Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
10 months ago
123 posts

Dulci Clan, welcome to the forum!  We have all been where you are in terms of 'starting from scratch'. In fact, I only got into building dulcimers a bit less than 3 years ago.  Fortunately, being retired which means I have a lot of time to devote to the craft; plus having a professional background in several trades, it has greatly shortened my learning curve.  However, it has been with the tremendous help from members of this forum that I have reached the point I now do a few commissioned pieces as well as annually supporting 3 charities' fundraising auctions through the donations of my builds. 

But, in the process of going through the learning curve, which I know will never be completed, I have had to ask what many might consider 'silly' or 'stupid' questions. Fortunately most of the members here were, are still, very patient and kind and want to assist. 

In short, again, welcome and don't hold back with questions.  Also, I spent hours and hours going through old threads on the multitude of topics already discussed or being discussed. They answered many questions before me having to post them here.

As suggested, relax, it's as much an art as science and many of us learn by what doesn't work as much as what does work; but we try to keep mistakes to a minimum. And, we can learn a lot from others mistakes. dulcimer


updated by @kusani: 09/20/18 11:16:29PM
Dulci Clan
Dulci Clan
@dulci-clan
10 months ago
7 posts

@ken - What I should have said in response was I had seen the video some time ago and what had been going through my mind *at the time* was the things I was corrected on *since* I started this thread,  i.e. the ignorant questions I asked being *completely new* to this instrument, like sound hole placements and shapes.  I am reading and learning by everyone's response, I guess sometimes communicating words in text isn't the same as being in person. What I should have said about the video was I had hoped to see different kinds of dulcimers being compared like bass versus baritone vs stick etc. Thank you for sharing your experience and expertise, I do respect that.

Please don't take me the wrong way, it has been an extremely stressful week at home. I do respect everyone's experience and willingness to share information on this post , and appreciate you, Dulcimore Dan, Ron Gibson, Kusani, ButtercupVictoria, Matt, John, in responding.

This instrument is so beautiful, I can't wait to learn how to play it. Thank you to everyone for your responses.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
10 months ago
1,555 posts

Dulci-Clan -- Once again you're getting lost in nearly meaningless details, and over-complicating things. 

Overall shape (hourglass, teardrop, elliptical, trapezoid, etc.) has no discernable effect on dulcimer sound. I have a standing offer of $100 to anyone who can pass my blind listening test and tell which instruments are playing (I play some tunes on some dulcimers and send you an MP3 -- you tell me what shapes are playing what tunes).  

There are well over a hundred factors that affect the sound of an instrument, and the kinds of woods used for sides/backs/tops are pretty far down that list -- not even in the top 10. 

Soundboard placements?  The dulcimer has one soundboard -- the top.   

Do you mean fretboard placement?  The dulcimer has its fretboard running down the centerline of the top, by definition (unless it's a courting dulcimer with two fretboards evenly spaced across the top.  Fretboard overlays do not effect sound, but they do make it smoother to play.

Once again, soundhole placement does NOT effect sound quality.  It can effect sound volume, but as a beginner you'll not notice anything.

People like Dulcimore Dan, Ron Gibson, myself, Kusani are giving you the benefit of our several decades of practical experience as builders and players, and you seem to be ignoring it. 

I don't want to sound harsh or uncaring, but please -- take Matt Berg's advice:  Go play a dozen different dulcimers for 10-20 minutes each; take plenty of notes about your experiences, and then get back to us.

ButtercupVictoria
ButtercupVictoria
@buttercupvictoria
10 months ago
4 posts

Dulci Clan:

@Buttercup - watched that video a couple of times, it's fantastic, but they're all the same shape and sound hole placement, the only differences she notes is the type of woods, tops and overlays. I was hoping for a video with different shapes and different sound board placements. Thanks for the post :)

@Ken - - I'm in NH. There is a folk festival coming soon in Portsmouth, but looking on their website I didn't see or mention a single dulcimer.  Worth checking out though. Did find someone about an hour and half away that I could talk to, she mentions the Portsmouth festival, a Vermont one that just passed, and an Albany Society. Can't help but wonder if there are so many more around that I just don't see. Unfortunately I am unable to open the pdf, probably on my end here, I'll look into it later tonight. Thanks again for the input :)

Well keep looking, there's a lot out there on the internet!  I also wonder if the sounds are different because of where the microphone is, the ones closer to us sound louder.  I like the ones in the back as well as the Blue Lion but can't quite catch the name.  John something... ?

