How is the COVID-19 coronavirus affecting you?
OFF TOPIC discussions
Thank you, Robin...
I could use some bright-side thinking about now. Found out over the holidays that an old friend died of COVID out in Nebraska. And last week we had a storm blow through--a tree fell on our property. *Barely* missed the house, but it mashed my beloved RAV4. Landed square on it. Should hear next week if it's repairable or totalled. I'm suspecting the latter, given the hideous damage. But it did start up and drive for the tow guy, FWIW.
A huge bright spot has been Jessica Comeau's Zoom workshops. She started them up earlier in the summer, roughly every other week. I've attended every one and they bring me such joy. There is one today, in fact. People from all over the place--including England and Germany--have been attending.
And I've been absolutely loving my new cherry McSpadden! Makes me so happy to pick her up and play. So glad I went ahead and ordered her. Beautiful to look at, beautiful to listen to. Thanks again to all who responded and helped me with my decision. :)
LOL, I'm embarrassed it took me so long to figure it out--I was in IT for 25 years before going to law school.
Now I've figured out the photo gallery thing, and posted pix of all my dulcimers. The cardboard one started me along the path, the walnut one carried me a good way...but the McSpadden...she is The One. :)
I get all thumbs when I even *think* I'm being watched. I learned Tom Waits' Rain Dogs pretty decently. I wanted to play a duet with him (him on CD, not in my house) on my guitar. Whoa, parts I was OK, parts I was a train wreck. And he didn't even know I was duetting with him. Sheesh.
I usually call them "its," but this one is just so curvy and graceful, seems like a LADY. :) I'm no good with trees' reproductive habits...I majored in zoology in undergrad!
So I found an app to download to my phone to make a simple MP3. I think she sounds better in person than in the recording, but it's not too bad. She's in CGC for this, has a double melody string. I had a little performance anxiety with the phone staring at me, LOL.
She sounds...amazing. Yesterday, I spent several hours(!) trying everything imaginable on her. DAD, CGC, w/ and w/o capo, high register/low register, flatpicking and fingerpicking, playing soft/loud, playing from printed music of various types (folk, medieval, you name it), slides/hammer-ons/pull-offs (though my pull-offs need some more work, to be honest), and just "making it up and going nuts." She is definitely brighter than my black walnut--which makes a massive difference when fingerpicking. Very pleased with the fingerpicking tones she musters. Much better than with the walnut (fret issues aside). And yes, I gave the 1+ fret a workout. So nice to have a "real" fret there instead of something taped down (and often making a buzz).
I'd love to do a sound clip for you all...haven't done one before. What's the most straightforward way you all use to post here? I have an iPhone and an iPad, also a digital camera. Not sure the right file type for posting here.
The only issue I had was one I discovered the day she arrived. I have a Ewing capo, and when I capo'd on the 1, it tended to rise up a wee tad on the melody string side as I played and created some bad notes on the melody strings. I suspected the double melody strings gave a bit more resistance, combined with the super smooth finish on the side of the fretboard. I emailed McSpadden yesterday morning and Jim Woods answered (shockingly quickly for the day before a holiday) with some suggestions. Could very gently sand the spot to allow better grip (I couldn't bear to do so) or add something to the inside of the capo on that side for better traction. I opted for that. Had a very small white rubber band of just the right size. Not obtrusive, and it appears to give that side of the capo just the little bit more traction it needed to stay put in the 1!
She is wonderful...
And here she is...arrived yesterday afternoon. Just beautiful!
, yeah, when I strung up that first cardboard dulcimer 2 years ago and strummed it for the first time...well, that led to all of this (including my foray into acoustic and electric guitar, for when I want to be fully chromatic). Who knew?
The tracking thingee confirmed it's coming Tuesday. WOO!
Thanks for the tip on the wood color/aging, Strumelia. I do prefer a darker wood, good to know. The only time she will be locked up inside her case is if she's going somewhere with me. I plan to perch her on the stand as I have done with the walnut dulcimer, so I can pick her up at a moment's notice. So the wood should have a chance to age/darken nicely over time.
I'm taking a little time off next week (and between Christmas and New Year's)--not going anywhere, just taking a break. Nice timing to have my new friend! Looking forward to getting to know her!
Thank you so much, everyone!
