preserved so cost is not a factor.........3 mics, two different software programs, 60 feet of cable, two amplifiers, a mixing board for subtle audio enhancements, two windscreens for the mics, the third mic does not require one since it is used only for playing with our 12 volt cube amplifier kept in the we bought in order to travel to various venues such as church potlucks, wedding receptions, flea markets, school presentations and if you keep playing in bars 5 nights a week, AA meetings.  This basic expenditure could run you over $35,000 depending upon the type of van you buy to haul it around in......I prefer a VW bus, you know the California Revival thing, but that is just a personal preference.

4.  Of course there are other expenditures involved that are more collateral in nature, such as group therapy sessions for obsessive compulsive restless strum syndrome, lawyer bills for a divorce after your spouse decides they have heard enough of your midnight practice sessions, hourly scanning of the newly listed Ebay dulcimers, weird dietary practices while you decide whether to adopt a Celtic diet, Mountain style/Virginia Country Ham enhanced version of Dr. Atkin's Quick Weight loss diet or the California Kale and Avocado Smoothie post revival Detox program.   Costs vary here, but I would think $12,000.00 is in the ball park.

5. Last but not least it is important to look good.  I found that clothing makes the man or woman as the case may be...so add funds for Celtic T-Shirts, Dasheki's and Apple Seed beeds, Bib overalls, farm boots, sandals, misc. rings and '60's style leather Fisherman's Cap to go with the VW.  Hymn and Worship players add One Way T Shirts from the '70's, Western hats, sunglasses, etc.   Be creative.   I think $2,500.00 is fair........

6.  Now that I have learned 8 tunes, and been forgiven for playing Whiskey Before Breakfast at Ladies Missionary Union luncheon, ( I called it Candles before Communion, but was ratted out by a Lutheran) I am ready to move on to the next level.........historic reproductions and Roman glass noters.  It is indeed all about the journey and I am planning a Robin Clark appreciation pilgrimage for fall; Yes,the journey ..........I love it...........coool   Have fun!!!!  $56,000 is not too much, is it?

 


updated by @salt-springs: 03/24/16 04:53:56AM
Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
6 years ago
134 posts

GREAT advice!!!!   Thank you! martini

Robin Clark
Robin Clark
@robin-clark
6 years ago
237 posts

Rookie mistakes?  Mmmm.......

Fire and Forget - Playing a tune while hearing in your head what you think the tune should sound like rather than actually 'listening' to the end result you are producing.

Believing too hard - Holding on to a theory of how to do something or how something works despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  That evidence is the sound coming from your instrument, so we are back to listening again.

Not realising playing is physical - To make your dulcimer make a noise you have to do something physical with the strings.  All the theory and everything else boils down to your touch on the instrument.  Playing is a physical activity so train your physical movements and 'listen' to your results.

Timing is Everything - Buy a metronome and use it.  It will give you great timing and it will keep you in the moment.  If you can hear the metronome and hear your own playing at the same time you are on the way to learning how to listen to what's really happening when you play.

Always aim to do something differently - When you pick up your dulcimer have the aim of playing differently by the time to put it down to the way you play right now.  To improve/learn you must do something physically different to make the instrument sound different.  You won't know what physically you have to do differently, so try things out and 'listen' to the results.  Repetitive practice is about honing skills but even with repetitive practice you must end up making physical changes to the way you play in order to improve the sounds you produce.  Again, you must listen to your real results in real time.

Music is too complex to be cognitive - The goal of practice is to make physical movements non-conscious (like they are when you drive a car) so you can free up cognitive space to 'read the road' ie listen to what you are actually playing.  Do everything you can to make the physical side of playing intuitive.

Ditch the TAB - TAB is good to learn where the notes are for a tune but ditch it as quickly as you can.  It sucks away cognitive capacity and removes you from being in the moment.  It makes you deaf to the link between your physical movement and the music those movements create in real time.

Mindfulness - Music is about being grounded in the moment.  So be there with your instrument.  If you can tell me what you are thinking when you are playing then you are not grounded with your dulcimer.

And, like many have said before, its a never ending journey so enjoy your travels and remember:

It is all about the music - so make that the centre of your learning.

 

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

Yes, I would agree with what you say there. My purchase was a knee jerk reaction to finding out there were dulcimer lessons in my area and I took a little homemade teardrop, had one lesson and it was love at first sight.

