McSpadden Dulcimer with 1+ and 8+ Frets

Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
one week ago
15 posts

Just heard from traildad.  He's found a dulcimer locally, so just to confirm, mine is still for sale. 

Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
2 weeks ago
15 posts

No, I haven't sold it.  Traildad said he may be interested at a later date, but I still have it and it's still for sale.

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
2 weeks ago
7 posts

Did you sell this dulcimer?

Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
3 weeks ago
15 posts

Got it.  I've since read your other posts about searching for a first dulcimer.  

traildad
@traildad
3 weeks ago
21 posts
I don't have a dulcimer. I hope to find one that will not be too expensive as a beginner instrument. At the same time with enough quality that I will enjoy the sound it makes in case it is the only one I buy.
Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
3 weeks ago
15 posts

Traildad, do you presently have a dulcimer?  I'm wondering if you wouldn't do well with a student dulcimer from David Lynch at Sweet Woods Instruments (or similar; I have no financial interest with him but I'm aware of his dulcimers and reputation).  They're a great value, play well, and would be easy to sell if/when you want to expand your dulcimer horizons.  

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
1,769 posts

Yes from the pictures it has all four of those extra frets.  (The one you'd be using the most often is likely the 6.5 fret.)  The 13.5 fret is simply the 6.5 fret but one octave higher.. so if you have the lower one it makes sense to have the higher one too, in case you want to play parts of the melody an octave higher for variation.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
traildad
@traildad
3 weeks ago
21 posts
I assumed a standard dulcimer didn't have any extra frets. The topic title had me thinking the dulcimer had the 1 1/2 and the 8 1/2 but not the 6 1/2 or the 13 1/2. Was I wrong? Does it have all 4 extra frets?
Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
4 weeks ago
15 posts

Okay, since Dusty Turtle pointed out the advantages of posting less than perfect playing, here's A Job of Journey Work arranged by Phyllis Gaskins.  This is the first time to play dulcimer in a couple of years, so I won't bother with more excuses.  

What I notice when playing noter/drone style with the extra frets is mostly a matter of getting used to them visually.  The noter passes right over them, even for slides.  But coming from a dulcimer with at most the 6+ and 13+ frets, it can be a little confusing when trying to land on something like the 9th fret.  It's just a matter of practice to get used to it visually, at least for me.  Something else I noticed with the 1+ fret was how sloppy I'd been in fretting at the second fret.  Rather than getting up close the fret, I was often somewhere in the middle of 1 and 2, which made it really easy to hit the 1+.  All this is relative to transitioning to the additional frets and probably wouldn't even be noticed if starting out with them. 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,738 posts

@traildad said "i wonder what what was the original reason for excluding some frets. Was it a cost savings for frugal people making their own instrument or did they see a musical benefit to leaving them off?"

Not cost -- musical benefit.  Originally dulcimers (and other instruments) were made with a simple Diatonic fret arrangement because folk music was not particularly musically complicated compared to orchestral music.  This means the dulcimer was set up to play just the 8 notes of octaves in order -- just the white notes of the piano.  Then along came Chromatic fretting, like a guitar, with many additional notes between the original diatonic notes.  Any frets which are not part of the original diatonic arrangement, we call "plus frets or "+ frets".  

If you look at the arrangement of frets on a diatonic dulcimer and a chromatic guitar, you'll see that compared to the guitar, the dulcimer appears to be "missing" frets -- there are wide spaces between some frets which are not there on a chromatic arrangement.  Plus frets are frets with are added in the middle of some of those wide spaces.  Between the 6th and 7th frets is the 6+, between 8 and 9 is the 8+, between the 1 and 2 is the 1+

Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
4 weeks ago
15 posts

Oh, no problem!  I've recorded a tune and a couple of scales that I'll post tomorrow.  We want to find the right dulcimer for traildad, whether it's this one or another.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,769 posts

traildad:

I want to apologize to Parker for threadjacking this topic. 



