Tell us about your VERY FIRST dulcimer

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 months ago
1,011 posts

Thanks a million, Greg!  I've traveled through Logan hundreds of times and  Hide-A-Way Hills is in the Hocking Hills region, a rural area.  I hope I'll be able to find time to do some investigation into Amburgeys in the area! 




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
8 months ago
63 posts

Robin, 

There was a connection between Morris Jethro Amburgey and the Logan, Ohio area.  Here's the rest of the December 17, 1975 article from the Logan Daily News:

"Hide-A-Way Hills Man Creates Appalachian Music Instruments

By SUE CHENOWETH Daily News Staff Writer

Morris Amburgey thoroughly modern man. He’s the city engineer for Lancaster and flies his own Cessna 180 airplane. He and wife Gertrude frequently go camping in their recreational vehicle Their residence on Cardinal Lane in Hide-A-Way Hills is admirable for its beauty and originality. But Amburgey is also a Kentuckian from Hindman in Knott County, where the hills are so steep there’s no bottom land and no farms, just gardens. And remembering his mountain heritage and the songs he heard played on the dulcimer, Amburgey now makes the unique Appalachian instrument from an old pattern passed on to him by his father, Jethro Amburgey. “We try to make them with as few mechanical tools as possible,” Amburgey says. “We whittle and cut and chisel a lot of things out.” Among favorite tunes for the dulcimer are “Jackerow,” “Barbara Allen” or “Turkish Lady,” — heartbroken songs, Amburgey calls them. “If we lose our heritage of music like that, we’ll never regain it,” he says. To help keep the dulcimer and its music alive, Amburgey works about 40 hours making one dulcimer, which he’ll sell for about $50, only $10 above the costs of the materials. Amburgey’s dulcimer pattern came originally from Eddridge Thomas of Hindman, who taught Jethro how to make them. Jethro made 1,389 dulcimers, several of which are in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Morris says his father was one of only two or three people who could make dulcimers in the decades from 1930 to 1950. Morris follows his father’s habit of distinguishing each dulcimer by etching his name, date and place completed, and number made. Since Morris owns a log cabin in Hindman, he puts that place name on the instruments. As long as Jethro lived, Morris didn’t make dulcimers, but after his father died in 1972, Morris picked up the tradition. He made his first one in 1973; the first five dulcimers were to finish his father’s orders. He has subsequently made about 40 of the instruments from either cherry or walnut. Amburgey explains that solid wood like his father used splits. His home workshop is well equipped, but Morris Amburgey carves, whittles and cuts in an old-time tradition to make the mountain dulcimer, a musical instrument native to the southern Appalachians. Amburgey makes his instruments in the same style as his late father, Jethro Amburgey. Morris’ 22-year-old son, Kenny, also is learning the techniques. (Daily News photo by Sue Chenoweth)"

It looks like Morris and his family lived on Cardinal Lane in Hide-A-Way Hills, but maintained ownership of a cabin in Hindman, Kentucky.  Are Cardinal Lane and Hide-A-Way Hills near Logan, Ohio?  There are a couple more interesting facts in the article. First, Morris's 22-year old son, Kenny Amburgey, was learning the techniques of dulcimer making from his father.  And second, Morris refers to Ed Thomas as the man who taught his father the craft of dulcimer-making, but calls him "Edridge Thomas".  It is not clear whether or not Kenny Amburgey followed through and made any dulcimers on his own, but he'd be about 65 years old now if he's still living in the Logan area.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
8 months ago
1,011 posts

Wow, in the Logan Daily?  Was there a connection between the Amburgeys and Logan OH?  




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
8 months ago
63 posts

From the December 17, 1975 Edition of the Logan Daily News – Logan, Ohio

“Dec 17, 1975 - As long as Jethro lived, Morris didn't make dulcimers, but after his father died in 1972,Morris picked up the tradition. He made his first one in 1973; the first five dulcimers were to finish his father's orders. He has subsequently made about 40 of the instruments from either cherry or walnut…”

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
8 months ago
84 posts

That's very interesting. I hope we can learn more.

This instrument looks like a return to the craftsmanship, materials, and attention to detail Jethro's earlier instruments had.

 

 

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
8 months ago
63 posts

Jethro's son was named Morris Jethro Amburgey so the "M.J. Amburgey" signature on this dulcimer is most likely that of Jethro's son.    

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
8 months ago
84 posts

Actually, Jethro Amburgey passed away in 1971. By that time he had made and numbered over a thousand instruments. The signature on this one is "M J Amburgey," dated 3-7-76, and is #42. So I would guess it was made by another member of his family, perhaps a son. Someone else who knows more about this stuff than I do can bring more information to the table. 

