Forum Activity for @ken-hulme

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/12/22 08:32:42AM
1,926 posts

Reasons NOT To Get a Chromatic


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions


TRADITION! 

When asked about dulcimer with “extra" frets, Jean Ritchie replied “In a strict sense it has a different finger board, it’s not quite a dulcimer anymore.”    

You can find all the notes in the dulcimer's range, but you have to be willing to re-tune at least one string to do so (takes less than 30 seconds, with practice).

If you want a chromatic instrument lay a guitar on your lap and play that.  Or I can build you an  "acoustic lap guitar". Just don't call it a dulcimer.   Part of the essential definition of Dulcimer, to many of us, is the diatonic fretboard.

If you are playing mostly "classic dulcimer songs" especially from tabulature rather than SMN, it will be 'more difficult' because the fret numbering convention is different, and you'll have to find the fewer diatonic frets among the plethora of chromatic frets.  You won't be able to simply count 1,2,3,4... to find a tab numbered fret.  With a chromatic instrument that becomes
1/2,1,1-1/2, 2, 3, 3-1/2, 4, 4-1/2, 5, 6, 6-1/2,7......

Dia-chromatic fretboard.jpg

Also, IMHO the 'sound' of a chromatic "dulcimer" is different when you slide from note to note -- because of all the intervening chromatic notes between diatonic notes -- I hear those slides as 'muddier'...


updated by @ken-hulme: 05/12/22 08:58:32AM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/01/22 08:06:47AM
1,926 posts

Introduce Yourself!


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Teddy -- Traditionally only the Melody string (or couplet) nearest to you is fretted to make the notes.  The other two strings are Drones.  If you fret the Melody string(s)  with a small finger-sized stick, we call that stick a Noter, and the style is Noter & Drone.  If you fret only the Melody string(s) with one or two fingers we call that Fingerdancing.  If you fret across all three course of strings we call that non-traditional style Chord-Melody.  For the most bagpipe-like sound you'll want to focus on Noter & Drone or Fingerdancing because they emphasize the Drones.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
04/30/22 04:13:56PM
1,926 posts

Introduce Yourself!


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Welcome Home, Teddy -- in many ways!   

The good news is that you can think of your dulcimer as a sort of "stringed bagpipe"!  It has the same melody and drone setup as the GBH.  There is even a specific tuning called Bagpipe Tuning -- Ddd.  Coincidentally, the dulcimer also excels at renditions of classic Scots and Irish tunes, the Border Ballads and more, particularly when played in Noter & Drone or Fingerdance style, which emphasize the drone nature of the dulcimer.  I've been playing those ballads and tunes for decades!

To get you ready for your new "friend", here's a link to an article I wrote several years ago, called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What? .   It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer tunes (so we all speak the same jargon), plus answers to many beginner questions about the tuning, playing, care and feeding of your instrument.  

Ken Hulme's "I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?" Article - Strumelia | fotmd.com

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
04/23/22 08:08:54AM
1,926 posts

Fret addition?


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

First of all, you do not need to "strum in both directions".  I spent some 25 or 30 years being an 'outie only' strummer before one day accidentally strumming both ways and making it work.  I still strum 90% out-only.   You're just starting -- give it time.

Secondly, you do not need a 6+ fret, because you can retune (usually only 1 string) in just a few seconds, to change between the most common tunings to get notes you don't have in your base tuning.

I  think you should first spent some time (a week or two) daily practicing and learning how to re-tune quickly between DAd, DAA, DAC and DAG (the 4 most common Modal tunings).  Play a song in one Mode, retune the melody string, play a song in another Mode, re-tune the melody string... rinse and repeat.  After a couple of days you'll become a wizz at changing that one melody string in just a few seconds.

I think if you're dead set on having a 6+ fret you should, if possible, first borrow a 6+ fretted dulcimer for a few weeks to see if it really is your cuppa tea before possibly irrevocably changing a dulcimer which was intentionally built without the modern non-diatonic 6+ fret. If you can't borrow a ^+ dulcimer, make a temporary 6+ fret with some tape and a piece of paperclip.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
04/18/22 04:29:32PM
1,926 posts

Various Tunings


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I think MOST dulcimer teachers/books etc teach tunings from the bass string first -- because that is the note which defines the Keynote -- the note the instrument is tuned to.  Gotta remember dulcimers are not guitars or mandolins, and we have our own way of doing things.  Like referring to the Bass, Middle Drone and Melody strings rather than Low or High strings.

