Forum Activity for @ken-hulme

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
08/01/21 09:34:22AM
1,846 posts

fingerstyle playing on a budget


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

Lisa Strumelia has a Noter & Drone Blog, and I wrote a booklet years ago called Get Noterized, both of which are accessible from here at FOTMD.  Many of us who primarily play N&D do play by ear, but we also simply use just the melody line from other dulcimer tabs.  There are other sources for hard-core N&D players as well.  It all depends on the kind of music you're interested in.

BTW the more correct designation for your tuning is DdAdd.  The D and the A are in the same octave, but the d's are an octave higher than D.    The octave setup Dd for a 5 string dulcimer is intended to give an added richness to the sound compared to the older DD couplet.


Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/30/21 07:10:20AM
1,846 posts

New Harmony Dulcimer


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


Why do they have a hole in the tuning head?  Why only 3 strings?  Because that is New Harmony owner Rick Goodin's design.

He does not build custom dulcimers to your specifications -- he builds dulcimers to his specifications, and you can choose to buy one or not.  He seems to have plenty of buyers waiting for his next creation.

I just now went to New Harmony's website, and every dulcimer there has the VSL listed. 

He actually only has 3 instruments available at this time -- all the other instruments shown are sold.  He posts sold dulcimers to give you some idea of what to expect from the combination of design and wood choices he chooses to make.


updated by @ken-hulme: 07/30/21 07:19:26AM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/26/21 10:15:13PM
1,846 posts

What's the exact difference between a dulcimore and dulcimer


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

"Dulce melos" is French with Greek/Latin roots, meaning "sweet song".  There was an old key-hammered zither called a dulce-melos or douchmelle in the 15th century.  

IIRC, "dulcimer" came to prominence in the King James Bible translation where it was incorrectly used as a term for a wind instrument. Also found (again mis-used) in the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem Kubla Khan -- "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree...

   A damsel with a dulcimer

   In a vision once I saw:

   It was an Abyssinian maid

   And on her dulcimer she played,

   Singing of Mount Abora."

Dan Cox has been the leader in assigning the term dulcimore (I spell it dulcemore just to be contrary) to those Appalachian fretted zithers built originally prior to the Dulcimer Revival -- in particular those instruments detailed in L. Allen Smith's  landmark thesis and book A Catalogue of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/26/21 07:26:27AM
1,846 posts

What's the exact difference between a dulcimore and dulcimer


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

IMHO  Makeshift instruments are one thing, and Traditional instruments, particularly dulcimers/mores another thing entirely.

Nothing wrong with makeshift -- "necessity is the mother of invention", after all.  That's how instruments were invented -- plucking rhythms on an archer's bow string is the ancestor of all stringed instruments, hollow logs the ancestor of drums, rocks or sticks clicked together the ancestor of all rhythm instruments.  Makeshift or improvisational music making is a multi-thousand year old tradition in it's own right.

Traditional, in the dulcimer sense, is a specific definable set of characteristics which separate pre-1960 instruments from later ones --  in particular how the dulcimer has changed in the past 50+ years.

The Ozarks have at least one Traditional dulcimore -- the so-called Indian or Ozark Walking Stick or Cane --  which can be more or less described as a narrow teardrop shape with sharp corners at the widest part of the bout rather than curves.  Some describe it as a Coffin shape.  That instrument was invented as a specific design by John Mowhee (or Mawhee) back during the Civil War.  Like other instruments of the era it has the same characteristics as other Traditional dulcimores.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/25/21 04:10:09PM
1,846 posts

Can you ID this dulcimer?


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


Trouble is this dulcimer is "too common" -- hourglass, scroll head with up-right tuners, f-holes, string pins on the tail block are all VERY common attributes.  Label?  That white bit isn't a label -- it's a stick-on piezo pickup for plugging into an amp. 

Since it includes a bunch of songbooks, the pickup,  and a case, if the price is in your range, just buy it.  If it doesn't sound as nice as you want, you can always re-sell it on Craigslist and get your money back.  



updated by @ken-hulme: 07/25/21 04:14:58PM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/25/21 07:19:40AM
1,846 posts

The Joy of Sharing Dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Well said, Nate!   Preachin' to the choir, as they say, but very well said.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/24/21 01:35:58PM
1,846 posts

fingerstyle playing on a budget


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

I know people who play finger style on 12-string guitars.  A particular style, if you don't know it already, is only as hard as you make it.  That said, the simple solution is as Strumelia suggests -- remove one of the doubled melody strings.