No matter. It looks like a very nice instrument in excellent condition. Enjoy!

 

 


updated by @john-gribble: 04/10/18 04:00:19AM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
8 months ago
1,066 posts

Ken Hulme: As Dusty also says (he steals all my good lines)  Ask questions, and if we don't know the answer we'll make something up! 

Well there's no reason to steal the bad ones! nahnah




--
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
Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
8 months ago
124 posts

ShowtimeGary's is an Amburgy from 1976. Signature in the strum hollow is seen on one of his images. I'm jealous.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
8 months ago
1,827 posts

Look inside the rear soundholes; there may be a maker's label visible.  Beautiful instrument, as Dusty says it is build for more traditional playing since it has no 6+ fret and traditional wooden pegs.  I've attached three articles I wrote for new players. 

The first is called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What?  It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms (so we all speak the same lingo), plus answers to many beginner questions about the tuning, playing, care and feeding of your new acquisition.

https://fotmd.com/forums/forum/dulcimer-resourcestabs-books-websites-dvds/17129/i-just-got-a-dulcimer-now-what

This one is an introduction to playing Noter & Drone -- one of two or three traditional ways to play (the others are Fingerdancing and the rare bowing)

https://fotmd.com/forums/forum/dulcimer-resourcestabs-books-websites-dvds/15049/get-noterized

The other attached file is all about the older Modal style of tunings (not the modern DAd, although it's mentioned) and how they relate to the diatonic (non-chromatic) fretboard of the traditional dulcimer.  

As Dusty also says (he steals all my good lines)  Ask questions, and if we don't know the answer we'll make something up!  

Enjoy your dulcimer journey!

 

ShowtimeGary
ShowtimeGary
@showtimegary
8 months ago
2 posts

Thanks all. I will be playing it Dusty. If it's got strings on it at my house it gets played.

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
8 months ago
124 posts

Showtimegary--that is an awesome instrument you have. Enjoy it.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
8 months ago
1,066 posts

@showtimegary. there is nothing we can tell you. You're on your own.

Ha! I'm kidding, of course. giggle2  You are going to get tons of advice from this site, and some of it might even be helpful!

First off, I would suggest you join both the Beginners Group and the Old Style Drone Players Group, since your dulcimer is intended for traditional styles of music.  Poke around there and see if there are old conversations that might help.

Secondly, don't be afraid to just play.  Put the dulcimer on your lap, tune it up, and start playing.  If you like what you hear, do it again.  If you don't, try something different.  Lots of people learned to play this instrument long before the internet or even tablature had been used.

If you are a beginner, Strumelia's Noter and Drone Blog might be very helpful.

And when you have questions, speak up. If we don't know the answer, we'll make something up!winky




--
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
ShowtimeGary
ShowtimeGary
@showtimegary
8 months ago
2 posts

Just bought my first Dulcimer and know very little about it. Is there anything you all could tell me ?

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linseytn
@linseytn
8 months ago
5 posts

I just started playing the dulcimer in January using a borrowed instrument.  Quickly decided that I wanted to continue playing and started looking for one of my own.  I knew I didn't want to play traditional music on an instrument made overseas so that ruled out some of the less expensive commercially produced instruments.  Stumbled across OldTyme Dulcimers on etsy.  He is located in north Georgia.  He built this instrument for me at what I thought was a very reasonable price.  Walnut and butternut with the two cute little cats for the soundholes.  I found the cat silhouettes I wanted to use and emailed to him.  He chose the tweety bird for the upper sound hole.  It came with four strings.  I just attended an intro to flatpicking workshop given by Tull Glazener which was excellent.  Love that sound and took off one of the melody strings to make it easier to flatpick.

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Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
9 months ago
653 posts

Enjoy your "new" to you dulcimer. Keep us up-to-date on your progress and don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
9 months ago
253 posts

Richard: "I have found that certain instruments sound better on some tunes than others":

Being an amateur builder I thought it was just me.  I have noticed the same thing.  Thank you.   

notsothoreau
@notsothoreau
9 months ago
44 posts
Oh, I do want an electronic tuner! Will save me so much time! This was already down to three strings so I wasn't surprised when the bass string snapped. I have a new set on the way. I'm going to check and see if the screws in the tuning gears are loose too

Meanwhile, I have a two string dulcimer. I just have to be patient a few more days and study tablature.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
9 months ago
1,827 posts

@notsothoreau -- tuning trick to keep from "popping" a string...  Never try to tune a string unless it's "singing".  Pick a string to tune and get hold of the tuner you think is 'right'.  Strum the string and give the tuner a quarter turn.  If the string does not change pitch up or down, STOP.  You're got the wrong tuning knob.  Try again.

