LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
3 days ago
43 posts

LOL, I'm embarrassed it took me so long to figure it out--I was in IT for 25 years before going to law school.

Now I've figured out the photo gallery thing, and posted pix of all my dulcimers. The cardboard one started me along the path, the walnut one carried me a good way...but the McSpadden...she is The One.  :)

IRENE
IRENE
@irene
4 days ago
176 posts

Nathina, woah, you are so cool to figure how to download a program on phone and then up it on here.   and your dulcimer is simply beautiful.   Lovely mellow sound and it will be fun when you figure how to show us you playing your lovely.  aloha, irene

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 days ago
1,840 posts

@lisavb , that sounds terrific!  What a lovely mellow tone, and you have a nice touch when playing.  clapper    I'm also impressed that you figured out on your own so quickly how to get a sound clip up in your post. bowdown




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
4 days ago
111 posts

LisavB:

LOL, @nathina!  That's why I didn't try to simply do a video.  I'm sure my thumbs would have been even worse!  Not my best rendition of that bit of melody.  Oh well.  

I get all thumbs when I even *think* I'm being watched.  I learned Tom Waits' Rain Dogs pretty decently. I wanted to play a duet with him (him on CD, not in my house) on my guitar.  Whoa, parts I was OK, parts I was a train wreck.  And he didn't even know I was duetting with him.  Sheesh.

 Alone I am fine, on video, I forget what I am playing. Live as long as I am not front and center, ok usually. I have several songs I recorded on the hammered dulcimer. 

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
4 days ago
43 posts

LOL, @nathina!  That's why I didn't try to simply do a video.  I'm sure my thumbs would have been even worse!  Not my best rendition of that bit of melody.  Oh well.  

I get all thumbs when I even *think* I'm being watched.  I learned Tom Waits' Rain Dogs pretty decently. I wanted to play a duet with him (him on CD, not in my house) on my guitar.  Whoa, parts I was OK, parts I was a train wreck.  And he didn't even know I was duetting with him.  Sheesh.

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
4 days ago
111 posts

LisavB:

I usually call them "its," but this one is just so curvy and graceful, seems like a LADY.  :)  I'm no good with trees' reproductive habits...I majored in zoology in undergrad!

So I found an app to download to my phone to make a simple MP3.  I think she sounds better in person than in the recording, but it's not too bad. She's in CGC for this, has a double melody string.  I had a little performance anxiety with the phone staring at me, LOL.  

 When it comes to playing I become all thumbs when watched. So I stay behind the group and no one can see.

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
4 days ago
43 posts

I usually call them "its," but this one is just so curvy and graceful, seems like a LADY.  :)  I'm no good with trees' reproductive habits...I majored in zoology in undergrad!

So I found an app to download to my phone to make a simple MP3.  I think she sounds better in person than in the recording, but it's not too bad. She's in CGC for this, has a double melody string.  I had a little performance anxiety with the phone staring at me, LOL.  

mp3
McSpadden clip.mp3  •  928KB

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
5 days ago
229 posts

My idea is if the dulcimer is curvy (hourglass), it's a LADY.  If the dulcimer has a fat middle (Galax or teardrop), it's a GENT.   Nature itself should teach us that...  Now if the dulcimer is straight-sided, or asymmetrical, well...um...OK, it's just a theory.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
5 days ago
1,840 posts

LisavB:

I'd love to do a sound clip for you all...haven't done one before.  What's the most straightforward way you all use to post here?  I have an iPhone and an iPad, also a digital camera.  Not sure the right file type for posting here.

Personally, I usually post a video to Youtube first, and then just put in the youtube link to either link the vid in a post here, or I add it to the fotmd video section if it's an actual tune.
If it's just a short demo video, you might try adding the file as an attachment to a post here. See the "add attachment" button below where you type when making a post?  See if that works for your sample clip.   :)

Your new dulcimer is lovely!  So glad it's a pleasure to play.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990

updated by @strumelia: 11/26/20 09:31:48PM
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
5 days ago
1,344 posts

@nathina, many years ago I started a discussion here called " Dulcimer Gender Studies " asking exactly why so many people give their dulcimers female names.  No one thought to examine the reproductive process of the trees from which the wood came.




--
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-turtle: 11/26/20 08:57:52PM
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
5 days ago
111 posts

I always wonder if I should call may instruments, he she or it? Now if it is from a male tree it would be he, from a female tree her and from a self pollinating variety it.

