Adventures with 'other' instruments...
Very useful if you sing in a lower key. My long neck banjos are baritone. 30" scale dulcimers make great baritones. .. Robert
Dusty, I tried Sally on my 1.5 8.5 fret model thinking the minor notes in dad tuning would be a breeze. No such luck. I switched to my pure diatonic model tuned cAD and it played well. I tried dAA with a capo and as you said it was wanting for an 8.5 fret...Robert.
Sally in the Garden, I wanted a tune to add to my list of tunes for playing on banjo in double C tuning. I've been playing Sally for the last week. It is a minor mode tune that plays nicely in clawhammer style.
Ok so next was playing on dulcimer. At first I didn't think It could be played noter style but in aeolian mode it worked well, only have to jump to the A string for an open A and first fret B.... Robert.
Online company called Just Strings sells every kind of string for every kind of string instrument. Including individual strings ball or loop end...Robert
First I'm thankful to have a porch to pick on, although it needs a coat of paint. The day was cool and cloudy with a nice breeze.
Lately I've been playing my Galix dulcimer that I neglected for a couple of years. If you never played a Galix, you don't know what your missing.
I played the quintessential Galax tune Fly Around My Pretty Miss. Tater patch, Groundhog, and a favorite of mine although a bit unconventional for Galax style St Anne's reel.
I was hoping it would rain so I could play a little longer but it didn't so I had to get back to work picking sweetcorn instead of my dulcimer. I hope everyone had a nice day. If not we'll then play your dulcimer and things will get better...Robert
Back in 1971 I had a cheap what some call a bottle cap banjo. A good Vega banjo was around $300. I could not afford one. Then 30 years later they were in the one to three thousand dollar range. I thought I could build a shop and build my own for less. I did!. I've got long necks, short scale, normal scale, fretless, semi fretless, six string. 10" , 11" , 12" pots , block rims, plywood rims, brass tone rings, wood tone rings. I had to restrain myself from building more and focus on dulcimers. All together they cost me about the same as one high quality open back banjo....Robert
I build dulcimers in a humid coastal climate and I do worry about shipping a dulcimer to very dry climates. So far I've had no complaints. I always use aged dry wood to start with and that helps.
All instruments need a time to acclimate to there new home.
I would be more concerned if the dulcimer has wood pegs. Wood pegs are like barometers when the climate dries I know because I'll hear strings popping in the night!.
Back in the sixties during the guitar boom, made in Japan imported instruments came with a thick plastic like finish to survive the ocean crossing. Which is why they sounded so bad.
Today imports are shipped climate controlled.
I would say start with good aged wood and a good thin oil finish and cut your fret slots with a saw intended for fret tang dimensions and you'll be ok... Robert
Could you post some pictures.
A Fingerboard can easily account for 25% of the soundboard. So raising it has to make a difference. You only need to raise it a couple millimeters. I prefer to hollow out under the Fingerboard and leave 4 mm. on each side glued to the top. I add a soundhole on the fingerboard like I've seen on some Galax dulcimers, that might help tone a bit and looks cool too.
I think restraining the top with a glued fingerboard can actually help in making that very intimate tone that is unique to dulcimers. Although I welcome those who push the envelope we better be careful not to end up with dulcimers that sound like skinny guitars....Robert
I highly recommend Johnnys Selected Seeds in Winslow ME. They have the largest selection of seed for sprouts and micro greens. All are organic and definitely not treated with fungicides. Check them out.... Robert
Nice sprouts! I making dinner and would love a bunch of them NOW.
Just picked the last of my romaine lettuce from the field. I had them on raised beds covered with black plastic mulch so frost never got them. Cold weather really brings out the flavor... Robert
My Jeffreys dulcimer is 49 years old today!. Number 1865. I still remember the excitement I had the day it arrived. Still in perfect condition. It became the model I use to make my own instruments. I never seen a dulcimer in real life before but it started me on a great journey into traditional old time music... Robert
Sight down the Fingerboard it may be warped. Try putting a very thin shim under the bass side of the bridge. A shim should be no thicker than a guitar pick. That might solve the problem. You might just have a fret that's too high in some spot. Check to see if all frets are set properly. A gentle tap with a hammer might fix that. Perhaps the frets were not leveled properly by the builder. Dulcimers are not rock guitars, raising the action with a taller bridge is fine, and the tone and volume will definitely sound better.... Robert
Here in South Jersey we've been continually blasted with rain and humidity since June. My and my neighbors vegetable farms are looking poorly. But I still have plenty of food for myself and family. Lately I have been going stir crazy, stir fry crazy that is ☺.
I took 12 dulcimers that I built exactly alike. Only difference was the mixture of woods. Each one had its own distinct tone. As it should be. But all sounded good. Every piece of wood even from the same stock will have different densities and different vibration characteristics. larger or deeper body's don't necessarily sound better or louder. Nice thing about guitars is that you can go to any music store and compare, unfortunately that doesn't work for dulcimers. Buy from a reputable builder and stay away from the very low priced imports... Robert.
I built a HD in 2006. I keep it in my dining room and play it rarely. But I love the sound. If your right handed, learning the left hand isn't too hard. I found by only using the left hand gave me a degree of coordination. Still it comes down to practice. Changing to lighter hammers helps as does adding felt edges to soften the tone. One thing I would do if I built another is color the soundboard dark with walnut stain. It makes seeing the strings easier... Robert
I add a strum hollow on all the dulcimers I build. I assume my customers expect it. And it looks cool. But do you need one? I would say no. Personally I never play over the hollow. Usually it's over the twelfth to sixteenth fret area. But I can see it's usefulness with finger picking. Metal finger picks especially.... Robert.
