instrument question- Stephens Lutherie/holy grail dulcimer?

LarryBH
LarryBH
@larrybh
3 weeks ago
4 posts

Now, I understand what the others were trying to say. I must test this tomorrow. I feel much better.

Thanks to all of you.

Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
363 posts

The test instrument is a tuner. Tighten the string until the tuner indicates you're at the correct pitch. If you use DAd it's D3-A3-d4 on the tuner or D3-A3-A3 for DAA. You stop when you reach the pitch target. This all assumes you have the correct strings for the tuning to be used.

This works because the note frequency/pitch is dependent on the tension and mass [size and material] of the string. The string calculator uses a formula to determine the appropriate size string for a frequency/pitch, the tuner reports the frequency/pitch. If an inappropriate string is used it may break or cause damage.

grin sun

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 weeks ago
2,269 posts

Larry, in order to prevent tuning your strings too tightly thus breaking the strings or damaging the instrument...

1) you must know what note you are aiming to tune to and choose a string thickness (gauge) that is appropriate to that note, for the scale length of your string (the measurement from nut to bridge, aka "VSL" which stands for Vibrating String Length)

2) once you have chosen the correct thickness of string for the VSL and note you want to tune to, you'll need an electronic tuner to tell you when your string is approaching that note once you start tightening it. (I assume you are not able to tune by ear alone).  You must also be sure you are tuning to the note in its correct OCTAVE.

This string calculator can help in choosing a string gauge: https://www.strothers.com/string_choice.html

And this may also help you hear/understand the notes you are aiming for: https://dulcimer-noter-drone.blogspot.com/2010/12/what-notes-do-i-tune-my-strings-to.html




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
LarryBH
LarryBH
@larrybh
3 weeks ago
4 posts

From what I know:

1) If the strings are too tight, I could damage the dulcimer, and

2) The string will break, possibly be hurt.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 weeks ago
1,107 posts

Larry, I'm having trouble understanding your question. Do you not bring the string up to the proper pitch when you pout it on? No matter what instrument Ion which 'm replacing strings, I always bring the new string up to pitch before moving on to the next string. I don't know why one would want to bring up the string up to "a certain tightness of the string" or slightly below pitch before moving on to the next string. Once you put a string on continue tightening until you reach the proper pitch. Are you using an electronic tuner? Tuning by ear? Tuning to another instrument? Certainly using the first method there is no reason to stop.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

LarryBH
LarryBH
@larrybh
3 weeks ago
4 posts

What I should have written: “… now, this string is done ready to be tuned after stringing the next three …”

I still need to have an answer for what I had asked … if there is actually an answer to be given.

Skip
Skip
@skip
3 weeks ago
363 posts

Since I usually do one string at a time I take it right up to the final note or just before the final note. Then I do the final fine tuning after all the strings have been changed. That takes care of floating bridges and remembering which string I'm doing. happys

LarryBH
LarryBH
@larrybh
3 weeks ago
4 posts

Hello:

When I re-string my dulcimer, how do I determine the tightness of the string … a time when I should stop … then I  can tune it? Is there some type of test that I can use?

Thank you.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 months ago
2,269 posts

@Randy I like Dwight Diller's story and tune version. He called it Dead Man's Piece i think. At least i think it was the same piece, a very old banjo tune, almost just a repeated phrase. Best teacher I ever had. Never in a rush, knew the power of silences between the notes.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Randy Adams
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
4 months ago
116 posts

Ah but Lisa a good old time banjo picker playing a just right old time banjo in that good shaving a dead man tuning...transcends the mortal world...and I know you know that ❤️

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
5 months ago
1,738 posts

@bing-futch just shared his lesson on Shaving a Dead Man here at FOTMD . What timing!




--
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
NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
5 months ago
264 posts

One thing I find really cool about that is that speeding up music doesn't change the pitch of the notes so you can speed up or slow down backing tracks or "play alongs" and they will still be in the original key

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
5 months ago
2,269 posts

Often when I'm watching a YT tutorial video on some subject, it drives me nuts when the person is talking slooooowly and I wish they'd just get to the point. talk  🐌 time tumbleweed  That's when I click the gear and speed it up to 1.25 speed... what a Godsend! 