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
6 days ago
43 posts

She sounds...amazing.  Yesterday, I spent several hours(!) trying everything imaginable on her. DAD, CGC, w/ and w/o capo, high register/low register, flatpicking and fingerpicking, playing soft/loud, playing from printed music of various types (folk, medieval, you name it), slides/hammer-ons/pull-offs (though my pull-offs need some more work, to be honest), and just "making it up and going nuts."  She is definitely brighter than my black walnut--which makes a massive difference when fingerpicking.  Very pleased with the fingerpicking tones she musters.  Much better than with the walnut (fret issues aside).  And yes, I gave the 1+ fret a workout.  So nice to have a "real" fret there instead of something taped down (and often making a buzz).

I'd love to do a sound clip for you all...haven't done one before.  What's the most straightforward way you all use to post here?  I have an iPhone and an iPad, also a digital camera.  Not sure the right file type for posting here.

The only issue I had was one I discovered the day she arrived.  I have a Ewing capo, and when I capo'd on the 1, it tended to rise up a wee tad on the melody string side as I played and created some bad notes on the melody strings.  I suspected the double melody strings gave a bit more resistance, combined with the super smooth finish on the side of the fretboard.  I emailed McSpadden yesterday morning and Jim Woods answered (shockingly quickly for the day before a holiday) with some suggestions.  Could very gently sand the spot to allow better grip (I couldn't bear to do so) or add something to the inside of the capo on that side for better traction.  I opted for that.  Had a very small white rubber band of just the right size.  Not obtrusive, and it appears to give that side of the capo just the little bit more traction it needed to stay put in the 1!

She is wonderful...

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
6 days ago
130 posts

A beautiful dulcimer. Let's hear a sound clip.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
6 days ago
1,344 posts

So pretty!




--
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
adulcinate
@adulcinate
6 days ago
2 posts

Nice.

Susie
Susie
@susie
6 days ago
402 posts
LisavB:

And here she is...arrived yesterday afternoon.  Just beautiful!

She IS beautiful!
How does she sound?
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
6 days ago
111 posts

LisavB:

And here she is...arrived yesterday afternoon.  Just beautiful!

 Lovely

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
6 days ago
43 posts

And here she is...arrived yesterday afternoon.  Just beautiful!

McSpadden.JPG
McSpadden.JPG  •  186KB

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
2 weeks ago
43 posts

@ken-hulme, yeah, when I strung up that first cardboard dulcimer 2 years ago and strummed it for the first time...well, that led to all of this (including my foray into acoustic and electric guitar, for when I want to be fully chromatic).  Who knew?  

The tracking thingee confirmed it's coming Tuesday.  WOO!

Thanks for the tip on the wood color/aging, Strumelia.  I do prefer a darker wood, good to know.  The only time she will be locked up inside her case is if she's going somewhere with me.  I plan to perch her on the stand as I have done with the walnut dulcimer, so I can pick her up at a moment's notice.  So the wood should have a chance to age/darken nicely over time.

I'm taking a little time off next week (and between Christmas and New Year's)--not going anywhere, just taking a break.  Nice timing to have my new friend!  Looking forward to getting to know her!

Thank you so much, everyone!

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
2 weeks ago
689 posts

Enjoy your new dulcimer. I'm sure you will have fun playing it.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 weeks ago
1,344 posts

Congrats, @lisavb, on your new baby.  We're all excited for you.  Of the common dulcimer woods, cherry is my favorite. It always looks pretty.




--
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
2 weeks ago
1,840 posts

Lisa, I had a friend years ago who bought a new all cherry hourglass McSpadden. It was wonderful sounding, smooth to play, and SO pretty!  You are going to love yours. inlove

Personally I'm a big fan of the look of instruments that have bodies of all one wood/color. My Galax dulcimer is all cherry and has a nice rich but crisp tone.

One note-  when it arrives you may be surprised that the new cherry wood looks fairly light in color. Just know that it will get darker and richer in color over the months. Take some photos, because in two years it will look different! Both looks are gorgeous . If you want to speed up the darkening process a little, you can leave it exposed to normal room light instead of having it locked up in its dark case. The exposure to light is what slowly darkens it. This happened with my maple instruments as well.

ENJOY your new beauty, we are all excited for you!  pimento




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
2 weeks ago
111 posts

And I like when I see a new build using beautiful woods, Especially of the wood is reused. Such a wonderful way to bring the wood back to life.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 weeks ago
1,769 posts

LisavB -- for the record, most of us who build instruments get as excited as you are when we string up a new build and bring it to life for the very first time.  Every dulcimer has its own voice, created by us and brought to life by the player.