I've used Jerry Rockwell's "relative" tuning techniqus successfully for decades -- set the bass string to X, fret to bass string at fret 4 and tune the middle drone to that fifth; if tuning to a Mixolydian 1-5-7, fret the bass string at 7 and tune the melody string to that fretted note.  There detailed instructions for Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian and Aeolian Modal tunings in my I Just Got A Dulcimer... booklet.

Most tabulature has the name of the tuning at the top, and assumes that the player knows how to tune to them.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
04/18/22 11:04:02AM
1,926 posts

Various Tunings


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Skip's post gives you the straight dope.  I've used a similar chart for years to show basic Modal Tunings.   Of course those are the "key of D" Modal Tunings,, and any tuning can be "transposed" to the same Mode with other key notes (C, G, E, B etc).

If you join the Beginner Players Group, at the top of the Group page you'll find an article I wrote years ago to answer many newcomer's questions about the tuning, playing, care and feeding of their dulcimer.  It also includes an illustrated glossary of terms so we all speak the same jargon in regards to the instrument.  The article is called I Just Gof A Dulcimer, Now What?

Also, I've attached a PDF of another article I wrote called Uncontrite Modal Folker, which explains in detail about Modes and Modal Tunings


Uncontrite Modal Folker.pdf - 92KB

updated by @ken-hulme: 04/18/22 11:05:26AM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
04/07/22 07:08:20AM
1,926 posts

12 String Guitar


Adventures with 'other' instruments...


I don't play, but have several friends and bandmates who play 12 strings, and I know 3 players of 24 and 30 string Harp Guitars -- talk about "full sound"!"

Hollar when you're ready, Jost, and I'll build you the dulcimer equivilent -- 9 strings (3 courses of three strings each), on a 3" deep x 9" wide body, 27" VSL, with a double-back like a Galax.



updated by @ken-hulme: 04/07/22 07:22:55AM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/31/22 07:00:57AM
1,926 posts

What's the scoop on "scoops"?


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

I agree Matt.  Physics tells us the most appropriate place to pluck a string is have way between the two ends, at the maxium amplitude.  Since one end of a dulcimers' fretted string is always changing, the "average center" of a vibrating string is somewhere around fret 12-14. Olde tyme traditional dulcimers that were both fretted and bowed invariably had the traditional taller fretboards --  on the order of 1" -- which is useful both for noter-knuckle clearance and easier bowing.  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/30/22 07:10:20AM
1,926 posts

What's the scoop on "scoops"?


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

As Matt says, the strum hollow is another weight redution technique that was often not used by traditional (pre-1960) builders. 

The "strum hollow" idea was sold to modern players as a way to not scratch the fretboard in the area where the pick is doing all the strumming.  However, the best place to strum is about half way between the fretted string(s) and the bridge, which on average is somewhere around fret 12-14, not down below the 16h fret and the bridge.  Also, a good player doesn't dig the pick far enough below the plane of the strings to do much, if any scratching.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/29/22 10:43:07PM
1,926 posts

What's the scoop on "scoops"?


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions


The correct term is arch.  Not scoop or scallop.   That's why you didn't find anything.  You can have an "arched" fretboard.   The purpose of arches is two-fold. 

First, they remove a great deal of the overall mass (weight) of the fretboard -- makes the whole thing lighter and more responsive while still maintaining the rigidity of the fretboard for proper fret spacing.   

Second, arching frees up some small additional part of the dulcimer top to allow it to vibrate more freely.  Vibration is of course what causes the sound. Dulcimers do not produce sound in quite the same way as guitars, mandolins, banjos, etc. 

Because of the massive brace (called the fretboard) down the length of the top, very little top vibration is even possible.  The majority of the sound comes from the vibration of the back and sides -- even though we most often bury the bottom in our sound absorbing laps.  This is why a Galax-style double back instrument gives so much more sound than a single back instrument -- the entire back is free to vibrate.

Are arches necessary?  No.  The majority of dulcimers are built with solid or channeled fretboards. 
 
Are arches useful?  Certainly. Any time an oscilloscope can measure an increase in sound production, it's a net gain.