I was so excited I could not wait to get in the car and find a dulcimer for sale. I was actually heading to Mike Clemmer's shop, when I found one closer. The person who helped me is widely known for stringed instruments but more of the violin type and he didn't walk me through the fine details like I know Mike would have. 

And I'd like to add one more rookie mistake that I am currently trying to correct and that would be not inviting my pinky to play. My pinky is weak and tiny and hardly any help when it comes to holding down a string but I'm learning!

 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 years ago
1,591 posts

I notice that a lot of Dana's "rookie mistakes" involved the instrument itself and not necessarily how to play it.  It would be nice if every newbie had an experienced player or two to help them find their first instrument.  How could a newbie know about VSL or action or anything like that?  As some of you have noticed, perhaps, I've been advising people to get a good student or beginner dulcimer to start with and not even think about a fancier instrument for a couple of years. It takes a while playing to know what your preferences are. As Ken says, "the journey matters," and I would go further and say it is all there is. There is no final resting place where we cease to evolve as musicians.

 




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Lexie R Oakley
Lexie R Oakley
@lexie-r-oakley
6 years ago
230 posts

My mistakes all lend towards my joy and love of playing and the sound of my dulcimers, they have been a great benefit to my intrigue and learning more about playing. It is a nice feeling to improve my playing or a technique. 

Skip
Skip
@skip
6 years ago
340 posts

I never made any rookie mistakes [tongue in cheek!], but I have had a bunch of educational opportunities caused by a 'hold my -------, I'm going to' attitude I get sometimes. Most worked out ok though, can't think of any I actually regret. Looks like that's what some of y'all did. As far as the extra picks, find a hard up guitar/mandolin/uke player. :)

ozarklady
@ozarklady
6 years ago
16 posts

Well I've had the dulcimer bug for about a year and still love it. I have 5 right now and love the sound of each one. When I'm playing a really fast tune I like to play my Berg, but a ballad that is slow and thoughtful I play my Folkroots Itty bitty such a rich sound.

All the years my husband and I have been married I never had a passion almost like addictive, but my husband had many, woodworking, fishing, of course a little bass boat was a given, golf the list goes on and on but I was always the thrifty one, maybe crochet yarn or a cool knitting pattern so a mere pennies compared to David's passions.

After retiring I continued my needlework but then remembering I always wanted to learn the dulcimer investigated and found a d society in town and this started it all. I have found I have learned different techniques from different people, Dave Haas, Stephen Seifert, Jackie Armstrong (books) and love them all. So my advice keep an open mind where it comes from learning and remember the only stupid questions is not asking them:)

 

 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
6 years ago
2,112 posts

Ken Hulme:

 


If you don't make mistakes, you never learn.  You would not be having nearly so much fun if someone had handed you the perfect instrument, two accessories, and taught you to play like Robert Force or Jean Ritchie in one afternoon.  The journey matters.


Excellent point Ken.  Even professional players never seem to be completely satisfied with their skill level- and that tells us something.  To me, it's the ongoing learning and little steps in playing music that both keep my interest and give me a sense of accomplishment.  The journey.  The rest is simply the joy of making lovely sounds, no matter how simple they are.  banjo


 




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

Well for the benefit of those who haven't been around the block, can you start a discussion on that? Thank you! 

Jan Potts
Jan Potts
@jan-potts
6 years ago
408 posts

  One of my big rookie mistakes was not knowing there was such a thing as "jam etiquette"....There is... and it's a good idea to get a heads up before you pull up a chair.  There's probably a discussion of that on here somewhere.....if not, someone should start one.




--
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
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
6 years ago
1,970 posts

Well, I started this journey over 40 years ago.  I built a kit dulcimer so I could teach myself (only 1 book in those days and no internet) to play.  What you all are calling rookie mistakes were simply, for me, part of the learning process. 

Observations along the way:

-- collecting picks, noters and other paraphernalia is all part of The Game.  Part of the fun.  Part of the learning process. 

-- scroll heads that are open at the bottom are as easy to change strings on as a flathead.  I had a closed bottom scroll head once.  Got rid of it pretty darn quick in favor of open-bottom once.

-- buy the pretty dulcimer that sounds the way you like.  Having built over 300 dulcimers, my experience has been that all else being equal (and it never is), wood choice is so far down the list of factors which can affect the tone, that it's not even funny.

