Dulcimer or Guitar?

Guy Babusek
Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
13 years ago
96 posts
I agree! I love all good music regardless of the convention. Ed Buhler said:
I love all styles on the dulcimer. I love the drone styles - I love the flat picking fast tunes (John Henry), but I also do a lot of finger picking too. Some BEAUTIFUL songs can be played using a finger picking style. Music is music - that's why there are so many styles - you don't worry about what others say - you play what is in your heart and what sounds good to you. That's my take anyway.
I am going to add an MP 3 here for you of me finger picking a song I wrote - I think it sounds fine. I love to play the dulcimer - and while there is a soft spot in my heart for Jean Ritchie and her drone style - I can sit and listen to Bing Futch crank out some jazzy tune at the same time. I love them all.
folkfan
@folkfan
13 years ago
365 posts
I think it's sort of to each his or her own. Personally, I play melody/drone or finger dancing on the melody string and let the drones do their thing. However, my preference in music is fairly traditional or traditionally styled music with a strong emphasis on Scottish, and Irish music where the drones are perfect for the music. For other music, I agree that a noter/drone might not be the best way to convey the music. If you're going to be playing modern music with it's tendency to have accidentals thrown in all over the place, a strictly diatonic dulcimer might not even be the best for you, or at least a strict modal tuning might not due as well as say a 1-3-5. You might need to have additional frets or even a fully chromatic fretboard, but always remember that the dulcimer you play is your instrument, played in your lap, and in your style or styles as needed. It's your opinion on how you play that is important. If you enjoy the sound of the music you are making, it's right, but if you don't then it's not and a change might be needed.I learned the hard way that I needed to decide and play for myself by feeling really put down as a noter and melody/drone player when I went to my first workshop ever. The group was told by the instructor that the noter style would bore the audience and that chords were the only way to play for a full rich sound. I walked away from that workshop feeling about 2 inches tall and resolved to learn chords. After practicing with chords my arthritis doctor told me to give it up because of the increased pain I was having in my hands. Since I really wasn't enjoying playing chords as they didn't sound right to me and I was suffering intense pain I gave up chords completely As I'd originally fallen in love with the sound of the dulcimer played in a traditional manner, I was quite pleased to be able to say to anyone who said that I just had to learn to chord to progress, that I had a note from my doctor saying that chording was hazardous to my hand health. ;-) LOL
Guy Babusek
Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
13 years ago
96 posts
Well, my 2 cents is that the dulcimer can be as easy or as hard as anyone wants it to be. The world is so big that there is room for any style of playing that anyone wants to do. A lot of people think the kind of stuff I do is hard, others think it's easy. I just play it because I like the music...
Wilfried Ulrich
Wilfried Ulrich
@wilfried-ulrich
13 years ago
3 posts
Did you ever play "Pretty Belinda" ? Tun your Dulcimer to EAG. It beginns at the 3rd fret. It's realy great!Wilfried
TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts
<........their is No wrong way to play the mt. dulcimer!....>BINGO!!!!
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
13 years ago
1,883 posts
A baritone would be a great solo accompaniment instrument if you have a reasonably low voice and played drone chords or finger chords but not the full melody.
Foggers
Foggers
@foggers
13 years ago
62 posts

Ken Hulme said:
Cynthia;

Tuning:

You can tune any dulcimer, with the same normal set of strings, to DAA, DAd, CGG or CGc; maybe has high as FCC/FCf and as low as BFF/BFb. The strings are certainly flexible enough to go up and down at least one note

