How is the COVID-19 coronavirus affecting you?
OFF TOPIC discussions
Dusty and Robin - thanks for your encouraging words. Very much appreciated. Stay safe everyone! :)
Hello All! It's been a long time since I've posted at FOTMD. SARS-CoV-2 has had affected my life pretty dramatically. I've been involved in the clinical development of a couple vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 (in addition to my "regular" work), and have been working insane hours. Unfortunately, I know more than a few people who have died as a result of the disease, and many more who have suffered greatly. This pandemic has exacerbated systemic injustices related to the social determinants of health, and the US response in particular has been pathetic.
It's heartening to read of more and more people getting vaccinated. I hope you all stay safe! :)
Very sad news. I also still have my book and cassette (and still think hers is one of the best introductions to the mountain dulcimer I've seen). She certainly touched many lives. My deepest sympathies to her family and friends. She will be missed.
I'd like to respectfully disagree with Dusty on one minor (yet still important, in my opinion) point. While I certainly agree that one should not be "going so deep into the strings that you hit the fretboard" I do not agree that you should be "gliding along the top." That depends on the tone you desire. For the fullest tone, the dominant direction of the pick (or finger) should actually be *into* the fretboard (without going so deep as to hit the fretboard), rather than across the strings parallel to the plane of the top of the fretboard. This is easier for many people to do with their fingers than with picks, and when playing individual notes or chord-melody style vs when strumming, but angling the pick as Dusty suggests actually helps facilitate this "down toward the fretboard" angle.
As always, these are *choices* available to the deliberate player. Try adjusting the angle of your pick, sure, but also try adjusting the direction of your picking (towards the fretboard vs. parallel to the fretboard plane) and see what gives you the sound you want for the piece you're playing. There's no "one size fits all."
Just my two cents. :)
I'm also looking for something more contemporary. Bought a 70 song tab book and am only interested in one song. Cat Stevens' Morning has broken. Won't do that again. Found one fellow teaching Norwegian Wood on stick dulcimer but just a lot of strumming. I must be old to consider a 50 yr old song contemporary, but compared to most I see, it is.
The melody of Morning Has Broken is actually a traditional Scottish Gaelic tune called Bunessan. (And the lyrics for Morning Has Broken were actually written by Eleanor Farjeon and set to this melody). You can find the tune here:
As for Norwegian Wood, I play an arrangement that is not just strumming. In case it helps you in any way, you can see it here:
I would normally suggest getting yourself a software program that can read ABC files (at a minimum) and then using that software to turn those files into tablature. Such software can be found for free, and there are many ABC tune files available for free online.
But if you've been playing classical guitar for 40 years, you can read music, and you can skip the conversion to tab and just look online. There are countless tunes available online for free. To give one example, you can go to http://abcnotation.com/. From there you can get to over 600,000 tunes as abc files, sheet music pdfs, MIDI files, etc. It's truly amazing how much is available.
Enjoy your dulcimer. It's a fantastic instrument. (This is coming from a guy who also studied classical guitar, though I don't play too much anymore, and I haven't played for 40 years.) :)
Thanks for the quick response! Yes, a 10" radius fretboard is still pretty flat, so what you've written doesn't surprise me.
As for the reason for coming up with the idea - there are certainly good reasons for radius fretboards, but like pretty much everything else you can choose to do on an instrument, there are trade-offs also. I mentioned bending earlier, but moving across strings, especially higher up the fretboard, is another example of something that's generally considered easier with flat fretboards.
But it sounds like in this case, at least, any trade-offs were minimal and well worth it. :) And I certainly can't argue with how that instrument sounds. Love it!
I have a couple questions for you, but rather than ask them privately I figured I'd do it here in case anyone else was wondering also.
1) Do you know the radius of your new dulcimer's fretboard in inches? (and if it's a compound radius fretboard, do you know the radii for each end?)
2) Do you like it (not the dulcimer itself, which sounds fantastic, but the fretboard specifically)? I'm familiar with the general advantages of curved fretboards (eg, more easy to barre and chord) as well as their disadvantages (eg, can't usually get action as low as with flat boards, more prone to buzzes, especially when bending notes or hammering) and I can understand the desire for curved fretboards on, say, a guitar, because of how they are played. But given the way a dulcimer is played, it doesn't seem to me that it would make much difference for playability. My guitar playing is mostly limited to classical guitar (those have flat fretboards) so my experience with curved fretboards is limited.
Thanks for any insight.
A similar idea, but no, the one I'm looking for is definitely "October is a Gypsy Lass". I've found it in a couple spots online, but no one ever says who wrote it...either the words or the music.
Did you ever find any more info on October is a Gypsy Lass? I'm very curious about it also. I know it only by these words (and did not know it was even a song - I thought it was "just" a poem):
October is a gypsy lass
Who dances through our town
Scarlet is her flying scarf
Many-hued her gown
On her dusky hair she wears
A crown of bittersweet
Maples spread a golden carpet
For her dancing feet
Dusty - it's tough to say because I was at work when the process was finished. I also did not realize that, although I was using a very fast computer I was accidentally connected wirelessly. Therefore, my transfer speeds were very slow, and the time wouldn't really be representative anyway.
