Forum Activity for @greg-gunner

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
09/21/19 10:08:57AM
84 posts

Ukulele Tuners


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

Before sanding, you might want to try some Hill Peg Compound, which is a substance used by fiddle players to make the pegs turn more freely.  I have used it successfully on a number of occasions to get a smoother and more accurate tuning with wooden tuning pegs.  It comes in a tube (like chapstick) and is not expensive considering one tube will probably last you a lifetime.  Just rub a little on the tuning peg where it makes contact with the peghead.  You can purchase some on E-Bay if your local music store doesn't carry it.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
09/11/19 12:22:24PM
84 posts

What’s your favourite playing style and why?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Most of my playing these days is a combination of finger-dancing the melody with my left hand and fingerpicking with my right hand, although I can, and do, strum chords to accompany my singing or to accompany another dulcimer playing the melody.  I've tinkered with the chord-melody style, but I can't say I use it much.  I prefer finger-dancing with my left hand or using a noter held in my left hand (thumb on top if the fretboard is high enough) for lining out the melody and fingerpicking or strumming with the right hand to get the strings to ring out and establish rhythm.

Since most of my repertoire is old ballads of Appalachia and the British Isles, I play mostly in 1-5-5 tuning (Ionian) and 1-5-7 tuning (Aeolian).  The actual tuning varies with the instrument I'm using at the time.  My 1-5-5 tunings include D-A-A, C-G-G, G-D-D, and A-E-E.  My 1-5-7 tunings include D-A-C, C-G-Bb, and B-F#-A.  Since most of my playing these days is done at home for my own satisfaction, the actual tuning is what I perceive as the best tuning for that particular instrument.

Although I have played in 1-5-8 (D-A-d) tuning on occasion, I seldom use it these days.  I've found that the vast majority of melodies written for D-A-d tuning (which is a traditional Mixolydian mode tuning) are actually Ionian melodies more suited to 1-5-5 tunings, such as D-A-A.  Although D-A-d tuning is the predominant tuning these days, I find it more suited to the chord-melody style.  Since I prefer to play in a melody-drone style, the various 1-5-5 tunings are more useful to me.

The tuning and style you choose to use is a matter of personal preference.  There are those who swear by the chord-melody style.  I happen to prefer a melody-drone style.  All styles are valid, and I make no value judgements concerning which style is better.  The only thing that really matters is which style brings you the most satisfaction.  

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
09/02/19 05:23:40PM
84 posts

Using a strap


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I second Dusty's advice regarding the quick release straps.  As he stated Folkcraft makes a quick-release strap specifically for the dulcimer.  With this strap a short section of the strap (2-3 inches or so) remains attached to the strap buttons when not in use.  When you are ready to use it just snap the longer section of the strap into place and you're ready to go.  They can be purchased for less than $20.00 directly from Folkcraft or on E-Bay.  

Here's a link to the 1-inch wide brown quick-release strap: https://www.folkcraft.com/collections/accessories/products/brown-one-inch-strap-2310435

If you own more than one dulcimer, you can purchase multiple straps so you won't have to continually struggle with getting the strap onto the strap button.  Just leave the short end-section attached.  The long section of the strap can be stored in the case until needed.  The beauty of the Folkcraft strap is how quickly and easily it can be attached or disconnected.  It's well-worth the cost.

Playing with a strap enables the dulcimer player to position the dulcimer further away from his or her body allowing easier access to the fretboard.


updated by @greg-gunner: 09/02/19 05:26:30PM
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
08/16/19 01:33:20PM
84 posts

Who Made Swan-shaped Dulcimer?


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

I have no idea who might have made your dulcimer, but the signature looks like it could either be "N. Mills" or "Neville".  Are there any dulcimer makers who fit either of those interpretations of the signature?   None come to mind. 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
08/08/19 07:32:07PM
84 posts

Dulcimer tuning problem


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

Two possibilities given your new information. 

1. (Less Likely) This would have been early in Warren May's dulcimer building career.  He may have been in the early stages of getting proper intonation, something he improved with more time and experience.  In other words, he may have misplaced the frets enough to be noticable.  