I was just thinking that too. I'm more guilty than anyone.  ;)


Perhaps if we want to continue discussing the pros and cons of extra frets (or other stuff not related to the sale of Parker's McSpadden), we should start a new thread in the General Forum.  thumbsup




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts

I want to apologize to Parker for threadjacking this topic. 

traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts

Strumelia:

Ken i think it all depends on what tunes you tend to play. Anyone who plays a lot of modern music, or blues, would certainly find a few extra frets handy. When I was playing many obscure traditional fiddle tunes in oldtime jam settings, I used my frets a whole lot. Maybe if i were playing the tunes you play, I would find them totally unneeded. Also, I tend to enjoy throwing a few quirky notes in to spice things up, as in the video.

Most dulcimers made today have the extra 6.5 fret- it can be quite useful, especially in DAd tuning.  And there are now more folks ordering or adding 8.5 and 1.5 frets than there used to be, mostly because of playing modern pop music. On the other hand, there are also more people nowadays ordering dulcimers with NO extra frets, because there is lots to like about that too.
However, i wanted to point out how even some people who play only traditional music in noter style (like me) can find those extra frets to be invaluable.

i wonder what what was the original reason for excluding some frets. Was it a cost savings for frugal people making their own instrument or did they see a musical benefit to leaving them off? 

traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts

Dusty Turtle:

For a demonstration of a dulcimer's intonation and tone, I don't think you need a great player.  In fact, a great player can make a crappy instrument sound good.  For a demo, the instrument should be in tune, but then you can just strum it a few times and play the notes going up a scale to demonstrate the intonation.

Then again, McSpadden dulcimers are very consistent in their tone and intonation.  I often advise people out here on the west coast where you can almost never play a dulcimer before buying it that McSpadden and Folkcraft instruments are safe bets.  And perhaps best of all, McSpadden dulcimers maintain their value well over time.  

The asking price here is very fair.

P.S. Bing Futch plays a dulcimer with the 1+ and 8+ frets, so whatever negatives he might mentioned, obviously he feels the advantages outweigh them.

i agree with you. I’ve watched a couple dulcimer tone demonstrations and it was just a few notes. 

traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts

Ken Hulme:

@traildad said "I would love to learn to fingerpick and chord but I expect noter drone might be the limit of my ability. "

Please don't ever think of Noter & Drone style as limiting your dulcimer playing ability in any way!!!

I've been playing Noter & Drone style for lo these many years, on every dulcimer I've ever handled, including some with (IMHO) far too many extra frets.  Those extra frets don't particularly get in your way playing N&D, but they aren't necessary -- for any style of play.   Although I specialize in N&D and Anglo-Scottish Border Ballads, I do play some modern tunes with no additional frets at all.

i dont think that’s what I meant. Noter Drone isn’t the limiting factor, it’s my talent. I tried learning piano and was disappointed to hear how poorly I did with my arpeggio. I never learned to fingerpick my guitar either. I think fingerpicking is harder to do and may be above my ability. I will definitely give it my best shot though.  

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 weeks ago
1,291 posts

For a demonstration of a dulcimer's intonation and tone, I don't think you need a great player.  In fact, a great player can make a crappy instrument sound good.  For a demo, the instrument should be in tune, but then you can just strum it a few times and play the notes going up a scale to demonstrate the intonation.

Then again, McSpadden dulcimers are very consistent in their tone and intonation.  I often advise people out here on the west coast where you can almost never play a dulcimer before buying it that McSpadden and Folkcraft instruments are safe bets.  And perhaps best of all, McSpadden dulcimers maintain their value well over time.  

The asking price here is very fair.

P.S. Bing Futch plays a dulcimer with the 1+ and 8+ frets, so whatever negatives he might mentioned, obviously he feels the advantages outweigh them.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 08/25/20 07:01:35PM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,769 posts

Ken i think it all depends on what tunes you tend to play. Anyone who plays a lot of modern music, or blues, would certainly find a few extra frets handy. When I was playing many obscure traditional fiddle tunes in oldtime jam settings, I used my frets a whole lot. Maybe if i were playing the tunes you play, I would find them totally unneeded. Also, I tend to enjoy throwing a few quirky notes in to spice things up, as in the video.