Thank you again, everyone, for all your advice. I decided on a McSpadden, all cherry, standard VSL, with 1+/8+ and a micarta overlay. Emailed them with a few questions yesterday, heard back, called to place my order. They were every bit as nice as I anticipated. They had one in stock, they only need to add the 2 frets and it should be shipping today--should be here next week. I'm so excited...the lady on the phone actually said "I can tell" (you're excited). LOL. I was in one of Jessica Comeau's live workshops on Sunday, the piece called for capo on the 4. OMG, it was horrible. I capo on 1 all the time and it's fine, but I could not seat that capo in a buzzless manner no matter what I did. It isn't the capo, it's a nice Ron Ewing capo. It's the uneven frets. Last straw. Most of the time, it plays fine, but it's the added fussing here and there that's been bugging me more and more... Sooo looking forward to having perfectly placed frets! I'm nowhere near Jessica's level, but I play well enough now to want to treat myself to a really fine instrument. Can't wait to get my hands on it!!! (Did I mention I'm ridiculously excited?) :)
Thanks, , that's very helpful. I'm going to presume the luthiers at both Folkcraft and McSpadden surpass my "junior luthier wannabee" skills, LOL! The dulcimer I made is all book-matched black walnut--gorgeous wood. At the moment, I'm leaning in a McSpaddenly direction, eyeing that cherry w/redwood top combo. The walnut is gorgeous, but I have walnut. Life is short, variety is called for. I prefer darker/redder woods, rather than the lighter, sort of yellow like the spruce.
Yes, definitely weighing, not jumping in. Now considering woods... It has been quite a journey and plenty of fun. It all started about 2 years ago when I decided I wanted to build a musical instrument, more as an art/craft project than anything else. A carboard dulcimer fit the bill--inexpensive in case I screwed up, wouldn't feel bad about painting cardboard (as opposed to a nice wood), etc. Completed it, strung it up, and...that first strum mesmerized me. So then I went on the Internet and discovered Bing Futch and Jessica Comeau. Oh, the dulcimer can do *that*? Then I wanted to build a "real" wood one (with a 6+ fret, sorely needed!). That led to the Cedar Creek Black Walnut I have. Then I wanted "all the notes" but didn't want to go chromatic, so that led to the Fender acoustic guitar bundle I got last December. Well, that led to vastly improved strength/span in my left hand! And then that led to the shell pink Stratocaster in April. And the pandemic led to Zoom, and Zoom led to live workshops with Jessica Comeau. She's been doing them roughly every other week since summer, and I've been at all of those, loving them!
Yep, quite a journey, and soooooo much fun!
A tardy thank you to you all (work's been a little crazy this week). I went on a measuring spree for comparison purposes. I already have a full-length VSL (about 28") and would like to stick with that, both for sustain, and for fret spacing considerations. Really want to go with 1+/8+ but don't want to wind up with too tight a space at 8+ with a shorter VSL. My original cardboard dulcimer has a 26" VSL and when I first built the walnut one, I thought I would surely die with all that space to cover. But my hands have adapted (got a lot stronger and able to stretch when I started playing guitar in the past year!).
Oddly, my fretboard is 1 5/8"! Standard should be fine. I don't have especially large fingers and don't wish to go 4-equidistant. 3 strings are fine with me, with the option to double my melody should the mood strike me.
I have a scroll head, like the look, but would like to go flat for easier string management. Not interested in a pickup, full acoustic is fine with me (not planning to do concerts!).
I like the rich sound of the walnut I have (aside from the frets being a tad less than perfect), would probably do walnut back and sides and perhaps a redwood top for something a bit different than what I have, but still resonant. Jessica's McS has that combo and she says it has a very full, rich tone.
I've ogled both sites, both have just beautiful instruments, for sure. I love the one I built, but the thought of perfectly seated frets and a few more features is pretty tempting.
- Is the action similar in both? Sounds like so...
- Fingerboard width. Now there's something I hadn't thought of (I was presuming standard VSL). What are the benefits to wider fingerboard, and who's wider?
- Yep, I'm thinking flat headstock this time. My walnut is scroll. I can well imagine stringing being much easier with a flat one!
- McS not as physically deep, but has good volume and sustain anyway? The D Folkcraft looked interesting b/c I want fullness and sustain and believe the deeper body would give that.
- I flatpick and fingerpick, both.
Again, thank you so much for taking the time to answer!
I began my dulcimer journey with a cardboard kit a couple of years ago, then built a Cedar Creek solid walnut kit about 1.5 years ago. Let's just say I could have done a better job with the frets (the cardboard kit came w/the frets in, but has no 6+). I've worked them over and they're much better, but they are not perfect. I don't think I can work them over much more without taking risks to the fretboard or top, so there. I have the action hiked up just a tad to accomodate. I'm considering at some point getting a dulcimer that will have properly installed, perfect frets--also considering going with a 1+/8+ as well. I tape down a guitar string to get 1+ right now. It's not ideal, but it mostly does the job.
I suspect it goes w/o saying that both McSpadden and Folkcraft build high quality instruments. Seems Folkcraft has more variety of models and is a bit more expensive than McS. I've been taking online workshops with Jessica Comeau, and she pointed out her McSpadden has a very low action. Sounds like they are known for that. I would love a very low action, very easy/fast fingering (without buzz, of course!). I love a full, rich sound. I saw an older post of Dusty Turtle's here that remarked that McSpaddens are "famously easy to play." I'm also eyeing that micarta fretboard...
