Forum Activity for @john-gribble

John Gribble
@john-gribble
08/22/16 04:35:47PM
123 posts

Flight of the Naked Dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


Often we  hear and tell horror stories about traveling with our music instruments on commercial airlines. But I just had a really pleasant experience and thought I’d share it.

 

I recently purchased a vintage Jethro Ambergey mountain dulcimer and needed to get it home to Japan from California. I don’t have a case or bag for it and thought over several different packing/wrapping strategies for the trip. But I finally decided to just hand-carry the little thing naked on board with me and see what would happen.

 

My wife and I were flying economy class on ANA, All Nippon Airways. As we were checking our bags at Los Angeles International Airport, the counter clerk was curious about the dulcimer  and had some questions. She also expressed some concern about its safety. I told her I planned to ask a flight attendant for some help stowing it once we were on board. 

 

After going through Security and getting into the Departure area proper, we found our gate and settled in for the wait, taking turns to do a little last-minute shopping. About twenty minutes before boarding time I was startled to hear my name over the P.A. I was asked to please come to the gate counter. I did and gave the woman there my name. She found me on the computer and said, “Oh, you’re the one with the musical instrument. We’re going to have you go on during pre-boarding.” 

 

Seeing my confused look, she continued. “That’s the time before the regular boarding. It’s when people with small children, wheelchairs, or special needs can get on board and get settled. That way you can find a place for your instrument, no problem.”

 

“That’s great,” I told her, “Can my wife come on board early, too?”

 

“Oh yes,” she said, “No problem.”

 

Thanking her, I went back to Miwako to explain what they had said to me. No sooner had I told her what was going on when the woman from the counter came up to explain in more detail the procedure and to look at the dulcimer. She too had questions which I happily answered. 

 

So when they announced pre-boarding we were checked through and after a few minutes  allowed to board the plane. Our seats were at the back of the plane. After we stowed our carry-ons and shopping I looked for a place for the dulcimer. At first I wasn’t happy with what I saw. This new 787 Dreamliner may be a miracle aircraft, but the overhead bins are pretty small. I didn’t want to take up one for just the dulcimer and I didn’t want to try to share. But I did find a pretty good dulcimer-sized space. It was on the floor between the last row of seats and the bulkhead behind them. I found a flight attendant in the galley at the back of the plane and got her to come out and hear my plan. She said fine and suggested we wrap the dulcimer up in a blanket, which she supplied. We swaddled the little naked dulcimer and laid it on the floor out of harm’s way for the eleven-hour trip across the Pacific. The flight attendant, too, was curious about the instrument and had questions. 

 

We settled into our seats as the other passengers began coming aboard. My wife was very happy with the early boarding. She said we should always carry a dulcimer with us, if it means getting special treatment. 

 

After boarding was complete, the doors sealed, and we began taxiing towards the runway, another flight attendant came by and offered to put the dulcimer in a nearby closet. I thanked her, but declined. I felt the place we’d found and the blanket wrapping offered as much protection as we could expect or would need. Besides, I liked having its nesting spot close at hand. 

 

The flight to Tokyo was fairly smooth, as was the landing at Narita International Airport. I had found recordings of Hawaiian slack-key guitarist and singer Dennis Kamakahi on the in-flight entertainment system. I continued to listen while the plane taxied to the terminal.  Since we were at the back of the plane and would be among the last to disembark, I figured I’d enjoy as much of this wonderful music  as I could before gathering our things together. But my wife started tugging at my sleeve and saying something I couldn’t understand. And I saw yet another flight attendant. She had pulled the wrapped dulcimer from behind the seats. I took my earbuds out, a little grumpy at being yanked from Hawaiian bliss to Narita tarmac.

 

“She wants to make sure the dulcimer is OK,” Miwako said, “And she wants to see it.”

 

“OK, fine,” I said, taking the instrument from the attendant. I unwrapped it. The bass string peg had been bumped and the string was a little flat. Otherwise the dulcimer was fine. I handed it over to the crew member. She looked it over closely and brushed the strings lightly while we got out of our seats. More questions, more answers. I got our things down from the overhead bin while Miwako and the attendant chatted. The plane emptied while they talked and finally we hustled down the aisle, the last to leave, as the crew finished up. The naked dulcimer had landed, arriving in good condition.