Invest $15 or $20 for an electronic tuner which shows you which octave the notes are in.  We tune dulcimers to D3 A3 d4

An ordinary set of strings will easily tune to DAA or DAd (the d is an octave higher than the D).  That same set can go up to EBB/EBe and maybe as far as FCC/FCf, but the bass string will probably break trying to get to GDD/GDg.  On the low side it can go down to CGG/CGc easily, and maybe BFF/BFb before the strings are too floppy.

notsothoreau
@notsothoreau
9 months ago
44 posts
I did find one that I fell in love with. Just want to lock down the sale before I talk about it. I did manage to confuse myself, as I kept listening to dulcimer music with that high sound that can come out on top of a group. And I would like to try playing with a group sometime. I decided that I wasn't ready for one with an internal pickup.

I do think it's confusing for beginners because we don't know what type of music we want to play and we don't know what sound we need for that music. I know the hazards of playing on inexpensive instruments, but sometimes it seems like the way to get started and experiment. I am really looking forward to stepping up to that next instrument. And it might be fun to try another kit some day.
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
9 months ago
1,066 posts

That's good thinking, @notsothoreau.  I always advise people to play for a year or more before indulging in what they think will be their dream dulcimer.  There are just so many variables (scale length, fretboard width, fretboard overlay, wood types, extra frets, bright tone vs mellow tone, internal pickup, and more) that until you play for a while and develop your preferences, you can't know what kind of dulcimer you will really want.  Get a decent, playable, and affordable dulcimer at first and give yourself some time to discover what options you would want on your dream dulcimer.  (Of course, if you're like many of us, you may find that you have several dream dulcimers!)




--
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
notsothoreau
@notsothoreau
9 months ago
44 posts

It's part of the reason that I'm not ready for a custom dulcimer yet. I don't know what sound I want to hear, but I am starting to get a better idea of it. I think this particular dulcimer was designed to be used noter style and that's something I want to check into anyway.

 

I know about acquistion disorders. I have five treadle sewing machines in this room and two in another! Fortunately, I have all the machines on my bucket list. I suspect there are at least two dulcimers in my future, maybe more if I happen across any old instruments.

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
9 months ago
124 posts

notsothoreau

Congratulations on your first dulcimer. I know you are excited. Best wishes on your dulcimer journey.

By the way, the DAD (dulcimer acquisition disorder) may strike at any moment. The cure is easy. Get another dulcimer. Trouble is the malady has a way of recurring at intervals.  I have found that certain instruments sound better on some tunes than others and some dulcimers seem to "prefer" one mode or tuning. Explore and have fun.

notsothoreau
@notsothoreau
9 months ago
44 posts

I can finally add a story! Way back in the day, I bought a kit teardrop dulcimer. I believe it was mahogany. I could play it, but it wasn't the best instrument. I have no idea what happened to it.  Recently, I got a wild hair that it might be fun to try this again. I'd tried guitar and mandolin but just couldn't seem to do much with either. I knew that I wanted a good quality instrument at some point, but thought I might check what is available locally.

Well, I found a dulcimer on the Facebook marketplace. It seemed like a student quality from the picture, so I thought I might be able to use it for awhile. Contacted the seller last week and he said it was available. Asked when we could get together and he said Wednesday after we got off work. I tried to contact him Wednesday and nothing. Later that night, he messaged me and said he'd be available Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Said we'd try again Thursday. Same thing. It turned out he was driving between Portland, OR and Eugene for his job! He apologized and said we would get together for sure on Saturday at noon. He'd let me know where we could meet. Saturday came and went. I got a message from him that night with the Steve Martin excuse "I forgot"!

I'd pretty much given up at this point, but it seemed sad to have a decent dulcimer sitting unplayed. I gave him one more chance today. And this time, he and his wife did show up! I believe this is from 1997. It has a decent sound but I can't really check it out yet. I popped the bass string while tuning it and my new strings are still on the way. I was able to pick out "I'll Fly Away" on two strings and expect to have more fun in the future. It will do for now. Even my husband is enjoying this hobby.

And, I do have something in the works to get that quality dulcimer. More on that, as I get further along on the plan.

 

cacofonix
@cacofonix
11 months ago
1 posts

fordferguson:

I would appreciate any input related to Black Mountain dulcimers by David Johnson

Hi

I picked up one of his student models (made in 2007) used from ebay UK. I don't have much experience and can only compare it with the new Sweetwoods Student Model I also recently bought direct from Harpmaker. These are starter instruments and seem comparable.