So my question is, what differences are there in playability-type features btw McSpadden and Folkcraft that I should weigh? I don't live anywhere near where I could go try them out...
I like to play chords and melodies, I'm not a noter player. Primarily DAD, with CGC and some other minor tunings here and there. In case that affects the discussion...
Wow, this reminds me of how I felt upon my first post-COVID dental visit. They had installed special air cleaners, implemented a number of precautions (including taking my temp and testing my O2) and put quite rigorous/extensive between-patient cleaning into place--and a lot more. My longtime hygienist was clad in all manner of PPE. On the one hand, I felt grateful they were taking so much care to protect me--and their staff. On the other hand, I was heartbroken to see Niki decked out like something out of a sci-fi movie--just do do her job safely. We had to do a socially distant air-hug instead of our usual post-cleaning hug. She had to stay in the room to be sprayed down with a special fog, couldn't even walk/chat with me on the way to the front desk as usual.
I feel the same about your story. On the one hand, I am touched they put so much care into making the wedding safe for all. On the other hand, it breaks my heart that all this is necessary.
On yet another hand...I'm with Strumelia. The Vegas mansion would not have been my cup of tea! :) I'm not a big/loud crowd kind of person...
I did things in the opposite direction. Made a cardboard dulcimer as an art project a couple of years ago, fell in love with playing it. Then I "had" to build a black walnut one from a kit (a little over a year ago). Then I got tempted by a Fender acoustic guitar bundle on Amazon last December. Fell in love with that, too. And got a shell pink Fender Strat in April. Love my dulcimers (well, I rarely play the cardboard one now--it sounds really good, but no 6+ fret, alas) and my guitars, but in different ways and for different reasons! It is starting to look like a musical instrument zoo around here. They all have little stands. Some day when I retire, I want to get back into the recorder...I have several of those...
Yes, time is very weird. We've been working from home since early March. Seems like we've been doing it forever...yet it seems like we just started. I read somewhere the reason for this is the sameness, we're not having events in our lives so much that make marks on time. Can't plan anything, really, so it feels like a permanent hold pattern. Super strange.
When the weather's been nice, I've taken my 1.8 mile walk around the neighborhood, brisk, with walking sticks for upper body movement (otherwise, I use the elliptical downstairs). While there have been other people walking around, it's not been a mob, and everyone's been good about stepping aside or even crossing to the other side of the street to make space. However. We have some neighbors across a creek/crevasse from us who were having a big loud party over the weekend with a bunch of people. Somehow I doubt they were social distancing, from the sound of it. And yesterday, I took the afternoon off from work to sit on the deck (was my birthday, after all), and I could hear a bunch of screaming kids (sounded like they were mixing together, not from a single family) out playing, then creeping down into the crevasse, which was either actual or very close to trespass onto our property. Some people...
, you crack me up! My longtime stylist retired a couple of years ago, and I was trying to find a new one I liked enough to stick with. During that time, I visited one who cut my bangs to about 1". It was like, where are my bangs??? It was hideous. I wanted to hide for a month (thank heavens my hair grows fast). I found someone I liked since that debacle, but of course the shop is closed for who knows how long.
Ken, your guitar looks amazing!!!! Great work! It is beautiful!
They extended our stay-home until 5/4 now. I succumbed to temptation and ordered a shell pink Fender Strat--it arrived earlier this week. I've never in my life played an electric until now. It's a new trip, for sure! I'm working from home, so haven't had a huge amount of time to play during the week. Planning to sit down with all my stringed friends (dulcimer, Fender acoustic and my new pink wonder) and play, play, play! (And attend my Zoom yoga class, of course!) If the weather is sufficiently decent, perhaps I will take my dulcimer and acoustic out onto the deck to enjoy...
I have also had to cut my own hair...so far, not bad! It's layered and naturally curly, so it hides errors well.
Good for you!!! I attended my weekly yoga class via Zoom last weekend. Happy playing! (We just got fully locked down here in WA state, no gatherings of any kind/size.) I tellya, when I get out my dulcimer and/or my guitar and start playing, it *really* takes me away from all the worry/stress of current events. So glad I stumbled into learning the dulcimer a little over a year ago.
I work in Seattle and live in a suburb, so it's been stressful. We don't have kids, but all the schools K-12 statewide are shut through 4/24. Both BF and I have been telecommuting for nearly 2 weeks now, don't see an end in sight on that. They just shut down restaurants/bars/etc. until the end of the month, no gatherings of 50--statewide. We're in high risk group mainly just due to age, so we're being super cautious. (My normal commute involved crowded buses.) I've only been out for groceries, and one vet visit. We don't tend to go out much normally, but the idea of all this going on--and being afraid of catching something by merely picking up groceries is daunting (and going to the grocery store and having them be out of stuff). I actually wore gloves yesterday (place was picked over, all TP sold out), and of course, have been washing hands, etc. I've laid in a good supply of things, hopefully enough.