 

As I said at the top, the bad news, the horror stories and problems get reported. I wanted to share my good experience and praise the ANA staff and cabin crew for their concern and efforts. It is a class operation.

 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
08/07/16 11:49:34AM
123 posts

Your Online Dulcimer Buying Adventures!


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

Three of the four dulcimers currently in my possession were bought sight unseen, sound unheard. One was used, a Music Traditions from 1980 which arrived in advertised condition, one a custom teardrop from Kevin Merchant, a beautiful semi-traditional, semi-modern instrument, one a Feather Wren, a lovely, quiet thing, perfect for weekend trips. The only one I have that I played before I bought is a Warren May, purchased in his shop in Berea April 1st of this year. It is a beautiful thing and getting better-sounding every day. All three of these makers are active, are fair in their prices, and make wonderful instruments.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
08/02/16 08:02:42PM
123 posts



robert schuler:

I simply reach over and play the bass notes with my finger. Robert...

Me too. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
07/16/16 07:57:12PM
123 posts

Missing part to attach string - folkcraft dulcimer


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

To add to to the above: Strings come either ball-end (with the little brass piece the end of the string is wrapped around) or looped end, no brass piece. Your dulcimer will take either style. If you have a looped end string, just slide the loop over the little pin and tighten it up.

I suspect you're tightening the string too tight, if you have broken two strings already. That bass string is pretty loose when tuned properly.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
07/13/16 06:08:03AM
123 posts



I have a can of Howard's Citrus Shield, probably a life-time supply, I purchased a few years ago. It does a good job.  I remember a can of Johnson's paste wax my parents had 50 years ago. I bet my sister still has it!

This isn't something I do very often, but it does make things look nice. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
07/12/16 10:38:08AM
123 posts



A satin or matte finish usually has an additive like talc which keeps it from drying "glossy." Its sealing qualities are the same as a shiny finish. I wouldn't oil it because it probably won't penetrate, but just sit on top of the finish and get gooey. 

After getting an instrument cleaned up, I'm a fan of a good quality paste wax for mild protection and a nice glow.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
07/09/16 08:06:52PM
123 posts

Tabor Pipe and Drum


Adventures with 'other' instruments...

I am a frustrated flute/whistle/recorder/shakuhachi player and there are some funny family stories about my attempts. At least, they think the stories are funny. Oh, well.

But having a new passion, music or otherwise, is always a great thing. Being a beginner is how one stays young. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
07/09/16 05:46:02PM
123 posts

Tabor Pipe and Drum


Adventures with 'other' instruments...

I hope you fine people have someplace far away from the house where you can study that tabor pipe! I suspect practicing tabor pipe is grounds for divorce in some states. 

It really is a facinating instrument, though. Even though it only has three holes, by overblowing you can get a full scale. But it is a shrill noise!

John Gribble
@john-gribble
05/17/16 09:47:51AM
123 posts

Fixing a loud strum


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Consider playing with your thumb and/or finger(s), too. The tone is different and you might like it.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
05/16/16 10:52:57AM
123 posts

A String By Any Other Name...Is A String! (or is it?)


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

There is nothing "special" about dulcimer strings. They are the same little looped-end beasties that are used on mandolins and banjos and all sorts of other instruments. A really well-equipped shop will stock single strings in various gauges and, in the case of the wound strings, windings. 

The "little nut" on guitar strings is called a ball end. Some dulcimers use them instead of looped end. 

I'll let more experience experimenters suggest gauges. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
05/05/16 11:09:45AM
123 posts

Seduced by a pretty face


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Yes, I'm enjoying the new Warren May. I played it for a half hour or so this evening. It is waking up nicely and will have a very full tone when broken in. It was only one day old when I got it!

And yes, the summer weather here is pretty awful. Very hot, very humid. I've had some issues with instruments, but nothing too serious. 