I don't recommend a baritone instrument for beginners because the normal baritone tuning does not allow you to play melody together with others. The tuning - AEa - uses ordinary DAd tabulature, but you're not tuned to the same key - you're in A, not D - so it doesn't sound very good if you play along with other dulcimers tuned to D. You can play guitar-style accompaniment chords along with D tuned dulcimers, but that's not the conventional dulcimer unison melody playing experience... A baritone/bass dulcimer is like a stand-up bass in a string band. It plays rhythmic "filler sound" not melodies. The dulcimer is/was originally designed as a personal melody playing instrument, not an orchestral part-playing instrument.
Yes that is exactly right. I have a baritone tuned AEa, and I wanted it expressly to accompany singing of slow ballads and more bluesy songs; it is too big in terms of hand stretch for doing fast tunes and whilst I do the odd bit of instrumental in a song, the playing of melody is not its primary purpose.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
13 years ago
1,883 posts
Cynthia;Tuning:You can tune any dulcimer, with the same normal set of strings, to DAA, DAd, CGG or CGc; maybe has high as FCC/FCf and as low as BFF/BFb. The strings are certainly flexible enough to go up and down at least one noteI don't recommend a baritone instrument for beginners because the normal baritone tuning does not allow you to play melody together with others. The tuning - AEa - uses ordinary DAd tabulature, but you're not tuned to the same key - you're in A, not D - so it doesn't sound very good if you play along with other dulcimers tuned to D. You can play guitar-style accompaniment chords along with D tuned dulcimers, but that's not the conventional dulcimer unison melody playing experience... A baritone/bass dulcimer is like a stand-up bass in a string band. It plays rhythmic "filler sound" not melodies. The dulcimer is/was originally designed as a personal melody playing instrument, not an orchestral part-playing instrument.
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Lucky You!!! TERI WEST said:
I recognized Stephen Seifert's playing as soon as I heard it, before I looked at the page!~ He was my first teacher!

Sally Pena said:
Here's another one, bowed dulcimer, this time:


TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts
That's what I want to do!!!!! Sally Pena said:
Here's another one, bowed dulcimer, this time:



TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts
I recognized Stephen Seifert's playing as soon as I heard it, before I looked at the page!~ He was my first teacher! Sally Pena said:
Here's another one, bowed dulcimer, this time:


Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
13 years ago
1,250 posts
There are many players who are better noter-and-drone players than I am. That said, it's always a challenge for me to note a fiddle tune at anything approaching fiddle tune speed, playing cleanly, and throwing in variations. I'm a slow learner and it takes me awhile to know a fiddle tune that well.Robin
nick o'sullivan
nick o'sullivan
@nick-osullivan
13 years ago
6 posts
I think it's great that people play in noter style because it may not be as easy as it looks!!Noter style, fingerpicking, flatpicking, strumming etc. are just techniques and each has it's place in the wonderful variety of music that's played on the dulcimer.From my own perspective concentrating on one technique only would be too limiting but I do for the most part fingerpick.Nick
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Here's another one, bowed dulcimer, this time:
Cynthia said:
Wow, thanks for all your help everyone! very cool...

I can't identify any sound files made with their instruments... or if you can think of someone Guy may not have mentioned please let me know
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
here's one that I thought was amazing when I started... note that he's using a capo:
Also, you can go to Jerry Rockwell's website and learn bunches. Just Google Jerry Rockwell dulcimer. Cynthia said:

I can't identify any sound files made with their instruments... or if you can think of someone Guy may not have mentioned please let me know
Guy Babusek
Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
13 years ago
96 posts
So many good builders out there. Each one has their own particular magic they work....I love McSpadden, Folk Craft (both their own brand and the Folkroots brand) for the "mass market" dulcimer. You can't go wrong with them.For lower to mid range luthiers, there are so many great builders. One in particular who does a great job on the lower priced starter dulcimer is David Lynch at Sweet Woods. He also does very fine work with the mid range priced "professional" models.For the mid-range price, there are very good builders also... A few of my favorites are David McKinney at Modern Mountain Dulcimer, Jerry Rockwell, Ron Ewing, Tom Yocky, Tom Fellenbaum, John Stockard, and Keith Young (not an exhaustive list, mind you... just a few that I have played and love).Then you get into your higher ticket dulcimers.... my particular favorite in that range is Dale Foye of Aeolus Instruments. His dulcimers price at about $2,000. They are sheer heaven to listen to and play. He is making one for me right now that is all Rosewood with Spruce sound board. I'm chomping at the bit for him to finish it for me!!!There are so many good luthiers out there. I would definitely recommend that you speak to your luthier over the phone and be very clear with each other what you want.... Carson Turner said:
If you don't mind, and done such that we avoid any potentially actionable comments, might you list maybe the top of the "wow, you have a xxxx" and the bottom of the "hope you didn't pay much for that xxxx maker"Of course understanding that there are tons and tons of makers in the "Some Guy in Texas" category (I own a couple of those) that may be outstanding or may not. I think many of us newbies are looking at instruments from quantity builders and not "Bob's garage".[SNIP]
Rod Westerfield
Rod Westerfield
@rod-westerfield
13 years ago
109 posts
Well said Ken... I think you explained that well...... Wow Carson that's a question and half...hmmm have ta think on that one...I think is interesting to me that the dulcimer is able to play what music a person wants... I too have been playing for over 30 yrs... started out in CGG use a noter.... then went to play with my fingers, and even adding a few chords over the last year really... and yet the other day I set up a dulcimer with all .010 strings and even used a noter..( P.S. don't tell anyone..lol) and even record a couple of them and posted them..am I switching back to a noter.. probably not. But I think it is good we can try or play all skills or ways of playing the dulcimer... who's know which style you'll settle with... plus as a teacher my students may want to learn one way and not the other..So expand your horizons... try playing different ways....and make a luthier happy by a dulcimer for the different set ups.... cause your going to catch DAD (Dulcimer Acquisition Disease) anyway....
B. Ross Ashley
B. Ross Ashley
@b-ross-ashley
13 years ago
59 posts
I'd have to agree with Ken and Carson, here, Cynthia; with the additional remark that there are three different instruments called "dulcimer", and while the bowed and the mountain dulcimers are related, the hammered dulcimer is really quite different.All the different soundbox shapes of mountain dulcimer just sort of evolved from the original zitters that drifted south from the German settlements in Pennsylvania, as local woodworkers experimented with hardwoods and fret placement and numbers of strings to produce an inexpensive instrument for everything from church hymn singing to dances. You'll even see what some people call the "Tennessee music box" style from the Tennessee Valley area, with the tuning pegs on the player's right instead of on the left. Ours is really a "folk" instrument with nothing standard about it and no single inventor or virtuoso maker - we have not yet seen, I don't think, an Antonio Stradivari of the MD.As for picking one out for yourself: Make sure you can handle the instrument before you buy, if at all possible. Look to make sure the fretboard is straight, not bent or bowed.Try the strings, making sure that the note on the 7 fret is right on an octave above the open string. Strum it and see whether or not you like the tone. Traditionally it isn't supposed to sound big and mellow like a guitar, but high and silvery; your mileage may vary. Depending on the speed of your Internet connection, look for Bing Futch and other dulcimer players on Youtube and you will get some idea what a well-tuned instrument can sound like ... for a real surprise, look for "pinball dulcimers" there!
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
