RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

I did make a note out of one of them, Skip. Hollowed it out, too.

Skip
Skip
@skip
4 months ago
354 posts

I heard bamboo tomato stakes from a garden center are Tonkin cane. It's used for top quality split cane flyrods and those giant scaffolds you see in China. 

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 months ago
1,616 posts

Black bamboo may be a favorite as a noter, but as a garden plant, it's nothing but headaches krazyhair !  I'll check the garage to see if I still have some stalks that I had cut down as possible noters.  If so, I'll post here again and let you all know.




--
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
4 months ago
2,010 posts

Dusty -- Black Bamboo - Phyllostachys nigra is my all time favorite.

Roy --  never use fresh 'green'  culms from the current year,  always harvest culms which are at least a year old.  That way they don't need to dry, just cut and use.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
4 months ago
1,616 posts

We used to have a big grove of black bamboo on our property.  That variety develops a hard black sheen on the outside that is great for use as a noter and can be used as soon as you cut it to size.  It also has a groove on one side that is perfect for resting your finger.




--
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
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Ken, I considered asking for culms from neighbors when I made Native American style flutes, but I'd assume fresh bamboo would take a year to dry, before it's usable?

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 months ago
2,010 posts

If you like bamboo, just ask someone like me, who has tons of various kinds of bamboo growing all around, to send you some lengths of culm.

Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
4 months ago
141 posts

RoyB,

I'm glad the turkey call striker dowels are working out for you.   I left some at 5 1/2 inches long and cut some others down to 3 or 4 inches in length.

Another unique source of noters intended for other purposes is to buy river cane arrow shafts on E-Bay.  They come in lengths suitable for making arrows, but can be cut to shorter lengths as needed.

A final possibility is to  use Spanish cane cut to length.  Spanish cane is the material used to make drone reeds for various types of bagpipes.  It can be purchased in varying diameters to suit the player's needs and cut to length.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

[quote="Banjimer"]

Search on E-Bay for "turkey call striker dowels".  They are available in a variety of hardwoods, can be purchased pre-rounded, and cost about $10.00 for ten dowels - each dowel is about 5-6 inches long.

Well, Banjimer, I have to tell you - I went ahead and ordered three purple heart turkey call striker dowels on Ebay.  They arrived today, and I'm very pleased with the size, shape and feel.  Very hard wood, right diameter for me (5/16"), and a bit over 5" long.  I also found demonstrations of their real use on YouTube.  Amazing.  Thanks again for the suggestion.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

I'm more of a folkie.  Never really into heavy metal :)

Yes, I think I'll stick with wooden noters, at this point.  It would be interesting to see a bolt noter in action, though.

Skip
Skip
@skip
4 months ago
354 posts

If you take a heavy [metal] noter [I used a 5/16  x 3 1/2 " bolt] and with a light touch, you can slide the bolt/noter on the string, without the string touching the frets, and change the pitch. You need the mass of the bolt/noter to kill the strings vibration at the point of contact. I also tried a piece of 1/2" steel rod which worked the same as the bolt. I had to use a real light touch because the MD is set up for chord/melody with low set strings.

The frets then act as lines locating the the notes. For the big spaces the note is just past [bridge side] the 1/2 way point between the 2 frets.

But, since you say you had problems with dobro slides, this may not work for you.


updated by @skip: 08/16/22 09:04:51PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

I pretty much mastered that on guitar, but the noter is completely different, of course.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 months ago
2,103 posts

Only enough pressure to make the string touch the fret. Sometimes with higher frets, if you press the string all the way down to touch the wood, then you are further stretching the string and making it sound sharp.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

That is something I've been working on, Strumelia. Trying to see how much pressure is really needed to get a clear sound.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
4 months ago
2,103 posts

I think skip means you don't have to push the string all the way down to the wooden fretboard when pressing down the string between the frets. Also try to keep the noter not slanted- it gives a clearer sound. (unless you are purposely using the slanted noter technique for other reasons)




--
Site Owner

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

updated by @strumelia: 08/16/22 06:17:38PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Ok. I think you mean I don't push the string down onto the actual fret, but just to the left of it? That I know from playing guitar.

Skip
Skip
@skip
4 months ago
354 posts

The noter acts as a movable fret like a slide on a steel guitar or dobro. So you can actually get the notes in the large spaces as long as you stay away from the frets. One of the advantages of having a high nut/bridge. The frets act like a 'note marker' then. The string isn't stretched as much either.


updated by @skip: 08/16/22 05:27:53PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Skip, you lost me with that one.

Skip
Skip
@skip
4 months ago
354 posts

I don't think the string needs to touch a fret when using a noter. If that's true, it's the answer to the tuning problem [with a bit of practice].