Regards

Eric

 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
11 months ago
1,827 posts

Nigel -- be sure to contact Robin Clark in Snowdonia, who is a member here.  He is a fabulous player who has a company called BirdRock Dulcimers and sells instruments, supplies, etc. www.dulcimers.co.uk

nigelbleddfa
@nigelbleddfa
11 months ago
38 posts

I have only had my first dulcimer for three weeks. It is a 1999 McSpadden FM12CS, cherry/spruce and is absolutely lovely. The gentleman who sold it to me lined up about nine dulcimers and I wish I could have bought them all. The word "awesome" is much overused these days but the sight of all that craftsmanship on one table was just that. I am making progress albeit slowly but I have little doubt that I will be buying another from him before too long. They were all very beautiful.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
11 months ago
1,011 posts

@mathom You've got a treasure!  




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
mathom
@mathom
11 months ago
1 posts

My very first dulcimer was purchased by my in-laws in Berea, Kentucky long before I met my wife. No one in her family ever learned to play it. It was "loaned" to me around 1987-8. I learned enough on it to know I wanted to get a better instrument and did so a few years later. That first one now hangs on the wall of our family room. I take it down now and then and tune it up and play it a bit. I would never part with it.

The details of it: It is an hourglass with a very narrow body (by current standards) and has two heart-shaped soundholes in the lower bout and two small round ones in the upper bout.  It was made by Raymond Layne of Berea, Kentucky and is dated April 20, 1975 and is numbered 293. It is the instrument I am holding in my profile picture.

CD
CD
@cd
last year
62 posts

My first dulcimer was a cardboard one I bought from Cedar Creek in Silver Dollar City.  My second one came 45 minutes later when I discovered I could play this thing and got an all wood teardrop.  Deer and Vine soundholes.

 

CD

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
1,066 posts

Hi @fordferguson. I don't have any personal experience with Black Mountain Dulcimers, so I can't offer the kind of information you seek.  But let me point out that we have a whole Forum discussion devoted to specific instruments and luthiers.  That might be a better place to pose that question rather than this discussion where people share stories of their first dulcimer.




--
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
fordferguson
@fordferguson
last year
1 posts

I would appreciate any input related to Black Mountain dulcimers by David Johnson

Shayne C.
Shayne C.
@shayne-c
last year
3 posts

My 1st dulcimer is a Cedar Creek walnut one from Branson (Springfield). I enjoy the sound and just beginning to play.

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
last year
124 posts

Beautiful dulcimer. Best wishes on your dulcimer journey. Thanks for posting the pictures.

rocksncactus
@rocksncactus
last year
10 posts
Here are the original photos I took the day I first found her.
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rocksncactus
@rocksncactus
last year
10 posts

I picked up my first (and only) dulcimer on November 9th.  I found her in a flea market.  I checked her very carefully the day I found her; she seemed to be in great shape, had one string broken.  I asked the price but didn't buy her.  I went home and researched the maker's name to learn what I could, then I went back the next day and checked her out some more.  I started talking price with the owner, but he was being squirrelly, denied having told me the price he'd given me the day before.  I finally told him I was going out of town and if she was still there when I got back I'd look at her again.  He threw a price at me "if you take it today" as I went toward the door.  I told him I'd think about it and left.  But I had decided that I was going to have to give her a pass; I had the money to buy her but was saving it for my trip.  It was just luck that I had gone by this place and that the dulcimer was there.  But I felt really bad; I wanted to get that instrument. 

Based on my research and the answers I received when I posted questions on Everything Dulcimer, I knew this dulcimer was something I needed to snag.  That just caused me more angst. But I was leaving in a few days for Native Rhythms, a native American flute festival in Melbourne, FL, something I had been planning and saving for.  Well, on the 9th as I was heading out on my trip I detoured back over to the store, which was an hour out of my way.  I had called the day before and learned that the dulcimer was still there.  I finally reached an agreeable price with the owner, though he still tried to get extra money for the case (in bad shape, has to be replaced).  I stuck to my guns and he gave in, though.

So my new dulcimer went along for the ride to Native Rhythms.  While I was there I met Marsha Harris, a fine musician on both dulcimer and native American flute.  I showed her the instrument.  Marsha put a new string on, tuned her, and gave me some pointers on playing.  She confirmed what I had learned about my new instrument and that she was in good shape.