I can state, though, that with that slow connection I was averaging about 25 kb/s, and last time I looked I had downloaded 84% of the site in 13h, 20m (using no more than 4 active connections). A fast wired connection would dramatically reduce that time, and for someone just interested in the tunes, they total what, a little over 200MB? That wouldn't take much time at all.
I promised to post final results, so here's what I have;
Total Website Size: 3.66GB
Number of files: 82,247
Number of Folders: 3,063
I know many people are interested in the tunes, specifically, so here's some information on that;
Tab PDFs: 1,397 files, 90.7 MB
Tab GIFs: 7 files, 268 KB
Tab JPGs: 15 files, 3.68 MB
Tab Word files: 6 files, 101 KB
Tab RTF Files: 2 files, 8 KB
MIDI files: 694 files, 2.43 MB
MP3s: 107 files, 123 MB
Lyrics Text files: 270 files, 716 KB
I'll post my final results when I'm done, but as of right now, we are at 2.46GB, 69,150 files written, and elapsed time of 13h, 20m (using no more than 4 active connections). I am using a very fast computer (overclocked i7-7700k CPU, liquid cooled, 32 gigs RAM), but am also using a wireless connection (that was an oversight on my part - my cable for hardwiring my connection is actually plugged into another computer nearby I was testing recently and I didn't notice it until now) so my transfer rate is pretty slow ~25kb/s).
Also, as I mentioned in my initial post (and Nigel also wrote below), this type of software is doing more than simply downloading. It actually parses the HTML files of websites and rebuilds the original site's directory and link structure. The result is that you can then load a page of the mirrored website in your browser and browse the site just as if you were doing it online.
Hi Irene. Yes, you can choose the output location for the files, so you can specify to an external drive such as a USB thumb drive or an SD card, as long as it's big enough to hold the contents of the site you're trying to "mirror" (ie, copy).
The Wayback Machine is a great resource, but because our site of interest (ie, EverythingDulcimer.com) still currently exists, there's a better option - use a website copier program to simply download the entire website to your hard drive.
Properly configured, programs like this will rebuild the entire website locally, with all of the tab, mp3s, midis, articles, etc. This takes a long time to do (as in hours in the case of EverythingDulcimer.com), depending on your internet speed and how "beefy" your computer is, but if you set it up and run it before you go to sleep, or before you head out to work, you may never notice. And it's a whole lot faster/more efficient than going through hundreds of tab files, articles, etc. to decide which ones you might like to keep and then downloading those individually.
I use HTTrack because it's free and has a pretty good interface (as far as these types of programs are concerned). But there are others that will also do the job, including WebWhacker, SiteSucker, SurfOffline, Grab-A-Site and more.
Ken - thanks for that info. Much appreciated!
Joe, what is your definition of a "properly constructed instrument" with a scalloped fretboard such that it doesn't warp? I'm curious as to the construction differences that differentiate it from those instruments whose scalloped fretboards do warp.
I'm going to to disagree with Ken here. I haven't owned scalloped-fretboard instruments long enough to notice any issues, but I can think of three people I know, very well respected in the dulcimer world, who have been playing instruments with and without scalloped fretboards longer than I've been alive, and it is their opinion that over time, those scalloped fretboards do (and in the case of some builders, WILL) warp. And they each told me that independently, over the years I've known them. In fact, it's not even an opinion; two of them have shown me examples.
I have a lot of fun with Arkansas Traveler. It's ridiculously fun to play, in fact - a simple tune you can do so much with. Great sections for hammer-ons and pull-offs, stumming, cross-picking...it's one of those tunes that can take a lot of abuse and still come out sounding really good. (And it's just fun physically to play.) It also seems to be one of the first tunes to come out of any new dulcimer I pick up for the first time. :)
Dana, I am very happy you are enjoying the instrument. :) (I told you it was a good one!)
If using the same gauge strings, those on a dulcimer with a shorter VSL will require less tension to reach a given pitch than one with a longer VSL. This helps playability not only because frets are closer together making it easier to chord down at the first few frets, but also because bending notes is easier, vibrato is easier, and playing in general is just easier with less string tension.
But there *are* definitely well-known effects on sound as well. String tension and length affect overtones and harmonics. The greater the string tension, the greater the higher overtones produced. Longer string lengths also give more space for harmonics and overtones to “breathe” (ie, sound separate). With shorter scale lengths there is less separation. As a result, longer VSLs will give more brightness, clarity and definition in the tone, while shorter ones will give a “sweeter” sound with more warmth/darkness, less clarity and fewer overtones. Longer VSLs and their increased string tension tend to give you more volume and attack also, and more of that twangy “silvery-ness” traditionally associated with a mountain dulcimer.
Many guitar builders will tell you that the tone begins with the string and everything else is a modifier; that you start with the scale length and then go from there, choosing woods, body shape, body volume, type of pickup, etc. to get the tone you are looking for.
Incidentally, if you don't want to believe me, there are plenty of well-respected dulcimer builders who have written about scale length and its effect on tone before (Jerry Rockwell and Janita Baker come immediately to mind, for example).
