Forum Activity for @john-shaw

John Shaw
@john-shaw
08/20/20 12:32:23PM
60 posts

Dr. George Orthey, Mountain dulcimer and Autoharp maker


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I'm very sad to hear this news.  George Orthey was one of the great dulcimer makers.  I have 2 of his dulcimers, and my friend Geoff Black has more.  Orthey dulcimers are very light, small bodied and responsive, and incredibly loud (by dulcimer standards).  For the last few decades of his life he concentrated on his famous autoharps, but his dulcimers will always be treasured.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
11/30/19 01:02:42PM
60 posts

John Molineux uses a striker on a mountain dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

John Molineux uses a chopstick or a ball point pen.  The "secret" of his technique is that he holds the stick very loosely, well balanced so that it bounces a little and does a few further light hits on the string.  (This is something I've never been able to manage, as I can't stop myself holding it far too stiffly.)

John Shaw
@john-shaw
10/26/19 12:23:13PM
60 posts

Hog-Eyed Man playing Green River


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Thanks for posting this, Robin!  I've been a big fan of Hog-Eyed Man for 3 or 4 years, and all of their 4 CDs get my highest recommendation.  Jason Cade was a pupil from a very young age with the great Bruce Greene, and Rob McMaken is a subtle, beautiful dulcimer player.  

John Shaw
@john-shaw
08/10/19 06:09:58AM
60 posts

Dulcimer tuning problem


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

Like most instruments made by makers who favour just intonation (aka 'natural temperament') Warren's dulcimers do not really 'like' DAd tuning.  If you tune it to DAA I bet it will sound sweet and lovely, particularly in melody/drone style - but simple chords will sound glorious too.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
06/06/17 12:33:37PM
60 posts

Almeda Riddle


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Great film, Rob.  Thanks for bringing it to our attention! 

John Shaw
@john-shaw
02/22/17 07:38:56AM
60 posts

Single or Double Melody Strings?


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

Mostly I prefer a single melody string - for melody/drone style and for more "modern" styles (cross-picking, melody notes on lower strings etc).  I like the clarity of a single treble string, and the even-ness of tone compared to the other strings.

We have visited this topic before - it's one of those that comes up every so often and is always worth debating.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
10/17/16 06:21:49AM
60 posts

shallow legged capo


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

No, I don't know of any - but the old 'chopstick and strong rubber band' technique should work!

John Shaw
@john-shaw
07/13/16 10:26:09AM
60 posts



Mary asked if I could upload a version of Barbara Allen in 5/4, so I've uploaded one on to the Audio files on my page.  It's from my recent CD Says Plato...

 

 

John Shaw
@john-shaw
07/12/16 05:13:07PM
60 posts



That's very interesting, Ken.  I hadn't come across the "Scarlet town" nickname for Reading before.  Quite a few English versions of Barbara Allen actually begin "In Reading town..."

John Shaw
@john-shaw
07/11/16 11:31:37AM
60 posts



I know I'm coming very late into this discussion, but I thought it might be worth chipping in with one point.  As some of the discussion has been about the rhythm, or about rhythmic changes, in Barbara Allen, people might like to know that a high proportion of English versions of Barbara Allen are in 5/4 time.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
06/10/16 12:58:01PM
60 posts

John E. Wood 1930-2015


OFF TOPIC discussions

I am very sorry to hear of John's death.  When my wife Angela and myself were making our first visit to the USA (from the UK) in 2005, we met John at the JP Fraley Mountain Music Gatherin' in Carter Cave, Kentucky.  He was very friendly and welcoming and keen to talk about all things dulcimer.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
03/06/16 09:55:09AM
60 posts

Sad news- Rest in peace our good friend John Phillips


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I'm so sorry to hear of John's death.  He was a real independent spirit with a deep love of the dulcimer and its music.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
01/27/16 05:32:49PM
60 posts

Quick question about Homer Ledford Dulcimers.


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Like a lot of "old-time" makers, and some other makers who, like himself, began making in the tradition-revival transition period, Homer made dulcimers that are a lot closer to JI than to ET.  They are usually meant to be tuned 1-5-5 (eg. DAA) - bass to treble, and sound beautifully sweet in this tuning when played melody/drone style.

He usually included the metal fine tuners you mention.  (These are manufactured for violins.)

