Looking for article by Ken Hulme
General mountain dulcimer or music discussions
Thanks Lisa, for all you do for the dulcimer world!
updated by @ken-hulme: 12/12/18 10:15:04PM
The original balalaika was a diatonic fretted instrument, but that changed, IIRC, in the mid- late-1800s. If you can find a diatonic one, hang on to it!
1) Yes -- in that part of the world, at that time, caves were often used as stables -- a place to protect horses and mules -- among other things. Cave are nice and cool, and require minimum labor to seal against the elements and dangerous wildlife (animal or human).
2) Yes, short hair and beardless are health issues -- they hide fewer parasites and are much easier to clean. Also, Jesus was Semitic, and did not look like a European with a tan.
I've assembled, or helped assemble several of those kits, as have others here. If I remember correctly, the only real "hard" part is assembling the top with the space between the two planks; and that's not difficult.
My one suggestion is to use an appropriate size of Forstner bit, and a rasp, to open up the bottom of the tuning head slot, before starting assembly with it. As it comes, that slot is three sided -- two sides and the bottom. But as a player with many years experience stringing and re-stringing dulcimers, an "open" slot makes it a lot easier to run the string ends through the holes in the tuning pins preparatory to tuning. A few stabbed fingers will convince you too! The head works just fine without a bottom, many people make them that way. There's never enough string pressure to both anything.
It does not matter whether your instruments are solid wood, or cheap doorskin plywood... IF it gets dry enough wherever it is that you live, such that you get static shocks when you walk across a carpet sock-footed; then YES you need the house/room humidified. Not just for the instrument but for you! Bowls of water set out with a sponge in them will help -- as long as they are kept replenished. Damp towel(s) over heater vents will help too.
Where I live in South Florida, however, that is never an issue.
Those miniscule (and I do mean miniscule) increases in string diameter will NEVER harm your instrument! You can re-string it as a baritone using much heavier strings and it won't hurt anything.
Lisa -- your French psaltery link did the same thing for me. If I click on the thumbnail (something I've never done before until just now!) I get an enlarged image pop-up. I'm using Microsoft Edge as a browser.
Just noticed the past couple days... If there are photos attached to a post and I try to Open them, they will not open. The security check will run and then they don't open. If I try to Save them, something along the line is dropping off or ignoring the period before "jpg" and the saved file is a garbage text file of code.
Is it me? There was an update to Windows last week...
Send a PM to John Knopf. He's our Homer replicator. He should know what finish was used.
Steel strings are the norm for mountain dulcimer. Never, ever trim the first set of strings on an instrument until they've been played in for a few days. If adjusting the nut/bridge you don't take the string off, just slack them enough to move the strings off to the side.
Personally, I would tune DAA. That way your scale starts at the 3rd fret and you have a few notes below that "low do".
There seems to be something amiss with the graphics. Every time I try to download them the period before jpg is ignored and it tries to open them as a text file. Just give the files common names, you don't need .jpg or .jpeg....
What number is your Ledford? Look inside. There is a Master List of the known Ledford builds, which contains a variety of information.
I have to say, if you really are "dedicated (to) DAd", you may not be happy with that classic instrument. Homer didn't build them with DAd or other Mixolydian tunings in mind, and didn't always use a Mean Tone intonation so his dulcimers would "played well with others"...
John Dunn -- here you go:
The Grumpy Old Men got a private showing of Niles' instruments last spring during our Gathering in Berea, when we took a road-trip to Lexington. Dr. Revell Carr, director of the John Jacob Niles Galley and the Center for American Music, and his staff, graciously removed all those instruments and more from their display cases so that we had a room full of dulcimers to fondle and measure. Yes Niles played the "dulcimer" but many of his instruments were larger than a dreadnaught guitar body and carried as many as 10 or 12 strings!!
Folks who attend the second First Annual Berea Traditional Dulcimer Gathering, May 16-19, 2019, may also have an opportunity to visit the Gallery and Center and see those instruments.
Many possum boards have some way to hold the dulcimer in place -- elastic, cord, wooden toggles, etc. But if you're playing "right" -- not thrashing all over the place and not digging the tip of the pick 'way down between the strings, then you don't normally need a hold down.
Do you not have a copy of my article "I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?". ?? It's an illustrated glossary of many of these dulcimer terms, so we all use the same jargon, plus answers to many beginner questions about tuning, playing, care and feeding of the dulcimer. Here:
The double back is a great idea if you want more volume without being "electronified". But then 3 little feet and a "possum board" plank will do the same thing with much less effort. If it were me, I'd start with a simple build with feet. That way you can get real world experience with the effect that a double back will give you.