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

[quote="Ken Longfield"]

My current favorite noter is the handle of a foam brush. I cut the foam off the handle after the paint hardened. It works very well for me.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Ken, I've been doing some painting around the house, and had the same thought.  Just a little too wide in diameter for me, though (maybe the handles are different diameters?  I'll have to check that out).  They do seem to be a very soft wood, however.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
4 months ago
920 posts

My current favorite noter is the handle of a foam brush. I cut the foam off the handle after the paint hardened. It works very well for me.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

[quote="Skip"]

Last nite I happened to think that anything you can cut to size and hold onto would work, screwdriver, chunk of a broom/mop/garden tool, tablespoon, big nail in a piece of wood or file handle, etc. I suppose some would work better than others.

Skip, I've seen that idea other places, too.  However, I'm hesitant to use something too hard or abrasive on my 'vintage' instrument, for fear of damaging the fretboard or the staple frets.  So I'm needing a balance between a noter that won't hurt the fretboard yet won't sustain cuts from the pressure of the strings.  The search goes on.  I am thinking seriously about Banjimer's turkey call strikers.  Being a city guy I never knew they existed! (Don't ask me how else I thought turkeys were caught) Ebay does have them in several hard woods, for reasonable prices, and 5/16" diameter may be a good size for me. 

Skip
Skip
@skip
4 months ago
354 posts

Last nite I happened to think that anything you can cut to size and hold onto would work, screwdriver, chunk of a broom/mop/garden tool, tablespoon, big nail in a piece of wood or file handle, etc. I suppose some would work better than others.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

[quote="Ken Longfield"]

Roy, I don't know if you ever go over to Downingtown, but if you do there is a Woodcraft store there. It carries maple dowels. If I ever get down your way again, I have lots of different sizes and species of dowel material I can bring along for you to try.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Thanks, Ken.  I do see their website online - there's a store in Downingtown and one in New Castle, DE, both about the same distance from me.  I'll keep that in mind as a source of wood.  

Also, I do hope to see you again sometime, maybe for a longer visit and song swapping.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

[quote="Banjimer"]

Search on E-Bay for "turkey call striker dowels".  They are available in a variety of hardwoods, can be purchased pre-rounded, and cost about $10.00 for ten dowels - each dowel is about 5-6 inches long.

Banjimer, I thought you were kidding, but you are absolutely right!  Not much "call" (couldn't help myself) for those around my way, outside Philly!  They are a bargain for our purposes.  I may give them a try.  Thanks.

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
4 months ago
920 posts

Roy, I don't know if you ever go over to Downingtown, but if you do there is a Woodcraft store there. It carries maple dowels. If I ever get down your way again, I have lots of different sizes and species of dowel material I can bring along for you to try.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."


updated by @ken-longfield: 08/16/22 10:04:31AM
Banjimer
Banjimer
@greg-gunner
4 months ago
141 posts

Search on E-Bay for "turkey call striker dowels".  They are available in a variety of hardwoods, can be purchased pre-rounded, and cost about $10.00 for ten dowels - each dowel is about 5-6 inches long.

Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
4 months ago
419 posts

Ken's right; don't bind yourself to round.  One of my favorite noters is a rectangular one from Keith Young. Oh yeah, Jim Good's kind of looked like a spoon.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 months ago
2,010 posts

PM me your address...

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

That's very kind of you, Ken.

Neither Home Depot nor Lowes near me have dowels of maple. I'm actually ok with what I have, for now. Enjoy your trip!

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 months ago
2,010 posts

Noters don't have to be round.   Or perfectly circular.  Surely one of the Big Box stores near you has Maple.  Or a local sawmill/lumber yard.  I'm getting ready for a trip to the UK in a few days, or I'd send you some maple and other hardwood bits.  

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Rob, I actually tried a chopstick.  Too small for my liking.  Sorry about your river cane noter and lanyard.  Sounded like it was just the thing!

Skip, I could never get used to a slide while playing guitar, no matter which finger or what size I used.  Don't think it would work for me for a noter.

I did soak my oak dowel noters in Howard Butcher Block Conditioner.  Contains mineral oil, carnauba wax and beeswax (Robin's prior comment about beeswax made me think of it).  They seem to slide a bit smoother now.  I know oak isn't as hard or long lasting as a noter as other woods, but I now have 15 noters of 3/8" or 1/4" size, homemade, aside from my original 2, so I should be good for awhile.

And Ken, the pen blanks would be an excellent source of raw materials for me if I had a belt sander or any kind of carving skills!  As it is, I'm barely able to cut the dowels straight.

Thanks to all, as usual, for the helpful suggestions!