So who made her?  She's on my lap in my profile picture above.  The maker was Morris Jethro Amburgey, the son of Jethro.  He crafted her in 1978, #73.  I know she's not really an instrument for a beginner (so I've been told, twice), but that doesn't worry me.  I feel very privileged to be the caretaker of this beautiful dulcimer.  She's not a Jethro, but she's a dulcimer that comes in a direct line from Uncle Ed Thomas through Jethro Amburgey to Morris.  I appreciate the significance of that.  I am so happy to finally be able to learn to play, something I've wanted for a couple of decades.  And I feel sure that if I ever decide to sell her I will be able to.  I'm (hopefully) posting some photos, some now and some later from my phone.  You'll note in the second set that the frets don't extend all the way across.  I've been told that Jethro would do that, too.  There is no paper label inside.  Instead the maker info is carved into the strum hollow.  I've seen photos where Jethro did the same.

So there's my l-o-n-g story of my first dulcimer.  She probably will not be my last, if this follows the same route as my history with my native American flutes.  They do tend to multiply...

 

 

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gaelicgirl
@gaelicgirl
last year
2 posts

Marg,

Thank you! It's definitely going to be a slower adventure than others, string instruments have always been difficult for me to pick up in comparison to piano and trombone.

marg
@marg
last year
564 posts

gaelicgirl

Never too late, I hope you continue to enjoy strumming. Good luck with your new dulcimer, the  adventure begins

gaelicgirl
@gaelicgirl
last year
2 posts

I'm a little late to the party here, but I just got started with my first dulcimer! It was gifted to me a while ago but I just picked up a set of strings and a tuner for it. It's a First Act, nowhere to go but up from here! Once I get my feet under me I'll be looking into a newer/higher quality dulcimer. It's been a sweet little dulcimer so far, I can hardly stop strumming it and I'm not getting much of my summer writing done!

Tom Olson
Tom Olson
@tom-olson
last year
6 posts

My first dulcimer was built for me by Lucky Diamond in Silver Springs, MD.  on March 10, 1976. I was first exposed to the dulcimer by Kevin Roth in 1975 at a tiny music fest in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where he was performing. I was really taken by the sound and his skill, but I was nervous about talking to him about the dulcimer, since I knew nothing about the instrument. He was nice enough to chat and suggest Diamond Dulcimers. So I called Diamond and I think he sent me some info, but I ended up ordering their 6-string, which I think they referred to as a church dulcimer, since it's loud. It has wooden tuning pegs. I drove to Silver Spring in my old Fiat Spider and it was a house in a residential section. I was expecting a music shop. Anyway, I recall next to nothing about the actual transaction, but it felt like I was there for 5 minutes and was back on the road to Pa. I recall trying to strum it while driving, but it was too large, so I placed in the floor of the passenger seat and leaned it vertically and would occasionally strum the strings on the way home. I was soooo excited. I played it for about 2 years, while working a 40-hour week and attending college. It was my stress relief, with my only instructional materials being what came with the dulcimer and my copy of "In Search of...". My younger brother was trying to be funny and do his Jimmy Page imitation with the dulcimer and snapped the headstock. I was heartbroken. Anyway, I carried the pieces of my dulcimer around for over 35 years until I joined FOTMD and decided see if anyone could help me repair it. First, I did try a local music shop that did repairs, they told me my dulcimer was junk and could not be repaired, and would happily sell me a McSpadden. That made me angry, like someone making fun of your kid. It went downhill from there with me having no intention of leaving my dulcimer with him, even if he could repair it. After some discussion on the builders page, I met Ken Longfield who is relatively local and willing to take a look at my "kid", I mean dulcimer. Ken is fantastic, he repaired my dulcimer and the broken heart from 35+ years ago. I'm so grateful. Anyway, that's my first dulcimer story.

Ashkettle
Ashkettle
@ashkettle
last year
1 posts

This is an easy one for me.  Mine arrived just last evening.  Walnut and Spruce McSpadden dulcimer.  I've played Irish music before this, mostly on Flute and Whistle.  I play a little Mandolin and Irish Bouzouki.  In the past year, I found myself playing more and more old-time and I've always been interested in the MD.  

Looking forward to a long journey with it.

Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
last year
124 posts

I had gone to a dulcimer gathering, but not to play dulcimer.  I wanted to play along on my acoustic bass guitar.  It was good practice and I also got to hear again a local group I enjoy, Picks 'n' Sticks.  The day started with an offer to let people borrow a dulcimer, probably the cardboard body ones, for a year.  I said to myself, since I already have way to many instruments, no way.

Never say never.  Later that year I was out with my daughter visiting flea markets and antique shops in her area and found what I call "the Orphan."  A smallish locally made dulcimer abandoned in a flea market.  Decided to try it and, yes, just as I feared earlier, became hooked!