Warren told me he'd visited Japan on a Sister City tour some years ago. But as of yet, there aren't many dulcimerists around.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
05/02/16 10:24:02AM
123 posts

Seduced by a pretty face


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

 And here's Jan with Warren and one of the instruments she was playing. 


P1040488.JPG.jpg P1040488.JPG.jpg - 144KB

updated by @john-gribble: 05/02/16 10:28:00AM
John Gribble
@john-gribble
04/22/16 05:42:32AM
123 posts

Seduced by a pretty face


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions


A couple of weeks ago I was in Lexington, KY where I met our moderator Jan Potts. She very kindly drove me around, first to visit the home of singer/composer/dulcimerist John Jacob Niles, then to Berea for lunch and a visit to Warren Mays's shop.  Well, what can I say? I fell in love with an instrument with a spectacular walnut top and it came home with me to Japan. 

I'd like to thank Jan again, this time publicly, for spending the day with me and for the introduction. I couldn't have had a better guide. 

Oh, and don't mind Elsa peeking over my shoulder. She's only a little jealous. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
04/22/16 05:10:50AM
123 posts

Looking for tabs/books devoted to old style drone & noter playing


Dulcimer Resources:TABS/Books/websites/DVDs

Ken, I'm surprised people can't find the Richie book. I ordered my copy from Elderly Instruments a while back and no problem. (It was to replace the copy I bought in 19?? when the book was pretty new. My first copy disappeared sometime in the 1980s.) I just checked and they do have it in stock.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
04/21/16 07:40:58AM
123 posts

Looking for tabs/books devoted to old style drone & noter playing


Dulcimer Resources:TABS/Books/websites/DVDs

I don't know why no one has mentioned Jean Richie's "The Dulcimer Book" yet. True, she talks about other tuning, too, but that is where she starts. I also like Lorinda Jones's "Dulcimer a la Mode." She gives everything drone style first, before "dressing things up." 

My profile picture shows the peghead and wooden pegs on my Kevin Merchant dulcimer. It isn't one of his replicas, but it is a lovely instrument and the friction pegs aren't a big deal. They work just fine.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
04/10/16 01:58:52AM
123 posts

Recent article in a local paper.


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Nice piece, Kevin. I continue to love the teardrop you made me.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
03/16/16 07:05:18AM
123 posts



I stand corrected and apologize. It has been nearly 25 years since I've lived in the US. And I'm not all that sharp in the first place. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
03/16/16 05:46:42AM
123 posts



RavenMadd Garcia:

feather from a golden eagle .(no clicky sound)....soft triangle shaped  fender pick .....soft plastic  bread clips?......thin credit cards cut ups



You're under arrest!  sweating

John Gribble
@john-gribble
03/14/16 10:15:10PM
123 posts



Annie, I don't understand how a pick could hurt your shoulder!  

Recently I've taken to simply struming with the side of my thumb (both directions) if I don't want that brighter tone or the "pick-slap." 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
03/09/16 03:24:45AM
123 posts

A Pick-Holding Hand Question.


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Not everyone holds the pick against the index finger or "between the fingerprint and thumbprint." If after the procedure and the healing your old way doesn't work, be open to alternatives in the way you hold the pick.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
01/19/16 09:52:41AM
123 posts

Let's talk about "Floating Bridges"


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

marg:  john, if I would go to far and can't get it in tune, do I just go back the other way? How do you know you need to still go a bit more in one direction before going back the other way? But this is only if I am in tune to start and new to pegs, can't say I'm right on but just close.

Marg, here's the trick to putting the bridge in the right spot. First, tune the melody string up to pitch. Close is OK. Next, with a left-hand finger, touch the string lightly directly over the seventh fret. Play the string and take the finger away quickly. You should get a "chime" sound, called a harmonic. It may take a little practice to get that chime every time. But be sure you are over the fret and not over the fingerboard between the frets. The chime won't work.