2.  (More Likely) Warren does make dulcimers with just intonation.  Since you said the chords didn't sound right, that sounds like the dulcimer may have been built with just intonation.  Just intonation is going to sound really good with the drones, but not so good if you are trying to make chords.  The frets have been positioned to blend with the drones, not for making chords.  Traditionally, dulcimers were built with just intonation out of necessity since the frets extended only under the melody string(s), you couldn't play chords.  When builders made the switch to full-width frets, chords became possible and some builders adjusted their fret placement to accommodate chord playing.   

And I wouldn't worry about the felt or foam on the tail end.  It's there to protect the tail end of the dulcimer and to prevent the strings from digging into the wood.  As long as its not under the vibrating section of the string it shouldn't cause a problem.  Many dulcimer builders put some felt, leather, etc. between the strings and the tail end of the dulcimer.  You can remove it if it annoys you, but it probably has nothing to do with your intonation problems.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
07/29/19 06:55:50PM
84 posts

Buzzing with pull offs- me or the dulcimer


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

Silverstrings, I'm glad I could be of help.  I and everyone else on this forum was once at the same place you are at in learning the dulcimer.

Continue to ask questions when you feel the need.  Someone on this forum is ready and willing to help you discover the answers.  This forum is home to a great bunch of people.  They freely share what they have learned during their own journey with the mountain dulcimer.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
07/27/19 12:07:03PM
84 posts

Dulcimer tuning problem


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

Is Your Dulcimer Just-Tempered or Equal-Tempered?

Another possibility is the type of scale.  Back in 1973 many dulcimer builders were still making dulcimers with a just-tempered scale.  In just-tempered scales the frets are placed to get the best fit with the bass and middle drones.  The idea is to get a sweet blending of the melody, which is changing in pitch as you fret at different locations, and the drones which remain constant in pitch.

Most modern dulcimers have equal-tempered scales.  In equal-tempered scales the frets are placed to get the sweetest harmonies when playing chords.  The difference between the two is slight, but it is noticeable.

Traditionally, dulcimers were fretted by ear to get the melody string to blend well with the drones.  Dulcimer players weren't playing chords back in the old days. They used the traditional just-tempered scale.  Some builders, such as Leonard and Clifford Glenn, continued to fret their dulcimers in this manner throughout the 20th century.  

However, many modern builders adopted a guitar-like approach, which adjusted the frets slightly from the just-tempered scale to get purer sounding chords.  They used an equal-tempered scale.  Most modern dulcimers use this scale.

If you have a good ear you will be able to tell the difference.  Chords won't sound quite right with a just-tempered scale.  And the blending of melody and drones won't sound quite right with an equal-tempered scale.

Did your bridge move?

All that being said, if there is evidence that your bridge has moved, it is an easy fix.  It may take some patience as you may need to move the bridge several times to find the best location.  When you do, I'd mark the location of the bridge to make sure you can relocate the bridge if it moves again.  If your bridge has moved, it is not attached to the fingerboard, and it should slide easily when the strings are loosened.

Were the frets misplaced when the dulcimer was built?

Unfortunately, a large number of dulcimers were built with inaccurate fretting.  If that is the case there is not much you can do short of having the instrument refretted by a professional.  Remember, the ear develops over time and becomes more sensitive to slight differences in pitch.  When I first began playing I relied totally on an electronic tuner.  As the years passed, I discovered the strings still needed a slight adjustment (fine-tuning if you will) after the first run-through with the electric tuner.  I can now easily tune by ear.  When you purchased the dulcimer in 1973, it sounded fine and the scale seemed accurate.  Now, your ear is more sensitive to slight differences.  It could be due to the type of scale (just or equal-tempered) or it could be that the instrument wasn't fretted correctly in the first place and your ear didn't hear the difference at that point in your musical development.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
07/26/19 12:12:25PM
84 posts

Dulcimer tuning problem


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

The frets haven't moved since they are placed securely in the fretboard.  However, the bridge may have moved which would explain some frets being in tune and others out of tune.

Another possibility is that the dulcimer was never fretted accurately when the instrument was made, and you are just beginning to notice it now that you have more experience and are playing it more.