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
last year
1,011 posts

I like your stories, folks.  <3




--
Robin T
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
giddykitty
@giddykitty
last year
4 posts

I am a little late to this but here goes. I grew up listening to dulcimers at Vandalia Gathering and the West Virginia Folk Festival, and I have always wanted one, but couldn't afford one. My grandfather knew and learned how to build a mountain dulcimer. He used wood from our farm and made it himself! I am so grateful for this beautiful instrument.

Elidh
Elidh
@elidh
last year
3 posts

My first and only dulcimer, so far, is a Bob Mize butternut that hubby and I bought in east Tennessee in the 80's.  It went unplayed (I know, shame on me) until a few months ago.  I restrung it, and I think it has a beautiful sound. I am taking on-line lessons (Dulcimer Crossing).  Playing dulcimer seems so much more intuitive than fiddle, mandolin, and even autoharp (I've tried all 3).  I sing in our small church choir and I try to learn melody/chords of one song each week to accompany (along with a piano and guitar).  Thank God I have a patient choir director!  Just bought a pick-up and pre-amp, so maybe next week the congregation will actually hear it!  A few weeks ago I ordered a travel dulcimer from Sweet Woods. smiler

Janene Millen
Janene Millen
@janene-millen
last year
29 posts

My first was a walnut McSpadden with wooden tuning pegs purchased in summer of 86 on a road trip from FL to CA..whilst driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Met the daughter of the owner of that shop at a workshop in northern GA a year or so ago.  She said it was going to close soon.  They got me started...recommended learning materials (Larkin's book) and basic supplies and sent me on my way.  Played at our campground each night for the month-long trip. 

Still have it (had the tuners changed out though).

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
last year
124 posts

My first dulcimer was and is (I still play it) a Walnut Valley Wildwood Mountain model I ordered in late 1992 and received in Feb 1993. Lovely instrument with walnut back, cherry sides, walnut fretboard and spruce top. I did replace the tuning machines with geared tuners and added strap buttons. Still looks good other than some mild finish loss from playing it.

It came with a hard shell case with shaped mold for the instrument inside. I wish other builders offered the fitted case. I know Blue Lion does.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
last year
1,827 posts

It's pretty easy to adjust that string height by sanding a tiny bit off the bottom of the bridge (and maybe the nut)  Start a new General thread about that, and we'll talk you through the process.   

Jennifer Wren
Jennifer Wren
@jennifer-wren
last year
17 posts
My husband bought me my first dulcimer 13 years ago on eBay from Pakistan, or somewhere unexpected like that. It's an hourglass with heart shaped sound holes. I call 'her' Dulcina. I still play it now and then, but the strings sit a bit too high for my liking. The fretboard sits nice and high, which I do like since I use a noter. It came with a wooden noter, which was a nice touch. It was delivered while we were out one day, and some kind postal worker tucked it underneath our porch, presumably to keep it safe. We didn't see it and my poor husband was a bit panicked until he figured it out!
Susie
Susie
@susie
last year
290 posts

My first was a FolkRoots hourglass, spruce/walnut, purchased at Elderly Instruments. Beautiful tone and looked really nice. I have since purchased a FolkRoots with a shorter scale length that I have converted to a baritone and a Folkcraft Custom. Still loving their dulcimers. 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
last year
1,066 posts

@majajog, that's a great story, and probably one that is repeated often, for one of the aspects of the dulcimer that we celebrate is how accessible it is even to those with no musical experience.  Thanks to the McSpadden salesperson who just sat you down and put a dulcimer in your lap!




--
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
majajog
@majajog
last year
21 posts

Our first dulcimers were a ginger for my spouse and a standard for me, both bought from McSpadden.  We sort ended up in Mountain View five years ago, basically by accident.  We had a good time listening to the music and eventually went to McSpaddens to see the dulcimers we fell in love with 40 years earlier.  Thought they were beautiful but knew neither of us had any talent at all so we looked around and left.  Went back a couple of days later for a last look before heading home.  The door to the shop has a sign that says "if you can to 10, you can play."  We both laughed at it, knowing that neither of us could ever play an instrument.  

This time, after looking around for awhile, a salesperson talked me into sitting down and holding a dulcimer.  I thought that was pretty cool but, I knew I could never play and I said so and besides I was left handed anyway.  She took the dulcimer away and laid a left handed dulcimer on my lap and said "here, play it."  I said "huh, I don't know how and don't have any talent anyway". She said you don't need talent just a desire and some tab.  I said "what's tab?"  She showed me some tab, explained the numbers and told me to try and play.  I got through the first 2 measures and could tell it more or less sounded like "Ode To Joy". Couldn't believe it.

