Old topic about wood and new McSpadden, need help.

Windance
Windance
@windance
2 years ago
2 posts

Every one of you has made a the choice easier by sharing information and experience, and a big thanks to you all! 

Lisa, thank you for your opinion and reason, and your preference.

John, all of your info helps, especially about the sound files and McSpadden exchange policy. I'll look into it.

Ken, that's both encouraging and makes a lot of sense.

Matt, I wish I could go to a showroom. Music stores in Portland Oregon don't readily sell dulcimers, let alone McSpadden. The closest is Dusty Strings in Seattle. It's too far and they only have a few models in their showroom. But that would probably be the 'best' option.

I think what it comes down to for me is that either choice would probably work out. As John said, "it often takes a bit of time to "make friends" with a new instrument, to find its sweet spots and how to get the tone you like out of it." - I think either will be friendly enough. I will consider all of the advice and information, along with a few other people I asked and make the decision. 

You are certainly a warm and friendly community and I can't thank you all enough!

Lisa Golladay
Lisa Golladay
@lisa-golladay
2 years ago
108 posts

I only know two things about McSpadden wood choices:

1.  A vendor I trust quit stocking the Ginger model in any wood combo except redwood/cherry.  He said when customers played all the Gingers, they always chose redwood/cherry and he couldn't sell the others.  Ginger is a short-scale (23" VSL) model and it seems logical that players would prefer a bright (but not too bright) sound.

2.  At a festival I found a vendor who set out an array of standard 4-string, 27" VSL McSpaddens in different woods.  Playing them side by side, I heard very strong differences in tone but it was the top wood that mattered most. 

Everybody has different taste, different playing techniques, and different ears.  I know people who hear no difference between an all-walnut McS versus all-cherry, whereas to me they are like night and day.  Since you like a warmer sound, and you like the sound of Jessica's dulcimer, I think the redwood/walnut combo would be a good choice for you.  The redwood/cherry won't sound much different (the redwood top is what drives the sound) but it might be a tad brighter.  Personally I prefer redwood/cherry, but my "ring" might be your "tinny."

It's certainly true that a luthier can make any wood combo work, but we're talking about production-model McSpaddens and not a custom build.

John Gribble
John Gribble
@john-gribble
2 years ago
123 posts

Hi. Those are tough choices to make, aren't they. I don't think there would be a huge tone difference between the cherry and walnut. They both tend towards a warmer tone than maple. I suspect the body shape would have a greater effect. I've seen here advice to others to buy the wood you find more attractive to look at. Walnut might be a little more interesting, but cherry darkens nicely with age. 

The two I play most often are both walnut. One is an all-walnut hourglass and the other, a teardrop, has a cedar top. The teardrop is the sweeter, more "mellow" instrument. Neither are McSpadden. The McSpadden website has sound samples of their different models. They also have a liberal return/exchang policy. 

One other thought. It often takes a bit of time to "make friends" with a new instrument, to find its sweet spots and how to get the tone you like out of it.  

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 years ago
2,010 posts

What Matt said.  Wood is only one of a hundred factors that goes into making a dulcimer "mellow" and guitar-like, or "high and silvery" the way traditional instruments sound, including how the player plays the instrument.

All you can do is pick walnut or cherry to go with the redwood top.  Since you can't even see what the particular pieces of walnut and cherry *look like* , just look at instruments that have those woods in combination.  

I always recommend that unless you are working directly with a luthier to produce your "ultimate dulcimer", that you play as many as you can and pick the one that sounds best.  Sound is, to most people, more important than wood.  If it isn't, then I'm sorry for them.   A competent luthier can make any combination of woods sound mellow or high-silvery.

Matt Berg
Matt Berg
@matt-berg
2 years ago
89 posts

One day I visited the Folkcraft showroom and played two all walnut instruments fresh off the workshop floor.  Both were beautiful instruments.  One had a distinctly more bass sound than the other.  Simply choosing a wood for an instrument is not enough.  Each sample of wood, even from the same tree, will produce different sounds.  Yes, McSpadden has great quality control.  Even so, two instruments made from the same species of wood will sound different.

For anyone truly interested in the sound of their instrument, I suggest going to a showroom and playing as many instruments as appeal to you.  Purchase the one that vibrates to the tune of your body.

Windance
Windance
@windance
2 years ago
2 posts

That topic about 'what wood' is best or perfect etc, has come down to this for me. I am being given a McSpadden as a gift. I haven't played consistently for long, almost 70 and probably too late to develop a passion for collecting dulcimers. Oh yeah... the top will be redwood, no choice there. But I am allowed to choose walnut back and sides or cherry. It seems like such a simple choice but.... Never having a dulcimer I really liked, I 'guess' I like a warmer sound, less 'tinny', maybe like the the sound of Jessica Comeau on her redwood top, walnut McSpadden. Wish I could try a few, but can't. I listened to Lee Cagle's video of several dulcimer examples (including the two I am choosing from) and I'm still in the dark. Heard a few others on YouTube. So, the question trying to keep it simple given many considerations, is, if you have or played redwood top, walnut or cherry McSpadden or those woods, or you just want to offer an opinion, please let me know which you would choose. Thanks.