Question about Blue Lion Instruments
Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions
Ken, who was the geology major, Bob or Janita?
Ken, who was the geology major, Bob or Janita?
Janice Baker wrote back to me on how Blue Lion Instruments got its name. It is a beautiful story. It makes me love my dulcimer even more, if that is possible.
There is a “children’s book” (I think it really is an adult book) called Lion and Blue by Robert Vavra and Fleur Cowles. It is the story of a lion who falls in love with a blue butterfly; the butterfly flies away and he spend the rest of his life trying to find her again. (The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous!). He travels all over and various animals keep telling him to follow his dream and his heart and he will find happiness, but finally, in the end, the now very old lion passes away without having found his blue butterfly. You turn the page, and the lion is now a sunflower, and of course, the blue butterfly has landed on the flower.
It’s a beautiful story about following your heart and not giving up.
So how this relates to Blue Lion? We needed to file for a business license and had to come up with a name in short order. We didn’t want to be Baker Dulcimers and we didn’t want something too cute or folksy. Bob noticed this book on our bookshelf and said “What about Blue Lion?”. We both like the color blue, and a blue lion sounded somewhat mythical and noble and it just seemed right at the time. So that is what we chose.
Ben, that is a great story. I actually did have a blue tie-dyed t-shirt. We learned how to do our own tie-dye in home economics in the 1970’s.
Dusty, I enjoyed your story about Blue Lion dulcimers. I love to create crazy stories, too. I decided to email Janita and ask her the question. If and when I get an answer, I will post it here.
As many may know, Bob and Janita are busy people. Hopefully, I will get an answer.
I recently bought an Acoustic Jam Blue Lion dulcimer. Even though it is designed bigger for jam sessions, I actually use it for fingerpicking. With the larger body, the Acoustic Jam sounds quite magical when fingerpicked.
Does anyone know how Blue Lion Instruments got its name?
I have added a dulcimer since last year. I own three McSpadden dulcimers and one Black Mountain dulcimer. My latest is a Ginger McSpadden dulcimer made of redwood and black walnut with an ebony fretboard. It belonged to the late Jan Schultz. I bought it a month ago. It has a deep, round tone. For a small dulcimer, it a surprisingly loud. If I had to have only one dulcimer, this would be the one.
Yes, Terry McCafferty’s capos are wonderful. I cannot brag enough about his capos. They are worth every penny.
As a guitar player, I have been spoiled by inexpensive capos that work great for the guitar.
I even wrote Terry after my capo arrived to personally thank him.
Is anybody familiar with the sound of Fellenbaum dulcimers? This particular dulcimer has a spruce soundboard and sapele back and sides. I like dulcimers with a low tone.
Does anyone know the fretboard width on a McCafferty Dulcimer?
Some really neat collections here. I can get a feel for the type of music that is played, just by looking at the collection. Such a variety, between members. Thanks to all who have shared so far, it's been fun to follow.
For example, I am in a dulcimer group that plays traditional music. However, I tend to play Renaissance, Celtic, Manx, Baroque, and a few pieces from the Middle Ages when I am by myself.
I have three dulcimers.
1) A 26” VSL McSpadden dulcimer made of redwood and black walnut with a micarta fretboard.
2) A 26” VSL McSpadden dulcimer made of black walnut with extra 1-1/2 and 8-1/2 frets. This one also has a micarta fretboard.
3) A Black Mountain Deluxe 58 dulcimer made of redwood and cherry. It has a rosewood fretboard with a 25.88” VSL.
I love and play them all frequently. Each dulcimer has a different sound.
That is wonderful news, Traildad. Enjoy your new dulcimer. I still play my little Deluxe 58 Black Mountain Dulcimer quite frequently. It has a sweet and clear tone. Happy holidays.
Yes, I think taking to him is the way to move forward. Keep us posted. I am hoping that you will get it resolved so you can play to your heart’s content without the buzzing.
Traildad, were you able to get together with Dave of Black Mountain Instruments regarding your new dulcimer issues?
I agree with Ken Hulme. Let David Johnston take a look at it. It will be worth the wait to get any concerns figured out. Keep us posted. I know you are excited to finally have that dulcimer. I know you had a wait a while.
I agree that it might be because of the winter changing the tension on the strings. I would also reach out to David Johnston of Black Mountain Instruments. You bought the dulcimer new so he should be willing to make it right. I would call him up and discuss your problem. I tried to email him a while back and he does not respond.
Any luthier worth his salt would make his product right for you.
Very cool. I have 2 McSpaddens and a Black Mountain 58 deluxe. I still play my Black Mountain a lot. Did you go with the 81 deluxe and a gig bag? Those extra features are great and worth it. Also, the gig bag has a huge pocket that is actually large enough for books!!! My Black Mountain is my go to for my travels.