My spouse then went through the same thing with the same outcome.  We promptly said we'll take two.  Spent the next couple of hours deciding on size, shape, woods etc., gave them a credit card and told them ship them to us when they were done.  Best thing we ever did.

They turned out great, at least to us, sound great and we play almost everyday.  Started our own little group that meets every week to practice, learn new stuff and play old favorites.  Unbelievably, my spouse and I even played at a nursing home with some members of our group.  The people there seemed to enjoy it so we were pretty excited.

We still don't have any talent, we will never be very good players but we have fun practicing and have met some wonderful people and hear music all the time now.  Best money we ever spent.

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
last year
63 posts

My first dulcimer was an hourglass Folk Roots dulcimer purchased in about 1985 or 1986 from Elderly Instruments.  While visiting one of the Toledo Metroparks I stopped to listen to a lady playing a dulcimer at a very small gathering organized by one of the park rangers.  I ordered my first dulcimer from Elderly Instruments shortly thereafter.  About three or four years later I organized a dulcimer club for students at the local elementary school.  By then I owned three or four dulcimers, so I sold my Folk Roots model to one of the students at a fraction of its value to help them obtain their own instrument.

Steven Berger
Steven Berger
@steven-berger
2 years ago
73 posts

A Hughes hourglass I bought in the late '80's. I still play it occasionally. Solid walnut back and sides, solid spruce or cedar top (it's darkened considerably over the years). I knew both Virgil and Norman Hughes when I lived in Denver. I was still somewhat active in Civil War re-enacting with my infantry unit back in NJ and I was thinking about joining an artillery unit (run by Virgil). I ended up not joining although I did participate in a couple of events with them. I remember their shop where they made a number of different folk instruments...they played them too (quite well!).

My Hughes dulcimer was well made with a laminated headstock, floating bone bridge, and a 3-piece inlay strip in the back of different woods, and heart-shaped soundholes...an attractive and nice sounding instrument.

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
2 years ago
142 posts

My first love was a little kit purchased from a man at a Georgia arts and crafts festival back in 1984-87ish. I never played it.  It doesn't have too good of a tone but it was good enough it got my interest some years later and I took it to a group and learned to play. Never looked back. 

D. chitwood
D. chitwood
@d-chitwood
2 years ago
142 posts

My first love was a little kit purchased from a man at a Georgia arts and crafts festival back in 1984-87ish. I never played it.  It doesn't have too good of a tone but it was good enough it got my interest some years later and I took it to a group and learned to play. Never looked back. 

Janis Lewman
Janis Lewman
@janis-lewman
2 years ago
7 posts

My first was/is a Bill Taylor.  My grandmother left me some money after she passed away so I figured the dulcimer was best purchase to make.  To this day I can remember standing there at Bardstown contemplating which one to buy.  Ron Turner came over and stood beside me then pointed to one and said "That is the one you need." Great choice - small holes in the top so I could not drop picks inside - and a sweet sound.  Sad to say Ron passed away not long after that, but I'm forever grateful for his assistance.  

SuzanneBailey
SuzanneBailey
@suzannebailey
2 years ago
2 posts

marg:  

suzannbakkey & jan

Do you feel Warren May dulcimers sound better played with fingers or does it also sound sweet with a pick or noter? Warren uses his tick tock strum with fingers and that is the only way I have hear one of his dulcimers. Also do you tune in any tune or do you keep it in DAA?

Right now I am just learning so I stick with DAA.  I like the sound of the noter and use a pick.  Like the sound of a turkey feather to strum with as Ms Jean Ritchie did.  

marg
@marg
2 years ago
564 posts

guy,

Both music and the dulcimer are great therapy, it is so nice you have passed your dulcimer on with it's 'big voice' -  Hopefully it continues to sing.

marg
@marg
2 years ago
564 posts

They may have different sounds, the noter better slides sounds but with the finger you could add additional notes for sometimes a fuller sound. Both nice and nothing wrong with either or both ways at different times. As we learn we grow, as we grow we learn - a wonderful adventure.

Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
2 years ago
253 posts

Thanks Kathy and Marg.  It's going to be an interesting experience. I am anxious to get lessons started and learn if I can play by fingering or if I will be a 'noter'.  Either way is fine with me.


updated by @kusani: 01/11/16 07:54:34AM
marg
@marg
2 years ago
564 posts

Loved your story dusty but was worried a 13 year old was off across the country on his own.   

