TK O'Brien, or Walter Messick feedback on sound/voice.

Nikolas4squid
@nikolas4squid
last year
26 posts

@Patty-from-virginia , I think you read my comment as a negative on Walter's dulcimers. Not at all. I think mine is wonderful, and the others of his I tried also. I am talking how I would finesse it if I had my druthers. The buzz came with the switch to DAD. Also, I did not mean that I have a problem playing due the string arrangement after taking the extra melody off; I meant it bothers me (ditto on some others I have tried by other makers). I would like that changed as a matter of individual preference.  As for the volume, Walter makes a lot of different dulcimers, and mine was the quietest of the ones I tried - a beautiful maple (pic below). It had a pretty tone that I much appreciated. It is not as loud as his others, and to me his louder ones are not loud in the way that McSpaddens are. I don't know how to explain that. I tried out a Ray Anthony all cherry dulcimer recently. Deeper body, very bright cherry wood, lots of volume, probably louder all in all than a McSpadden, but not in the same way. No way to explain that, I guess. But I think McSpadden's are quite loud. My Walter is definitely my quietest dulcimer,and I picked it for thaty reason. It was quiet, so you could hear its sweet voice. I was thinking of getting a different one that would have worked well as a "workhorse" but I was taken by this one. Very nice. I might still get another one from him - maybe an hourglass - as a workhorse. He has a red cedar/butternut model that I would love to try. I like his stuff. I also know he would fix whatever I wanted, but it is a distance thing. If I lived closer, I'd ask him to fix this or that for me. But as it is, that is quite a trek. So I will just have someone closer by do what I want - and again, minor stuff. By the way, I did get the buzz fixed right way, so that is no longer an issue. 

IMG_20160118_203929.jpg


updated by @nikolas4squid: 01/18/16 10:11:39PM
Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
last year
274 posts

Nikolas, I've never had a problem with buzzing on my Walter Messick dulcimer. I took off the melody string on the "outside" and have had no difficulty playing chord melody. I noticed you say you have sta tites for tuners. You say you have the tear drop model. I have an hour glass that has geared tuners. I have never had a problem with them. In fact they are very smooth more so than the open geared tuners on my cardboard. I too have a McSpadden and I have to say that Walter's is just as loud as it. They only difference is that I kept the double melody strings on the McSpadden. I also have to say that when I go to jam my Messick, Cabin Creek, is still my go to instrument. If you had buzzing after purchasing his instrument he is more than willing to make good on it and repair it. 

Nikolas4squid
@nikolas4squid
last year
26 posts

Now, here is something I can weigh in on. I have a TK O'Brien and  Walter Messick. Tk O'Briens come in a  variety of wood combos, as do Walter's. My TK is walnut with a butternut or poplar top (no one seems to agree on what it is). I bought it used,and I was told that it was one of the few good TK's out there. I have never touched another one, so I am not sure on that. It sounds fine enough to me (not perfect, but fine enough).

What I don't like on the TK O'Brien is the wider fretboard, the moveable bridge (which always seems to get knocked off when I am pulling the thing out of its case when I don't have time to fiddle with it), and the ugly closed tuners that don't work so accurately. I'd prefer open tuners, but maybe TKs have them now, IDK.

The Walter one is a maple teardrop. It is beautiful with clear notes. Not so loud though, which is good for me. It really has a sweet sound with some nice resonance, though the bass response is a bit mild, which might just be the nature of maple (I suppose trying a heavier gauge string might bass it up a bit, if I were so inclined). The down side to his were fret buzz when I swtiched to DAD tuning and pretty high action, which makes the first fret tiring to deal with.Walter plays noter style, so that might be the reason for that combo of problems in my case (if you are a notrer player,then no problem for you, I would imagine). Also, I don't use four strings,so when I take off the extra melody string, the distance between the three strings is not equal, which I find annoying. Minor difference and minor quibble, I admit, and it is common to many dulcimers when dropping the extra melody string. Others might not even notice. 

