General Observation - Two Dulcimers, Two Sounds

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 months ago
1,616 posts

Ken accurately enumerates the many variables that affect the sound of an instrument, and you have two very different instruments here in terms of size, design, wood, etc.  You even tune them to different keys and different modes!  In short, they should sound different.

In general, most luthiers have a consistent feel and sound, but within that consistency is room for variation depending on the specific model, the woods chosen, the bracing, etc.  




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Dusty T., Northern California
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RoyB
RoyB
@royb
3 months ago
71 posts

Susie, I have several guitars and ukuleles on my walls, but only two dulcimers. I guess I need to remedy that!

Susie
Susie
@susie
4 months ago
482 posts

Robin Thompson:


RoyB, one of the things I love about mountain dulcimer is what you've observed-- how different they each can sound.  



I will second this, and will add that their varying sizes come in handy for different applications....playing at home, taking to a festival, going in an RV, etc. Depending on where I'm playing and if I will be playing with others, I decide which one to grab. Also, you can have them tuned differently.  Not to mention the beauty of dulcimers.....different woods and appointments.  So, as you can see, we NEED many dulcimers. grinwinky

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
4 months ago
1,329 posts

RoyB, one of the things I love about mountain dulcimer is what you've observed-- how different they each can sound.  

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Quote:The interesting thing is that virtually identical dulcimers from the same builder -- dimensions, materials, finish etc -- can, usually do, sound different from each other.

Ken, this last part of your response is interesting.  Guitar manufacturers, I believe, go for the opposite.  Taylor in particular, from what I understand, with its increased standardization and automated processes, strives for identical instruments of a certain model.  If you purchase X model guitar, you should expect a certain feel and sound out of it.  Smaller luthier shops of course are different, as would be individual dulcimer makers.  I like the idea of each instrument having its own individual voice and character.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 months ago
2,010 posts

VERY COMMON.  You have two instruments with different internal volumes.  That is a major factor in the sound -- just as it is in your guitar and uke.  Apples and tangerines as it were.  There are hundreds... maybe a thousand factors which affect the overall sound of a dulcimer. Among them: 

volume of body
area of sound holes
VSL
number of strings
plain vs wound strings
string tensions
where the bridge sets relative to the endblock
total mass of vibrating wood
mass of fretboard
area of top and back available to vibrate
internal bracing
kind of finish
mass of finish
external muffling (lap/arms)
thickness of top/back/sides
material the nut & bridge are made of, and, oh yeah
wood species 

... to name just a few.  

The interesting thing is that virtually identical dulcimers from the same builder -- dimensions, materials, finish etc -- can, usually do, sound different from each other.


updated by @ken-hulme: 08/20/22 10:07:15PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Just a general observation about my experiences so far.  I have an old, handmade 28.5" VSL 3 string instrument tuned Aeolian at CGA#, and an Apple Creek 24" VSL, 4 string instrument tuned Ionian at DAA.  I play noter drone on each, lighter, smaller noter on the Apple Creek, heavier on the other.

Despite playing the same way on each instrument, same pick, same type of rhythm, they sound like two entirely different instruments.  Roughly like playing my guitar and my ukulele.  Nothing wrong with this at all, I don't think, just an unexpected observation.  Is this common?  Thanks.