Jethro Amburgey #110
General mountain dulcimer or music discussions
Well, @Tim-Amburgey deserves an award for patience!
updated by @john-gribble: 02/01/23 09:16:59AM
Well, @Tim-Amburgey deserves an award for patience!
Hi, Buzz, Can you post a photo of the instrument, especially the section where you would strum? That would help us give an informed answer, as there are various different bridge styles.
There is enough of the pin sticvking out of the hole that you can unscrew it. I would use a pair of locking pliers, such as Vice-grip pliers, clamped onto the pin from above. Gently twist the pier handle counter-clockwise to unscrew the pin. Don't rock the pliers back and forth and there should be no damage to the hole. That is a very strange break. It will probably never hppen to you again.
Sounds to me like the noter is a good idea. While the thumb is used by some players to fret the strings, I'm not sure it is the best finger to start with.
I never heard of that tune, @john-gribble. Interesting. It's another for the list, certainly. Do you know where we might find some lyrics?
I am pretty sure, however, that George Washington was a drinker. I had read somewhere that well into the revolutionary war he used to drink a toast to George III, and I don't really know if that's true or not, but when I looked into it I found a lot about old George's drinking habits. Check out this website , which explains that he was partial to madeira wine and porter beer.
The lyrics are the second set in this collection: https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=xy1CAQAAMAAJ&pg=PT2&lpg=PT2&dq=%22temperance%22+song+to+Rosin+the+Beau&source=bl&ots=t1a2c1jBH8&sig=ACfU3U0Mx0-u_EhPoHoGqxsGvXSTdafnyg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjN1_7v26_zAhVGGaYKHT-AC3YQ6AF6BAgOEAM#v=onepage&q=%22temperance%22%20song%20to%20Rosin%20the%20Beau&f=false
I can only report what little I know about the Washingtonians. They were something of a precursor to Alchohoics Anonymous, but fell apart when they became involved with the anti-slavery and prohabition movements.
So Geoge wasn't a tee-totaler. Maybe he didn't really cut down the cherry tree. Or was occasionally a little "loose with the truth."
There's a temperance song, "The Washington Badge," to "Rosin the Beau." The Washingtonians were a temperance group active in the years prior to the American Civil War. George Washington was, appaerently, a non-drinker.
I love that tune. Playing it is a sure cure for a gloomy mood.
The scale on mine is 26 3/4", the fretboard is 1 1/2" and the string spacing is basically equidistant. I hope that helps with your decision. Mine is all walnut—not the most mellow, but that would be true of most all-hardwood instruments.
Hi, Strumelia, I'm only passing on the information Mitchell reported about plain steel strings. Wound strings and plain strings of different metals would respond differently, I would assume. I don't imagine anyone would have a need to tune a wound string an octave higher than "normal."
Maybe someday when I feel rich I'll try his experiment with wound strings. But they're a lot more expensive than plain strings!
Not to muddy the waters, but to take one element off the table, at least temporarily: hammer and mountain dulcimer pioneer Howie Mitchell wrote about an experiment he made in one of his books. Beginning with a plain (unwound) light gauge steel string he tuned it up tighter and tighter, continuously checking the pitch, until it broke. He replaced it with a heavier string and did the same thing. The thicker string reached the same pitch as the lighter one before breaking. He tried a sill-heavier string and the same thing happened. It reached the same pitch as the other two and snapped. He kept going heavier and kept getting the same result.
So string thickness makes no difference as to what pitch it can be tuned to. The gauge/tension affects tone, playability, and stress on the instrument, but not the highest note it will reach. As Strumelia points out, re-tuning fatigues the metal. Poor installation (like kinking the string while putting it on) and occasionally pinching or binding slots in the nut can also cause breakage. But the thickness of the string is not an issue.
You've found a good therapist with the dulcimer. Enjoy.
I'm practicing classical guitar for the first time in many years. My adult son in California expressed an interest in learning and I offered to give him some Zoom lessons. I'm playing through the book I suggested he get, so that I don't embarrass myself too badly!