13 years ago
1,883 posts
Cynthia;Unfortunately if you try to listen to everyone a dulcimer does sound something like:'hourglass/teardrop/aorell body; 3/4/6/8/12 strings; doubled/equadistant; with added frets 1+ 6+ 8+ or all (chromatic); baritone/octave/-ette/bass/standard; tuned to play mode DAd DAD CGc CGC AEA DF#A DADD etc etc' and 'may be cappo'd to play....' and 'can tune CGc and play DAd on it'...and....and ..... there is the - 'great for playing fiddle tunes, mandolin tunes, etc etc'and .... 'may be bowed' .....gasp for air....Truth of the matter is, for a simple instrument it does come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and configurations. Probably because it is more or less the last of the Western folk instruments to be of interest to a modern audience, and as a result is undergoing a wave of changes by people trying to make it fit into modern music which it was never intended to play.Hmmm... Dulcimer Classification... some thoughts.ShapeEverything under the sun! However the good news that that shape is more than 99% cosmetic . Being hourglass or elliptical or rectangular, by itself, it does not effect the sound. Pick the shape that most appeals to you.MaterialsDulcimers have been made from most imaginable woods and plywoods, lexan plastic, paper, carbon fiber, even Leggo blocks! Cardboard dulcimers are a good inexpensive introductory instrument. So are plywood or veneer dulcimers. Solid wood dulcimers are the most common and serious. Plastic instruments are mostly still novelties.Number of Strings3, 4 and 6 string dulcimers are most common. Essentially most dulcimers have 3 courses of strings - bass, middle drone, and melody. Often the melody course is doubled; sometimes the bass and melody courses are doubled; or all three course are doubled. The real odd arrangement is 4 equidistant strings a specialist setup, not for everyone.TonalityOctave Dulcimer or Dulcimette - physically much small in overall size, and normally tuned an octave higher than a standard dulcimer.Standard Dulcimer - normally tuned to the keys of C and D. Most useful for individual playing or playing with other dulcimers in unison.Barintone and Bass Dulcimers - physically about the same size as a standard dulcimer, but tuned to much lower ranges.Octave, Baritone and Bass dulcimers are essentially special purpose instruments that can be played as solo instruments or with standard dulcimers where music has been written for their parts. Not instruments particularly good for beginners. Bowed dulcimers are very special purpose instruments, although almost any dulcimer can occaionally be played with a bow.Tunings/KeysThere are eight traditional Modal tunings, and a number of other common ones. Because the dulcimer is not normally chromatic it must be re-tuned to play in different keys.The standard dulcimer is most often tuned to the key of D in the Major or Ionian Modal tuning called DAA; or the equally popular Mixolydian Modal tuning call DAd. Both tunings are equally valid, and dulcimers tuned to each can be played together. Most of us recommend beginners pick either DAA or DAd and spend a few months learning to play several songs and becoming familiar with the instrument using one tuning.Methods of PlayingTraditional - the melody of the song is played on the melody strings, allowing the middle and bass strings to drone accompaniment.Modern - the melody of the song is played by creating chords across all three course, for each note of the melody.AccessoriesCapo or Reverse Capo - these are devices for changing the pitch of some or all of the strings as an alternative to re-tuningStriker - a chopstick-like device occasionally used as an alternative to a pick.Picking A First InstrumentDepending on your budget, I think most of us would recommend that you start with either a cardboard dulcimer, or one of several "student" instruments in the $100 - $200 range from well-known builders. Ask us, we'll tell you who we think of as good builders. Avoid the Applecreek, First Act and other inexpensive instruments made in foreign countries by people who don't know or care.Hope this helps you narrow down your choices somewhat. BTW, ask the folks around here; they'll tell you've I've been messing about with dulciemrs for over 30 years, so I do have an experience and knowledge base from which I speak.
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Cynthia, sometimes too much information is too much. Good luck in choosing your dulcimer! Cynthia said:
Now I'll go back to trying to figure out how the heck I'm going to pick one and get started on the playing part...Cynthia
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
ok now you're scaring me! =8-o Ken Hulme said:
Razyn - I'm thinking about getting the Model 3 - with the wine corkscrew and fretsaw attachments!



