OFF TOPIC discussions
That's a crazy adventure Ken. Hope you don't get hit too badly by the hurricane now.
+Plus to what Dusty said, but with one added thought:
Usually hardwood bridges are preferred and give better tone. Violins and banjos most typically have maple bridges.
However, I found out that with early style banjos the best most resonant sound is achieved with softwood bridges like spruce, cedar, pine, etc. I was at an early banjo gathering once where a fellow was selling bridges made from many various woods, and it was suggested by more than one person that i try a softwood bridge. I tried many bridges that day and they were right- the evergreen ones gave a noticeably richer more resonant tone... which very much surprised me. I bought several and put them on my 3 early style banjos.
I can only guess it's a similar effect as when a dulcimer has a spruce, redwood, or cedar top- which is softer wood but gives a very mellow resonant tone. I should note that the early fretless banjos use nylgut strings rather than steel strings and this may have relevance, other things being equal.
So don't destroy that cedar bridge once you make a new hardwood one. Swap them back and forth and do a sound test!
If I never used the 6+ it probably wouldn't matter to me (?).
You said you would like to probably experiment with chord playing, so i strongly suggest adding at least the 6.5 fret. (And it's 'octave companion' 13.5 fret if you get up that far)
Love the leaping horses sound holes on this dulcimer.
Ken, I imagine she quit making them once she became ill.
Only enough pressure to make the string touch the fret. Sometimes with higher frets, if you press the string all the way down to touch the wood, then you are further stretching the string and making it sound sharp.
I think skip means you don't have to push the string all the way down to the wooden fretboard when pressing down the string between the frets. Also try to keep the noter not slanted- it gives a clearer sound. (unless you are purposely using the slanted noter technique for other reasons)
What a great little travel dulcimer that would be!
Dave, what is the scale length/vsl of the dulcimer, from nut to bridge?
Dave, this is an interesting question and subject.
I can see that you are a pretty accomplished musician. I'm afraid I can't think of examples of the kind you are looking for in particular, but it shouldn't be a hard thing to do if you have musicians who can play along with each other by ear.
I went to our site's video section, and punched in "mandolin" in the search box, and came up with this:
There looks like maybe a couple of examples of dulcimer and mandolin playing together in a group, but you'll have to look through them.
Sorry I can't be of more help!
I've seen some guitars made with slanted or curvy frets. It's an overly-complex way of avoiding a compensated bridge. A compensated bridge is a heck of a lot easier and gets the job done, maybe a tiny bit less precisely than curved/slanted frets.
The Cripple Creek dulcimer book instructs one to tune to the key of G for ionian mode, but without using a reverse tuning.
They instruct to tune the bass string to the G below middle C for bass string (G3 in octave labeling), then to the D (D4) right above middle C for the middle and melody strings. (Gddd for ionian key-of-G, as opposed to our typical key-of-D ionian tuning DAAA which has all strings below middle C).
(Note that this Gddd 'might' strain your bass and middle strings if they are heavy gauge or if you have a long vsl.)
It's worth reading Robert Force's story about the book:
And you can read the book itself online here:
NOTES: in the "Tuning chart" page, at bottom he states the string length as being 24"... quite a short vsl.
He also states the strings as being listed 'from low to high', therefore he writes his mixolydian tuning in the chart from top to bottom: DADD meaning the top D is the low bass string and the two bottom d's are the pair of melody strings. He refers to the melody string s , plural. He lists the gauges as 22(low bass), 12, and 10 (0.22, 0.12, and 0.10)
He's giving DGdd as the tuning for Ionian mode. That's a 'reverse Ionian' tuning for the key of G.
Why that somewhat unusual tuning for playing in ionian mode? I figure this came about because when he tuned to DAAA on a 24" scale with the melody strings being 0.10, they were just too floppy for him to think playable. The third fret on the melody strings in DGdd is a G note, so that's the tonic/key he indicated. But if you tried to tune typically (1-5-5) for ionian in the key of G, you'd tune Gddd. The Bass string would break long before hitting that higher G, and it'd likely be too loose and jangly if tuned to the G below the usual D. To avoid breaking the bass or middle string is the reason some folks use a 'reverse tuning'- where the tonic low note is instead on the middle string and the heavy string is tuned instead to a fifth below the tonic. The bass and middle string notes get swapped. It saves strings from breaking or from being too low to play.
For the key of G that reverse tuning would then be DGdd as in the chart, with the middle string taking over the job of the tonic low note, the melody strings playing high g tonic on the 3rd fret, and the bass string tuned to a fifth from the tonic (the 5th note in the key of G being a D) but in the lower octave. The bass and middle strings have exchanged duties, and you don't break any strings.
If the scale length of the person mapping out the tuning chart had been a more typical 26-28" length, then the normal key of D ionian tuning of DAAA would have worked fine. OR, it also would have also worked fine in DAAA on a 24" scale if he had put heavier strings on.
It's little wonder folks tuned up from the key of C to the key of D if they were making or playing 24" scale dulcimers. I also notice he has the chart use the key of E for aeolian mode. I think a lot of this was to accommodate that short 24" scale whoever wrote the chart was working with, assuming they didn't want to try changing to heavier strings for whatever reasons.
Robert's intro clearly states that he (and others he was working with) didn't really know much of anything about dulcimers or how they were traditionally played when they started having fun with them. They experimented, improvised, adapted, and learned as they went along.