I'm also making friends with the new dulcimore I recently recieved from Dulcimore Dan. I'll be posting about that soon.
What a nice looking instrument. I would tune it DAA low to high and play it in the traditional noter or finger dance style.
The Hearts of the Dulcimer film has quite a bit about the Ruggs brothers. Google for that website.
I suspect someone who didn't know better forced the brads down to hold the strings in place while tuning. A bad move, and probably not done by the maker.
You know, unless the pins/brads/nails are loose, you don't have a problem. Typically they aren't driven all the way in, but leave a small amount of the shaft exposed, on which the loop sits. The head helps keep the string from sliding off. Consider simply replacing the strings (who know how old they are!) and find someone to help you and your wife get started playing!
Try DAC. I don't know which style you're playing in, but with the "melody" string tuned to G, the #1 note of the scale is on the 4th fret. That puts you in Dorian mode. It is kind of a minor, but not the "real" one. The "real" one, the natural minor (aka the Aeolian mode) starts at the first fret. And at the 8th fret. DAC tuning will give you that scale with nice drones.
Fascinating dulcimer! Obviously some care was put into designing it.
I suspect the lower sound holes were originally "f" style sound holes like on violins and cellos. Perhaps the lower parts of the cutout warped out or split off and someone just cut those ears off and neatened up the holes to match. I see that sometimes with sound holes that have curvy cutouts against the grain.
You can see an example of this here:
You may be right, Strumelia, but I see swan profiles in the shape of those holes.
I think the fact it's a little asymmetric adds to the charm.
I can't help with your particular pick, either. But for dulcimer I like big straight-edged triangle picks too. I've settled on thin or medium thickness celluloid picks and drill a hole in the center to help keep them from slithering around or flying out of my hand. Back when I was a wee lad you could find picks with flat pieces. of cork glued to them. "Real musicians" probably never used them, but there were enough beginners like myself to keep them on the market up into the 1970s.
I'm sure you'll get a fine quality instrument. He's made enough of the things to know what he's doing!
A few lessons probably wouldn't be a bad thing...
Hi. Those are tough choices to make, aren't they. I don't think there would be a huge tone difference between the cherry and walnut. They both tend towards a warmer tone than maple. I suspect the body shape would have a greater effect. I've seen here advice to others to buy the wood you find more attractive to look at. Walnut might be a little more interesting, but cherry darkens nicely with age.
The two I play most often are both walnut. One is an all-walnut hourglass and the other, a teardrop, has a cedar top. The teardrop is the sweeter, more "mellow" instrument. Neither are McSpadden. The McSpadden website has sound samples of their different models. They also have a liberal return/exchang policy.
One other thought. It often takes a bit of time to "make friends" with a new instrument, to find its sweet spots and how to get the tone you like out of it.
Sherry! Oh, my. Saké, rice wine, is the commonly-used ingredient here. I'm sensitive to alcohol, so we substitute vinegar or lemon juice for it. "Sukiyukky"--I love it. Kids can be so inventive.
@robin-thompson, no, I don't think so. It is very typical of Japanese pop songs of the era (early '60s).
A little later--according to Wikipedeia, the lyrics were written after a protest rally and origionally had nothing to do with lost love.
Kyu Sakamoto, the singer, was killed with over 500 other people in 1985 in the worst single plane accident in history.
That's a wonderful song, @Ariane and @@robin-thompson. It is still popular in Japan. According to my wife Miwako, it is a "lost love" song, with the singer walking at night and looking at the stars. He says if you look up, the tears won't stream down your face.
I like to play it noter style in DAA. It is pentatonic, and that one flatted note can be had by "half-sticking," using the noter like a guitar slide.
But what a cool instrument!. I'll bet it has an interesting sound.
Welcome back to music-making, Gary! I came back to dulcimer a little before retiring and have enjoyed it very much. I have also enjoyed the company of the very sweet people on this website.
As for getting back into playing, I suggest you go back and retrace the path you took before. Start with the simple stuff, the things you can play pretty easily now. This will get those skills strong again. And it won't take very long at all. Then add to it as the spirit moves you. You may discover what you played before isn't interesting any more. So don't bother. Work on music you like.