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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
13 years ago
1,883 posts
Razyn - I'm thinking about getting the Model 3 - with the wine corkscrew and fretsaw attachments!
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
(Giggle)
razyn
@razyn
13 years ago
40 posts
That's just the regular Swiss Army noter, I think.Dick
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Foggers said:
Or how about having an interchangeable fitting on your index finger - so you can attach the noter when you need it, a soup spoon for the kitchen....a screwdriver for the work shop?? The applications could be endless!!
Then we could all talk about Ken's wooden implant. =8-o ;D LOL


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Foggers
Foggers
@foggers
13 years ago
62 posts

barbara kelly said:
Um Ken? Please don't, I would think that would hurt..lol Or, make it long enough to stir soup and you've solved two problems..lol
Or how about having an interchangeable fitting on your index finger - so you can attach the noter when you need it, a soup spoon for the kitchen....a screwdriver for the work shop?? The applications could be endless!!
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
13 years ago
1,883 posts
Everybody pretty much knows where I stand on traditional playing style , Actually I'm thinking of having an ebony noter implanted on the end on my left index finger - the best of both worlds!!!!!As far as playing style affecting or being affected by the music, I certainly understand that. There are a couple of tunes that I Fingerdance because they sound best that way - All Through The Night, the Welsh lullaby being one.The dulcimer was invented, if you will, expressly to play the transplanted folk songs and broadsides and ballads of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Germany, etc. that becam the music of the Appalachians. Music which came from a dronal, diatonic, simple melody background. It was never created with the thought of playing Reggae or classical Euro, Blues, Jazz, Pop, Rock or anything much later than 19th and early 20th century "music of the people". That it can play all those other kinds of music without significant modification is simply amazing.I prefer to play that older music, because I happen to like it. So I have hundreds of tunes in my repertoire, but only a few that fit in with the contemporary Jam Session. Which is why I'm not fond of jam sessions, I suppose - if you don't 'play well with others' no one is really happy. I'm more than content to play the music I know and love. I'll sit in the corner, doin' my thing, and if someone wants to come over and see what I'm up to they're welcome. I agree that the social aspects of playing dulcimer are nice, but that's not why I play. I play to express myself, to myself.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Hi- another member pointed out that this discussion is just as much about traditional noter style playing as it is about modern chord style playing.It's a great discussion, and is of interest to all of us no matter what style of playing we prefer- so I moved it to the general dulcimer playing forum so everyone could enjoy it more easily.Carry on! :)


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Guy Babusek
Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
13 years ago
96 posts
I like all of them... I'm sure that's why I am starting to acquire quite a brood of dulcimers. LOL I find however that the wood doesn't always really play as big of a part in the sound characteristics of an instrument as does the actual design and manner in which it is built. Obviously wood choices do make a difference though. Clare Chu said:
Fascinating discussion. I find that I'm drawn to the more trebly brighter sounds of the traditional dulcimers, a more plaintive sound that makes me picture a lonely mountain cabin next to a creek. But then again, I'm a violin player and sometime mandolin player so I tend to like trebly sounds.
I noticed that other folks like the walnut with western red cedar topped dulcimers that are mellower sounding and emphasize the bass string more. This seems to be more prevalent in California, maybe because of the guitar background?
TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts
Awesome!!! I'll bet you have a wonderful garden~~~~~~~~:<) Strumelia said:
Rod Westerfield said:
I'm not sure that a fishing pole left, but I'll borrow one an let's go fishin.... love them worms...
I've got about 4000 worms right in my kitchen! Wait, I'll go get them!

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Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Clare Chu said:
Fascinating discussion. I find that I'm drawn to the more trebly brighter sounds of the traditional dulcimers, a more plaintive sound that makes me picture a lonely mountain cabin next to a creek. But then again, I'm a violin player and sometime mandolin player so I tend to like trebly sounds.

I noticed that other folks like the walnut with western red cedar topped dulcimers that are mellower sounding and emphasize the bass string more. This seems to be more prevalent in California, maybe because of the guitar background?
Clare I totally agree with you on this. And yes I *do* think the guitar strength of the West coast had an influence on mtn dulcimer revival in the 1960-70's.I too am into fiddle and mandolin and I too prefer the higher plaintive treble sound on the dulcimer. I don't even use heavier middle or bass strings at all, in fact.This is all SO interesting!


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Guy Babusek
Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
13 years ago
96 posts
A lot of my BG lovin' friends have a surprisingly open mind... Some of the Celtic tunes can be quite lively. You can really hear how American folk music came from a Celtic background. Some of the melodies are almost identical. The style is a bit different...
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
I'm just getting acquainted to Celtic and Renaissance music. Although I love playing and listening to it, I wonder how it will go over here in my area. I'll give it a try but, they'll probably go to sleep. They're accustomed to listening almost exclusively to BG.
Guy Babusek
Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
13 years ago
96 posts
Most of my dulcimer friends prefer the noter/drone style. I personally prefer finger picking and chords (as a player, as a listener I love all of it). But I think that's because my choice of music is not very traditional to the dulcimer. I like to play Celtic and Renaissance music a lot.
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Wow! and double Wow! I thought you were pullin' my leg. Shows what a farmer I am. Very interesting.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Carson Turner said:
What do you do with a big box of worms?
They eat up all our kitchen scraps- coffee grounds, newspapers, eggshells, veggie/fruit waste, banana peels, old bread, egg cartons...they love to eat it all up. Keeps it all from going to the landfill. They are neat and clean and they pay me back with trays full of lovely pure earthworm castings to fertilize my garden with...so I can grow more good veggies! The bin does not smell- it's like having a box full of nice forest earth. I could keep it in the basement, but it's much more convenient to have it in the kitchen- nature's garbage disposal. ;)


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Oh Yuk!!!
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Rod Westerfield said:
I'm not sure that a fishing pole left, but I'll borrow one an let's go fishin.... love them worms...
I've got about 4000 worms right in my kitchen! Wait, I'll go get them!