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
10 months ago
80 posts

Try to open Ken's .pdf. It is very good.

 

Dulci Clan
Dulci Clan
@dulci-clan
10 months ago
7 posts

Appreciate that, Ron! You're absolutely right, it's already stressing me out trying to understand. The simplicity of it's design, seems to have a laid back easy vibe to play, and the mystery behind how this instrument came about is enough for me to relax and run with it.

 

 

Ron Gibson
Ron Gibson
@ron-gibson
10 months ago
5 posts

Dulci-clan... you can easily get caught up in side issues with dulcimers.  The most important thing is not soundhole size or placement... it is whether you personally like the dulcimer. If a particular dulcimer sounds good to you and it is easy to play.... then that is a good dulcimer for you and whether the soundholes are left, right, top, bottom or cut into the scroll means absolutely nothing.  All that matters is your personal preference and how it "feels" to you. 
In 43 years of building dulcimers I have had people fixated with things like the screw size used in the tuners or the width (down to the millimeter) of a certain part of the dulcimer. Those things do not make you a better player or make it easier to learn to play and enjoy making music. 

Remember, there is a scientific component to music.... but at its heart it is an art.  Art is not constrained by where the soundholes are located, the size of a screw used in a strap button or any other "deep dive".  My advice... grab a dulcimer, play it... if it feels right and sounds right to you - then it is right for you, .... play it and enjoy the gift of making music. 

Believe me.... the placement of the soundholes will not make you a better musician or make you enjoy your dulcimer any more or less. 

Dulci Clan
Dulci Clan
@dulci-clan
10 months ago
7 posts

I did see Vintage Fret too. Only an hour away, yeah! And thank you for that other link. My search was "dulcimer nh".

 

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
10 months ago
1,555 posts

They're around, you've just not learned to suss them out yet.  Check acoustic music shops. 

Check out this guy:  He'll probably be able to help find players... and even build you a dulcimer maybe...http://pierce.state.nh.us/nharts/artsandartists/tradroster/tradartistinfo.asp?ArtistID=371

And other thing to check out.  I did a simple google search on "dulcimer new hampshire" and found these two listings right off the bat. http://vintagefret.com/?post_type=product

You need Adobe PDF Reader (free) or some other PDF reader software or app to read my article.


updated by @ken-hulme: 09/19/18 04:08:58PM
Dulci Clan
Dulci Clan
@dulci-clan
10 months ago
7 posts

@Buttercup - watched that video a couple of times, it's fantastic, but they're all the same shape and sound hole placement, the only differences she notes is the type of woods, tops and overlays. I was hoping for a video with different shapes and different sound board placements. Thanks for the post :)

@Ken - - I'm in NH. There is a folk festival coming soon in Portsmouth, but looking on their website I didn't see or mention a single dulcimer.  Worth checking out though. Did find someone about an hour and half away that I could talk to, she mentions the Portsmouth festival, a Vermont one that just passed, and an Albany Society. Can't help but wonder if there are so many more around that I just don't see. Unfortunately I am unable to open the pdf, probably on my end here, I'll look into it later tonight. Thanks again for the input :)

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
10 months ago
1,555 posts

Dulci-clan -- where are you that dulcimers and "not common"? We may know people nearby who are very knowledgeable and willing to help beginners.  

Here's a link to an article I wrote several years back that gives you an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms (so we all talk the same lingo) plus answers to many beginner questions about the tuning, playing care and feeding of a new dulcimer.

MOST people interested in dulcimers don't really care about how their dulcimers are built; I both applaud your effort and want to say that for the most part what really matters is the look and sound.  There are many, many ways to design and build a dulcimer, from Lego to cardboard to plexiglass, to plywood to solid woods, in at least a dozen general -but-different body shapes and an infinity of sound hole shapes/placements.  None of which means anything unless you, personally like the look and the sound of the instrument. 