 

 

John Shaw
@john-shaw
12/29/15 10:12:12AM
60 posts

Squeakless Strings?


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

Here comes a "minority report"!  I don't like the various "squeakless" varieties at all.  I'm with Linda Brockinton in thinking that they sound dull or muffled.  I'm happy to accept a bit of squeak if that's the price I have to pay to achieve a lively sound.  (Guy is quite right about taking care to lift off the pressure when sliding on a wound string so as not to squeak too much, however.) 

John Shaw
@john-shaw
12/14/15 06:08:23PM
60 posts

Warren May Dulcimers, Feedback?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I agree, Robin.  It's no surprise that those tunings work in JI.

Regarding bagpipe tuning - this never works well for me in Mixolydian mode in JI.  I need to be playing out of the 3rd fret when I'm in bagpipe tuning on a JI instrument.

Re your last point above - I'm sure that each of the modes does need its own JI to sound at its best.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
12/14/15 06:01:42AM
60 posts

Warren May Dulcimers, Feedback?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I'd like to add my voice to those praising Warren May dulcimers.  I bought a 1990 one (all poplar) just over a year ago.  Mine is also in just intonation (very similar, though not identical, to the fret spacing on my Homer Ledford), and has the most glorious, rich sound - mellow, but fairly loud by dulcimer standards.  It's also, by some distance, the lightest dulcimer I have - 1lb 2oz!  Like Robin says, it's really made for DAA or other 1-5-5 tuning, though it also likes unison "bagpipe" tuning, DAC and DGD.

I love it - dulcimers just don't come better than this!

John Shaw
@john-shaw
11/03/15 12:18:16PM
60 posts

Tell us about your VERY FIRST dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

The first dulcimer I bought was just a fretboard with strings.  The idea was that you put it on a suitable surface/table to increase the resonance.  This was in about 1971 or 2.  I bought it at a stall in Cecil Sharp House, the London headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.  It cost £4.  It had a pleasant sound and was not a bad way to get acquainted with the dulcimer.  I put a magnetic pickup on it and played it for a while as an electric dulcimer - it had a very satisfying electric sound.  The down side was that it was made of rather soft wood and did not last too well.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
06/20/15 09:48:40AM
60 posts

Interesting looking dulcimer setup


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Looks to me as if it may be some sort of copy of the Siegrist dulcimer (the patented instrument that Ken refers to).  See Ralph Lee Smith "Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions" 2nd edition pp. 142-144.  It may even be an actual Siegrist, although I think they are usually clearly labelled with the maker's name (Paul L Siegrist). 

John Shaw
@john-shaw
05/11/15 07:28:08AM
60 posts



Her playing is absolutely wonderful! (And the second video is pretty damn fine too.)

John Shaw
@john-shaw
04/29/15 04:20:54PM
60 posts

Tuning question?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

What the others have said! Like Robert, I often tune my .014" middle string up to c or d on dulcimers with 27"-28" scale.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
04/04/15 03:15:14PM
60 posts



Hello Babs, it was only after looking at the youtube link that I realised the reason for at least some of the confusion. Whereas we in the UK and other English -speaking nations use do-re-mi-fa etc to indicate the note positions and relationships of a scalein any key, in most of continental Europe they mean specific pitches (notes or keys). So for Fabio:

Do meansC

Re meansD

Mi means E

Fa meansF

Sol meansG

LameansA

TimeansB.

In the video he is playing the song in the key of G, (orSol, as he would call it), and the Fa# is simply an F#, the seventh note of the major scale in that key. There is no need to bend a string to get the note: if you wanted to play the tune in the same key as him one way would be to tune DGdd - the F sharp would be at the second fret, just below the tonic note of G at the third fret. If you wanted to be one octave higher, these two notes would be at the 9th and 10th frets respectively.

If you wanted to stick to your original plan of transposing the piece to the key of D, using DAdd tuning, the equivalent note in that key would be C# (the seventh note in a D major scale). In this tuning C# would be at the second fret of the middle string or at the 6+ fret of the melody string(s), depending on which octave you wanted.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
03/30/15 04:25:15PM
60 posts



On a string tuned to D, the Fa# would be a bend at the 3rd fret, not the 4th. If you bend it enough it will give you the semitone between the Fa at the 3rd fret and the So at the 4th.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
02/17/15 09:07:55AM
60 posts



Thanks, Babs - a great resource! (Some tunes that I know, but a lot that I don't.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
02/16/15 07:06:32PM
60 posts



Sorry Babs - I see you're also from the UK! For my earlier replies I'm afraid I made the assumption that you are from the USA, like most members here.