Are arches æsthetically pleasing?  Heck yes!  I even built one dulcemore with the size and spacing of the arches matching the size and spacing of the frets.


updated by @ken-hulme: 03/29/22 10:45:35PM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/29/22 05:37:25PM
1,926 posts

Tab to note values, sort of...


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

As Skip sez, you don't need concert hall audio quality at this point.  A free audio recorder app on your phone is more than adequate to trigger your memory for what a tune sounds like.  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/29/22 07:12:01AM
1,926 posts

Tab to note values, sort of...


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Definitions,,,

Fingerpicking is one way of playing the notes of a tune.  You can also strum or bow the string to sound the notes.

Fretting is choosing which notes to play  -- either fretting single notes on the melody string (Noter & Drone or Finger dancing) while the other strings drone;  or fretting any or all strings to create chords.

Question -- if you have your "finger positions copied down"  why do you need to assign note values?  99.9% of dulcimer players are accustomed to playing from "tabulature" -- three line number sequences showing which string to fret when -- rather than the half/whole/quarter notes of Standard Music Notation?  Everyone who creates tab has their own method of indicating time -- dots between numbers, long and short spaces between numbers, etc.  Simple recordings of your compositions would seem to be the easiestway to recall "how to play" a given tune.  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/28/22 07:44:29PM
1,926 posts

Tab to note values, sort of...


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Are you playing Chord-Melody style across all the strings, or just working out a tune on the melody string?  Either way, there are tables which tell you what note each fret has in each tuning.  One to check out is the Strothers Chord Wizard -- Tom & Missy Strothers | Diatonic Chords   to help you figure out wht is what.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/27/22 09:56:42PM
1,926 posts

Dulcimer design question


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

As Ken says, it depends on who you talk to.  The idea is, more or less, to free up more top to vibrate and also reduce the overall mass of the fretboard, thus enhancing the sound.  Some of us arch the fretboard, many more of us cut a channel down the length of the inside of the fretboard.  Both work, or or less, depending on the impact of the many other design variables.  "Ya pays yer money an ya takes yer chances".

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/26/22 07:59:09AM
1,926 posts

HELP- Broken tuner peg


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

You're right, John.  I was seeing shadow, rather than shaft sticking up.  A small or needlenose vicegrip pliers should do the job...  It will take a lot of turns to get it out, but patience will be rewarded as they say.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/25/22 07:27:04PM
1,926 posts

HELP- Broken tuner peg


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Is that a Hammered Dulcimer?  In some decades of messing about with dulcimers I've never seen a steel pin shear like that. Wooden pegs, yes, but not autoharp pins!

The tuning pins are threaded into the wood of course.  There are "screw extractors" which you can purchase to aid in the removal.  Basically, you'll have to use a tiny drill bit to drill down into the broken tuning pin, insert the the screw extractor (which IIRC has threads reverse to normal), then unscrew the pin using the extractor.  Do an internet search on 'how to extract a broken screw".  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/24/22 03:33:10PM
1,926 posts

A New addition to the Dulcimore Family


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Beautiful work!   As is everything that Dan makes.  One of thee top three or four traditional dulcimore builders in the coutry.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/18/22 07:44:34PM
1,926 posts

Does anyone know when my mountain dulcimer was built?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

jeff....  FWIW, that original post is six years old.   

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/07/22 07:56:13PM
1,926 posts

Looking for a Small Dulcimer


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Wally -- I could do something like a finished version of that kit your wife won last year at Berea.  Mushroom frets and geared tuners instead of staple frets and wood or autoharp pin tuners.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/05/22 10:49:26PM
1,926 posts

Fret necessary?


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

What Dusty said.  Personally I don't need it or use it.  But I play very traditionally in Noter & Drone or Fingerdancing style; never play 3-finger chords; and, with some exceptions, play traditional and folk music b ecaue it is what appeals to me.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
03/02/22 07:03:23AM
1,926 posts

Wormy Chestnut for dulcimers - Clifford Glenn


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

As Dan said, there were old time builders who used banjo strings, but I don' think that that is the reason for the different sound.  There have always only been a literal handful of music wire manufacturerscubic inches under the hood" of many  and many string makers and brands.  Basically wire is wire. 

What does, from our own experience as Dan says, make a difference is the wound versus plain steel bass string.  That, even I can hear a difference in the sound.  That, IMHO is what helps produce that "high silvery" old time sound. 