 

 

pdf
I Just Got A.pdf  •  1MB

ButtercupVictoria
ButtercupVictoria
@buttercupvictoria
10 months ago
4 posts

this is a great video (I think) comparing different dulcimers:

 

ButtercupVictoria
ButtercupVictoria
@buttercupvictoria
10 months ago
4 posts

Matt Berg:

One thought to add, before deciding whether or not an instrument sounds good, try a few instruments.  If possible, listen to it in a jam.  Unless you have a very well trained ear (or the instrument is very bad or very good) it is hard to judge an instrument's sound in isolation.

That's very interesting advice!  Thanks.

 

Dulci Clan
Dulci Clan
@dulci-clan
10 months ago
7 posts

I am not interested in building, just buying. Understanding the construction seems important to know as a new player.  Though it has some straightforward rules on sizes and constructions, finding there are so many different ways they're built, string numbers and types, it's hard to know generally where to start. @Dan, Kusani, Ken, Matt;  appreciate you reaching out.

This instrument is not common where I live, so I figured I just have to dive in, get one, clean it up, see what happens! My friend told me yesterday she has a friend that plays so at some point I can pester her.

Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
10 months ago
50 posts

One thought to add, before deciding whether or not an instrument sounds good, try a few instruments.  If possible, listen to it in a jam.  Unless you have a very well trained ear (or the instrument is very bad or very good) it is hard to judge an instrument's sound in isolation.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
10 months ago
1,555 posts

Are you looking to buy or build?  If you're looking to buy, do so based on what the dulcimer sounds like, not so much what it looks like.  Buy from a reputable builder, not some cheap thing you see on Ebay.  If you see something you like, ask us about the builder and we'll tell you what you know.  If you see an ad and the seller can't tell you who the builder is, there's a good chance you don't want to buy the instrument.

If you're looking to build your own dulcimer, the vast majority of us who build put soundholes symmetrically in the widest part of each bout.  It's a matter of the science of acoustics. You can bend a lot of the 'laws' of science but the results are not necessarily a good thing.   Single hole dulcimers are not particularly prevalent for a reason.  

You said "...near the nut side...".  The nut is at the head end of the dulcimer; there isn't any "nut side".  There is a head, a tail, the near side (closest to you) and the far side (furthest from you).  


updated by @ken-hulme: 09/18/18 11:14:09PM
Dulci Clan
Dulci Clan
@dulci-clan
10 months ago
7 posts

I just saw a four string with one hole today near the nut side but not quite! So confusing to choose when just starting out.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
10 months ago
1,555 posts

There's a real complicated formula for the area of  sound holes, but 3-4 quarters worth is a good amount for the average dulcimer.  Bigger instruments can go more, of course.

As far as placement of the sound holes, again there are formulas, and location does effect the sound.  You don't want them in the ends or near the sides or fretboard.  Ideal location is half way between the fretboard and the edge, at the widest point of each bout.  Bouts are the rounded sections of course.  An hourglass has two bouts, upper and lower. A teardrop or elliptical has just the one bout.  Rectangular or trapezoid shapes can have 4 soundholes about a third of the way in from either end.

There are always exceptions -- the Tennessee Music Box for example often had a line of holes from head to tail nearer to the fretboard than the edge.  I've seen dulcimers with no soundholes in the top, but a line of holes in the side on the audience  side of the instrument.  I saw one where the builder hadn't gotten the idea of the possum board right, and had cut soundholes in the inner bottom and possum board itself!

Kusani
Kusani
@kusani
10 months ago
123 posts

Didn't Ken at one time recommend total area of the sound holes be about the equivalent to the area of four quarters, or was it two? Presently I am working with the 4 quarter equivalent and the instruments have a very good sound; my customers are very pleased. 


updated by @kusani: 09/18/18 07:05:06PM
Dan
Dan
@dan
10 months ago
99 posts

You are gunna' get a lot of differing opinions to "sound" effect by varying placement . I won't respond to that but will tell you the size is very important. Too much or too little can have an effect on tonal quality.

DAN

www.dulcimore.com

Dulci Clan
Dulci Clan
@dulci-clan
10 months ago
7 posts

Hi everyone, new here, thanks for having me.

In researching dulcimers, I'm seeing holes placed in different places, could be one each near the nut and bridge, both near the nut, both near the bridge, or four - two on the nut side, two on the bridge side. Does the placement of the sound holes affect the sound? Can't tell where there are so many different shapes and places they can go.