Do you know who made the dulcimer?  Many dulcimers were constructed by amateurs unfamiliar with how to correctly place the frets and/or the bridge.  The most likely explanation is that the bridge has moved and needs to be placed back in the correct position.  Measure the distance from the nut to the 7th fret.  The bridge should be approximately twice that distance from the nut.  For example, if the 7th fret measures 13 1/2 inches from the nut, the bridge should be roughly 27 inches from the nut.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
07/24/19 09:50:32AM
84 posts

Buzzing with pull offs- me or the dulcimer


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

When plucked, the string will vibrate to produce sound.  I'm certainly no expert, but I suspect the buzzing is related to two factors: 1.) the direction in which you are plucking the string and  2.) the space between the string and nearby frets.

If the plucking finger is pulled off "parallel" to the fingerboard you will have less buzzing because the string vibrates from side to side making it less likely to contact nearby frets.  If the plucking finger is pulled up in a "perpendicular"  direction from the fretboard you may have more buzzing because the string vibrates up and down making it more likely to make contact with nearby frets.

Obviously the space between the string and nearby frets will also play a part.  The string is closest to the frets at the peghead end of the fretboard.  This may explain why you are experiencing the buzzing only at the 1st and 2nd fret.

Since the string only buzzes when you do pull-offs I suspect it is related to number 1 above, but it may be related to how forcefully you pluck the string.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
07/22/19 09:21:00PM
84 posts

Richard and Denise Wilson dulcimer - needs a bridge


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

Like KenH I searched Google Images for pictures of Richard Wilson dulcimers.  This is the only link I could find with a close-up of the tail end of the dulcimer showing the bridge.  You may have to sift through the pictures of the dulcimer to find the one with the close up of the bridge.  Incidentally, the bridge looks movable and appears to be held in place only by the string tension.

https://reverb.com/item/2775553-1989-richard-denise-wilson-diamond-designs-hearts-dulcimer-like-new-with-case-paperwork

I'm not sure if all Wilson dulcimers had similar bridges, but this one looks like it was made from maple.  If this one is any indication, Richard probably used whatever hardwood scraps he had left over after making dulcimers.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
07/09/19 09:23:13AM
84 posts

Blue Lion IW Style 1 Red Cedar & Walnut question


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

If you've got the opportunity to purchase a Blue Lion at a good price, don't pass it up.  Blue Lion is not currently accepting orders.  When they do accept orders, the wait can be 6 months to a year or more due to the high demand for their instruments.  Incidentally, their instruments have a full-bodied well-rounded sound, somewhat guitar like.  Many dulcimer players love them as the quality is top-notch.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
07/01/19 10:00:29AM
84 posts

Instruction books for DAA Noter playing


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Another DAA instruction book that is very good for someone starting out is Traditional Playing of the Mountain Dulcimer by Lorinda Jones.  Although not strictly a noter-drone book it provides four arrangements for each song: 1. Song Played With a Noter, 2. Song Played With a Noter and Rhythm Fill-Ins, 3. Song Played With Fingers and Rhythm Fill-Ins (Finger-Dancing), and 4. Song Played With Chord Melodies and Rhythmic Fill-Ins (Chord-Melody Style).  Arrangements 1. and 2. are very suitable to noter-drone playing.  The four arrangements for each song illustrate how one can begin by learning the simple melody with a noter (Arrangement 1), add fill-in notes to the simple melody while continuing to play with a noter (Arrangement 2), using the left-hand fingers to replace the noter (Arrangement 3), and finally adding chords to the melody (Arrangement 4).  For those wishing to play only in a noter-drone style, the first two arrangements of each song will be sufficient.  For those wishing to expand their left-hand techniques, arrangements 3 and 4 will illustrate how it is done.

The book includes a play-along CD, but a DVD is also available to purchase separately.  The book, CD, and DVD provide an excellent introduction to traditional mountain dulcimer playing, including two noter-drone arrangements for each song introduced.  Twenty-two songs are included with four arrangements for each.

 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
06/28/19 06:57:09PM
84 posts

Paul Clayton on Folkways Records


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Folk musician, Paul Clayton, was one of the early trailblazers of the dulcimer revival in the 1950s and 1960s.  If I have my facts correct and don't have him confused with someone else, he visited the home of dulcimer maker, Edd Presnell, and his wife, Nettie Hicks Presnell in the 1950s to learn traditional dulcimer-playing directly from Nettie.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
05/22/19 09:45:02AM
84 posts

Introduce Yourself!


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

LisavB.  I'm glad you decided to join us.  You will find this forum to be warm and friendly.  We are united by our love for the dulcimer, and we are glad you decided to join us.  If you have any questions or wish to share more of your journey with the dulcimer, we'd love to hear more from you.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
05/17/19 06:08:19PM
84 posts

I understand the appeal of chromatic mountain dulcimer


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I don't think it's so much that it sounds like a guitar.  The logic is basically "If you want to play a fully chromatic instrument, why don't you just play an instrument like a guitar (or banjo or mandolin, etc.) that is already chromatic?"

The purists would say that the diatonic fret pattern is a defining feature of the dulcimer.  As you begin to change one of the dulcimer's defining characteristics, the instrument is moving away from being a dulcimer and transitioning into a hybrid instrument.  Not a guitar exactly, but beginning to look and play more like a guitar and less like a dulcimer.

To get the sound of a guitar, you would need to increase the size of the dulcimer's soundbox, extend the neck/fretboard beyond the soundbox, increase the number of strings, and adjust the gauges of the strings.  Each of these changes is a movement in the direction of the guitar and away from the dulcimer.

If the only change made is to fret the dulcimer chromatically instead of diatonically, then the instrument will still sound more like a dulcimer.  However, it will have some of the playing features of the guitar.

Some Common Features of Each Instrument:

Dulcimer = Smaller Soundbox, Diatonic Fretboard, Fretboard Does Not Extend Beyond Soundbox, Fewer Strings, Lighter Gauge Strings, Played on Lap with Fretboard Facing Up

Guitar = Larger Soundbox, Chromatic Fretboard, Fretboard/Neck Extends Beyond the Soundbox, More Strings, Heavier Gauge Strings, Played with Hand Reaching Under and Around the Neck

Putting a chromatic fretboard on a dulcimer body without changing any other features results in a chromatic dulcimer.  Not exactly a guitar, but a step in that direction.

Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with playing an instrument modified from its traditional form.  Likewise, there is also nothing wrong with preferring to keep the instrument in its purest, most traditional form.  To each their own.  What you play and how you play it are decisions to be made by each individual.  Basically, if you enjoy playing it, that's all that's necessary.

 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
05/07/19 07:33:54PM
84 posts

Folkcraft FSH or CSH Measurement Help


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

I have a CSH Folkcraft Dulcimer with flat peghead and three tuners/three equidistant strings.  It measures approximately 39 inches in total length.  I also have a McSpadden with the padded case that comes standard with a McSpadden purchase.  The Folkcraft CSH is about 3 to 4 inches too long for the McSpadden Case.  Folkcraft's case is 41 inches long.  McSpadden's case is only 36 inches long.

Bottom line, the standard Folkcraft CSH dulcimer will not fit into the McSpadden Case.  It looks like you won't be able to use the McSpadden case for your Folkcraft dulcimer purchase.

The Folkcraft CSH dulcimer does fit into a Craggy Mountain Brown Padded Case (available from Craggy Mountain for about $45.00 plus shipping).  The Craggy Mountain Case is a good quality case.  Folkcraft Padded Cases may be made in the USA by Folkcraft.  The McSpadden Padded Cases are made in Thailand these days, and the Craggy Mountain Case is made in China.

 


updated by @greg-gunner: 05/07/19 07:35:09PM
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
05/03/19 04:08:30PM
84 posts

Playing dulcimer with a ukelele


Playing and jamming difficulties...HELP ME!

Katie, you've gotten some excellent advice.  Don't be overwhelmed by chords.  There are a limited number of chords that are used with any frequency.  And keep in mind, the same chords are used in many different keys.  The D chord for instance occurs in the Key of D Major, the Key of G Major, and the Key of A Major.  In each instance, the notes that form the D chord are the same.  Their position on the fretboard only changes if you have changed the tuning of the strings.

If you can play a C chord, a D chord, an E chord, an F chord, a G chord, and an A chord, you will be well on your way.  As others have suggested start with a single key and learn the three primary chords for that key.  Notice that some chords occur over and over again.

Key of C = C, F, G Chords

Key of D = D, G, A chords

Key of A =  A, D, E chords

Key of G = G, C, D chords

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
05/01/19 05:57:50PM
84 posts

2019 Dulcimer Exhibit Jonesborough TN


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I did some quick genealogical research and discovered that Ernest Combs was the son of Fred Combs and Vera Alice Johnson.  He is listed in the 1940 Federal Census for Beaverdam Township in Watauga County, North Carolina.  The families of Frank Proffitt and his father, Wiley Proffitt, were both living in Beaverdam Township in 1940.  However, my preliminary search didn't turn up any connections between Ernest Combs and the Proffitts.  In the bio to which David Bennett provides a link, Combs credits Albert Hash with getting him started with instrument making.  But as David pointed out, he doesn't seem to have been very prolific in building dulcimers. 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
04/30/19 10:45:00AM
84 posts

Strings to use on newly acquired dulcimer


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

As with any instrument, everyone will have their personal preferences. Assuming you are playing a standard dulcimer and not a baritone or bass dulcimer, the bass strings tend to fall into a range of .020-.024.  Middle strings are usually in the .012-.016 range.  Melody strings range from .010-.014.

A lot will depend upon your preferred tuning and the amount of tension you favor.  My preferred tuning is D-A-A and I use a wound bass string of about .022 and unwound middle and melody strings of .012.  This usually gives me the degree of flexibility that I prefer.  Others prefer less flexibility and use heavier gauge strings on their dulcimers.

Someone playing in D-A-d with a preference for more tension may prefer a bass string of .024, a middle string of .014, and a melody string of .012.  Some prefer a heavier melody string.  

Try one of the suggestions given by myself and others.  If the strings are too floppy when tuned to your preferred tuning, then replace the strings with a heavier gauge.  If the strings feel too tight then replace the strings with a lighter gauge.  Eventually you will find string gauges that feel right to you.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
04/29/19 04:14:32PM
84 posts

Preferred String Tension


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

No judgement here.  Everyone has a preference to suit their own playing style and their own needs.  There's probably a way to measure the amount of tension on each string precisely, but that's not really necessary.  Obviously, the string tension has to lie somewhere between the minimum amount of tension necessary to produce a clear sound (without rattling) and the amount of tension required to break the string.  My own preference is for a string with some flexibility.  One that responds to hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends, chord playing, etc. with ease.  However, I fully understand why some desire less flexibility when playing noter-drone style.  It's all a matter of what "feels right" to the individual with the instrument in their hands.    

 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
04/28/19 02:07:21PM
84 posts

Preferred String Tension


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

As I've added more dulcimers to my collection, I've begun to label the cases with the tuning that seems to fit that instrument best.  My standard dulcimers tend be tuned to D-A-A, C-G-G, or sometimes even Bb-F-F.  My criteria for selecting the tuning is usually based upon string tension.  In other words, I change strings or tuning to get the "feel" I like.

I've also discovered that my reproduction dulcimers sometimes require a lower tuning to prevent the wooden tuning pegs from slipping under the increased string tension of the higher tuning.


updated by @greg-gunner: 04/28/19 02:11:39PM
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
04/28/19 01:58:24PM
84 posts

Preferred String Tension


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

John K.,

I remember reading that Jean Ritchie preferred C-G-G tuning.  I think her instruction book used C-G-G tuning.  But did she ever talk about lowering the tuning to make the strings more responsive to the touch of her fingers?   I suspect her choice of C tuning was likely based upon what was considered traditional in her family.

Ken H,

Good point.  I also tune down on occasion to better suit my voice.  Although a noter wouldn't give the same "feel" as the fingers, it would be similarly affected by string tension.  I suspect requiring less downward pressure on the noter would result in smoother playing.

Dusty,

I hadn't considered that string tension might have the opposite affect when flatpicking.  More tension = Faster Response.  Less Tension = Slower Response.

kjb,

Do you ever tune to a C tuning because it feels more comfortable on the fingers or only when playing with other musicians in the Key of C?  Do you prefer the lower tuning for fingerpicking because it is more responsive to the fingers?

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
04/28/19 12:54:57PM
84 posts

Preferred String Tension


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Obviously, the dulcimer can be tuned up or down to play in alternate keys, but what about adjusting string tension for comfort?

I've been noticing lately that I have a preference for less string tension.  Both my left hand and my right hand seem to be more comfortable when the strings are more flexible and have more give.  In practice, this means I frequently lower the tuning as much as a whole step to create the fingering sensation that I prefer.

Instead of the standard D-A-A or D-A-d tunings, I find myself lowering the tuning to C-G-G or C-G-c.  Obviously, I have to tune back up if I plan to play music with others or attend a dulcimer workshop where D tunings are the norm, but when practicing or playing for myself I prefer the feel I get with the lower tuning.  

The advantage of the lower tuning is a more flexible string that is less resistant to fretting, hammering, or plucking with the left hand and more easily strummed or fingerpicked with the right hand.  In short, I am more relaxed when the strings play more easily.

Obviously, there is a limit to how much the strings can be lowered, but I have found that the tuning of most dulcimers can be lowered a full step without creating any problems with loose or rattling strings.

Does anyone else experiment with tunings higher or lower than standard D tunings by adjusting string tension to achieve a more comfortable and relaxed feeling in the fingers making contact with the strings?  


updated by @greg-gunner: 04/28/19 12:55:48PM
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
04/14/19 11:02:47AM
84 posts

Dulcimer-Guitar Style Options?


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

I'm just speculating here, but perhaps you should consider a tenor guitar.  However, I'm not sure anyone makes one with a diatonic fretboard like a dulcimer.

Like many mountain dulcimers, tenor guitars have four strings.  You could always restring one to reflect your favorite dulcimer tuning.  The only hangup would be getting used to the chromatic fretboard, which would have both advantages and disadvantages.  

As KenH has stated, the more you modify the original design of the traditional dulcimer the more you move away from what would normally be called a dulcimer.  The changes suggested above would result in a hybrid instrument that is part dulcimer and part guitar.   It's already been done by combining dulcimer and banjo features into a "banjimer" or dulcimer and dobro features into the "dulcibro".  There's nothing stopping you from modifying a tenor guitar into a chromatic guitar-like dulcimer.  Good luck with your search and let us know what you decide and how it works out.   You may be on to something.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
03/15/19 10:42:47PM
84 posts

New player / New purchase


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Welcome to the FOTMD community.  As you have already discovered, you will receive a warm welcome and friendly advice on this forum.  This community will continue to welcome your questions and suggestions, and we will do our best to make you keep coming back for more.

While I have no personal experience with your dulcimer maker, his dulcimers sure look sweet.  I'm sure your new dulcimer will serve you well and provide you with many hours of joy.  

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
03/15/19 04:28:06PM
84 posts

Playing dulcimers with different VSL


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

The answer is dependent upon the size of your fingers and hands.  In general, larger hands are more comfortable with a longer VSL and smaller hands are more comfortable with a  shorter VSL.  However, the space between strings can also be a factor.  If your fingers are long or fat/stubby, a longer VSL and a wider fingerboard and string spacing is more comfortable.  If your fingers are short or thin, the width of the fingerboard is less of a factor but you might find a shorter VSL more comfortable.

For the most part, assuming your hands and fingers are a good fit, switching back and forth with dulcimers having a difference in VSL does not usually cause a problem.  The left hand can usually adjust to the minor differences fairly easily.

 

 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
03/02/19 07:16:02PM
84 posts

Playing again after losing all my dulcimers


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I'm glad to hear your dulcimers have been replaced.  That Koa MMD certainly cries out to be picked up and played.  Knowing the well-earned reputation of David McKinney's work, I'm sure it sounds as good as it looks.  So glad to have you back and participating on FOTMD's discussion forum.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
02/19/19 01:42:15PM
84 posts

Five strings?


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

Obviously, all dulcimers do not need to have five strings.  Five strings are not unusual, but dulcimers typically had three strings in the latter half of the 19th century as evidenced by the surviving dulcimers of James Edward "Uncle Ed" Thomas, Charles Napoleon Prichard, and others.  At some point, a four string (double melody) set-up became the standard.  Individual dulcimer makers have experimented with the design of the dulcimer and other variations of the dulcimer (Scheitholt, Epinette des Vosges, Langspil, Langeleik, Hummel, Hungarian Citera, Pennsylvania Dutch Zitters, etc.) exist with more or less than today's standard of three or four strings.  The luthier that stated all dulcimers must have five strings is only stating his personal preferences.  Plenty of evidence exists to prove that dulcimers can and do come with a varying number of strings.  The dulcimer is a folk instrument.  The number of strings is entirely up to each individual to decide for himself or herself.

There are some dulcimer makers whose standard models feature five strings.  I can think of a few.  But there is no standard in which the number of strings defines what is and what is not a dulcimer.  If someone wants a five string dulcimer, by all means purchase one.

By the way I also have a Blue Lion AJ baritone dulcimer.  I ordered it with just three tuners and three strings and Bob and Juanita Baker were very accommodating.  Their dulcimers are in high demand these days, and anyone ordering a Blue Lion can expect a considerable wait.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
02/15/19 06:01:39PM
84 posts

Your Three Favorite Songs


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

I'll stick to my three favorite old ballads, all of which sound great either fingerdance-drone or noter-drone style:

Lord Lovel (Frank Proffitt Version)

Barbara Allen (Sheila Kay Adams Version)

Pretty Saro (Gillian Welch Version)

 

Or maybe my three favorite hymns:

Amazing Grace

Farther Along

Long Time Traveling

 

Or should I stick with my three favorite folk-rock songs, none of which I play on the mountain dulcimer:

Eve of Destruction (Barry McGuire)

Suite Judy Blue Eyes (Stephen Stills)

After the Gold Rush (Neil Young)

 

Or maybe my three favorite uilleann pipe tunes:

Lark in the Morning (Seamus Ennis)

The Gold Ring (Liam O'Flynn)

The Kesh Jig (Paddy Keenan)

 

I'm sorry I couldn't help myself, but the first three songs listed are my favorites on the mountain dulcimer.

 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
02/12/19 05:28:47PM
84 posts

Buying in Europe


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

If you have relatively large hands, you will want to know the width of the fretboard and the Length from Nut to Bridge (Vibrating String Length).

Width of Fretboard - Both McSpadden and Folkcraft use a fretboard 1 3/8 inches wide, so the space between strings would be similar for both. 

Length from Nut to Bridge - McSpadden has a standard VSL (Vibrating String Length) of 28 1/2 inches.  Folkcraft offers several different VSL, ranging from 25 inches on up, so you can select one with a longer VSL to suit your needs.  

If you have large hands you would probably be better off with a somewhat longer VSL.  Longer dulcimers have the frets spaced a little farther apart, so they are more suited to large hands or long fingers.  

McSpadden offers a shorter model called the "Ginger" model, which has a VSL of 25 inches, I believe.  These are meant for people with small hands, so probably not what you are looking for.

 

 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
02/10/19 03:34:25AM
84 posts

Tiny brass dulcimer.


OFF TOPIC discussions

Could it be a Christmas Tree Ornament?   

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
02/10/19 03:26:14AM
84 posts

Blackbird


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

Here's a link to Butch's available CDs and Tab Books.  "Beatletudes" is located about 3/4 of the way down the page.   The book is available in both ukelele tabs and dulcimer tabs, so if you plan to order a copy make sure you read the description and order the correct edition.  The cost is listed as $20.00.

http://www.butchross.com/stuff.html


updated by @greg-gunner: 02/10/19 03:26:37AM
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
02/09/19 06:40:13PM
84 posts

Synthetic fretboard


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

Lisa, isn't there a place a less expensive dulcimer can be stored at work.  Then you wouldn't have to go home to get it.  You could carry it from work to the park and back on those days when the weather allows you to sit and enjoy both the dulcimer and the atmosphere of the park.  You might even end up with other dulcimer players joining you for lunch and a few tunes over the lunch hour.  There's no need to store it in your hot/cold car if you have a sympathetic boss and a safe place to store it at work.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
02/06/19 09:46:10AM
84 posts

Playing dulcimer with a ukelele


Playing and jamming difficulties...HELP ME!

Without relearning everything in a new key, you (and your husband) have two options: He can raise his tuning one whole step or you can lower your tuning one whole step, .  I'm not familiar with how easily a ukulele can be raised a whole step without breaking strings, but it is relatively easy to retune your dulcimer to C-G-c as you suggested.

However, the obvious solution (since your husband has two ukuleles) is to leave one in the standard ukelele tuning to which he is accustomed and tune the other one up a whole step to make it easier to switch back and forth as needed.  That way he can play the same chord shapes and melody note positions on both. 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
02/05/19 04:54:18PM
84 posts

Luthiers - Cedar Creek?


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

Dulcimer reputations spread pretty much by word-of-mouth.  Over time, some builders have built up a reputation for quality and consistency.  I don't have any personal experience with Cedar Creek Dulcimers, so I can't comment positively or negatively regarding the quality of their dulcimers.  However, as more and more dulcimer players recommend a builder, their reputation will grow.

The major builders have earned respect for the quality of their work.  They have thousands of examples floating around and many satisfied customers.  I can personally attest to the superior quality of some of the major builders. Of course, there are new builders popping up all the time.  Some of their work rivals that of the major dulcimer builders.  The key characteristics are "quality of workmanship" and "consistency of the finished product".  

Since I have no personal experience with Cedar Creek Dulcimers, I will leave it you and to other owners of Cedar Creek Dulcimers to describe the quality of their work.  You appear to be very happy with your Cedar Creek Dulcimers.  Others will read your comments and perhaps try a Cedar Creek model for themselves.

One of the easiest ways to determine how highly regarded a particular brand of dulcimer might be is to check out what one sells for on the used instrument market.  Quality instruments tend to maintain their value.  Follow the dulcimer offerings on E-Bay and you will soon learn what the dulcimer community thinks of a particular brand.

 

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
01/26/19 02:31:11PM
84 posts

Jam chord progressions


Playing and jamming difficulties...HELP ME!

The 1 1/2 fret does not effect your ability to play chords, just ignore it when figuring out where to place the fretting fingers of your left hand.  The 1 1/2 fret may increase the number of chords available to you, but it won't change the fretting positions of those chords already known.

Just be sure to think of that fret as the 1 1/2 fret, and don't be tempted to rename it the 2nd fret.  You already have a 1st and a 2nd fret, so the one in between fret 1 and fret 2 is logically called the 1 1/2 fret.  

If you take Dusty's great suggestion to use a chord chart, the fret numbers (including the 1 1/2 fret when needed) are clearly indicated on the chord charts.

If you decide to use a capo, it will raise the key and change the name of the chord shapes accordingly, but the actual chord shape formed by your left hand remains the same.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
01/18/19 09:46:27AM
84 posts

What's your favorite mournful, spooky, or lonesome song to play?


General mountain dulcimer or music discussions

The old ballads, despite being called "Love Songs", are rich with wonderful mournful melodies.  Although the old ballads are normally sung unaccompanied, one of my favorites on the mountain dulcimer is "Black Is the Color" in the Aeolian Mode with the dulcimer tuned D-A-C.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
01/09/19 04:34:10PM
84 posts

Do you have a pre 1989 FolkRoots or CapriTaurus dulcimer (made by Howard Rugg)?


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

Actually, my very first dulcimer was a Folkroots dulcimer.  I played it for several years.  In the early 2000s I started a dulcimer club where I taught, and I passed the Folkroots dulcimer on to a student that had joined the club.  I think she probably still owns it.  

Patricia's link didn't work, probably because it was inadvertently joined to a line of text in her post.  Howard Rugg's website is here: 

http://capritaurusdulcimers.com/


updated by @greg-gunner: 01/09/19 04:37:17PM
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
12/24/18 11:27:33PM
84 posts

Happy Christmas To All


OFF TOPIC discussions

Let me join Ken H. in wishing everyone a Merry Christmas from  cold, but snowless southeast Michigan.

Banjimer
@greg-gunner
12/24/18 12:03:02PM
84 posts

McSpadden's Luthiers


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

Does anyone have a list of luthiers that have worked for McSpadden Dulcimers?  Of course, there is Lynn McSpadden, his brother, Larry McSpadden, and George Looney.  But who are the others?  Feel free to add to the list if you know the names of the others.

I've got a McSpadden made by a _________ Lang in 2016, but I can't make out his or her first name on the interior label.  Can anyone help me identify the McSpadden luthier who made this instrument?


updated by @greg-gunner: 12/24/18 12:19:36PM
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