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Rod Westerfield
Rod Westerfield
@rod-westerfield
13 years ago
109 posts
I'm not sure that a fishing pole left, but I'll borrow one an let's go fishin.... love them worms...
TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts
Yep, a whole can o' worms, isn't it??? Sally Pena said:
Teri... are you still there? See what you started? (G)
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Carson Turner said:
I do some past-life regression hypnosis - fascinating stuff. Of course I have to do the "for entertainment purposes only" disclaimer because I don't have an MA in Psychology (but do have 2.5 master's) so can't license in this state even though I was trained to do it....... another rant on a different topic for another day.
Hmmm...no, I meant in my current life, years ago. Just a figure of speech when i said "in one of my past lives'. lol


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Rod Westerfield
Rod Westerfield
@rod-westerfield
13 years ago
109 posts
Oh we are not fussing.... this is fun challenging each others minds...LOL .... ok maybe a little fussing, but our fearless leader is watching...lol.....
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Teri... are you still there? See what you started? (G)
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Sounds like a gauntlet (hope it's spelled correctly), to me! Now, no fussing, fellas. This is a friendly site, remember?
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Oooo, how cool! I surely misspelled it... sorry. My hubby is Puerto Rican and I guess I made the mistake of assuming it would be spelled the way I heard it. Thanks for the correction. Strumelia said:
It's really a combination of all these factors we've been discussing.

I mean if you play a dulcimer like a guitar it will sound more guitar-like, but it will still sound like a dulcimer also. And likewise if you put a dinky skinhead on a dulcimer and play it like a banjo it will sound more banjo-like.....but you won't fool ME! LOL It'll still sound like a dulcimer too.

By the way it's cuatro, not quatro. In one of my past lives I was a member of a traditional cuatro orchestra up in the mountains of Puerto Rico. (really)
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
It's really a combination of all these factors we've been discussing.I mean if you play a dulcimer like a guitar it will sound more guitar-like, but it will still sound like a dulcimer also. And likewise if you put a dinky skinhead on a dulcimer and play it like a banjo it will sound more banjo-like.....but you won't fool ME! LOL It'll still sound like a dulcimer too.By the way it's cuatro, not quatro. In one of my past lives I was a member of a traditional cuatro orchestra up in the mountains of Puerto Rico. (really)


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Rod Westerfield
Rod Westerfield
@rod-westerfield
13 years ago
109 posts
Can't help but do this..... So, if we made a guitar in the shape of an hourglass dulcimer from the same wood ..... then you'd have a dulcimer.... I think your experiment would be a good idea... I also agree that plat techniques have a lot to do with sound also... but I still think the sound box has a greater influence on the sound. On a baritone dulcimer, we use guitar strings... but it still does sound like a guitar.... ok let the experimenting start...
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Wow! Again!Now we're getting into the nitty-gritty of dulcimer/guitar/banjo/mandolin/dobro/quatro... whatever sound. I already know that I won't be able to distinguish the difference... Carson, I assume you have all these instruments?
Rod Westerfield
Rod Westerfield
@rod-westerfield
13 years ago
109 posts
Carson stated..."A .012 piece of steel string is just a .012 piece of steel string though so the sound should be close no matter what we hang it on. Our sound box doesn't make nearly as much difference as playing style does."Sorry but I think I'm going to have to disagree, the sound box has a great effect on the sound..that comes from that string.... for one dimensions of the sound box will have an effect on the sound small body versus big body... I make dulcijo's which the bridge sits on a drum practice head, gives a different sound than my normal dulcimers... lots of sound box variables will play into the sound... but anyway just my opinion....
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
That sounds right, Strumelia... but, if you think about it, guitars are played many ways as well... strumming across all strings, picking, Spanish, flat picking, etc. Just looks like too many strings, to me. But, I must say, mandolin is a fascinating little instrument. Although it has 8 strings, those strings seem to be grouped as 4. I think I'm leaning that way if I ever want to expand my stringed instrument life.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
I think the dulcimer more often sounds like a guitar when it's playing typical 1-3-5 modern Western chordal music (which most modern folk and pop music is) and using guitar-ish flatpicking technique. Once you get away from the full 1-3-5 chord progression & flatpicking sound and go back to open drone/mode based music while fretting only the melody string, it immediately sounds almost nothing like a guitar.In simplified terms- when you play a dulcimer like you play a guitar, it sounds more guitar like. ;)