Great News! My dulcimer is really fixed. I found someone in North Georgia who actually cleaned up several frets, had to level one fret and built up the bridge under the bass string. Used a wood that matched perfectly. I did write to McSpadden since I had shipped the dulcimer once to them. They were willing to pay for the repair since I made the effort to ship it to them first under warranty. This restores my faith in McSpadden. Just wanted to let everyone know the update.
Thanks for asking. It is still under warranty, so I shipped to McSpadden. They heard nothing and replaced the zero fret. However, the problem was still there. Then I let my teacher hear and he clearly heard it. So, my husband did some fret adjustments. He put thin paper under nut slot of bass string. It is still there, but not as bad. I found another place willing to look at it. Just finding the time to do the drive. When I finally get fixed, I will definitely let you know. The bass string was sitting on the 3rd fret. The nut needed adjusting but is unmovable. My husband figured it out. But he is a guitar teacher and not a luthier so he adjusted a fret just a little. However, what he did made it bearable to play.
Yes, I did buff both nut and bridge. Maybe nut needs it more? Yep, hard to find .028 loop end strings. I thought about thinner. I didn’t know if that would make it worse. I tried 3 bass strings. Two of them were phosphor bronze and other steel? The latter was better. Thanks so much for getting back with me.
Strumelia, any suggestions on strings to put on and see if there is still a vibrating buzz? Thanks
Dusty Turtle, I looked and neither McSpadden have the v shape in the slots! Weird, but my Black Mountain Dulcimer does have the v shaped slots. Which no matter what I do on it, no buzz. That is why I don’t think it is me. My all Walnut McSpadden does not buzz either. Just my FAVORITE sounding dulcimer. I believe there has to be an answer.
Yes, Salt Springs, I did tighten up everything on the headstock. I appreciate you input.
Wow, I appreciate all the responses!
Strumelia, I am tuning to DAD.
Yes Salt Springs, that was my thought about tightening the 2 screws on the tuning peg. I did that a couple of days ago.
Dusty Turtle, I will take a look at the nut slot. Since I have shipped once already, I may have to have someone else look at it.
The bridge is unmovable so I can’t move it. I did however try to see if buzz sound happened when I put on bridge without being in the slot and it still buzzed.
I have a 26” VSL. Melody String .012 , Middle String .016 and Bass .026
Strumelia, do you think maybe putting a little bigger gauge would help? My husband suggested that might help. I put the capo on and wow, there goes the buzz. They don’t have any redwood for a while and other than this minor issue, I really don’t want to replace.
Okay, will do. I think I will not saw at the bridge anymore. Like you said, I don’t want to overdo it. Thanks so much.
Hmmm, I am making sure about my technique and your article is GREAT in describing finger positioning. For the most part, I learned the correct way but do get lazy. That does help. Weird, that when I am lazy the other two dulcimers (another McSpadden and a Black Mountain) are not SO sensitive. Jim did recut the bridge slots and the nut looks good. However, it is still different than the other McSpadden so I did the floss. Both technique and flossing it, tee hee, helped some. Still kind of there from time to time.
This dulcimer has such a great “sound” that I really don’t want to replace it. That is why I shipped it in the first place. I am sure there is an answer. I really appreciate your input.
I will be interested to find out what Jim Woods says. I do respect his opinion.
I may floss some more. That makes total sense. That problem was not there UNTIL I changed the strings.
Skip, Yes, I have tried the nut/bridge and the Luthier checked the action. I sent a video to him. Hopefully, that will answer some questions.
I retuned the dulcimer to EBE and that did not do the trick. Jim Woods is great. He is willing to replace, but wants to make sure that it is not something I am doing. I understand his point. If he makes another dulcimer for me and it is still doing it, then, it is me!!! I love the sound of this dulcimer. I would rather it be, “pilot error” as Ken Holme stated. What is weird is that buzz does not happen on my other McSpadden (which has a 1-1/2 fret) or my Black Mountain (which is an inferior dulcimer). I will let you all know what we find out.
I have s 26” VSL McSpadden in Redwood/Black Walnut. Only had a few months and when my husband changed the strings (he is a guitar teacher so knows what is doing), the bass string started buzzing sometimes at the headstock. It can happen on open chords, 1st fret and 2 fret. We changed the bass strings to squeakless then tried regular, which was not as bad. I shipped it and all frets they checked were good. They did replace zero fret and did some work on middle string. This dulcimer has great tone and I hate to return to get another one built. However, Jim Woods and several luthiers who work there could not hear the vibrating buzz that I was talking about. He is a great guy and trying to help me with this issue. I thought about “living with it”. But I hear it a lot and it is annoying sounding. It did not sound that way before we changed the strings. I tried paper under bridge area, nut area, tightening screws, etc...