Now press the string down normally at the seventh fret and play the string. That note should be the same pitch as the chime. If the fretted note is higher than the chime, slide the bridge back towards the end where the strings are attached. Then check the chime and fretted note again. If the fretted note is lower than the chime, slide the bridge forward towards the fretboard a little and check the two again. You may or may not have to loosen the string(s) to slide the bridge. When the chime and fretted note match, the bridge is in the right place. 

If you are fretting the low string when you play, you may have to adjust the bridge so the low string is in tune, too. After you have the melody string set, check the low string with the chime and the string fretted at the seventh fret. If the fretted note is high, slant the bridge some towards the end where the strings are fastened. You don't want to move the end where the melody string is, just where the low string is. 

If you look carefully at a steel-string guitar, you'll see the bridge saddle where the strings sit is slanted. If the "crooked" appearence bothers you, have a guitar or string repair person reshape your bridge or make a new intonated bridge for you. 

I hope I explained this clearly and that it helps.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
01/19/16 12:18:33AM
123 posts

Let's talk about "Floating Bridges"


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

marg:

QUESTION: How far back or forward can you go? Can you ever go so far back, it's too far?

Too far in either direction will simply put it out of tune again. There's no significant risk of any damage, though. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
01/15/16 06:52:00PM
123 posts

Folkcraft FSH all walnut vs CSH walnut with red cedar soundboard


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

I think the quality you have trouble with is a bright tone and the top of an instrument really does affect the tone quality. An all-mahogany instrument may have the sound you're looking for, warm, not so bright. Walnut is similar, but a little drier, a little brighter. I personally don't care much for spruce-topped dulcimers. They sound too guitar-like to me, and I already have guitars.

The McSpadden website has pretty good soundclips of their instruments. A half hour there would probably help you narrow down your choices. I also hear a significant tone difference between hourglass and teardrop bodies.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
01/15/16 06:38:06PM
123 posts

Three Strings or Four ?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

That's great! Now you'll be able to get a start and discover just what you want in an instrument. The problem is, many of us wind up wanting, and getting several (if not too many) instruments! 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
01/14/16 09:45:38AM
123 posts

Three Strings or Four ?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I would suggest a 4-string instrument with the 6 1/2 fret and geared tuners. One of the doubled melody strings can easily be removed if you like and the 6 1/2 fret ignored if you don't need it. But you would have a "complete" instrument for the various popular playing styles. A solid wood instrument (no veneers) will have a fuller sound.  Beyond that, get something which sounds and looks pleasing to you. Dulcimer is a wonderful, accessable instrument which will allow you to scratch that music-making itch. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
01/03/16 02:37:04AM
123 posts

need or not need 6.5 fret


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

You ask interesting questions. None of the "traditional" tunings, that is, tunings used to play in the various modes, "need" the 6.5 fret, assuming you're not trying to chord much

I play mainly in DAA, but use the 6.5 to play harmonizing lines on the low string. I also like playing in DAG because the 6.5 give me a really nice blues third.

Adding a fret shouldn't be particularly difficult to a knowledgeable guitar tech, but it is easier to do as part of the original build.

How old is "older"? Pre-1970? If you're talking about a vintage handmade instrument or one built by a noted maker no longer living or active, I wouldn't do it. Otherwise, I don't think it matters much. 

I hope someone more experienced than me chimes in. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
12/12/15 08:48:46PM
123 posts

John Jacob Niles's dulcimers and playing


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Thank you all for your replies. I may need to go visit Dr Pen. "Santa Claus wearing flip flops," eh? Sounds like a long-lost cousin. Lexington is a little off the beaten track for me, nowhere close to Fuji Machi, Nishi Tokyo, but I've made similar journeys in the past. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
12/12/15 10:19:55AM
123 posts

John Jacob Niles's dulcimers and playing


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I have long been something of a Niles fan, although I realize he is not to everyone's taste. I recently read "I Wonder As I Wander," a biography of him by Ron Pen and there was some interesting information about how he came to use dulcimer for accompaniment, including his encounter with the Richie family when Jean was a child. But there wasn't much specific about his instruments, technique, or tuning.  Does anyone know of any articles or book chapters with details about these topics? Or have I found a new research project for myself? 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
12/11/15 09:58:31AM
123 posts

Japanese Taisho Kotos


Adventures with 'other' instruments...