BTW there's rarely anything wrong with picking up a gently used dulcimer.  I suspect most people are 'thinning the herd' so they can finance another purchase...

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/23/21 02:47:23PM
1,846 posts

Introduce Yourself!


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Here's the link to an article/pamphlet I wrote years ago called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?   It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms (so we all speak the same jargon (often different from guitar), plus answers to many beginner questions about tuning, playing, care and feeding of your new instrument.

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

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/22/21 10:32:14PM
1,846 posts

DAA on a McSpadden


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

What Banjimer said!  Just tune it and play.   If you need encouragement or help, just give us a hollar and we can help.  A number of us here have been playing Noter & Drone style for decades...

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/16/21 09:40:06AM
1,846 posts

Any banjo players out there?


Adventures with 'other' instruments...

I love Jeff Menzies instruments!  If I were going to play banjo it would be one of his... 

I believe, but could be wrong, that the material a banjo pot is made of makes little measurable difference in the sound produced. 

Granted, a Leggo(tm) rim or PVC pot will probably sound different than a wooden or gourd pot.  But I doubt you'd get any measurable difference between say Walnut, Birch, laminated exotic woods, or bamboo.  After all, the primary sound producer is the vibrating head.  I can understand big differences in sound between a skin head of various origins and a "plastic" skin.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/08/21 06:06:09PM
1,846 posts

Installing Whittner fine tune pegs in a 1973 McSpadden


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


Is it "wise" to replace the McSpad friction tuners with Whittner pegs?  Probably.  There are other "planetary tuners which look more traditional -- Perfection and Knilling.  Geared pegs will not affect how the instrument sounds.   

One thing to know is that the McSpadden tuning shaft holes are parallel, not tapered, and the Whittner pegs are tapered.  For proper fit and function you should reame the holes with a standard 1:30 tapered instrument reamer.

The Whittner website WITTNER® - Finetune-Pegs, Made in Germany (wittner-gmbh.de) gives you the necessary tech specs for each of their models.  At a glance it appears that their models for 4/4 and 3/4 violins are the size you'll want.   Similar information is available for Perfection and Knilling planetary tuners of course.


updated by @ken-hulme: 07/08/21 06:11:59PM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
07/05/21 04:19:12PM
1,846 posts

How to Like an item?


Site QUESTIONS ? How do I...?

Rather than clicking a button, Don, why not take a few extra seconds to tell a poster what it is you like about their post.  That's one thing that frustrated the heck out of me on Facebook -- likes.  Tell me what you like!!confusey

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/24/21 10:52:57PM
1,846 posts

Identification dulcimer bought in Nebraska


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

I did see that photo of a Geoffrey Johnson at Hughes Dulcimer Co, circa 1974.  I'd need to do some more digging to see if it's the same person though.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/24/21 08:05:17PM
1,846 posts

Identification dulcimer bought in Nebraska


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

Sorry -- never heard of Geoffrey R Johnson as a builder.  BUT.  I did some surfing... and it appears that Mr Johnson is (or was) from the Fort Worth, TX area.  There's a YouTube vid of him at a Fort Worth Main Street Arts Fair in 2009.   I also discovered several other of his dulcimers for sale...

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/24/21 03:56:15PM
1,846 posts

Identification dulcimer bought in Nebraska


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

Same here, John.  It looks like it can't decide whether it's an hourglass or  what.   I've seen a lot of those elements -- the extended tail block (although never one that extended) , same with the fretboard extending a little beyond the body and the through-body string holders. The tuners appear to be brass, and have come from some other instrument.

That's not a terribly long "overall" length, which is something we mostly don't worry about.  What is the VSL?  That's the important number.

I don't think those tuning shafts are extra long, but the sidewalls of the tuning head are very thick, and the slot between the sides seems very narrow -- so the ends of the shafts extend into the opposite side walls.  