Susie
Susie
@susie
2 weeks ago
402 posts

LisavB:

Thank you again, everyone, for all your advice. I decided on a McSpadden, all cherry, standard VSL, with 1+/8+ and a micarta overlay.  Emailed them with a few questions yesterday, heard back, called to place my order.  They were every bit as nice as I anticipated.  They had one in stock, they only need to add the 2 frets and it should be shipping today--should be here next week.  I'm so excited...the lady on the phone actually said "I can tell" (you're excited).  LOL.  I was in one of Jessica Comeau's live workshops on Sunday, the piece called for capo on the 4.  OMG, it was horrible.  I capo on 1 all the time and it's fine, but I could not seat that capo in a buzzless manner no matter what I did.  It isn't the capo, it's a nice Ron Ewing capo.  It's the uneven frets.  Last straw.  Most of the time, it plays fine, but it's the added fussing here and there that's been bugging me more and more...  Sooo looking forward to having perfectly placed frets!  I'm nowhere near Jessica's level, but I play well enough now to want to treat myself to a really fine instrument.  Can't wait to get my hands on it!!!  (Did I mention I'm ridiculously excited?)  :)

That's great news! I know the excitement (many folks here do). We share in your excitement and look forward to hearing about and seeing your new McSpadden. You're going to love it!


updated by @susie: 11/18/20 10:54:20AM
LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
2 weeks ago
43 posts

Thank you again, everyone, for all your advice. I decided on a McSpadden, all cherry, standard VSL, with 1+/8+ and a micarta overlay.  Emailed them with a few questions yesterday, heard back, called to place my order.  They were every bit as nice as I anticipated.  They had one in stock, they only need to add the 2 frets and it should be shipping today--should be here next week.  I'm so excited...the lady on the phone actually said "I can tell" (you're excited).  LOL.  I was in one of Jessica Comeau's live workshops on Sunday, the piece called for capo on the 4.  OMG, it was horrible.  I capo on 1 all the time and it's fine, but I could not seat that capo in a buzzless manner no matter what I did.  It isn't the capo, it's a nice Ron Ewing capo.  It's the uneven frets.  Last straw.  Most of the time, it plays fine, but it's the added fussing here and there that's been bugging me more and more...  Sooo looking forward to having perfectly placed frets!  I'm nowhere near Jessica's level, but I play well enough now to want to treat myself to a really fine instrument.  Can't wait to get my hands on it!!!  (Did I mention I'm ridiculously excited?)  :)

Nathina
Nathina
@nathina
4 weeks ago
111 posts

If you were going for an instrument with a larger sound board, an HD, then wood type is very important. The best woods are AAA redwood, becoming very pricey, but the grain is tight and strait and you get great rich deep tones. Next would be red cedar, then American Mahogany. For bright tones you want a grain that is not as straight such as lacewood. The sound turns back on itself and the tone is very "bright". But for a MD, with a smaller sound board the difference of woods is more esthetic. Ken is correct, don't get spruce top. The wood tends to be too soft, and at least to me, the sound is sort of tiny. You might also want to consider a used McSpadden. There are numerous resales currently on the web. I just an early pre McSpadden name brand for very little. Coming today, I will post a pic.


updated by @nathina: 11/07/20 02:03:31PM
LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
4 weeks ago
43 posts

Thanks, @ken-hulme, that's very helpful.  I'm going to presume the luthiers at both Folkcraft and McSpadden surpass my "junior luthier wannabee" skills, LOL!  The dulcimer I made is all book-matched black walnut--gorgeous wood.  At the moment, I'm leaning in a McSpaddenly direction, eyeing that cherry w/redwood top combo.  The walnut is gorgeous, but I have walnut.  Life is short, variety is called for.  I prefer darker/redder woods, rather than the lighter, sort of yellow like the spruce.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 weeks ago
1,769 posts

@LisavB -- wood types are strictly subjective.  There are over a hundred variables that can affect the sound of a dulcimer, and wood choice is pretty far down the list -- not even top ten. 

A good luthier can make plastic or cardboard or balsa wood sound really good. A recent Winfield dulcimer champion played a cardboard dulcimer.  

I always recommend that you buy the dulcimer that LOOKS the best -- woods you like the look of -- and coincidentally sounds good as well.  Don't buy a spruce top, or walnut body or cherry/maple instrument because someone tells you it's more mellow or whatever.  Buy what sounds good -- to your ears.  A good luthier will play you various instruments he/she has in stock -- over the phone if you can't shop in person.  All you have to do is ask.  