Skip
Skip
@skip
4 months ago
354 posts

 I used a heat gun in a home built, stove pipe oven to harden mine when I was making split cane fly rods.

Try a dobro [bottle neck] slide. Pretty much the same thing, just bigger and it could fit over your thumb/finger.


updated by @skip: 08/15/22 03:41:12PM
Rob N Lackey
Rob N Lackey
@rob-n-lackey
4 months ago
419 posts

Richard Farina used a chopstick.  I had a great big river cane noter made by Bobby Ratliff it had a leather lanyard attached so I could "drop" it and play with my fingers.  Looked for it one morning and found the lanyard and some splinters on the floor.  Seems my dog, a puppy at the time, decided it was a great chew toy (while it lasted.). 


updated by @rob-n-lackey: 08/15/22 02:13:21PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Skip, I had read about that when making my bamboo flutes.  Problem is I'd probably fire harden my apartment in the process!

Skip
Skip
@skip
4 months ago
354 posts

You could fire harden the bamboo.

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Thanks Ken. Yes I have your booklet. One of my standard go to references. I'll look into tung oil. Hardest wood that was readily available was oak.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
4 months ago
2,010 posts

Did I give you this link to my Get Noterized booklet?  All sorts of good info on choosing and using a noter:
Ken Hulme's "Get Noterized!" Article - Strumelia | fotmd.com

Bamboo is one of the all around best and least expensive materials for noters.  I've used them for decades.  River Cane is one native species of bamboo that was common used for noters in Appalachia.   I personally use noters about the size of my index finger. Some people like 'em smaller -- like 1/4" but i find it hard to hold something that small.

Oak I consider the minimum hardness for a noter, and it's very open-pored which isn't that good.  Maple, all the way to Lignum Vitae are better choices -- from 1200 to 4500 on the Janka Hardness scale.  Fine sand (400-800 grit and polish the wood.  Then I use 3-4 coats of Tung oil to give it a smooth harder surface.

I get a lot of exotic hardwoods by buying "pen blanks" from Ebay.  The blanks are about 3/4"x3/4'x5".  Then I use my inverted belt sander to round them out:

Noters.JPG.jpg

Janka Hardness chart for Exotic Wood and Domestic Wood | Bell Forest Products


updated by @ken-hulme: 08/14/22 07:05:26PM
RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Robin, I've also created a noter out of a slice of bamboo, a la Strumelia's video, showing how your thumb or finger can fit into the hollow of it.  I have been having trouble with hands lately, too, part of the reason I'm moving away from guitar and toward dulcimer.  Still trying to find the best and most comforatble way to hold the noter (thumb over, finger over, sideways, knuckle against the fret board, etc.).  I'm pretty sure I'm still pressing down too hard on the strings, though.  Trying to see how lightly I can do that, and still get a sound.

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
4 months ago
1,329 posts

RoyB, I really can't use round noters due to soft tissue problems with my hands.  The pad on my thumb (I hold the noter with my thumb on top) needs a larger point of contact than round noters offer so I use flat noters.  I don't know what makes a bamboo noter hard on your fingers but round noters don't work for me.  Just a thought.  

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

Dan, I have two river cane Native American flutes made by an excellent maker in Alabama, so I'm familiar with the material.  My bamboo noter slides well but feels very hard on my fingers for some reason.  

Robin, maybe I'll try beeswax, or a similar material.  I have some Howard butcher block conditioner that I've used on my bamboo flutes, so I thought maybe I'd try that.

Dan
Dan
@dan
4 months ago
168 posts

I believe river cane makes the best noter. (Historically correct and indigenous)  Bamboo is very similar being high in silicon content that makes them last a very long time and slide quite nice..... 

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
4 months ago
1,329 posts

I've used beeswax on noters to get them to slide real slick-- I have a small slab of it and it can just be rubbed onto the noter.  Just keep your string wiped mostly clean when using it. 

RoyB
RoyB
@royb
4 months ago
71 posts

I've been trying out different size and material noters, mostly handmade.  I have a 1/4", 4.5" long noter than came with my Apple Creek dulcimer, and I've cut a 3/8", 4.5" long hollow bamboo noter.  I've now made several of those two sizes out of oak dowels.  However, they don't slide as well up and down the fret board as the original two.  Should I be treating the dry wood in some way - oil, stain, paint, etc.?  (I've also watched Strumelia's excellent review of different kinds of noters - wish I had the carving skills to make some like the ones she shows).  

Also, I'm frankly allergic to spending $7-$10 or more for a commercially made plain 5" piece of dowel, when I can buy a 36" long piece of wood for $1-$2.50, out of which I could make several. :)