Definitely not a kit, IMHO, this appears to be someone's personal interpretation of what a dulcimer should be.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/15/21 06:02:53PM
1,846 posts

Any info. on Jimbows


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

A dose of rosin should certainly last more than 8 measures, even on a Mountain Dulcimer!  Could be you're not dosing with enough rosin; or pressing down too hard are wearing it off too quick. 

Hammered Dulcimers are going to be nearly impossible to bow. 

Bows used on Bowed Psalteries certainly last for more than one song!

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/13/21 01:32:28PM
1,846 posts

What's the exact difference between a dulcimore and dulcimer


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


"Exact" is such a hard word!   As Dan sez, back in the day there was no standard spelling for dulcimer/dulcimore/dulcemore, and there were numerous regional names for the instrument as well. 

Today many of us use the dulcimore/dulcemore spelling to distinguish instruments made in a more traditional, less modern way.  Our "bible" as it were is L. Allen Smith's landmark book Catalogue of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers.  Hundreds of traditional designs to replicate or emulate.

Here are a few characteristics which a number of us use to distinguish between a modern and traditional "dulcimer".

  • With few exceptions, Traditional instruments have partial width staple frets, not full-width modern 'mushroom' frets.
  • Traditional instruments use woods native to the Eastern US (notablyu polar) ,  not the Western US or 'exotic' woods
  • With few exceptions, Traditional instruments do not have mechanical tuners; they use violin type tuners or autoharp type tuning pins
  • Traditional instruments have purely diatonic fret layouts -- no "plus" frets at all,
  • Traditional instruments have full-length fretboards.
  • Traditional instruments have no wound strings
  • Traditional instruments almost always have overhanging 'fiddle edges' rather than flush top/side joints
  • Traditional instruments were almost invariably played in the Noter & Drone or Fingerdancing styles, without fingerpicking, three-finger chords, or DAd tuning (unless the song absolutely required Mixolydian tuning).
  • The most common tunings seem to have been Unison (all strings the same gauge and same high note -- d-d-d) or Bagpipe (middle and melody strings an octave higher than the bass string D-d-d), with 1-5-5 tunings a close third. 

updated by @ken-hulme: 06/13/21 01:37:43PM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/11/21 09:53:22PM
1,846 posts

New J. E. Thomas Cumberland dulcimore for sale!


FOR SALE:instruments/music items/CDs/Wanted to Buy...

Congrats, John!  I knew it wouldn't last long!!!  Now we have someone else to invite to Berea next year!   I've offered my assistance if she needs it, since I'm only an hour away...

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/10/21 05:12:37PM
1,846 posts

New J. E. Thomas Cumberland dulcimore for sale!


FOR SALE:instruments/music items/CDs/Wanted to Buy...

Rebecca -- you're in Sarasota?  I'm in Fort Myers -- send me a PM.  We should meet and do some playing together. 

I love my Knopf Thomas.  The Perfection pegs look (and install) very much like black violin style tuners, but are internally geared.  From a foot away you're hard pressed to say they are anything but a wooden peg... 

I've attached a photo from our Berea Gathering that shows the heads of John's Singleton and Thomas dulcimers side by side.  The Thomas is the one with Perfection tuners, the other has hand-carved wooden tuning pegs. 


Knopf thomas.jpg Knopf thomas.jpg - 44KB

updated by @ken-hulme: 06/10/21 05:19:11PM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/10/21 06:54:53AM
1,846 posts

New J. E. Thomas Cumberland dulcimore for sale!


FOR SALE:instruments/music items/CDs/Wanted to Buy...

That's one "sweet sounding" dulcemore, folks!  I had a chance to strum on it at the Berea Traditional Dulcemore Gathering.  I already own one of John's Thomas replicas, or I'd be jumping on this!

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
06/01/21 02:51:31PM
1,846 posts

My mom’s teardrop dulcimer


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

Ah, now we can see!  Thanks Lisa.  Nice workmanship on this elliptical.  John's right, not a Tignor, but perhaps "in that vein".  Multi-piece tuning head similar to the ones I make, and it does look like Oak.  Tuniing pegs appear to imitate commercial violin/viola pegs.  No idea who/what HRC designates; most builders sign their whole name.  Is there other writing in the other sound holes?

