fingerstyle playing on a budget

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 months ago
1,485 posts

Hey, @johnpat27.  I have  a few thoughts here.

Consider starting with three strings, especially if you want to fingerpick.  Just remove the doubled strings.  You can always add them back later on.  I was given this advice when I first started and out of nothing but hubris, I resisted it, thinking that since I play 12-string guitar and mandolin the extra strings wouldn't bother me.  But eventually (like 2 years later) I strung up my instrument with three single strings and loved the clarity of the sound.  Some techniques (like hammer-ons and pull-offs) are easier with single strings and some (like bending) are virtually impossible with double strings.

Second, there are two resources for drone players close by: Strumelia's Mountain Dulcimer Noter and Drone Blog (which others have mentioned but not provided a link for) and the Old Style Noter and Drone Players Group here at FOTMD.  You have to join the group to see all the posts, but you'll find lots of information and camaraderie there. 

Third, have fun. Put the the instrument on your lap, find a melody that you like, and let your instrument ring!




--
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
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 months ago
1,859 posts

Lisa Strumelia has a Noter & Drone Blog, and I wrote a booklet years ago called Get Noterized, both of which are accessible from here at FOTMD.  Many of us who primarily play N&D do play by ear, but we also simply use just the melody line from other dulcimer tabs.  There are other sources for hard-core N&D players as well.  It all depends on the kind of music you're interested in.

BTW the more correct designation for your tuning is DdAdd.  The D and the A are in the same octave, but the d's are an octave higher than D.    The octave setup Dd for a 5 string dulcimer is intended to give an added richness to the sound compared to the older DD couplet.


johnpat27
@johnpat27
2 months ago
3 posts

It is, as you say, Ddadd. 

So far I am pleased with the setup, it has a pleasing sound.

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@natebuildstoys
2 months ago
76 posts

Hello John, it is more common to see doubled bass strings, but having a thin string there is perfectly fine. It is most likely intended to be tuned an octave up from the bass note, which is the same as the melody note in a 1-5-8 tuning(if you were tuning D a dd, this would be Dd a dd), but if you are playing in a 1-5-5 tuning then perhaps this is different and someone else might know if that is still correct.

I can't recommend any sites specifically for noter playing, however I have found many tabs on dulcimertab.com and everythingdulcimer.com which are suitable for noter style. Really most of the tabs I see for 1-5-5 tunings such as DAA are well suited to noter drone.

Also, if you can read sheet music or are willing to learn, I have noticed that the majority of popular vocal melodies of the last hundred years are diatonic and can be transcribed to dulcimer and are readily available online. This is a fun way to bring contemporary songs into your noter drone playing.

-Nate


updated by @natebuildstoys: 07/31/21 11:38:03PM
johnpat27
@johnpat27
2 months ago
3 posts

Thanks for all the advice! 

I ended up buying one of Bill Bergs 5-string instruments. Only slightly more than I was looking to spend, but it came with a nice case, a noter, picks, Korg tuner. Happy so far! Only questions I have so far:

1)I can't find many examples of five string setups online, and the ones that do reference two bass strings, but mine came with the same size string as the melody strings next to the bass string. Normal?

2) I also can't find many resources for pure noter playing. Everything seems to be chords, which I am loving, but I still want to try noter playing. Is all noter playing pretty much by ear?

Richard Streib
Richard Streib
@richard-streib
2 months ago
169 posts

It seems a number of people have purchased dulcimers as an impulse buy, take them home with the intent of learning to play, never get around to it, and store the dulcimer away.

I have purchased no less than 6 second hand dulcimers which appeared to have been played little if at all. One had the pick and noter sealed in a little envelope which had never been opened and the string sale tag still tied to the instrument.

So it is possible to get a "used" dulcimer which has not been used much at all.

John C. Knopf
John C. Knopf
@john-c-knopf
2 months ago
276 posts

Cardboard dulcimers can sound SURPRISINGLY GOOD!  

I know I'm shooting myself in the foot when I say that, being a builder of dulcimers, but it's true.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 months ago
1,859 posts

I know people who play finger style on 12-string guitars.  A particular style, if you don't know it already, is only as hard as you make it.  That said, the simple solution is as Strumelia suggests -- remove one of the doubled melody strings.

BTW there's rarely anything wrong with picking up a gently used dulcimer.  I suspect most people are 'thinning the herd' so they can finance another purchase...

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 months ago
2,013 posts

You can always simply remove one of the doubled pair of melody strings if you want just single strings, people do it all the time. Remove the one that will result in string spacing you like.

$200 is extremely low for a new dulcimer that is not a cardboard model. If you can set your budget to $300 or $350 you will have additional options. Or, used dulcimers will be a bit cheaper.

That said, most of the cardboard dulcimers sold these days are actually pretty good dulcimers, they play smoothly and they sound nice. They make great super-low-priced starter instruments that remain useful later on for travel and camping, etc.




--
Site Owner

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

updated by @strumelia: 07/24/21 09:49:11AM
johnpat27
@johnpat27
2 months ago
3 posts

Ya got $200, and you wanna get a decent new (not used) dulcimer.

You're interested in learning to play all styles, especially fingerstyle, but also with noter, chords, etc.

I've looked at Berg's, but they're all 4 and 5-string instruments- but definitely in my price range.

Recommendations?

I understand (perhaps incorrectly) that fingerstyle playing is difficult with doubled strings?