Yes, Lisa, but that's his "too warped to use" fretboard. If that tuning head were cut off and screwed/glued into the head block (not the end of the new fretboard) it might work, but there would be a LOT of string tension/stress on a piece without the grain structure/strength to withstand that. A scroll or flathead from Folkcraft designed for those stresses, would also be a more "elegant" solution.
Unless they have one of those old "extended fretboard is the tuning head" pieces, you are also going to have to buy and add something to hold the tuning machines. A scroll head would probably be easiest because it's a single piece glued/screws into the headblock. A flat "guitar style" head isn't much more difficult -- a piece of 1/2" plank for the flat head, and a piece of 1x2 for the brace underneath glued together.
I would call Folkcraft and explain what you've got, and ask them what they can do to help you put together a functioning dulcimer. People like John and I have been building dulcimers for a long time, and can think of several solutions to your problems. I know at least two other ways to make a tuning head, but they would involve autoharp tuning pegs, not the geared tuners you already have.
Good start Dave; My first couple of builds I didn't have that many useful clamps. Nothing wrong with a box design dulcimer. The maximize the cubic inches of interior volume -- a major factor in the overall sound. Are you going to go with a TMB style fretboard/tuning head? Or a "conventional" scroll or flat tuning head and fretboard?
Best wishes on your build.
Good call Skip. What I do have is a 'cheat sheet' that has the names of the songs and their first measures. I find it hard to remember how to start a song sometimes, when in a high noise environment with lots of other musicians playing away.
Great to hear from you again, Nimrod! I'm glad to hear that your dulcimer in CGc has worked so well for the Sea Shanties and other songs of the sea. Do you know about the site www.contemplator.com?? She has an entire section of Songs of the Sea. One of my favorite water songs is the great 1962 British ditty by Tony Hatch and Les Reed -- Messing About On The River.
I'll be holding down the Fort (Myers) while Lady Sally and her daughter drive over to the East coast to see Elton John's farewell concert. Late afternoon I'm going to watch (and maybe play along) with a couple guitar friends who have a 3-6pm gig playing at a riverside restaurant.
IF YOU ARE RIGHT HANDED, then (usually) the tuning head is on your left, and the melody string(s) are closest to you.
IF YOU ARE LEFT HANDED, the (usually) the tuning head is on your left, and the melody string(s) are closest to you.
The exception is a true Tennessee Music Box replica, which has the tuners at the strumming end of the instrument, not the fretting end.
Dusty said " it seems reasonable to ask what someone likes about the one dulcimer they identified in response to this forum question."
'Way back at the beginning of this thread I said I like the "high silvery' sound that many traditional dulcimers give. Like my John Knopf-made Uncle Ed Thomas replica, my Bobby Ratliff Sow model Virginia Hogfiddle, and the Ozark Walking Stick that I built a couple years back. All of these are narrow (less than 6") and shallow (under 1.5" deep) with tall fretboards for playing Noter & Drone.
Shape doesn't mean anything -- the three mentioned above are all different shapes. I honestly couldn't pick one except in a "moment of truth" with my boat sinking and my arms full of survival supplies. Then it's whichever one I can reach fastest/easiest just before I roll over the railing into my dinghy. Any one of those could be my "one" dulcimer...
As Dusty mentions, there are a number of makers of "Spider-like" capos other than Spider-brand.
A Spider type capo would have been my suggestion.
Dan makes some wonderful modern style dulcimers. Great quality for a decent price. Earlier this year they moved from Yreka, CA to Wabash, IL, and are happy for the change.
Groundhog is one of many names for a very large underground dwelling rodent. Think underground beaver. Beaver live in water, Groundhogs live underground. They're 16"-20" and weigh up to 20 lbs. Vegetarian, they love to raid gardens and large crop fields and so are considered pests. Relatively easily caught, they were sort of 'survival food' for early pioneers. Reasonably tasty.
We sing about railroad men so much because they were our Industrial Age heroes. They connected one side of this huge country to the other. They worked hard and played hard. England had/has its canals that connected the industrial Midlands to the coastal ports -- Josiah Wedgewood helped build canals so his pottery could get to the coast without half of every wagonload being broken. You also had your Navvies who dug and built, and the sailors who linked the pieces of the EMpire together.
I play the old ballads myself. The Child Ballads and others -- 16th and 17th century versions of the tunes and words that changed dozens of times between there and then, and here and now. From the Elfin Knight to Scarborough Fair. All the dozens of versions of The Riddle Song from Lay the Bend to the Bonnie Broom on down through history.
Most folks remove the outer melody string if they are playing chords as they get a bit more fretboard to press on. Most Noter & Drone stylists remove the inner melody string so there is more space between the melody and middle drone string and less chance of the noter getting caught in the middle drone.