Kusani, your dulcimer is beautiful and wish you lots of enjoyment with it.

 

marg
@marg
2 years ago
564 posts

 

suzannbakkey & jan

Do you feel Warren May dulcimers sound better played with fingers or does it also sound sweet with a pick or noter? Warren uses his tick tock strum with fingers and that is the only way I have hear one of his dulcimers. Also do you tune in any tune or do you keep it in DAA?

joe sanguinette
joe sanguinette
@joe-sanguinette
2 years ago
92 posts

my first was a kit i bought from a gift shop here in branson about 1970.  it was a box of parts with no instructions.  i put it togther and while it

didnt look like much it sounded pretty good......at least to me.  as it turned out i became more interested in building dulcimers than playing them

and launched a 30 year business.  it became a wonderful life style traveling to arts and craft shows and music festivals.

Kathy Ford
Kathy Ford
@kathy-ford
2 years ago
6 posts

Good luck to you Kusani, and I must say, I love your dulcimer, it is beautiful.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,066 posts

Good for you, Kusani.  Your dulcimer voyage begins . . . 




--
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
Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
2 years ago
253 posts

My first, and only so far, dulcimer was purchased by my mother in 1976 when she visited John Maxwell's dulcimer and craft shop in Cookeville, Tn.  She never played it and it has been hanging on my wall for the past 30 years.  Day before yesterday I took it down, cleaned it up, started reading volumes on line, went to a music shop and had it restrung and learned about the difficulty of tuning with wood pegs.  I also made the noter today, using some deer antler I had in my shop.  Learned what DADD tuning is, and last night started practicing on a couple of simple songs.  I am scheduled to start lessons at church week after next.  Wish me luck. :)  The last musical instrument I played was a trombone in high school. 


updated by @kusani: 01/07/16 06:31:02PM
Kathy Ford
Kathy Ford
@kathy-ford
2 years ago
6 posts

My first dulcimer is an E. Dale Eckard, purchased in Sevierville TN about 5 years ago. Made from walnut and maple, it's a beautiful instrument, and it has a great sound. At the time I did not play, nor did I know anything about dulcimers. I had heard a group playing them once at a festival and I fell in love with the sound, and just had to have one. At the shop where I bought this dulcimer were several more from different makers.  I strummed them all and picked this one because of its beauty and sound. It is still my main playing dulcimer and I really love it. 

Guy Babusek
Guy Babusek
@guy-babusek
2 years ago
103 posts

Mine was an old Ruggs and Jackel Folkroots that someone didn't want anymore and they gave to me. I played it for about 10 years, and then donated it to an organization who uses dulcimers in their music therapy programs for rehabilitative purposes. It had such a BIG voice!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 years ago
1,827 posts

Kerry was a real Lady.  I knew her pretty well.  She'd come over to Prescott and Phoenix a couple times a year during the years I lived there (2000-2003) and we'd jam.  Fabulous player, beautiful voice.  I miss her a lot.

 

Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
3 years ago
113 posts

The first dulcimer I owned was built by Kerry Coates, Gila Mountain Dulcimers.  I either emailed her or called, I can't remember and we decided on the shape, wood and design.  I had her paint two Carolina parakeets, Ike and Izzy, the last two in existence from a painting I found of them.........she did a magnificent job, using the sound holes as wings........perfect.  Kerry stopped building shortly thereafter.  She told me that she was having health problems that she thought were related to the materials she used, so she was going to stop and get back to playing, as she put it, "the darn thing."   We more or less stayed in touch for a few years since she was a great teacher and helped me learn to play that great dulcimer she built.  Sadly, Kerry passed on April 29, 2014 after a heroic struggle.........now that dulcimer sits in a corner of my office out here in the forest........a treasure built my a master craftsman and grand musician...I play it every now and again and always remember her wit and creativity.........that dulcimer has the sweetest ring of any I own and I hope will bring my grandchildren the same pleasantries it brought me.  When they are a bit older I will tell them the story of the last two Carolina parakeets and about the artistry of a lady who was an artist in the truest sense of the word.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 years ago
1,066 posts

Hey folks, it wasn't my intention to derail this discussion by offering my fictional version of a dulcimer discovery.  I really enjoy hearing about everyone's first instrument and hope people continue to post.




--
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
Sheryl St. Clare
Sheryl St. Clare
@sheryl-st-clare
3 years ago
335 posts

Dusty, you had me going. What great story. ROTFL

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
3 years ago
84 posts

Both versions of your story are excellent.

Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
3 years ago
473 posts

 Dusty, was you possessor of any of the early John Fahey albums?

 

 
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