If you don't make mistakes, you never learn.  You would not be having nearly so much fun if someone had handed you the perfect instrument, two accessories, and taught you to play like Robert Force or Jean Ritchie in one afternoon.  The journey matters.

 

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

Hahahaha!!! 

Too funny!

Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
6 years ago
179 posts

 Donald Depoy posted this statement when talking about noters awhile back............I wish I had read it years ago because it just cracked me up with its honesty and insight..............here it is:

   An old banjo player and maker, Andrew F. Boarman from Hedgesville, WV once told me, "Don you can use anything as an excuse not to play well! Your picks! Your instrument setup!  The moon and stars! Just shut up and pick!"  Well that tells the story.  Going from this noter to that noter is just part of the interesting journey.  I won 10th place dulcimer at Galax a few years back.  I played a last minute borrowed dulcimer and pick from the guy in line in front of me. and the cap from a Bic ball point pen.  Imagine if I played my own dulcimer.  I may have place last.   It is what it is....

 

I suppose endless dulcimers, stands, possum boards, tab files etc. count too.


updated by @salt-springs: 03/22/16 07:27:25PM
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

Haha, all good ones!

I would also add 'Not realizing how many accessories one could acquire so quickly and feel they are all needed!"

Stands, books, strings, carrying case, duel carrying case, tuners, pick case, large notebooks for sheet music, more notebooks, even MORE notebooks, plastic sheet covers, music holding stand and on and on and on till the cows come home. Who KNEW!

Terry Wilson
Terry Wilson
@terry-wilson
6 years ago
296 posts

This April 1st will mark my 4th anniversary.   So happy I discovered the mountain dulcimer.

Beginner mistakes?   Same as yours, all across the board.  My greatest mistake was purchasing any dulcimer other than a McSpadden in the very beginning.  Of course I didn't know of the McSpadden in the beginning. 

Nothing but a flat head from now on, and no dulcimers with pins and a wrench.  I didn't change strings often enough in the beginning.  Probably because of the scroll head, or lack of knowledge. 

Early on, I think I had the mind set, that "the more dulcimers I owned the better I would become".   Wrong.  Just more dulcimers to re-sell at a loss.  Hard lesson.

Another huge mistake was not learning different strum patterns in the very beginning.  I'm in a rut with one pattern, and it's a hard rut to get out of.  This rankles me often.

Anyway, @di-chitwood, this should prove to be an interesting topic. 


updated by @terry-wilson: 03/22/16 08:58:56PM
D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
6 years ago
139 posts

I'm 15 months into my love affair with my dulcimers and that is juuuust long enough for me to recognize some mistakes I made prior to having some dulcimer education. PLEASE add your own rookie mistakes!

A. Buying a dulcimer with a scroll head instead of a flat head. A flat head makes changing strings SO much easier, but alas, I thought the scroll head was PRETTY and hey, that was all that mattered at the time. 

Every time I'm changing a string, I feel like I'm nine years old playing 'OPERATION!' on that naked board game man. 

B. Going to the music store and buying a bunch of picks, based on how they looked. "oooOh, this one looks like a pearl! It's so pretty!"

NO notion of the importance of thickness or feel. 'What's that flicky sound I hear??"

C. Buying a dulcimer I had never played before. I just heard the brand name was good. No knowledge of mellow, twang, bright, vsl differences, anything. (I lucked out that the brand happened to be McSpadden!) 

"Walnut? Cherry? Which do I want? Hmmm....which is prettiest?"  I literally had NO idea about how different woods sang out with a unique voice.

D. Buying a used dulcimer with no knowledge of 'vetting the dulcimer', looking for cracks, warps, action issues, worn frets etc. 

Now, granted...the used dulcimer was a Gallier Starsong and it's in good shape, but it never occurred to check for any issues. 

E. Having no idea the dulcimer would begin to 1. take up room all over the house, 2. take up time all over my week 3. distract me during the most serious times when I'm suppose to be paying attention instead of practicing hammer ons and pull offs on my leg 

 

Looking back I would go with a shorter VSL, go with the warmer wood, a flat head, thinner picks, and allot a whole category to my budget! 

 


updated by @d-chitwood: 10/27/19 12:02:25PM