My dulcimer and my guitar are lifesavers. When I play, I can actually forget about all this for a while. They take me away like nothing else. (Reading is a problem, since I usually enjoy-and write--post-apocalyptic novels! No stomach for them at the moment.)
Stay safe and well everyone!
I was having trouble hitting the 1-2-4...then I got an acoustic guitar in December. One day some weeks later I casually reached down to my dulcimer and nailed the 1-2-4 with ease (I had thought it would be forever unattainable). I'm thinking it's not just practice and use, but the acoustic requires more finger strength to fret than the dulcimer. I'm thinking use/practice + additional strength to be able to lay out that hand has done wonders!
Will do (check out the group). I've seen Jessica Comeau's videos. I have her book, and she says she usually uses bare fingers but also sometimes uses those fingerpick things. That woman is from another planet, such beautiful playing!
That's one of the things I love about the dulcimer. It looks like a relatively simple instrument, but there are seemingly endless layers to playing it. Your various answers sure prove that!
I checked out videos for both Ms. Brockinton and Ms. Zanetti. Wow. That is the sound I'm looking for--it is a bit more subtle than with the pick, but the notes still ring out/articulate beautifully. I think I need to get more up on the fingertip, try some snap and perhaps some nail. The way I was doing it was dulling the sound. I'd like to also fingerpick on my guitar.
, I tend to slide my thumb, too. Got a small callus on the side so far, near the nail. I would love to fingerpick. I use a pick, not noter. What's the trick? Leave right-hand nails just a little longer and orient the fingers to use the nails against the strings? The finger per se leaves such a dull sound...
We were trapped for several days last week with snow and ice. Not a huge amount of snow, but the ice... This is a bad place for snow (Seattle and suburbs), with all the hills and bridges. And our street is not maintained by the city, so it's dig, dig, dig. I used to live in Minnesota--at least it's built for snow there.
Love days where I have nowhere I must go and can hang around the house and do what I enjoy--like today. I do not love days where I *can't* get out. That just scares me.
The iron skillet trick--now that is harsh. I'm starting to feel calluses building on my left fingertips from playing the guitar I got last month. Already sacrificed my long nails for the dulcimer a year ago...
So, I could just barely manage a 1-2-4 on my first dulcimer, the cardboard one. On my second dulcimer, the Cedar Creek walnut kit I built, the VSL is longer, and so a 1-2-4 was pretty much impossible. I got an acoustic guitar a few weeks ago and have been learning that. I was idly noodling on the walnut dulcimer while waiting for something, and was doing some chord shapes from a Bing Futch video I'd watched. And I landed the 1-2-4! Shocked, I tried again. Yep, I can make it now! I've found that the guitar requires more strength/agility in my left/fretting hand than I previously had, and I think the additional strength I've already gained gave me the ability to open my hand that wide and land the 1-2-4. Exciting! As a side note, I'm finding that learning the guitar has given me new revelations about the dulcimer, and coming to the guitar from the dulcimer has helped me pick up the guitar more readily than I think would have happened otherwise. It's all good!
YOWZA! Vicious table saw! I'm doing much better already. I tend to heal fast, and now I have a nice coating of NewSkin on there. That stuff is great! It did not sting, probably partly due to the fact that it was no longer a fresh wound, and also b/c I found a formula that also claimed to have a topical analgesic in it.
LOL! I'm on the computer a lot for work, and I am very, very swift at typing. That first morning, I had a really clumsy/hasty attempt at a bandage and so the finger was knocking into other keys when I typed. Annoying! Slimmed down the bandage and got my speed back. But no way could I have fretted with that tip. Best to not damage ones hands in the first place!
So I was getting ready for work yesterday, and then I sliced the tip of my ring finger on the edge of a crisp file folder. Sliced it real good. Amid frantically trying to stop the bleeding so I could get out and make my bus, I thought to myself, thank heavens it's not on my fretting hand.
You know that dulcimer's got a grip on you when you start thinking like that!
Not only that, I recently bought a lovely black Fender acoustic guitar for when I want "all the notes." Trying to learn that as well.
Can't disappoint my stringed friends by not being able to play!
Was a nice day, weatherwise, for PMOTPD here just east of Seattle. I got out on the deck and went through all the music I have that I can even remotely play, then improvised for a bit. Saved enough juice to jam with my parrot Waldo indoors a little later, before it was time to start dinner. I had no idea this existed--fun excuse to get out there and play in the fresh air (while we still have nice weather)!