The Joy of Sharing Dulcimer

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
9 months ago
64 posts

How serious can you get with a recorder? See the following:

J.S. Bach Toccata & Fuge d-Moll BWV 565 arr. for recorder orchestra
Berliner Blockflöten Orch

Dietrich Schnabel - Symphony 1, mvmt 4

Three Irish traditional - Quinta Essentia Recorder Quartet & Paul Leenhouts I Quarteto Flauta Doce
Quinta Essentia Quarteto

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
9 months ago
64 posts

I suspect that the recorder over tin whistle choice is often snob-ism. The American Recorder Society says

"Rather than a mere toy, an educational aid, or a simple musical instrument suitable only for amateurs, the recorder is a vehicle for serious musical expression demanding years of dedicated study. It has a long and interesting history and can lay claim to an extensive and highly varied repertoire spanning eight centuries. It has always enjoyed a particularly rich representation in literature, drama, painting and sculpture."
https://americanrecorder.org/about_the_recorder.php

Similarly, four year olds should be given lessons on the violin or piano, not the dulcimer.

IT'S NOT ABOUT HAVING FUN OR ENJOYING MUSIC! (Or learning to count.)

As a result, where I live you can buy a recorder in a "dollar store" for $1.25 whereas you have to go to a music store to buy a tin whistle for $9.95.

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
9 months ago
252 posts

Strumelia:

I've always wondered why schools don't use penny whistles instead of recorders. They are cheaper and are based on a simpler counted-hole method of scales, like the dulcimer is. I've noticed a distinct similarity between dulcimers and p.whistles in terms of playing different modes- both are based upon the ionian mode, with aeolian being quite accessible as well. (ionian home on 3rd fret dulcimer, 3rd hole whistle) Both are easily played in the most common keys as well. P.whistles would certainly be much more portable and durable for kids to take for practicing at home.

 
I think a tin whistle can be a really abrasive sound in the hands of a new player. When I started on tin whistle, I didnt have any breath control and would always waver in and out of pitch or blow too hard and hit the higher octave. Luckily it was just my cats who had to be there for that learning experience, but they made it very clear that they were worried about me xD

At least a plastic recorder, as much as I don't like the sound, is a bit quieter and less sharp of a tone. I can imagine that children who are genuinely interested could benefit a lot from learning tin whistle, but that the average 3rd grader, if given a tin whistle, would be a true menace xD

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
9 months ago
1,097 posts

You can purchase a plastic recorder or tin whistle for less than $3.00. A plastic ukulele can be had for $5.00 or less. The least expensive dulcimer kit in a quantity lot of 12 is $52 each and then you need to factor in the cost of building (labor, glue, paint or other finish, tools, etc.). Given tight budgets for the arts in education, which would you choose.

Ken
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."


updated by @ken-longfield: 09/01/23 01:25:04PM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
9 months ago
2,263 posts

Cheap school instruments= plastic recorders, plastic ukeleles, cardboard dulcimers, plastic or metal p.whistles.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
9 months ago
2,263 posts

I've always wondered why schools don't use penny whistles instead of recorders. They are cheaper and are based on a simpler counted-hole method of scales, like the dulcimer is. I've noticed a distinct similarity between dulcimers and p.whistles in terms of playing different modes- both are based upon the ionian mode, with aeolian being quite accessible as well. (ionian home on 3rd fret dulcimer, 3rd hole whistle) Both are easily played in the most common keys as well. P.whistles would certainly be much more portable and durable for kids to take for practicing at home.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
9 months ago
252 posts

Bvmaestro:

Although the conversation happened a couple of years ago, I found the idea of replacing recorders with dulcimers interesting.  I am finding that kids are aging with less fine motor skills.  More students struggle even with the most simple recorder fingerings.  I am looking at using dulcimers during my primary grades music instruction.  As early as kindergarten, students will learn to count the frets (which correlates with the simple counting curriculum) while making music using the noter style.  As they progress, they can learn to use fingering on the melody string to increase finger dexterity, and eventually chords.  This would probably last through the second grade.  At this point, then I can branch out to ukulele, recorders, guitars, etc.  I will never replace recorder or ukulele, but the dulcimer will definitely prepare students for such making them invaluable in school music.  Best part, kids will make music quickly and fall in love with it faster.  I think I got the plan. 

 
I find the idea of associating counting with musical notes to be fascinating for a developing mind, since they have different number bases (demical system being base 10, dulcimer base 7, 12 tone, well...12) 

It's my opinion that 'music' is just a series of numbers or 'frequencies' that can be combined into equations or 'melodies/progressions' that our mind finds engaging. I've always been fascinated with research on how early exposure to music affects both math and language skills. 

To me, it is very interesting that many mathematicians have suggested over time that a base 7 number system is more useful than a base 10 for some purposes, but we rely on base 10 simply because that is how many fingers we have. Well if a dulcimer is base 7 (with 7 notes to an octave) and they learn base 10 with counting, this might encourage children to have a more naturally elastic view of maths!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
last year
2,126 posts

@bvmaestro -- As you've probably read, cardboard dulcimers are as cheap, and as good as you can get unless you build then yourself.  If you DYI a batch of instruments you can get the cost down to about $20 each.  Check out the program(s) of the Waldorf private school system... 