A good buy! They go from about US$100 on up to about $300 here in Japan, depending on the quality and fancies. They are modestly popular among seniors and group lesson/players groups are fairly common. And that's just about everything I know about them.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
11/26/15 10:21:32AM
123 posts

Tell us about your VERY FIRST dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I made my first one in about 1967 out of a sheet of unfinished mahogany paneling I bought for $3.00 and scrap 2x4s from under my dad's work bench. I got some fret wire and guitar tuners from a local music store. It was awful. The peghead canted off to the right about fifteen degrees. It was meant to be a symmetrical teardrop, but ended up rather "free-form." I don't remember if I used my banjo or guitar as a model for the fret placement, or if I fretted it by ear. I used something in a spray can to finish it. 

It was a pretty crude affair and the sound wasn't very good, either. I played it a bit and passed it around to others who wanted to try dulcimer. I don't know what ever became of it and I'm no longer in contact with any of the people I ran with then. But I do know a half-dozen people or more learned the rudiments of the instrument on the thing. At least one of them got pretty serious about dulcimer, and early on had a chromatic instrument made. I built a few more over the years, along with some other instruments, but never became much of a luthier.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
07/29/15 09:52:15PM
123 posts

Let's talk about "Floating Bridges"


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

One of the advantages of a floating bridge is for the maker. He or she simply sets the bridge on the fingerboard, strings up and tunes, then slides the bridge forward or back to set the intonation. The two disadvantages are the bridge can be knocked out of position and perhaps the transfer of energy from the strings to the instrument isn't as good. A fixed bridge, usually set in a slot in the fingerboard, isn't going anyplace. And it is firmly attached to the instrument. But the maker has to have the measurements right for proper intonation and resetting intonation for a new string gauge is a major job. 

John Gribble
@john-gribble
04/11/15 10:20:11PM
123 posts

Tunings you like to use on your dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I like the Ionian (Daa) and Dorian (Dag) tunings best. With a 6+ fret, the Dorian tuning is really flexible. Both (mostly) major and minor scales are available and it is great for Blues.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
03/08/15 12:00:11AM
123 posts



I've used a heated palette knife to separate glued parts. Go slow and careful.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
11/23/14 09:16:55PM
123 posts



It is fun to be enthused with a new toy. Exclaim all you like!!!

With a 28" VSL you could string and tune it as a baritone. You would use a heavier (thicker) set of strings than standard and, of course, tune lower. But you should be able to tune up to D (the standard pitch these days) with ordinary strings without any problem. If you wanted to use the baritone strings, you would probably have to widen the string slots a little to accomodate the fatter strings.

The two soundholes instead of four probably doesn't have much effect on the sound. Most dulcimers aren't terribly loud. I suspect your instrument was home-made, likely from a kit. Maybe the builder ran out of patience after two hearts!

In any event, enjoy your new instrument!!!!!

John Gribble
@john-gribble
10/30/14 06:33:22PM
123 posts



I would also suggest you adjust your technique and not play over the fingerboard. Play in the scoop.You may need to adjust your playing position.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
02/27/15 03:26:51AM
123 posts



I think the danger of a shelf liner to a finish is over-stated. If I used one and discovered it had a tendency to stick firmly to the instrument after a short time, then I would worry. Otherwise I wouldn't concern myself. The finish surface (matte vs gloss) isn't the issue so much as what the finish and/or liner were made from. I wouldn't store them touching, though.

I discovered that if I use a chair or stool low enough my feet are flat and my thighs are parallel to the floor, slipping isn't an issue.

John Gribble
@john-gribble
08/22/14 07:49:37PM
123 posts



I play naked. (Just kidding)

I sometimes use one of those rubberized pads, but I do worry about the possible effects on the finish.

The best solution I have found is to use a chair or stool low enough that my thighs are parallel to the floor, so that there's no slope for the dulcimer to slide down.

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