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
4 weeks ago
43 posts

Yes, definitely weighing, not jumping in. Now considering woods...  It has been quite a journey and plenty of fun. It all started about 2 years ago when I decided I wanted to build a musical instrument, more as an art/craft project than anything else. A carboard dulcimer fit the bill--inexpensive in case I screwed up, wouldn't feel bad about painting cardboard (as opposed to a nice wood), etc. Completed it, strung it up, and...that first strum mesmerized me.  So then I went on the Internet and discovered Bing Futch and Jessica Comeau.  Oh, the dulcimer can do *that*?  Then I wanted to build a "real" wood one (with a 6+ fret, sorely needed!).  That led to the Cedar Creek Black Walnut I have.  Then I wanted "all the notes" but didn't want to go chromatic, so that led to the Fender acoustic guitar bundle I got last December. Well, that led to vastly improved strength/span in my left hand!  And then that led to the shell pink Stratocaster in April.  And the pandemic led to Zoom, and Zoom led to live workshops with Jessica Comeau.  She's been doing them roughly every other week since summer, and I've been at all of those, loving them!  

Yep, quite a journey, and soooooo much fun!  

Susie
Susie
@susie
4 weeks ago
402 posts

Lisa, it sounds like you are giving this a lot of thought, having gotten feedback from several people here (and probably elsewhere). That is good. You know what your variables are, and are considering those for YOU, considering how/what you play. I feel you'll make a great choice, no matter which way you go. Enjoy the journey. It's fun, isn't it?!

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
4 weeks ago
43 posts

A tardy thank you to you all (work's been a little crazy this week).  I went on a measuring spree for comparison purposes.  I already have a full-length VSL (about 28") and would like to stick with that, both for sustain, and for fret spacing considerations.  Really want to go with 1+/8+ but don't want to wind up with too tight a space at 8+ with a shorter VSL.  My original cardboard dulcimer has a 26" VSL and when I first built the walnut one, I thought I would surely die with all that space to cover.  But my hands have adapted (got a lot stronger and able to stretch when I started playing guitar in the past year!). 

Oddly, my fretboard is 1 5/8"!  Standard should be fine.  I don't have especially large fingers and don't wish to go 4-equidistant.  3 strings are fine with me, with the option to double my melody should the mood strike me.  

I have a scroll head, like the look, but would like to go flat for easier string management.  Not interested in a pickup, full acoustic is fine with me (not planning to do concerts!).  

I like the rich sound of the walnut I have (aside from the frets being a tad less than perfect), would probably do walnut back and sides and perhaps a redwood top for something a bit different than what I have, but still resonant.  Jessica's McS has that combo and she says it has a very full, rich tone.  

I've ogled both sites, both have just beautiful instruments, for sure.  I love the one I built, but the thought of perfectly seated frets and a few more features is pretty tempting.  

Skip
Skip
@skip
one month ago
273 posts

What they said.

The wider fretboard gives more room between strings, if needed, a plus for big fingers and for 4 equidistant strings. 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
one month ago
1,344 posts

@lisavb, if you have to buy a dulcimer without playing it, both McSpadden and Folkcraft are solid choices.  But as you can see, you have many choices to make aside from which dulcimer maker you choose.

Unless you are truly wealthy (in which case, can I get a few bucks?) you will want to develop your preferences before investing any serious money into a dulcimer.  Flat head or scroll?  Ebony (or micarta) overlay?  What size VSL? What width fretboard?  Galax back? Extra frets? Jumbo frets?  Radiused fretboard? Internal pickup?  What about wood choices?  The list of options just grows and grows.  You may want to take some time to figure that stuff out before you buy an instrument from either of these fine makers.

The action can usually be adjusted, so that is not a true variable differentiating McSpadden from Folkcraft.

Honestly, you will get a fine instrument with either of these folks. I would suggest deciding the other stuff first and then investigating which company can best meet your needs.  And as @susie says, give them a call and maybe they can help you decide on all the features you're interested in.




--
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
Susie
Susie
@susie
one month ago
402 posts

In my case, yes, the action (set-up) is the same on the McSpadden and the Folkcraft.

Fretboard width is 1 3/8" on both the McSpadden and the Folkcraft. Not sure if you can special order the 1 1/2" fretboard with either company. I didn't pursue that, because I prefer the standard 1 3/8". VSL is something you'll have to choose. With McSpadden, their standard is 28 1/2", but you can also get the 26", which is what I got. As a chord/melody player, I love the shorter VSL. With Folkcraft, you can get a VSL from 25" to 29". I have their 27" VSL. 

I agree with the flathead, all of mine are flatheads. But, some people like the scroll look. It's a personal thing.

Yes, the McSpadden is not as deep, yet it is still right up there with the deep bodied Folkcraft for sustain. Volume is pretty close. I believe McSpadden has a great design that gives such great sound and sustain. If you go Folkcraft, I'd definitely do the deeper body. I also got the galax back. Their shallower body is more of the traditional design.