Something else I should have said in my earlier replies is that, if you haven't already done so, it makes a lot of sense to familiarise yourself with 1-5-5 tuning (eg: DAA) BEFORE getting into 1-3-5. DAA is a beautiful, expressive tuning in its own right, and most old-time instruments were made with this kind of tuning in mind - with good reason. You may be familiar with Robin Clark's many brilliantly insightful writings here on FOTMD about his musical discoveries based upon his study of old instruments and playing styles, and with his many superb sound files. If you're not familiar with them, then give yourself a treat and look them up.

From a 1-3-5 perspective, a bit of DAA playing will familiarise you with where the notes are in this highly traditional tuning. Then 1-3-5 won't feel as strange, because your 2 outer courses are the same - and you just have to get used to all the weird chromatic notes on the middle string!

John Shaw
@john-shaw
02/16/15 06:40:24PM
60 posts



Hello Babs -

It's difficult for me to give you a straight answer as to whether I'm tuning down to CEG (or DF#A) from a Dadd tuning. The dulcimer I almost always use for 1-3-5 playing is my Sunhearth hourglass, which has a 27+5/8" scale length. I only have 3 strings on it, so I don't use doubled treble strings, and, as on all my various dulcimers, I use it for a number of different tunings. Amazingly - with the same set of strings - it works well in EBe, DAd and all the way downwards to AEA (and the various modal tunings within the same range).

You mention EG#B tuning. I use this quite a bit - it works really well.

Skip is quite right to say that 1-3-5 is no good for noter-drone playing (which I love), nor is it particularly helpful for nearly all of the folk-based music which most MD players want to play most of the time. Where it really comes into its own is opening the door to a more chromatic range of repertoire (show tunes, standards, some light classical etc.) than the MD can otherwise cope with.

Just in case you're interested, there are a couple of 1-3-5 pieces in the sound files on my FOTMD page, both in DF#A. They are "The Old Rugged Cross" and "We'll Meet Again" (a Second World War song which is enduringly popular here in the UK.)

John Shaw
@john-shaw
02/16/15 12:10:59PM
60 posts



Hello Babs - I sometimes use 1-3-5 tuning, and, like Ken, I've never had trouble tuning my middle string down to F#. (Indeed there's one song I sing on which I accompany myself in 1-3-5 tuning in C. So that's CEG, and I have no trouble with that either, but it's probably at the limit of what the string will take from a slackness point of view.

I wouldn't particularly recommend FAc, because your bass string would be VERY tight at that tension.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
11/21/14 04:07:51PM
60 posts

To Low Action


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

Hello Marg - The shims that I put in 30-odd years ago have not been touched or replaced in all that time, and are still doin their job!

John Shaw
@john-shaw
11/20/14 05:51:00AM
60 posts

To Low Action


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

Hello Marg. If your bridge saddle and nut are not glued into place it's very straightforward to put a thin shim of card or wood under them, as Bobby says, and check how the instrument behaves then. My experience is that you don't necessarily have to regard this just as a temporary fix. My two favourite dulcimers have shims of wood or card under both the bridge and nut that I put in over 30 years ago!

John Shaw
@john-shaw
08/14/14 04:36:22PM
60 posts

English dulcimer players and singers in VA September/October for theatre show


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I've already posted discussion threads about this on the Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina Groups, but not everyone here has joined their local FOTMD group, so I thought it might be worthwhile to start a thread about this here. It's only directly relevant to those within striking distance of Marion, Virginia!

FOTMD member Amanda Boyd and myself, both from the UK, will be in Marion VA between September 23 and October 7 as artists in residence at the Lincoln Theatre. At 7pm on Saturday September 27 we will be presenting our show "Those Were The Days, My Friends!" there.The third member of the team, also from the UK, is Trevor Bailey, presenter and curator of old professional and amateur films, both sound and silent. The show mixes archive film footage, mainly about rural life in the early to mid twentieth century in the South-West of England, with traditional English folk songs and tunes from the same region. (This region includes the county of Somerset, where Cecil Sharp began his life's work as a collector of folk songs.) Amanda is the main singer in the show; I accompany her on MD and do some singing. If you're interested you can get some idea of what we sound like from our respective FOTMD pages.