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
5 months ago
1,738 posts

@wildcat, you click or tap the gear icon and then choose "playback speed." 

YouTube added this feature a couple of years ago. It slows things down but keeps the same pitch, so you can learn tunes really easily. 

On a PC, that gear icon is on the bottom of the YouTube screen, but on a cell phone it appears on the top right.

Edit: Woops!  It looks like @salt-springs types faster than I. 




--
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

updated by @dusty: 02/09/24 02:15:43PM
Salt Springs
Salt Springs
@salt-springs
5 months ago
207 posts

Simple........on the youtube video.......start it.........go to the settings on the video (that gear thing).........hit playback speed and speed it up or slow it down.

Wildcat
Wildcat
@wildcat
5 months ago
22 posts

@lilley-pad How does one go about slowing YouTube down? Can this be done on a cell and a pc?

Lilley Pad
Lilley Pad
@lilley-pad
5 months ago
13 posts

Thanks you guys are the best. I'll keep my eyes open for Bing's episode.  The beauty of YouTube is that one can slow it down.

Just got a real instrument a Folk roots. My first one was a cheap import, waste of money oh well live and learn. Thanks again all for the good input. stay dry.😁

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
5 months ago
1,738 posts

It just so happens that the next episode of Bing Futch's Dulcimerica (#687) will feature Bing Futch playing and teaching Shaving a Dead Man.  Check it out in a day or two whenever it drops.




--
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
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
5 months ago
2,269 posts

I just stumbled on a 14yr old video of our own @randy-adams playing that old banjer tune on one of his cigar box instruments  banjo :




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 months ago
2,130 posts

The song dates back to the 1930s at least, and does not appear to be copyright protected. No dulcimer tab I could find.  Best to sing/hum/whistle the tune until you KNOW it, then sit down and pick it out on youe melody tring and write the tab as you go...


updated by @ken-hulme: 02/07/24 09:44:27PM
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
5 months ago
2,269 posts

Lilley, Dusty is correct as far as I know. 
I think you'd have to work it out on the dulcimer for yourself (either making a simple tab or learning it by ear), but most of those old fiddle/banjo tunes are pretty simple in structure, so it might be fun for you to do. It's definitely a traditional tune and not copyrighted. I do like that tune name "Protect the Innocent".




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
5 months ago
1,738 posts

I don't think the song is under copyright.  It appears to have a long history as a clawhammer banjo tune, but at one time the title was different and included a racial epithet.  From what I can figure out, by the 1970s, folks were calling it "Shaving a Dead Man" or "Protect the Innocent."  There's lots of banjo tab out on the tune as well as discussions about playing it in different keys and tunings.




--
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

updated by @dusty: 02/07/24 08:20:37PM
Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
5 months ago
236 posts

That song may be  under copyright. I did a search and could not find when it was written.  Your best avenue may be to purchase the sheet music and create your own tab from the sheet music.

Lilley Pad
Lilley Pad
@lilley-pad
5 months ago
13 posts

Hi sorry I don't know where to post this question. Any idea where to get the dulcimer tablature for a song Shaving a Dead Man? Thanks Kids

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
5 months ago
264 posts

Bob Stephens dulcimers are absurdly cool. I haven't had the privilege of playing one but the engineering is fascinating and the tone is definitely distinctive. They incorporate a lot of design elements that you won't find in any other instruments. They may look 'guitar-like' but they are very optimized dulcimers. Features like the floating neck and internal soundboard are examples of taking things that are distinctive about a dulcimer and pushing them further.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
5 months ago
1,738 posts

@Bob-Stephens really does use a floating neck that does not come in contact with the soundboard.  His dulcimers also have a false bottom, so both top and bottom are free to vibrate. You can see some pictures here on his website and also in some of the pictures he has posted to FOTMD . He uses a metal rod that runs the length of the neck to enhance stability and reduce the need for excessive bracing of the soundboard.