Sometimes our memories play tricks on us. I may not have played as well "back in the day" as I like to remember. But I'm pretty pleased with the sounds I make today.
Those inlay are pre-cut. I don't know where they came from originally (maybe Germany or Italy), but were sold in the US by Vitali Imports in Southern California. I imagine the owner either did the inly him- or herself, or had it done.
@robin-thompson One of the things that make Pegheds attractive is they do look very much like wooden friction pegs. Had I been more patient, Chuck, the man who makes them, would have cut the grips (buttons) off the original pegs and attached them to the new geared pegs. But I'm completely happy with what I have. Much more elegant and light-weight than those chrome banjo pegs.
But now I'm causeing the thread to drift. I think I'll go play some dulcimer.
I'm going to guess that the label reads. "J. Titus" and that 1970 is the year it was made. It is typical of a lot of amateur, kit, and crafts fair artisan instruments of the day. It isn't a fancy instrument, but looks to be nicely made and in pretty good condition. That is, except for the nut where the strings rest near the tuners. It has come unglued and slipped to one side. An easy fix. Without seeing the edge, it is hard to tell if it was made of plywood or not.
It doesn't have any great value, except sentimental. Assuming there aren't any cracks or loose braces, it could easily be made playable.
That was great! I remember them from the Ash Grove and other venues in Southern California "back in the day." I especially remembr their versions of Carter Family songs. and an autoharp with changeable bars. I wonder if they have stayed active since that video was made.
Well, I'm falling in love all over again with my Kevin Messenger teardrop dulcimer (see my avatar). I installed a set of Pegheds on it last week, and now I can zip from one tuning to another without sweat or foul language. It's like having indoor plumbing!
I'm also exploring the materials I got at the on-line Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering a couple weeks ago. I only attended one day, but received plenty of skill-developing information to keep me busy.
Non-dulcimer—I'm nearing completion of a book manuscript I've been working on since last November. It is a translation with notes of a Japanese poetry collection from the 13th century. Here's one which seems particularly appropriate to our times:
Fujiwara no Kiyosuke
Given enough time,
all these troubles may become
like those of the past—
all those mean, hard, fear-filled days,
remembered with nostalgia.
nagaraeba mata konogoro ya shinobaren
ushi to mishi yo zo ima wa koishiki
Thank you for the new photos. That really is an imaginative but tastefully-done spin on traditional design. The tuners are the same style as were common on Japanese guitars in the mid 70s-early 80s. I'm out of touch with such things these days. I don't know if the same style tuners are still available, or if not, when they went out of production.
Whoever built it did a very nice job!
I agree. It is a little unconventional, but a nicely done piece of work.
It would be nice to see a view of the top.
I guess I'll have to install some braces to my banjo head so I can properly call that little wooden thingie the strings sit on a bridge. Here I've been wrong for almost 60 years! And my violin, too! Oh, drat!
A vote for Kevin here, only because I have and love one of his instruments. It's a teardrop, though, not a Thomas.
In construction, there's no real standard that I'm aware of. Sometimes a newly refinished instrument is "stiff" until it gets played a few dozen hours, just like a new instrument.
How did it sound before the accident?
"You will need a very thin-bladed screwdriver though, so you don't strip the heads of those teenie screws." Or you may need a very small phillips head screwdriver.
Also, the holes on the new machine head plate may not line up with the old holes. Ideally you have a drill and a set of small bits. If not, a push pin or thumbtack will make a suitable hole.
I agree with those who suggest not doing anything, at least for the time being. Other than some minor cosmetic issues, you don't yet have a problem. At this stage, your dulcimer is simply developing a little character. If the seperations turn into genuine cracks, they can be repaired.
Possum boards (regardless of wood type) do increase volume. How much? No one has yet designed an experiment to test the concept (variables would include number and height of feet or standoff, Janka or other hardness rating of the p-board material, and some sort of quantitative measure of both lap an p-board loudness values.
Of course, you would also have to design a measurement protocol for the sonic charateristics of various types of laps—bony, flabby, etc.