I also like the look of the staytite tuners, but they are a pain to work with. I mean I can fidget with them at home satisfactorily, but I wouldn't want to deal with them in a class or at club or at a jam when things are slightly more rushed.  I will eventually take his dulcimer to a local dulcimer "doctor," and have the action lowered, new nuts and bridge put in and cut to handle 3 strings equally, and swap the tuners for the geared type used on scroll head McSpaddens.  I use the TK for strumming, and the Walter, as is now, for flat picking.  I will eventually sell or give away the TK when I find my perfect workhorse dulcimer but I'll keep the Warren because it is such a beauty and has a very nice and distinctive sound. I use it much more at home than the TK.

As a final note on sound, my TK (remember it is walnut with poplar or butternut top) is more guitar like in sound. Walter's is more traditional dulcimer sounding, in the nice way. Neither is as loud or as twangy (for lack of a better word) as a McSpadden, which are like, to use an electric guitar comparison, the Telecasters of the dulcimer world to me.  (I am a Fender Mustang and Jaguar man in that world!)

Oh, by the way, the Walter is a bit shorter than the TK. I think the TK is a 28" string length and Walter's a 26" anyway, that sort of difference if such things matter to you. I prefer the shorter string length myself, despite having big hands. Just so much easier to deal with (ditto on my guitar choice - short scale all the way!)

I notice that you last posted at the end of November, so perhaps you have already made your switch. If so, what do you think?


updated by @nikolas4squid: 01/18/16 10:09:15PM
David Pedersen
@david-pedersen
2 years ago
32 posts

Dan Goad:
Yes, David.  I retired from the USCG in 1989.

I was CG 71 to 78.

 

Dan Goad
@dan-goad
2 years ago
164 posts

Yes, David.  I retired from the USCG in 1989.

David Pedersen
@david-pedersen
2 years ago
32 posts

When she returns I'll find out exactly. Maybe it can be fixed.

David Pedersen
@david-pedersen
2 years ago
32 posts

[quote="Dan Goad"]
I've never heard of a complaint about the TK Obrien before, David. 

She just doesnt care for the sound. Not clear enough for her.

Was that you Dan in the CG?

Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
2 years ago
274 posts

I forgot to mention that I got the hourglass shaped dulcimer from Walter. It does have the geared tuners. The teardrops he makes have the Grover Sta-Tite metal friction tuners. That might make a difference for some as far as ease of re-tuning. 

Patty from Virginia
@patty-from-virginia
2 years ago
274 posts

I own a Cabin Creek, Walter Messick, dulcimer.  I like the sound of it.  I know everyone's likes can be different. I do know that you can call up Walter and he can play his dulcimers over the phone for you. That's what he did for me. I have to say when I received it and played it for the first time I was not disappointed. It sounded better in person than it did over the phone but it did sound good over the phone. 

Dan Goad
@dan-goad
2 years ago
164 posts

I've never heard of a complaint about the TK Obrien before, David.  What is your playing partners problem? Maybe we can fix it, we are pretty good about doing that.

David Pedersen
@david-pedersen
2 years ago
32 posts

My playing partner has a TK Obrien. Shes not happy with the sound. Not trying too be rude.

Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 years ago
1,460 posts

There are closer to 50 different factors that can effect the tone of an instrument.  None is more important than another, really.  Generally we say listen to a specific instrument, not a general maker's line, as each dulcimer can be different.  Call the builders and ask them to play a specific instrument for you over the phone or Skype.  Buy by ear, not maker's name or shape or wood or VSL or any other things.  Generally speaking a dulcimer with more cubic inches in the body will be deeper sounding than one with less cubic inches. 

Dan Goad
@dan-goad
2 years ago
164 posts

I don't have any experience with either of those makes.  My rule of thumb is deep sound box with larger strings produces a lower more 'mornful' tone.  Others may disagree but that is just my own opinion.

 

Estes George
@george-desjardins
2 years ago
105 posts

Exactly, is there a preference as to the two?Does one provide better? I'm leaning towards  the Walter Messick, great wood.

Dan Goad
@dan-goad
2 years ago
164 posts

There are many different factors that make up the sound of a dulcimer.  Tone woods, sound chamber size, VSL (viibrating string length) and string size (gauge) used. 

Estes George
@george-desjardins
2 years ago
105 posts

I am just looking for feedback on the sound of the O'Brien, compared to Walter Messick? I have heard the O'Brien as having a better "sad", "lonely" sound, but was curious as to the Messick, has a beauty right now I am seriously considering. American Chestnut. I really like the deeper, more melancholy, "sad" sound. I know, cheery soul! :-)