Both my McSpaddens have the Micarta fretboard. I love it as a great alternative to Ebony. I like the looks, fretboard markers, and feel when playing. It is very durable. I would not get a McSpadden without either the Micarta or Ebony. But that's just a personal preference.

As a suggestion, call each company and talk to them. They are both great to work with. Richard Ash is very helpful (Folkcraft). I have talked to him on several occasions, when trying to decide on features. 

Hope this helps.

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
one month ago
43 posts

Thanks, @skip and @susie--I figured if there was anywhere I could get firsthand apples-to-apples comparisons, it would be here!  Couple questions:

- Is the action similar in both? Sounds like so...  

- Fingerboard width. Now there's something I hadn't thought of (I was presuming standard VSL).  What are the benefits to wider fingerboard, and who's wider?

- Yep, I'm thinking flat headstock this time.  My walnut is scroll.  I can well imagine stringing being much easier with a flat one!

- McS not as physically deep, but has good volume and sustain anyway? The D Folkcraft looked interesting b/c I want fullness and sustain and believe the deeper body would give that.

- @susie, you have some beauties on your photo page!!  Is that ebony or micarta on one of those fretboards?  Trying to see if micarta is worth the extra cost in playability and durability.

- I flatpick and fingerpick, both.

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to answer!

Skip
Skip
@skip
one month ago
273 posts

Both make excellent instruments, as do a bunch of other luthiers. I think it would serve you best to consider the mechanical features rather than 'models' or 'bling.  VSL, fingerboard width and peghead styly [string replacement is generally easier on flat pegheads] will affect your intended use. I mostly fingerpick and have had standard McSpaddens  and have their kit and have a Folkcraft resonator. I prefer, and really like, its short VSL and wide fingerboard. The McSpadden Ginger has a short Vsl also although I've not played one.

Susie
Susie
@susie
one month ago
402 posts

I currently own 1 standard size McSpadden and 1 standard size Folkcraft. I say standard, because my Ginger (McSpadden) and my Baritone (Folkcraft) are "specialty" type dulcimers, that you aren't considering. I've also owned a previous standard McSpadden and a previous standard Folkcraft. So, I have much experience with both brands. 

Please note that my Folkcrafts have always been the deeper bodied models (D and Custom).

Where they are similar: 

Quality

Playability and setup (ease of playing)

Sound (in terms of sustain and volume)

Where they differ: 

Size (the McSpadden has less depth and is physically smaller)

Choices (there are far more choices at Folkcraft for designing your own)

Price (the Folkcraft will cost you a little more, or considerably more, depending on the Folkcraft model)

You won't be disappointed with either. Neither is better than the other. What you have to decide is what is important to you. If you are going economical, I'd suggest considering McSpadden. If you want to give yourself more choices in terms of woods, VSL, etc., I'd consider Folkcraft. If you really want to treat yourself, I'd consider a Custom Folkcraft. 

I love my 2 McSpaddens and I love my 2 Folkcrafts. They all have their purpose and it's fun switching between them. If you want to see pictures, they are all in my photos on my profile. 

LisavB
LisavB
@lisavb
one month ago
43 posts

Hello,

I began my dulcimer journey with a cardboard kit a couple of years ago, then built a Cedar Creek solid walnut kit about 1.5 years ago.  Let's just say I could have done a better job with the frets (the cardboard kit came w/the frets in, but has no 6+).  I've worked them over and they're much better, but they are not perfect.  I don't think I can work them over much more without taking risks to the fretboard or top, so there.  I have the action hiked up just a tad to accomodate.  I'm considering at some point getting a dulcimer that will have properly installed, perfect frets--also considering going with a 1+/8+ as well.  I tape down a guitar string to get 1+ right now.  It's not ideal, but it mostly does the job.

I suspect it goes w/o saying that both McSpadden and Folkcraft build high quality instruments.  Seems Folkcraft has more variety of models and is a bit more expensive than McS.  I've been taking online workshops with Jessica Comeau, and she pointed out her McSpadden has a very low action. Sounds like they are known for that.  I would love a very low action, very easy/fast fingering (without buzz, of course!).  I love a full, rich sound.  I saw an older post of Dusty Turtle's here that remarked that McSpaddens are "famously easy to play."  I'm also eyeing that micarta fretboard...

So my question is, what differences are there in playability-type features btw McSpadden and Folkcraft that I should weigh?  I don't live anywhere near where I could go try them out...

I like to play chords and melodies, I'm not a noter player.  Primarily DAD, with CGC and some other minor tunings here and there.  In case that affects the discussion...

Thanks!

Lisa