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/31/21 10:49:55PM
1,846 posts

My mom’s teardrop dulcimer


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

Sorry -- your images are so large they are more or less not usable.   Probably best to Attach the files than embed them in the text message.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/22/21 10:44:38PM
1,846 posts

Making a dulcimer humidity resistant?


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

 YOU ARE SERIOUSLY OVER-THINKING THIS WHOLE THING!

"
-coating the inside of the dulcimer in something water protectant: an idea I had earlier that seemed to not be useful in general, but maybe in this context would help it hold up."

No, NO, NO!   I live much closer to the ocean than your sister, and coating the inside will NOT work.  If it did I would be doing it.  For two years I lived less than 100 yards from the ocean on an island in the Pacific near the equator, one of the saltiest environments on the planet!  If coating the inside would have worked I would have done it.  IT DOES NOTHING!

-gluing in frets with a strong glue: in general I know that stronger glues tend to make maintenance and repair much more difficult, but if I want to build it to last, maybe I should glue them in with something heavy duty to reduce the chances of them shifting?

It is worth noting that I have traveled down there with dulcimers I have built and always had to pummel some raised frets every time I got there, so this is a primary concern for me.


You should not need to glue frets in if your slots are the proper width (not too wide), cut to the proper depth (not too shallow), and you have hammered/pressed them in properly.  However, if you feel you must glue, use one of the slow setting Super Glues, as my friend John Knopf recommends will do the job.

Gel Packs -- WILL NOT WORK. Not the way you think. You'd need ten pounds of silica gel and it will only last a few days. 

The fact is that the Dulcimer needs to adjust to the environment where it will live.  If it can't because you sealed it up inside and out, one scratch will cause it to warp horribly.   If the dulcimer can't adapt to local conditions because you artificially adjust it's local humidity with gel packs, it will warp the instant you let the humidity change.




Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/21/21 07:07:53AM
1,846 posts

Bass dulcimer strings


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

Sorry Bill, I mis-wrote that tuning below...   A Bass Dulcimer 1-3-5 tuning is designated D'A'D or C'G'C. 

Notice the ' marks on the first D and A.   This tells us that those notes are a full octave lower than the common DAd. 

In fact, on a bass dulcimer the melody string D is the same as the bass string D on a regular dulcimer.   If you look on the Strothers Calculator that I posted below, you will find that for your very short VSL Bass Dulcimer you will need the following strings:

D' = .035
A' = .027
D = .020

You won't be able to put those strings on a regular dulcimer nut and bridge -- the slots will be too narrow.  If you're trying to make a bass dulcimer out of a regular dulcimer, you will need to open up the string slots on the nut and bridge, with a small triangular file, so the strings can sit properly. Not particularly deeper, but wider.

Most bass dulcimers that I have seen over the years have had much longer VSLs -- 28", 29" even 30".  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/20/21 10:33:49PM
1,846 posts

Bass dulcimer strings


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

As always Bill, we can't help with string gauges unless you also tell us what the VSL of your dulcimer is.  Once you have that and the base tuning you want -- DAd (not DAD)  -- you can use the Strothers String Choice Calculator and plug in the numbers yourself:

Tom & Missy Strothers | String Choice

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/19/21 05:14:54PM
1,846 posts

What is this instrument?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Aeolian or Wind Harp.  You set it across the width of the sill of an open window, and close the sash down almost on top of it, to funnel the breeze over the strings.  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/18/21 08:18:09AM
1,846 posts

2021 Berea Traditional Dulcimore Gathering Details


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I hope he's got big floaties for his wagon and oxen -- the Gulf of Mexico due East of Texas is kinda rough this time of year!confusey

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/17/21 08:54:11AM
1,846 posts

2021 Berea Traditional Dulcimore Gathering Details


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Registration is closed.  We have 34 attendees!  A good time will be had by all -- espcially watching Dan with his bells on!!poke

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/16/21 09:44:38AM
1,846 posts

2021 Berea Traditional Dulcimore Gathering Details


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I don't know why, but last week Berea College requested that Gathering attendees either be vaccinated or have a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before arrival.  We're sorry if this inconveniences some people and we understand if you choose not to attend because of the College's request.  But our goal is to keep everyone safe.


updated by @ken-hulme: 05/16/21 09:45:44AM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/12/21 07:58:55PM
1,846 posts

What examples do you use to explain what a dulcimer is?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

"Dulce" is Latin and Spanish for sweet and "melos" is Greek for tune  -- "melodìa" in Spanish.  If I were going to make up a Spanish word for dulcimer I think it would be dulce-melodia .  Zither is "cìtara"  -- a guitar with no neck and a small body.