He is a member here and has explained the evolution of his design principles elsewhere, so I won't go into more details (which I don't understand, honestly). One of those discussions is Floating Fretboards .

David Beede uses the same floating fretboard principle on his octave dulcimers.  (Or rather he did, until he stopped building.)  The fretboard is attached to the body with two or three metal dowels that drive sound vibrations directly into the sound chamber. I have one of these little dulcimers and am constantly amazed how much volume can emerge from such a small instrument. It's like the dulcimer version of Taylor's GS-Mini.  The "decoupled tailpiece" principle that David used on his full-size dulcimers is similar to a "discontinuous" fretboard to which Ken refers.

I have not yet played a dulcimer by Bob Stephens but I have a wooden, nylon-string dulcimer on order and will surely post a video or two after it arrives. (I have to specify "wooden" because he is now making dulcimers using 3-D printing for nearly everything but the top.)  I ordered one because I love the idea of a dulcimer specifically designed for nylon strings and look forward to exploring the different tonal possibilities of that instrument. Bob worked with Aaron O'Rourke on the nylon-string dulcimers and has been working with Butch Ross on the steel-string dulcimers. You can find them demonstrating those models on YouTube if you search for a moment or two. 

And here is Steve Eulberg demonstrating an earlier version of the nylon-string dulcimer .  When he turns the dulcimer on its side with the camera from above (1:17-1:27), you can see the space in between the neck and the soundboard.




--
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

updated by @dusty: 02/01/24 03:15:23PM
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
5 months ago
1,437 posts

@lilley-pad My experience is I play the mountain dulcimer with the sound I want to fit the repertoire(s) I want to play.  Also, my experience is there is no Holy Grail.dulcimer Depending on style of play and repertoire, one instrument may suit over another.    

Bob Stephens is a member here at FOTMD and you can find his page by searching members.  Here is a video of Aaron O'Rourke playing a prototype (so, an early model) of one of Bob's wonderful-sounding dulcimers: 

https://youtu.be/EPClQt6v0Z0?si=0D_xkDv1OR9fTkH7


updated by @robin-thompson: 02/01/24 12:34:58PM
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
5 months ago
2,130 posts

Like John I've not heard of Stephens Lutherie.  And I also agree with John that there is no one Perfect Dulcimer, ... there is only what YOU find best for your playing style  Having just googled Stephens, I see a guitar luthier trying to improve the mountain dulcimer... 

The "floating fretboard" you see isn't that.  That's a "discontinuous" fretboard.  99% of dulcimer have a fretboard that runs all the way from the head to the tail.  The fretboard you see is 'guitar-like' -- it stops after the last fret, then there is nothing until a block for holding the bridge in its proper location and height.   

Some people will try to tell you that having the fretboard stop short will increase the tops' ability to flex and produce better sound. Truth is such an arrangement requires a lot of extra bracing under the top to prevent string pressure from warping the top downward.  That bracing does more to dampen sound than improve it and negates almost any advantage you might gain.

  Unlike the guitar, the dulcimer simply does not have enough top area available for such a scheme to work well.  I build a number of similar dulcimers 30 or more years ago, but discontinued the process because it was a lot more labor intensive for very little, if any measurable improvement in the sound quality.

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
5 months ago
399 posts

Ah, the search for the elusive "perfect instrument"!  It probably does not exist (just as the perfect spouse does not exist), but luthiers like me try to build the optimal dulcimer for each customer.

I have not encountered Stephens Lutherie.

Lilley Pad
Lilley Pad
@lilley-pad
5 months ago
13 posts

Any one tried a Stephens Lutherie dulcimer? he has a floating fret-board design for lack of a better word?

I think I’m catching that disease that seems to run through the musical community.  Which explains why so many people have multiple instruments.  Not just dulcimer players but everyone in general.  They are all looking for the Holy Grail that one instrument out there somewhere, which has everything all in one instrument. Is beautiful, and has that perfect volume, sustain, balance, tone and range.  SMILE 


updated by @lilley-pad: 02/11/24 02:32:37PM