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Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Sally Pena
Sally Pena
@sally-pena
13 years ago
35 posts
Roger... I don't have the time or patience to learn guitar. But, hearing the dulcimer resemble a guitar while I'm playing it is truly wonderful. And, I like it to sound like a dulcimer too. And, if I can get it to sound like other instruments, I'll enjoy that as well. When Don Pedi gets going, he can sound pretty much like a fiddle... it's all just great!
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
13 years ago
2,018 posts
Hi Teri,I split my time pretty evenly between banjo and mtn dulcimer. Even though I stick with all traditional music, I still like a little variety and hence the two instruments which I love.Learning new things is good. You should just do what you want! ;D


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts
James, I think I follow a similar muse. I get bored doing the same thing all of the time too. I cannot stick to one thing in my crafting/art either. I like to do different things in different media. But then again, I could be going in the "jack of all trades, and master of none" direction too....I learned violin and guitar when I was young and others told me that playing dulcimer would come easy to me because of it. I laid the violin down 30+ years ago and I don't think the dulcimer came that easy. I have been playing for almost 2 years and I still have a long way to go. They are 3 distinctly different instruments. I guess being in my 50's doesn't help. I do wish that I had picked the dulcimer up a long time ago. I play mostly by ear and even though I had a lot of theory training, I do not think that way when I play. Lately, I have been trying to learn tin whistle too..... What I really want to learn is bowed dulcimer. Jim Miller allowed me to play his at KMW.It is strung like a violin so it was not that difficult for me, other than balancing it was not easy for me. I think I could play it well if I had one and worked at it. FWIW, Teri
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
13 years ago
1,250 posts
I play noter-and-drone style all the time and love it! Yes, it is easy to play "Bile 'Em Cabbage" at the speed of a dirge. Try playing it at fiddle tune speed. Try playing it through 10 times, at fiddle tune speed, without playing it the same way twice. Try. . . How about Jean Ritchie's "Over The River to Feed My Sheep" from her album THE MOST DULCIMER. Play that "at speed" cleanly and you'll know you played somethin'!I love lots of different styles of dulcimer play! This past weekend at Fort New Salem in WV, I heard Jerry Rockwell, Butch Ross, and Doug Berch all play MD-- I enjoyed them all! Butch Ross played electrified stuff using looping and it was very cool to get to see and hear and Doug Berch is a fine player whose music I'd never before heard. Everything Jerry Rockwell plays is wonderful; he is a master of the mountain dulcimer in every sense of the word.Playing noter-and-drone is simple, in many respects. However, it is always a challenge for me to play both slow pieces and fiddle tunes cleanly and with expression.Robin
Randy Adams
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
13 years ago
89 posts
I mostly play old time music....couple of Irish tunes played w/old time beat....few classical tunes. Even tho I play the OT tunes I can't limit myself to 1 playing style. I love to play the noter drone way...& have been stuck on it for a year or so....but to me not all the tunes I wanna play sound good thataway.....how ya gonna play Staten Island Hornpipe n/d for instance....& not all the tunes I wanna play fit in a diatonic fret configuration.I like to flatpick fiddle tunes...pretty much note for note....& also like to play fiddle tunes...& other melodies....in a melody approxamation/chordal style.I am tickled when I get a melody in mind & it fits into a way I play the dulcimer. And even tho I take about 3 approaches to playing some tunes just don't fit for me on the dulcimer. I don't play slow tunes very well...or waltzes.I could learn some new techniques but am not motivated at this time.The diversity of the dulcimer is a wonderful thing & I enjoy listening to others play in so many different ways.
TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts

"...we can make it very complicated indeed and might even progress our droned monochord into a whole 'nother instrument (such as a guitar or piano) that's no longer as easy to play or as inexpensive, but capable of different music..."I agree completely with this! We have created the complexity of the dulcimer. Considering it was originally a quiet, personal instrument, there was no need for anything fancier."...Is the time coming when the six-string chromatic dulcimer will be so prevalent that those of us playing a pure diatonic three-string would be considered to be playing the "easy" version or an archaic instrument? I think that's where the chording style is leading, players of that style will continue to expect more-and-more capability from their instrument. Not exactly a "bad" thing - it's different....."This does seem to be the way things are moving today. I felt really sorry for the noter/drone player I spoke with because they had participated in a competition and it did not go well. There does not seem to be a place for folks who want to "keep it simple" if you want to compete. Maybe there should be separate competitions, ie.. traditional/modern.As far as progression goes, I have not heard of that type of thing, but it may be the reason folks want to introduce kids to it, hoping they will have a positive experience and move on to other things. I would hope that they become terrific players and carry on the tradition. FWIW, Teri
Foggers
Foggers
@foggers
13 years ago
62 posts
Interesting thoughts there Carson.The appeal of the dulcimer is exactly its simplicity and that someone learning can grasp basics and produce some satisfactory sounds quite quickly. That is exactly what it was developed for; ordinary folks wanting some family and community entertainment and respite from hard working days.Nowadays the "needs" a dulcimer can meet are broader and will include those who want to progress in complexity and performance ability.Of course the age-old question is how many modifications (chromatic fret board, six strings etc) add up to make some instrument that is no longer a mountain dulcimer? Ken H calls such items "dulcimer shaped intruments" and I can see his point.So there is a tension between the traditional noter and drone style rooted with the traditions of the instrument, and the chord/melody style which starts to push the boundaries of what you can do with a dulcimer. These will appeal to different people in different ways. Reading your comments I get a sense that you are enjoying the fundamental simplicity of drone style after being steeped in music of the harmonic genre.Personally I like both approaches and will decide which suits a song or tune best when I am working on it. I was drawn to the MD through the playing of Jean Ritchie who is very much an N&D player, but she manages to play a kind of harmony to the melody she is singing, and that just grips me with its sweetness and directness.As I experiment with MD styles I am making some interesting discoveries. Some more modern songs/tunes can suddenly reveal something very different when played in N&D style.I play guitar and am learning banjo too, so now when I hear a song I want to add to my repertoire I have a range of choices to consider in terms of which instrument and which styles to incorporate.It's all good stuff as far as I am concerned!
TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts
Here's a thought about difficulty: I also play violin and played in orchestras for many years. Harmony and structure are built into my brain as a result, so when I play, it can actually be more difficult for me to allow the drone because it does not always "harmonize" to my ear/brain. But I have learned to enjoy it. Some old time music does not fit the "mold" rhythmically either and it is hard to play tunes that do not follow what seems like a "logical" progression. I do not like to hear people make the assertion that the dulcimer is an "easy" instrument. I can understand how difficult it could be for someone who has never been exposed to music as well as someone who is steeped in other styles of music. FWIW, Teri
Dennis Waldrop
Dennis Waldrop
@dennis-waldrop
13 years ago
17 posts
When I first learn a song I usually play it only on the melody string without the chords. As I feel more comfortable with the music then I will go back and learn the chords. When I am in a jam if I do not feel comfortable (they are playing faster then I can play) then I will play just the melody string. As I continue jamming I will add the chords when and if I can.I enjoy the sound of the dulcimer with the drones but I also like to stretch the instrument by also learning to play the chords.
TERI WEST
TERI WEST
@teri-west
13 years ago
25 posts
I met a player a few weeks ago who plays strictly noter/drone style and nothing else. I personally like a mixture of styles but I have also wondered how other people think about it. Sometimes, I think I should just stick with a traditional style but when I pick out a Beatles' song, that doesn't work so well. What do you guys think?
updated by @teri-west: 02/22/19 11:02:07PM