Another factor, IMHO,  is the generally smaller interior volume "cubic inches under the hood" of many old time dulcimers compared to the deeper-bodied modern instruments.  Larger interior volumes emphasize  the baritone and bass tones.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/20/22 09:16:02AM
1,926 posts

DQOTD


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

There are no DQOTD!!  There are only questions which you haven't gotten answers for yet. 

I agree with virtually everything Dusty has said below.  Buy/build the size, shape and wood combinations which appeal to your eye and ear.   Know that bodies with more "cublic inches under the hood"  (more internal volume will tend to have a more 'mellow' sound guitar-like sound; where thinner, small volume instruments will tend to have a higher, more 'silvery' sound reminiscent of the early (pre-1950) dulcemores.  

I only disagree with Dusty when he says scroll heads a pain in the @ss to use. 

A properly designed scroll head (open on the bottom to make stringing easy) with properly fitted and matched pegs and pegholes, is not hard to use but does require a bit of getting used to, unlike the 'instant gratification' of geared tuners.   That said, there are geared tuners which look exactly like wooden pegs ('planetary' tuners) which can be installed on any scroll head instrument -- the best of both worlds.   

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/20/22 09:01:01AM
1,926 posts

Wormy Chestnut for dulcimers - Clifford Glenn


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

 I won't call a 1975 dulcimer "vintage" -- that would make me an "antique"!   Those earlier post-revival instruments, for the most part, weren't designed with DAd home tuning in mind.   That doesn't mean that the pegs won't hold that tuning.  It just means that if you are absolutely set on DAd as the home tuning you will want to experiment with different gauges of melody strings -- instead of the .012 which comes in a package set, you may want to try .011 or a .013

If you are playing with others, then DAA or Ddd would be good home tunings.  If you play mostly by yourself, as I do, then the key of C (CGG or Ccc) might fit your voice better. 

I find that those Bagpipe tunings (Ddd/Ccc) have an advantage on dulcimers without 6+ frets, similar to the advantage that the 6+ fret gives to players who prefer DAd/Chord Melody.  Ccc/Ddd gives us the ability to easily play in two or more Modes without re-tuning.   

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/18/22 08:18:30AM
1,926 posts

Bridge placement


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Stephen -- I numbered the frets for you on the attached version of your photo.

A good trick when doing glue up -- to avoid a lot of staining from squeeze out -- is to cover both sides of the joint with blue painters tape before applying the glue.  That's saved me hours of sanding!

FYI -- our glue of choice for all this is Titebond II or III.  They can be un-glued if necessary by the application of a heatgun/hair dryer to the glued joints for a few minutes.

It may be a fair bit of work, but you're learning a lot about how the dulcimer goes together, and what to do -- or not do -- when you decide to build one from scratch, or from your own kit.  

Good job getting the photos here, btw!


dulcimer marked.jpg dulcimer marked.jpg - 513KB
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/17/22 07:06:57AM
1,926 posts

Bridge placement


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Yeah, from that description it is what you called "a very low-end instrument".  The peghead as an extension of the fretboard is a dead giveaway.

The reason photos are good is that you mentioned some "minor damage", which might be hard for us to help with if we can't see the extent of the injury.  Do you have a 10-12 year old child/grandchild/neighbor kid who can help up upload a couple photos?


Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/16/22 06:32:33PM
1,926 posts

odd frets


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Dan is correct, as always.  It is a fret usually found on chromatic fretboards, placed between the nut (which is sometimes called the 0 fret) and the 1st fret.  As a term,  0+ is less confusing than "1/2 fret"

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/16/22 04:40:49PM
1,926 posts

convertible dulcimer?


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Yes, but most nuts and bridges have a high ridge with the notches filed in it, sio flipping really isn't an option.  Easiest to make a new nut and bridge, and then put new string on the other way around.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/16/22 07:03:23AM
1,926 posts

Bridge placement


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Pictures!  We can probably tell you which kit be seeing the instrument in whatever state it's in...

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/15/22 07:10:15AM
1,926 posts

Bridge placement


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Welcome Steve:

You know from my friends John, Ken & Richard where to put the edge of the bridge.  As far as tunings, both DAA and DAd are popular for different reasons.  There are a number of other tunings as well, some historic, some modern, which are also very useful.

Which kit did you acquire?  Folkcraft?  McSpadden?  Another?