I agree with Dusty's thoughts in his last post below. As a banjo player, and as I'm sure many guitar players also know, there are 'open tunings' that create a satisfying tonic-note-heavy resolved sound when strummed across all open strings. Fiddlers sometimes use open tunings as well, in order to play tunes heavy on paired drone bowing- they call them cross tunings. In the dulcimer, DAd is such an open tuning, while DAA (for playing in ionian mode) is less so... until you fret the melody string on 3rd fret to create that high D note... and then it's not an 'open strum'.
Many of the young people during the 1960s folk revival who were discovering playing the mountain dulcimer started playing folk music on guitar. The use of a tuning like DAd that both facilitated making chords, playing barr chords, and which had an open/unfretted tonic chord... I imagine was naturally appealing to them.
They added the 6+ fret so they could play popular American folk songs from the newly favored 1-5-8 open string tuning. They also enjoyed turning their dulcimers up on the side to play them in guitar fashion, sometimes hanging them on straps and playing while standing up performing or jamming, and some even played them 'underhand' with their left hand wrapped around to the fretboard from underneath like guitar players do as well. They adjusted the dulcimer and its playing traditions to serve more modern needs.
Steven, you said you were interested in a basic strumming style, fretting only the melody string. That would be either noter style playing, or fingerdancing style where you fret with the fingers on the melody string only.
You might find some helpful instruction, over 30 beginner tabs, and videos in my online free blog for beginner noter players:
(Be sure to browse the posts sorted by date (earliest posts first) and/or by subject matter, using the right hand column indexes found on every page.)
I find KenH's article very simple to follow, until it gets to explaining modes. Modes are always a challenge for new players to learn about. But like many FOTMD members, you don't really have to understand modes to enjoy playing in noter style. It's fun to learn about modes later on, and get those wonderful 'light bulb moments' as you change tunings.
I've written a very simplified "modes aren't so scary after all" method of learning about the basic modes in my blog, but I suggest you delve into that later on, after you are comfortable with playing a few simple first tunes. And it doesn't get any simpler than the tune for Hot Cross Buns.
For now, just know that tuning to DAA to begin with will make it easier if you are wanting to fret notes only on the melody string.
It's easy to see lots of McSpaddens on ebay and you'll get a quick idea as to what they are currently selling for.
The Bill Taylor I imagine is a nice playable dulcimer, but it's not that old or a big collectable yet, so you might try asking what you paid for it. If nobody bites then lower the price by 20% and that stimulate a sale.
Are you working with someone to sell it in person, i.e. to another dulcimer player in your area, without shipping involved?
Janis, go back to the General forums are and use the +plus button to create a new thread to ask your question please:
This discussion thread here is about the fotmd chat room function.
Most strings I've bought for either dulcimers or banjos have at least 8" surplus length. I'd just clip off the loop and make a new loop right there. Use the pencil or a dowel to help make the loop around, and avoid making bends that are too sharp when you twist the end.
Something here might help:
you might use a screwdriver rather than a pencil if the loop is sized better that way.
Why not just clip the loop off the end of the string and make a new larger loop? I've done that. Use a needle nose pliers and wrap the end of the string around a pencil and then make several twists using the pliers. cut the excess end off. avoid nicking the string with the pliers while bending or twisting the loop end.
FWIW Roy, I always use PegDrops brand on my wooden pegs, and ONLY that. Everything I've tried has been too slippy. I make sure all other products are gone from the pegs completely, and then I follow the bottle instructions exactly, only like two drop per peg right in the spot where they touch the box as they spin, and spinning them there a bit. Then i let them 'cure' overnight before putting them to the test. They have liquid rosin in them and are just right for my wood peg banjos at high tension.
Roy, maybe you already know this but- a heavier string and a lighter string, if tuned to the same note over the same scale length, ...the heavier string will be tighter/tauter and the lighter string will be a little more relaxed. That's why it helps to go to a lighter string if the heavier string pulls so much that the pegs can't hold it.
28" is a 'slightly' long scale these days- many dulcimers are now built 25.5 to 27" vsl... which makes sense since dulcimers used to often be tuned to the key of C rather than today's standard key of D. It's not uncommon to see older dulcimer instruction books from the 1960s or 70s written for key of C tuning.
If you are going to sell some of them, it's the shipping which will become the biggest chore, and the protective packaging so they don't get crushed in transit, and just getting suitable shipping boxes.
Are you saying you have over 80 dulcimers? You may want to get a well advertised estate sale going and a professional person to help with this. It's a whole lot of dulcimers.
Randy is right. I've tried that in the past and it works well.
Mangos and watermelon... doesn't get much better than that Ken.
When i lived in Puerto Rico the neighbors had a huuuuge mango tree, and they never bothered eating any. (!) So my two little daughters and i would fill big bags and feast on them for weeks at a time. Good memories.
We got the blueberry net up just in time a few days ago. Yesterday I picked the first ripe berries, got about 1 1/2 pints. We usually get blueberries for 1 month, and when they peter out the ripe tomato picking starts.
I planted only 13 tomato plants this year. Trying two plants of a new cherry tomato called Black Strawberry that has clusters of large dark cherry tomatoes with purple-y stripes. Also two "Lemon Boy" yellow tomatoes. This year I planted some patty pan squash... so cute!
By the way, I read something interesting a couple weeks ago. The word possum can refer to one of various possum species in parts of the world. But the precise name "opossum" refers specifically to the U.S.'s only native species of marsupial.
I'm sure you'll get many good responses here Homer!
But I'd also like to point out that a site search for the words "possum board" turns up some other cool results as well: