General mountain dulcimer or music discussions
That is awesome! Sure wish I could have done that as a kid. A great way to get them excited about woodworking, music, art, etc. Thanks for sharing, Ken.
My stake make a lot of noise while I play. Are these straps quiet?
If you look at Dusty's response, he suggested that maybe the noise is coming from the movement of the strap end against the dulcimer. I just looked at the Legacy Strap end tabs where they connect to the strap buttons. On the Legacy Straps, they have a soft layer (felt-like) on the inside of the tab. I think this might solve any noise issue, if that's where the noise is coming from, for you. Here are a couple pictures that might help.
My stake make a lot of noise while I play. Are these straps quiet?
I don't notice any noise from these straps, but then again, I've never noticed a noise from any of my straps. Once I get situated to play, my dulcimer doesn't move much. I think it comes down to technique. Being these straps are 1" wide vs 2", I'm guessing a narrower strap might help, if you get noise when you play.
I had one of his dulcimers for a while. Nicely made, great intonation, beautiful tone. You have a gem, enjoy!
I wanted to replace my 2” guitars straps on my dulcimers, since I find them to be big, bulky, and overkill (just my experience….not trying to discourage the use of them for anyone else.) I searched and found Legacy Straps (www.legacystraps.com). They have a category called “Mandolin and Ukulele Straps”, which offer ¾” and 1” wide straps. I thought the 1” wide straps were exactly what I was looking for.
I inquired as to the maximum length of these straps (turns out….about 50”). That was at the max of what I wanted/needed, so I got in contact with the owner. He was very responsive and said that length was no problem. He said he could make the straps up to 54” instead, to be sure I had sufficient length.
I’ve been conservative my whole life and was thinking about going with solid color straps. My husband told me to “liven up my life” and pick straps with designs instead….I’m glad I did. I picked out 6 designs that I liked, enough for each dulcimer, plus one for my guilele. I got tab ends on each end, as all 6 of my instruments have 2 strap buttons.
I just received them and wanted to report that they are nicely made! The tab ends are on the stiff side, but the holes that he cuts out for the strap buttons work well, allowing them to fit nicely on standard strap buttons. I will have to enlarge the hole for my dulcimer that has a pick-up, because it has a larger diameter button. They easily adjust for length and feel nice while playing. The prices were very reasonable and the owner’s communication, customizable sizes, and prompt shipping was awesome.
I’m really happy with them. If you are looking for a narrower strap for your dulcimers (or any other instrument), take a look.
I’ve put pictures out here so you can see how they look (the ends, etc.).
I've never relied on the string gauge calculators. When I've tried them, they have always seemed to be too light for me. I've always started with what the maker of my instrument recommends, in the tuning that I use, then go from there. After playing for awhile, I determine if a change is necessary, based on how the strings sound in relation to each other and how they feel on the instrument (where VSL matters). I just recently adjusted just the 1st and 2nd string gauges a little heavier on one of my dulcimers, which made a improved change in the sound. The other thing that makes a difference for me is the makeup of the string. What might sound fine on one instrument, sounds awful on another. Strings are cheap and experimenting is all part of the process.
Well, my experiment on body shape affecting sound went awry do to me forgetting one important variable. However, I did end up with a couple decent dulcimers. Both made from the same poplar board. Ebony was used for the overlay on the fretboard. Other than shape, all components and dimensions are identical.
Those are beautiful!
Thank you Strumelia, a great reminder and a wonderful message. I value this forum (and the guitar forum where I moderate), because they are safe places to talk about our love for music and instruments. At each place, the members are kind and supportive. We are lucky when we can be a part of groups like these, especially during these stressful times. Hugs back to you and to all the members.
Like Dusty said, the Ewing capos are a good value.
Terry McCafferty now makes some really nice capos for a little more. I have since purchased 2 of his. Nice mechanism, perfect pressure.....my new favorite dulcimer capo.
My guess is that they will play the role of entry-level dulcimers as people's first instruments, so there will always be a small market for them, much like the Folkcraft cardboard dulcimers. And like some of the student-model dulcimers that some luthiers make, some people may prefer them to fancier instruments.
Yes. It will likely do well as a travel/back-pack type instrument too. People have an easier time taking a lesser priced instrument like that. So I think it will do well to some degree and since it really has its own niche, i think it will stick around and not just be a fad. But, what do I know.
Looks good. I don't think there has been a production trapezoid-shape ever, except for the cardboard dulcimers; they've always been one-offs by individual builders. Looks good and sounds good, and it's a decent price point.
And here she is...arrived yesterday afternoon. Just beautiful!
At $265 it's not a version of a $75 cardboard dulcimer! Call it an Entry Level instrument. Good to see though that they're being more frugal -- using not necessarily uber-attractive pieces of wood for their own builds.
I know it's not a version of a $75 cardboard dulcimer! THEY were explaining in the video how it came about. They wanted to create something like a cardboard dulcimer. But through the process, they decided they wanted to take it a step further and have the quality of a solid wood instrument. They even admit that they never accomplished the task of creating a cardboard dulcimer. The video gives the whole story and they call it like it is. (The link works for me, because I have a FB account. I'm not sure it it works for everyone.)
McSpadden will be releasing their new Flatwater dulcimers this friday (Black Friday). It is their version of the "cardboard" dulcimer, though it is of better quality, made of solid woods. It will have a 26" vsl and will have 3 strings. This is their way of creating a simpler, less-expensive dulcimer using woods that they wouldn't otherwise be able to use on their standard dulcimers, because the pieces of wood wouldn't be big enough. It will start at $265, which includes a case. They will be choosing the woods out of their supply and will use the woods that sound good and look good. They announced it on Facebook today. I have no affiliation with McSpadden, but just thought I'd pass this along to the group.
I agree with Dusty.
When I said I have different keys covered, it's because I have standard dulcimers that I mostly tune to D; a baritone that I mostly tune to A; and a Ginger (small dulcimer) that I mostly tune to G. Of course, any of them can be retuned as needed. So I like having several different types of dulcimers (voices). Also, the McSpaddens are the traditional, less-deep style; 2 have galax backs and are deeper bodied; and one is in-between (and also has a pickup installed for small gigs). So like Dusty, what and where I'm playing often dictates which dulcimer I play. Two dulcimers usually accompany me to festivals.
Irene, the NAF journey can be a lot of fun. Congrats on your new HS flute. I had a low E for awhile, but it was one of 3 flutes I recently sold. They sound so haunting.
Ken, I hope my idea of the case helps you out. I first did one for my tin whistle, years ago.
Re the case, I don't store any of my flutes in their cases...it will only be used when I go to festivals or travel in the motor home. My NAF's remain out on stands so they can benefit from the humidifier I have in my music room. Storing it in that plastic case wouldn't be a good idea.
Thank you, it was fun. I used a piece of 1 1/4" PVC that my husband had left over (the flute fits perfectly in it). I cut it to the correct length with a chop saw (which gave it a nice clean, square cut). Then I got the two ends from Home Depot. I put an 1/8" thick felt stick-on pad in the fixed end, so the flute would have padding there. Then I glued on the two ends with PVC glue. In the end with the screw cap, I rolled up some foam, and tucked it on the inside of the cap and wrapped it tightly with electrical tape. That provides the cushion for the flute on that end and takes up the excess space that that end has (because of the way those PVC ends work). The printing on the PVC was the harder part. To remove it, I tried Acetone (nail polish remover) as suggested on YouTube. It lightened it, but didn't remove it. So, my husband said PVC glue would remove it. So, we smeared PVC glue on the printing, then removed it quickly with a paper towel. Wa-la, it worked. It takes off some of the sheen, but I redid the glue thing on the whole tube to make it consistent. I added some music stickers I had from a previous project.
Susie I'm curious- the white circle right on the end of the scorpion's tail- is that a hole used for playing?
Very nicely done PVC case!
No, that is an inlay....it is a 6mm Kyocera Opal cabochon. Nice catch!
Re the case, thank you!
Since I recently downsized my NAF collection by 3, I thought I could justify (and try out) one of High Spirits new Spirit Flutes. This is from their Astrology line (mine is Scorpio) Their Spirit Flutes are not double chambered flutes, so they take a little less effort in blowing. This is in the key of A (it is 14" long and is made of Spanish Cedar). I love the fact that I have a flute without a fetish now, so it will be of less concern when traveling. In fact, I made a "hard case" for it out of PVC (that was fun to do). These don't have quite the volume that a standard NAF has, but the tone is quite nice. It plays just like a double chambered NAF.
I'm guilty too. But hey, it keeps our passion fun and exciting. I've also changed dulcimers when my interests have changed. I've met some wonderful people through the sale of outgoing dulcimers. I have to admit though, I'm pretty happy with what I have right now. With my group, I have different keys covered, but also acoustic amplification and travel. Since my first (and longest) passion is fingerstyle guitar, I have a whole other "problem" (GAS). I have 5 dulcimers and 7 guitars.
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?) :)
That's great news! I know the excitement (many folks here do). We share in your excitement and look forward to hearing about and seeing your new McSpadden. You're going to love it!
I finally had a successful transesophageal echocardiogram yesterday. Next step is cathertrization and then on to open heart surgery. Moving along.
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
Ken, wishing you the very best and a quick recovery. Take care.
That's how they hang on String Swings. Maybe a better location would do the trick.
I am relatively new to dulcimer playing and a newbie to the forum, and was hoping for some help. I would like to hang/store my dulcimer on the wall next to my guitar. Since I've done this with my guitar I've noticed I'm playing more and hope that will happen with my dulcimer!
I ordered a hanger from String Swing and it doesn't work with a flat head (I think it's for a scroll type). When I called to do an exchange, they couldn't tell me which one would work.
So, as I'd like the hangers to match, do you know which String Swing hanger would work for a flat head dulcimer? I don't want to go the picture hanger/string route. Many thanks in advance.
I have a String Swing for a regular acoustic guitar. I just tried my McSpadden with a flat head on it, and it worked fine. My McSpadden is the 26"VSL, so the flat head is shaped slightly different than the standard McSpadden flat head, but I don't think that should matter (but then again, I could be wrong). I did notice that you have to start with the dulcimer vertical, point the head toward the wall, get it between the two arms, then let the dulcimer down toward the wall. It would not work to twist the dulcimer back and forth, while keeping the dulcimer in a completely vertical position. I tried to show this in the first picture. Hope this helps.
Lisa, it sounds like you are giving this a lot of thought, having gotten feedback from several people here (and probably elsewhere). That is good. You know what your variables are, and are considering those for YOU, considering how/what you play. I feel you'll make a great choice, no matter which way you go. Enjoy the journey. It's fun, isn't it?!
In my case, yes, the action (set-up) is the same on the McSpadden and the Folkcraft.
Fretboard width is 1 3/8" on both the McSpadden and the Folkcraft. Not sure if you can special order the 1 1/2" fretboard with either company. I didn't pursue that, because I prefer the standard 1 3/8". VSL is something you'll have to choose. With McSpadden, their standard is 28 1/2", but you can also get the 26", which is what I got. As a chord/melody player, I love the shorter VSL. With Folkcraft, you can get a VSL from 25" to 29". I have their 27" VSL.
I agree with the flathead, all of mine are flatheads. But, some people like the scroll look. It's a personal thing.
Yes, the McSpadden is not as deep, yet it is still right up there with the deep bodied Folkcraft for sustain. Volume is pretty close. I believe McSpadden has a great design that gives such great sound and sustain. If you go Folkcraft, I'd definitely do the deeper body. I also got the galax back. Their shallower body is more of the traditional design.
Both my McSpaddens have the Micarta fretboard. I love it as a great alternative to Ebony. I like the looks, fretboard markers, and feel when playing. It is very durable. I would not get a McSpadden without either the Micarta or Ebony. But that's just a personal preference.
As a suggestion, call each company and talk to them. They are both great to work with. Richard Ash is very helpful (Folkcraft). I have talked to him on several occasions, when trying to decide on features.
Hope this helps.
I currently own 1 standard size McSpadden and 1 standard size Folkcraft. I say standard, because my Ginger (McSpadden) and my Baritone (Folkcraft) are "specialty" type dulcimers, that you aren't considering. I've also owned a previous standard McSpadden and a previous standard Folkcraft. So, I have much experience with both brands.
Please note that my Folkcrafts have always been the deeper bodied models (D and Custom).
Where they are similar:
Playability and setup (ease of playing)
Sound (in terms of sustain and volume)
Where they differ:
Size (the McSpadden has less depth and is physically smaller)
Choices (there are far more choices at Folkcraft for designing your own)
Price (the Folkcraft will cost you a little more, or considerably more, depending on the Folkcraft model)
You won't be disappointed with either. Neither is better than the other. What you have to decide is what is important to you. If you are going economical, I'd suggest considering McSpadden. If you want to give yourself more choices in terms of woods, VSL, etc., I'd consider Folkcraft. If you really want to treat yourself, I'd consider a Custom Folkcraft.
I love my 2 McSpaddens and I love my 2 Folkcrafts. They all have their purpose and it's fun switching between them. If you want to see pictures, they are all in my photos on my profile.
We discussed this a little bit over on the ED Facebook page (I'm the one that posted the picture of the cherry Ginger with a Micarta fretboard). One thing I wanted to add was that Micarta is not new for use on fretboards. It has been used on guitars for years (Martin, for example). I love it as an alternative to ebony, for playability, and it is much more economical. The other reason I like the McSpadden Micarta fretboard is the inclusion of fret markers (ebony fretboards too). I just like having them. I think it's because being a guitar player for 47 years, my eyes are used to seeing them. I know it's strictly personal as to what you like from a visual standpoint, but I love the contrast that a fretboard overlay gives a dulcimer, just like Dusty.
I just realized, I didn't do a good job talking you out of micarta.