Bvmaestro
Bvmaestro
@bvmaestro
last year
3 posts

Although the conversation happened a couple of years ago, I found the idea of replacing recorders with dulcimers interesting.  I am finding that kids are aging with less fine motor skills.  More students struggle even with the most simple recorder fingerings.  I am looking at using dulcimers during my primary grades music instruction.  As early as kindergarten, students will learn to count the frets (which correlates with the simple counting curriculum) while making music using the noter style.  As they progress, they can learn to use fingering on the melody string to increase finger dexterity, and eventually chords.  This would probably last through the second grade.  At this point, then I can branch out to ukulele, recorders, guitars, etc.  I will never replace recorder or ukulele, but the dulcimer will definitely prepare students for such making them invaluable in school music.  Best part, kids will make music quickly and fall in love with it faster.  I think I got the plan. 

Cindy Stammich
Cindy Stammich
@cindy-stammich
2 years ago
68 posts

Hi All,

I was asked to play for a memorial service that took place yesterday.  Friday morning the funeral director met with me so I could do a mic check on their sound system.  He was so surprised and excited about the dulcimer!  He said he had never actually seen one!  He loved the sound, and before I left he asked if he could take a picture to send to a friend in North Carolina.  This was certainly a bright spot in a very sad situation!

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 years ago
252 posts

I guess the practicalities do get in the way a bit!earplug
This makes me think of all the articles shared on here about dulcimer building workshops in schools. I have spent a lot of time working on ways to make dulcimers as inexpensively as possible. I have helped a couple of hitchhikers to build cardboard dulcimers which, other than having to buy a can of polyurethane that lasts for several, cost ~7$ to make(3 loose strings 1$ each, three eyehole screws as tuners, 1.50$, 2 foot piece of red oak 2.50$) Id love to get to a point with editing where I can make videos on producing good sounding dulcimers for under 30$. We really are blessed to play an instrument that doesn't necessarily  require anything fancy to produce.

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
3 years ago
395 posts

Friends, I have the solution you crave for tuning multiple dulcimers for children:  Use zither pins for tuners, and give tuning wrenches only to the instructors!  Tune all of the dulcimers ONCE, and let the classes begin!

CarolynF
CarolynF
@carolynf
3 years ago
9 posts

Add the tuning issue to the cost of purchasing and maintaining multiple dulcimers helps to explain why the recorder is the choice of most schools.  It is much less costly and is ready to play right out of its pouch.

[/quote]

Ahh, yes. You are right. ( those pesky details)

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
3 years ago
141 posts

One drawback to using string instruments in large groups of children is getting past issues of tuning multiple instruments quickly.  Imagine trying to tune 30 dulcimers before everyone is "in-tune".  The typical elementary music class is about 30 minutes long.  Trying to tune an instrument in a noisy room can be extremely difficulty.  Trying to tune 30 dulcimers in a  room of 30 children is nearly impossible.

Add the tuning issue to the cost of purchasing and maintaining multiple dulcimers helps to explain why the recorder is the choice of most schools.  It is much less costly and is ready to play right out of its pouch.


updated by @greg-gunner: 07/25/21 06:48:40PM
CarolynF
CarolynF
@carolynf
3 years ago
9 posts

I agree that a dulcimer should replace the recorder as a child's first introduction to music. Anyone at all can have immediate success. Recorders are hard to get to point where the music is pleasing to a kid. The trouble is that recorders (or "songflutes", what my children got) are cheap, and can be kept by the kid. Or, if you go back far enough to the 60's we had "Tonettes" that lived in a cardboard box until passed out for temporary usage. 

I'd recommend one over a ukulele for a kid being introduced to strings/music.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 years ago
2,263 posts

Wonderful points, Nate. Americans have sadly gotten away from the norm of every family having several members who play an instrument at home or at family or community gatherings. 




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 years ago
2,126 posts

Well said, Nate!   Preachin' to the choir, as they say, but very well said.

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 years ago
252 posts

I just got back from a camping trip where I brought a dulcimer. Plucked by the lake and the campfire and it was a great time. While out there, a friend remarked that it sounds nice and told me what so many people have told me during conversations about music. "I've never been any good." 

Every time I hear this it's like a dopamine rush because I know certainly that if I put a dulcimer in their hands, explain to them the Do-Re-Mi scale as I move up the melody string frets, and then show them that every chord they can play will always be harmonious, they will be enthralled and within 30 seconds their musical confidence will have skyrocketed. Sure enough he was having fun with different rhythms, playing bizarre chords as far as his hands could stretch just to see what they sound like, and once he realized he could barre chords using a lighter as a slide, he was in bliss.

It's an experience I've had many times. I often sling my primitive dulcimers on my back and walk to the river, and along the way people often inquire about it. I really do relish in persuading people who think they lack musical ability to go ahead and try playing. Without fail people who have had really bad experiences with hard to learn instruments get so invested in playing my dulcimer its hard to get it back, and in fact a couple times, they purchased it from me on the spot because the music they made with it spoke to them.

I get a ton of joy from introducing american history enthusiasts, art appreciators, and those who need a boost of musical confidence to my dulcimers. It is so accessible to beginners and is simply gorgeous in the hands of a master. 

In my opinion the dulcimer should replace the recorder as the 'student instrument' given that it's so much more likely to spark a love for music. I think if everyone had access to a dulcimer, almost everyone would be a musician :)