On Saturday October 4 we will take part in an edition of the "Song of the Mountains" television show, filmed at the theatre. The theatre's director will be arranging some other performances for us during our stay. In some of these we hope to explore the links between our traditional songs and music in the South-West of England and those from this part of the Appalachians.

It would be great to meet up with some other FOTMD members while we are over with you. We'd be particularly keen to hear from anyone who might be interested in putting on a house concert. I'm sure we could fit one of those in!


updated by @john-shaw: 06/11/15 07:41:49AM
John Shaw
@john-shaw
07/08/14 02:39:43PM
60 posts



Sorry, John - forgot to reply to the second part of your post. The USA trip is from 23 September to 7 October. We got our work permit-type visas yesterday at the American Embassy in London.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
07/08/14 02:35:52PM
60 posts



Thanks for pointing out my lack of numeracy, JohnH! I meant 3/32", of course!

John Shaw
@john-shaw
07/08/14 12:18:05PM
60 posts



John K, I think you and I must have been looking at different dulcimers! 1/8" would suit me fine for a double course, but it seems to me that most modern makers put the two strings closer together than that - typically 3/16" or slightly less. My left hand playing style involves a lot of sliding, and I find that if the strings are closer than 1/8" I push them into contact with each other much of the time.

It's all about personal preference, of course, and I know other players who find my preferred 1/8" is too far apart for them because this distance makes them push the strings further apart from each other.

(I should perhaps add that I spend most of my time playing dulcimers with a single-course melody string, so the problem doesn't arise in either direction!)

John Shaw
@john-shaw
01/21/15 06:16:38AM
60 posts



Somehow I managed to miss this thread when Tom first put it up. I'm so glad Lexie and Ken revived it! What a superb film.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
07/30/14 06:46:19AM
60 posts



Thanks for letting us all know that the mystery is solved! George Orthey's name kept popping into my mind whenever I remembered this thread, despite having seemingly been ruled out by your earlier enquiries! What superb dulcimers he made! I bought a teardrop Orthey from the indefatigable Geoff Black earlier this year, and it's a magnificent dulcimer - equally at home with noter/drone and more modern styles of play. Geoff himself has an hourglass Orthey which is every bit as glorious.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
05/25/13 10:46:53AM
60 posts



On his "Short Time Here" CD (Walnut Mountain 904) Don Pedi sings a hilarious, almost Monty Pythonesque, version of Aunt Rhody (called "Aunt Nancy"), which he learned from the singing of the great Ozark ballad singer Almeda Riddle. This uses the AABA format - very close to the music as given by Stephen.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
09/05/12 07:30:10AM
60 posts

D-A-C tuning


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I totally agree with Strumelia's point about the strong resonance of the open strings in this tuning. So much more expressive and powerful than the sound of capoing on the first fret in DAd to play Aeolian tunes. A lot of the "soul" of the dulcimer resides in this tuning!

John Shaw
@john-shaw
03/23/12 06:37:51PM
60 posts

Wormy Chestnut for dulcimers - Clifford Glenn


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

Hello Geoff. Just to amplify what others have said, since chestnut trees in the Appalachians suffered the blight in the early twentieth century, they have only grown to a height of 3 feet or so. These days any chestnut wood used there for instruments or anything else is reclaimed from old buildings or furniture. It virtually always has oldwormholes in it - hence 'wormy chestnut'.

I have a wormy chestnut and walnutdulcimer made by the late Keith Young (wormy chestnut top and walnut back, sides, headand fretboard). This was one of his favourite wood combinations, which he regarded as giving a loud, strong sound.

John Shaw
@john-shaw
02/12/12 11:06:14AM
60 posts

Tuning help needed.


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Hello Nick. Unless you have a very long scale dulcimer (VSL 28.5 " or over) you should be able to tune your 14 gauge string up to d . If you want to try Ddd, which is a very distinctive and lively tuning, and you are worried about the string feeling too tight you could try a 13.

1