I'm unfamiliar with Cube Jam, but I will have to investigate it now. :)
Hi Marg. As you know, this amp comes with a few effects and also presets to emulate the sound of some classic guitar amplifiers of the past. I mostly use it on "acoustic", and with a little chorus and a little reverb. When used with no effects and on "acoustic", the sound is just that - it just sounds like my dulcimers, only louder. For what this little thing is (and the price I paid for it), I love it.
I own one of these and use it with my dulcimers. It's a great little amp.
I'm also going to plug EAA tuning here. I tend to be lazy and either play an A tune out of DAD if I can, or capo to 4, but the truth is, I hate capos at fret 4 for a number of reasons (two big ones - you lose about a third of your instrument, and the vsl becomes so short that the instruments generally don't sound very good to me) and much prefer EAA as it has a number of advantages:
I also want to respond specifically to Dusy's comment about it being better for drone players since chord players will need to learn all new fingerings - there is a "secret" (not really) that makes this very easy.
EAA tuning can be thought of as a kind of "reverse DAD" tuning in which you reverse what you would do on the middle and bass strings. For example - in DAD, if a note falls below the pitch of the melody string, you can normally get it on the middle string. In EAA, if the note falls below the pitch of the melody string, you play it on the bass string. So if the IV chord in DAD is played 0-1-3 (bass to melody string), in EAA it would be played 1-0-3 (bass to melody string).
UPDATED to give credit to Rich Carty, who was the first person to have the above discussion with me and made me aware of the possibilities of EAA tuning. I don't play in it very often, but when I do, I absolutely love it.
Very nice Dana! Now let's hear a tune. ;)
I also trim the string before I put it on, leaving about 2 inches past the tuner. A few of my dulcimers have self-trimming tuners (they have built in cutters and trim the string as you are replacing it), and they are absolutely excellent. I think they are D'Addario Planet Waves, but I am not 100% sure. But I went from being skeptical of them to a firm believer pretty much immediately:
Jennifer - yes, you can definitely just measure the string with a caliper to determine its gauge. As has been mentioned, there's nothing special about dulcimer strings; a regular old caliper or micrometer will work on a dulcimer string just as well as it will any other string. I had to do this recently for a harp dulcimer I acquired as I had no idea what gauges the harp strings were. :)
Hi all. I just wanted to mention that Guitar Center itself is also doing a similar deal package deal on the Loudbox mini for $329.95. Only real difference is the microphone:
Audio-Technica M4000S Handheld Dynamic Microphone
Gear One Lo-Z Mic Cable 20 Feet
Musician's Gear MS-220 Tripod Mic Stand with Fixed Boom
Fishman Loudbox Mini
While I completely agree with Rob’s bottom-line point (don’t be afraid to challenge yourself) I have a couple comments I’d like to make. :)
The first is that just because you *can* play a 29” or 30” VSL dulcimer doesn’t mean you *prefer* to. In my own dulcimer journey, I’ve played instruments with many different VSLs, from little micro-instruments to those with a 30” VSL. As I’ve done this over the years, I’ve slowly come to the realization that, although I *can* play instruments with VSL’s ranging from micro to 30”, I much *prefer* to play instruments with VSLs between 25.5” and 27”.
The second is about the idea that a dulcimer with a longer VSL will have more volume and deeper tone. This has been stated more than once in this thread, but from my experience, this does not have to be the case. Yes, that’s true when comparing against tiny travel instruments, but full-size instruments with shorter VSLs tend to be louder and more resonant than their longer VSL cousins and typically have more attack (likely due to increased string tension). It’s been my experience that if the instrument is otherwise full-sized, you really don’t lose anything with VSLs down to about 25”. Beyond that and I think sustain and the tone at frets above 10 or 12 start to audibly suffer.
My loudest and most resonant instrument by far is a Gallier Starsong, with a 26.25” VSL (it’s actually the loudest dulcimer I’ve personally ever heard, and I’ve heard a bunch). My second loudest and most resonant instrument by far is a Modern Mountain Dulcimer with a VSL of 25.5”. These are in another league entirely compared to the bunch of other dulcimers I own, including custom instruments with 29’ VSLs, or other Modern Mountain instruments with longer VSLs. I recently spoke to a friend of mine who is a distributor for David McKinney’s Modern Mountain instruments, and he told me (unsolicited) that it’s very common for the shorter VSL (but full-size body) instruments to be louder and more resonant. I've experienced the same thing with McSpadden's 26" VSL (but full-sized) dulcimers compared to their standard dulcimers with a VSL of 28 1/2".
I also think the idea of VSL is, in general, probably less important to chord/melody players (for whom the "small hands" idea is most relevant) than it is for noter/drone players. When you're playing noter/drone, you've got open strings that are actually vibrating along those longer lengths. When chording, this is clearly not the case.
To me, the issue reminds me of economy of motion. Just like a player should theoretically be moving his/her hands no more than necessary to get the desired result on the instrument when fretting, strumming, etc, there’s also no need to stretch farther than you need to “just because”. There are no bragging rights because you can pull off an A chord on a 30” VSL instrument. If you can get the tone and volume you like out of a shorter scale instrument, I say go for it.