You could always get a tattoo of a dulcimer and say "See this..."!!!whistle

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/12/21 07:10:23PM
1,846 posts

Making a dulcimer humidity resistant?


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

I live in SW Florida "right next to" the Gulf of Mexico.  I fact I lived on a boat here for 10 years.   I also used to live on an island on the equator in the far Pacific where the air is reallllllly salty.  Never had any issues from that.  Of all the dulcimers I've built I only ever had issues with frets raising because I lived where it was dry and the recipient lived where it was damp.  

To put it simply, you cannot, just cannot build a wooden instrument and seal it completely against humidity.   A normally made dulcimer will not rot/degrade due to ambient environmental conditions.  However, hurricanes. typhoons and floods are not "ambient environmental conditions".  


updated by @ken-hulme: 05/12/21 07:48:35PM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/12/21 07:27:48AM
1,846 posts

Rosin the Beau and recycling melodies for new songs


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

The tunes we know for Slane/Be Thou My Vision/Banks Of The Bann;   The Riddle Song/12th of Never; Twinkle,Twinkle/Baa Baa Black Sheep/Alphabet Song/A Vous Dirai-je Maman;  and Aura Lee/Love Me Tender come to mind; but none with more iterations than Rosin The Beau

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/12/21 07:08:43AM
1,846 posts

George Orthey Dulcimer


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

With those large diameter string pins.... if you can't find loop-end strings, you can make a loop by running the open end of the string through the ball-end and pulling it up tight.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/05/21 12:05:21PM
1,846 posts

2021 Berea Traditional Dulcimore Gathering Details


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


Lodging and Activities will be in the Anna Smith Hall. 

See attached map.  The other location to note is the Alumni Building where we take our meals.


InkedBerea Map.jpg InkedBerea Map.jpg - 175KB

updated by @ken-hulme: 05/05/21 12:06:39PM
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/05/21 07:13:25AM
1,846 posts

Do you feel limited by the diatonic scale?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

The limitations are in the player, not the scale.  There are tens of thousands of diatonic songs,  There are thousands of more songs which have an accidental note of two which can be ignored, graced over, or otherwise accommodated.  In a long history of playing I have never found a single-key song i couldn't play.  

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/02/21 09:47:41AM
1,846 posts

Choosing Strings


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Nate -- we've mentioned this before -- dulcimers are NOT guitars.  String gauges and tensions are different.  FWIW, 26"-26.5" is a little on the short side for dulcimer VSLs.   Use the Strothers String Choice calculator; know that it runs light in gauge, and you can go up a size or two.  Don't worry/think about string tensions. 

As Dusty says, one you figure out which gauges work for you, just buy singles from a local music shop, rather than sets.  However, since most of my instruments have the same few VSLs, I tend to buy in bulk from www.juststrings.com; packs of a dozen strings of a given gauge .09, .010, .012 in my case. If I'm building an instrument with special requirements, I pick up singles locally.  Another thing you can do is buy 10-12 ft small coils of music wire of your commonly used gauges, and make your own strings -- it's not particularly hard.

Since  your apartment building is so prone to Porch Pirates, perhaps you should get an "accommodation" address.  I have one a local 'pack & ship' store nearby 

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/01/21 03:59:37PM
1,846 posts

2021 Berea Traditional Dulcimore Gathering Details


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Registration Deadline For The Berea Traditional Dulcimore Gathering is May 15th!
No "at the gate" Registrations allowed. 

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
05/01/21 07:36:31AM
1,846 posts

How Many Dulcimers Do You Own?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

"Thanks to all who shared here. I thought we'd get a little more interest in the thread, but if you don't feel comfortable sharing that's fine."

I suspect some newer players, with just one or two dulcimers, might be intimidated by those of us who have "accumulated" more... 

 /