Agreed, Strumelia! Your insights are eloquently stated. I am thankful that I do attend a dulcimer group as often as possible. They have been very helpful on the economy of movement when going up and down the fretboard. I was fortunate that a teacher from the group helped me with that right at the start of my playing. This site is wonderful. The dulcimer and the dulcimer community are a true treasure.
Thanks for this thread on small hands and VSL. All of you have such good insights and it is much appreciated. I am a newbie to the dulcimer and love learning from those who are much farther down the road on this wonderful music journey. I agree that it takes practice to get the stretch that you need. I have been playing the dulcimer daily for almost a year now. The first couple of weeks, the top of my chording hand (left) hurt. I wear a size 4 ring! I pushed through and now can stretch my very tiny hand flat 7 inches! I really don’t know what is was before. I have a Redwood/Black Walnut 26” VSL McSpadden, as well as, an all Black Walnut 26” VSL McSpadden. The all Walnut is pretty loud and the harmonics and sustain are wonderful. Same with the Redwood/Walnut but a warmer, somewhat lower sounding instrument. I can do a 1-2-4 chord but it was hard at first. It does take practice but I am delighted and don’t think I would not want a dulcimer with any shorter than 25.5 or longer than 26.5”. I guess what I like is being able to pick up other people’s dulcimers. If I had decided to “give up” and settled for a very short VSL, I would not get the joy of trying out different dulcimers. Only time I had trouble playing one is when it was 28.5 VSL which was the standard McSpadden.
I did hear back from Jim Woods and he said that those were superficial and in the wood all along. It was not a result of damage and will not get worse. If the dulcimer was unacceptable to me, he would allow me to keep it until another one was made and shipped to me. I told him that I love the sound and wanted to keep this dulcimer instead. When asking about varnish, he told me that I didn’t need to do anything to that area of the dulcimer. If I wanted, I could use furniture polish that did not contain silicone. Old English (in the bottle) would be fine. Jim Woods of McSpadden Dulcimers was really helpful. Thanks everyone for your input, too. I have been playing the dulcimer less than a year and still have a lot to learn about these wonderful instruments!
Thanks to everyone! I agree with every comment. I did send photos to Jim Woods and asked suggestions. If I ever need it repaired, I will go to a dulcimer luthier. It makes my heart full to know that I have such a great sounding instrument. I will definitely take great care of it. Going to let you all know what Jim Woods says in his response. He has always been great about any questions I have had in the past while making the two dulcimers that I have from McSpadden.
Thanks, Ken. My husband, a jazz guitar teacher thought I should possibly get a replacement dulcimer. I did explain that I tried out every dulcimer by various makers at a recent festival and not one compares to the sound and balance that I get from this one. I wonder if they knew the wood had problems or that it just happened with this wood. Thoughts on that? The luthier said that there is no place to put the glue. If it gets worse, he would fix it for me. What is CA “superglue” and what kind of varnish would you suggest? Thanks Ken, for any input. My brother is an award winning sound mixer for Sony Pictures and even he says that he has never heard such a “magical” instrument!
So, I live in North Georgia and am very careful with my Redwood/Black Walnut McSpadden. It has been a mild winter. I never leave it in the car. I take great care of it. I have only had for 8 months and noticed on the back bottom part of my dulcimer a few hairline cracks. I will call McSpadden as they made it for me. I did let my husband show to his luthier. The luthier says that sometimes makers see a problem in the grain and don’t want to remake it so they cover it up. I really love the sound and no light is coming through the wood. I want to approach the right way with McSpadden. I don’t want to give up this dulcimer and get another. The tone is unbelievable. However, I have never had this problem with a guitar. I feel like I am already very careful with this instrument. Suggestions are very welcome. I worked hard to get this wonderful instrument and can’t go out and buy another. Thanks.
Thanks, Lisa. I have a McSpadden and my melody strings are closed together, too. There are times when I am quickly sliding my thumb while anchoring the other strings in chord playing where the bottom two strings separate some. I might see if I can try out someone’s dulcimer in my group. That is a great idea.
Thanks, Dusty, I appreciate it. I played rhythm guitar on an acoustic in the past and didn’t want to give up the extra string either. I just went to my first dulcimer festival and one of my teachers suggested I remove the string. I am a chord player and want to improve on hammer on’s and pull offs, etc... I think I should try it.
I tune my dulcimer to DAD. Sometimes other tunings.