Most dulcimers made today have the extra 6.5 fret- it can be quite useful, especially in DAd tuning.  And there are now more folks ordering or adding 8.5 and 1.5 frets than there used to be, mostly because of playing modern pop music. On the other hand, there are also more people nowadays ordering dulcimers with NO extra frets, because there is lots to like about that too.
However, i wanted to point out how even some people who play only traditional music in noter style (like me) can find those extra frets to be invaluable.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,738 posts

@traildad said "I would love to learn to fingerpick and chord but I expect noter drone might be the limit of my ability. "

Please don't ever think of Noter & Drone style as limiting your dulcimer playing ability in any way!!!

I've been playing Noter & Drone style for lo these many years, on every dulcimer I've ever handled, including some with (IMHO) far too many extra frets.  Those extra frets don't particularly get in your way playing N&D, but they aren't necessary -- for any style of play.   Although I specialize in N&D and Anglo-Scottish Border Ballads, I do play some modern tunes with no additional frets at all.

traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts

Strumelia:


@traildad, I have a video on here where I'm using a dulcimer with 1.5 and 8.5 frets and am playing in noter style.  In fact, you can see me using the 1.5 fret a whole lot in this traditional fiddle tune..
if you look more at the second half of the video it shows more closeups of my fretboard and you can hear the dulcimer better when closer. The 1.5 fret is the lowest fret i'm playing, and I'm playing it very often (to the right on your screen). It's the funky minor-sounding note on that 1.5 fret that i'm playing at the beginning of many phrases.
As you can see, once you get used to having those extra frets, it doesn't really create significant 'problems' when playing noter style, and I've always found those two extra frets handy, even with some traditional tunes.
That said, some folks prefer no additional frets at all, and that's cool too. The noter will run up and down just a bit smoother with no extra frets (but you can see in the video this issue didn't hold me back or sound choppy- makes less of a difference at higher speeds, in any case).  I have some instruments with no extra frets and i love those too! But in my own case, I've found the extra frets to be more a help than a hindrance in my traditional noter style dulcimer playing.  Hope this helps.   :) 






yes thanks. I can see it wasn’t slowing you down. I wanted to ask because I assume there was a reason they leave them out on some and include them on others. I think it was a Bing Futch video that implied a negative. The more frets the more options. 

traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts

I of course don’t know. I don’t think I have anything generally against extra frets if they don’t cause problems using the noter. 

Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
4 weeks ago
15 posts

Wow. wish I had seen Strumelia's post before commenting!  She said it better.  

Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
4 weeks ago
15 posts

Caught me sitting here with fingerpicks on, trying to brush up a little.  Honestly, if you're really into noter drone playing, I think you'll find the extra frets a nuisance.  For chord playing, you'll find them useful for pieces written to take advantage of them.  The 1+ and 8+ frets have a real following, and you can find books written specifically to feature them.  For noter drone, I appreciate diatonic only, meaning no 6+ fret either; however, I used to love playing out of Phyllis Gaskins book A Job of Journey Work.  There, the 6+ and 13+ frets are extremely helpful and allow playing in D, G, A, and A modal with the addition of a false nut under the drone strings at the first fret, without retuning.  

You can certainly play noter drone with the 1+ and 8+ frets, but as you suggest, they're not all that helpful there.  This is just my personal experience.  Others may agree or disagree.

And don't give up on chord melody playing.  If you're playing noter drone, you're halfway there!  I went the other way, from chord melody to going back to the dulcimer roots, so to speak, and finding out that I really enjoyed playing noter drone the most.