I plant five acres of vegetables by myself for my roadside market so I get plenty of exercise. Around here in zone 7b there are hundreds of vegetable farms planting already. But for exercise, I would rather be riding my bike. Especially since traffic is alot less now. Only about 350 cases in my county so being out in the fresh air is quite liberating. I pray everyone gets through this... Robert.
There's a pot of tomato-based bean soup cooking on the stove now for lunch. It is a sunny and warm-ish day here in our neck of the woods. So, maybe lunch out on the front porch. :)
I've got a pot of chicken soup on the stove. Trying to do farm chores with a pot cooking on the stove is a bit of a challenge. You know, being two places at once. Not a bad day for some porch picking too.... Robert
Thanks Robin for such a lovely video. I use a hammer from my hammered dulcimer. HD hammers have just the right balance, making it easier to pick out individual notes, and create that distinctive bouncy sound... Robert
Anybody who has played a dulcimer knows how much better they sound when the back is unrestrained. Possum boards really help but mostly they allow an easy way to free up the back plate to vibrate freely.Any hardwood will help reflect sound a little bit not very much. I did an experiment playing with my birch possum board then covering board with sheet brass. Followed that by covering board with a cotton kitchen dish towel. There was barely any difference in volume. Just raising back of dulcimer any way you can is all you need.
Somewhere I saw someone who mounted a dulcimer on an acoustic table that acted as a resonator. I have to build one someday... Robert.
This Saturday was the first pleasant Saturday all summer to play on my porch, so I got a head start. Only had a hour to spare but it was time well spent!. Cherokee shuffle, Over the waterfall, Seneca square dance, Boatman, Girl I left behind, Big Sioty, Saint Ann's reel. And some basic noodling, I love noodling...
I find if I ride often I can quickly build myself up to longer distances each time. Land here is flat so its easier for me... Robert.
And i am taking the chance to find the way between those extremes.
I remember how it was with 178 kg, just leaving the house made me be exhausted and completely out of air. I hade to wait before i was able to put on the safetybelts in the car. My heart did feel like it want to burst, i think i was close to get a heart attack or a stroke. I was so unfitt, taking a shower was nearly unpossible or just putting on socks was a terrible task and i had to take a breake between the socks.
Now i walk without pain and my lungs and heart feel ok.
And riding the bike will make me even fitter. And loosing more weight will make it much better. And i am looking forward, that feels good.
I could think about that i was down to 112 kg already and did gain weight up to 150 again, that was not good but thats past and soon i will be under 112 kg ;-)
I suffered from chronic knee pain for 30 years. Got a bicycle 15 years ago, a hybrid type not one of those road bikes. Riding solved my knee pain, never suffered again! No pills no elastic braces. I wish everyone would ride and play music, it would really make us all healthier...
@Robert-Shuler I hope you're moving today! Are they pumpkins good for pies? :) Pumpkin pie is my favorite.
A lot of pumpkin pies for sure!. I promised to give myself a day off and recoup, maybe learn a new old fiddle tune. But I'm only 65, still a kid yet. I recoup fast... Robert
Just transplanted 2 acres of pumpkin plants by hand. Countless deep knee bends lots of fresh air and sunshine. I'll be lucky if I'll be able to move tomorrow!... Robert.
Well I know most folks here live in garden zones that ahead of me here in new york.
But yesterday I was able to pick enough lettuce leaves for us to have a nice salad for dinner. I also put on a generous handful of fresh alfalfa sprouts that I grow in jars in our kitchen all winter. Then added grated carrot and zucchini, sliced radishes, and a few little sardines on the side (yeah I know some of you would hate that, but hey it's healthy and we like it!) We think of canned whole sardines as our own cheap version of English kippers or Norwegian or Danish herring side dishes.
Anyway, it was a good fresh salad!
I love sardines, I'm picking asparagus, sells so fast never have any for myself. The frozen food company down road is cutting spinach, fresh pea harvesting starts soon. Looking forward to enjoying garden fresh food again.
As @Robert-Schuler explains, it is easier to finger certain chords on smaller dulcimers, which is why my main dulcimer now has a 25" VSL. But there is also a trade-off, as shorter strings in general have less sustain.
Less sustain is not necessarily true. My 26" vsl models tunes to dadd pitch two inches sooner than a 28" vsl so there is less tension on the strings allowing for sustain. There is a lot less chance for string breakage as well. ..Robert
Don, I often desire a chromatic. Problem is mine have broken reeds. I have sent them to Hohner for repair which gets a bit expensive. I always think of "someday" learning to repair reeds myself, but someday never seems to come.
This is a great time to get into harmonica since new companies are offering instruments with different tuning options, even custom tuning to order. Sometimes I think Hohner is stuck in the past and is reluctant to innovate... Robert
I use 1/8" . I tried. 3/16 on my first dulcimers but didn't sound as good. I would love to try 1/16 but then you get into bracing, which might restrain sustain. I think thinner wood would be better if only it were stable... Robert.
What kind of pegs do you have?. Are they wood violin or metal type with screw in the end. The metal type can be replaced with new ones for under $30. Robert