As a new player, you'll want to join our Beginner Player Group.  Groups must be 'joined' to be able to read and interact with the various discussions.   

Here's a link to the article/booklet I wrote a number of years ago to address new player questions.  It's called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?   It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms (so we all speak the same jargon, plus answers to the common beginner questions about tuning, playing, care and feeding of the instrument.  The discussion has a link to the article itself about six responses down...
Ken Hulme's "I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?" Article - Strumelia | fotmd.com


updated by @ken-hulme: 02/15/22 07:13:28AM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/11/22 10:32:58PM
1,926 posts

The Positive Thread...


OFF TOPIC discussions

Another vote here for Dec 8.  I understand the significance of the earliest dulcemore, and Uncle Ed; but IMHO Jean did so much for the dulcimer across the country and across the world...  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/06/22 07:02:58PM
1,926 posts

Sweet Woods Instruments and Ron Gibson


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

I've owned and played one of Dave's instruments for years, and I've done one or two "authorized repairs" on instruments of his which live here in Florida, rather than having the owner ship the idulcimer to Missouri. 

Although Dave told me last month that he's built and sold over 5000 of his Student models, he  also builds custom instruments to your specifications.  He's 'slowing down' his building career (medical issues) so if you like the look of his instruments, now is the time!.  The website is a "mess" because he's moving/moved to a new server....  Drop him an email and he'll gladly work with you in any way you choose  -- send you pictures, sound samples, whatever you like.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I have moved to a new server. Unfortunately, I was not able to transfer all of my previous emails. If I have not responded to your email, please send me a reminder to Harpmaker@SweetWoodsInstruments.com. I will respond to you as soon as possible. Thank you!


updated by @ken-hulme: 02/06/22 07:07:31PM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
02/02/22 01:03:53PM
1,926 posts

Englewood, Florida dulcimer players


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Are you a snowbird?  Or permanent resident? 

I'm in Fort Myers, but I don't play with that evening group.  
IIRC, the group that used to be in Englewood was a "snowbird" group like many others down here, which disbanded each spring when they went back north.  There are a couple players I know of in Venice, and I've heard of a couple in the Rotunda.  but with a 15 mile and daylight limitations you'll be lucky to find 1 or 2 players, I think.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
01/29/22 09:15:45AM
1,926 posts

Discordant middle string.


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

Yep -- a small triangular file belongs in every dulcimer players kit.  Good catch Dusty!

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
01/27/22 06:54:48AM
1,926 posts

Discordant middle string.


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

That way, if things are still discordant, then the issue is definately not the capo itself causing problems.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
01/26/22 10:22:21PM
1,926 posts

Discordant middle string.


Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions

You're playing "King..." from DAd tuning -- capoed where?    And it's when you're capoed that the open middle string is discordant?  

Have you considered re-tuning from DAd to whatever the capoed tuning is, or to any other tuning?

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
01/23/22 04:38:21PM
1,926 posts

Dulcimer from Georgia


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

As KenL says, Georgia really does not have a traditioan of dulcimere building/playing in the same way that Kentucky, or Tennessee or North Carolina or the Virginias do.  No known early (1800s or early 1900s) builders or traditional shapes associated with the state.  Neither does South Carolina.  The reason may be how and from where those areas were settled -no direct connections to areas where the instrument was known, no settlers from other known dulcimer building areas, etc.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
01/23/22 08:49:50AM
1,926 posts

Dale Ward, dulcimer builder - Pigeon Forge, TN


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Sycamore makes good dulcimers. 

It has a Janka hardness rating of 770; mid way between Honduran Mahogany at 800+ and Silver Maple at 700.  Softer than any of the common American woods used for the rest of a dulcimer body like Walnut or cherry, but a bit harder than Poplar (Janka 550) which makes excellant instruments.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
01/21/22 06:56:55AM
1,926 posts

Fingering in Place of a Noter


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

If you google "Don Pedi Youtube" you'll find at least 8 recordings of Don's playing.  Notparticularly "instructional videos".  The folks who make their living with dulcimer don't tend to give away a lot.  But you'll also find links to Don's website with all of his available materials.  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
01/20/22 12:37:48PM
1,926 posts

Fingering in Place of a Noter


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Yep -- what Dan said.  Don Pedi is probably THE current master of traditional Fingerdancing.  Check out his videoes, how-tos, classes and festival appearances.

1