All this has inspired me to play dulcimer a little more.  Still hoping to figure out how to send you a sound file, or perhaps I'll try attaching one here tomorrow.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,769 posts

@traildad, I have a video on here where I'm using a dulcimer with 1.5 and 8.5 frets and am playing in noter style.  In fact, you can see me using the 1.5 fret a whole lot in this traditional fiddle tune..
if you look more at the second half of the video it shows more closeups of my fretboard and you can hear the dulcimer better when closer. The 1.5 fret is the lowest fret i'm playing, and I'm playing it very often (to the right on your screen). It's the funky minor-sounding note on that 1.5 fret that i'm playing at the beginning of many phrases.
As you can see, once you get used to having those extra frets, it doesn't really create significant 'problems' when playing noter style, and I've always found those two extra frets handy, even with some traditional tunes.
That said, some folks prefer no additional frets at all, and that's cool too. The noter will run up and down just a bit smoother with no extra frets (but you can see in the video this issue didn't hold me back or sound choppy- makes less of a difference at higher speeds, in any case).  I have some instruments with no extra frets and i love those too! But in my own case, I've found the extra frets to be more a help than a hindrance in my traditional noter style dulcimer playing.  Hope this helps.   :) 




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 08/24/20 11:09:19PM
traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts

I get the sense that the extra frets can be a plus and a minus. I think I heard the 1 1/2 and 8 1/2 are useful for modern music. Do they create a problem for noter drone style? I would love to learn to fingerpick and chord but I expect noter drone might be the limit of my ability. 

Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
4 weeks ago
15 posts

I think it has a really nice, balanced tone, typical of walnut dulcimers.  My experience with McSpadden dulcimers is that walnut is evenly balanced, spruce is a little louder, and cherry has almost a ringing, glass-like sound. 

I have a banjo lesson this afternoon, after which I'll try to freshen up my dulcimer skills a little and either post something or email you a file.  It will be fun to play it a little.  I can also demonstrate the tuners.  Thanks for asking.


updated by @parker-buckley: 08/24/20 10:39:58AM
traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts
I'm sure I could figure out zoom or something. Simply strumming, plucking strings and playing some chords would help. No fast changes are necessary. I'd like to hear the tone. How would you describe its tone.
Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
4 weeks ago
15 posts
That would be totally embarrassing unless I spend some time getting back up to speed on my dulcimer playing. Are you able to meet on Skype or Zoom by any chance?
traildad
@traildad
4 weeks ago
21 posts

Could you post an audio file of it? Thanks. 

Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
4 weeks ago
15 posts
Thanks for your comments Strumelia. I think it's a fair price. I really enjoyed it during my foray into extra frets and then turned the other way toward noter drone and earlier styles of play.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 weeks ago
1,769 posts

That's a great price, and with (hidden geared) Wittner pegs that make tuning smooth, too!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Parker Buckley
Parker Buckley
@parker-buckley
one month ago
15 posts

Hi all,

I'm selling my walnut McSpadden equipped with 1+ and 8+ frets, and geared Wittner viola pegs.  The pegs give it a very early McSpadden look with the convenience of geared pegs that work really well.  This is an easy mod for the McSpaddens with friction tuners.  

Other details....the dulcimer is an M12-W, made in 1988 and signed by Richard Stoltze.  It has a strap button on the tailpiece.  I used a "Sue Carpenter" strap with it; the kind that goes under the legs.  There is no strap on the peghead end; I used a loop of leather shoelace there.

It comes with a case that is in good condition with one small ding in the top as shown.  The dulcimer itself is in excellent condition.  Just so there are no surprises, when this dulcimer was built, McSpadden used a very high quality laminate back.  Only their "Special" models came with bookmatched backs at that time.  I really don't believe anyone could hear the difference, but I admit that bookmatched backs look very nice.

I'm happy to answer any questions and provide additional photos.  Price is $300 plus shipping.  I think a two day "approval" period is fair, so the dulcimer can be returned if it doesn't meet the buyer's expectations.  I'm sorry to see it go, but my musical interests have taken a turn toward banjo and mandolin.  Can't keep them all!

Thanks,
Parker

  

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updated by @parker-buckley: 08/25/20 08:26:48AM