John Molineux box dulcimer

Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
5 days ago
55 posts

The fret markings clearly are a major feature of the claims. He states:

"In a stringed instrument, the combination, with the sounding board or base, of the separate parallel longitudinal bridge-bars, each having a group of four strings, a line of line of frets, and note-scales , and having the keys for the strings at one end of each bridge-bar set at the opposite ends of the sounding-board, substantially as herein set forth."

The drawing almost certainly has shape notes because he says:

"The note-scales may be made in characters such as are found in the “Sacred Harp” and in the “Temple Harp,” or indicated by do, re, mi, &c."

Actually, on close reading, it looks like it may only apply to the combination of the features, not to any on them singularly. Not to worry, it expired long ago. .smiler

There are many patents for specific instrument designs which are more-or-less actually sort of trademarks. This is particularly true on "anyone-can-play-this" instruments.

I find the patent interesting because it reinforces our knowledge of many features as being broadly* known by 1880.

  • Four string designs
  • Rectangular sound boxes
  • Fret labels
  • Zither/piano pin tuners
  • Wire strings

*The patentee resided in the flat Mid-Georgia country, not in the hills of KY-NC-WV-VA

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
5 days ago
2,233 posts

@wally-venable - in the patent world, that is called 'making a broad claim'.  However, anyone can create something that has a few slight differences and present it as something new. The patent holder would then have to shoulder the expense of legally defending their claim, which is often more trouble and expense than worth doing. In this case, the idea of claiming all possible sizes, shapes, and variations of a simple stringed instrument is patently ridiculous (pun intended).

I'm now thinking that perhaps this patent was actually for the system of fret marking on a simple learning/teaching instrument...shown on the drawings. There are something similar to shape-note symbols inscribed on each fret- identifying the notes produced at various positions on the fretboard. A patent for a specific method of teaching/learning using such fret markers would be more easily patentable, and one could then more logically include the broader claim that it applies to whatever size/shape of the base instrument.  Does the patent description mention this marking system?




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Wally Venable
Wally Venable
@wally-venable
5 days ago
55 posts

I just looked at the full 1880 patent filing. It is a good .PDF file with search capability.

It is interesting that the word "dulcimer" (or even "dul") does not appear in the text.

The description includes "The instrument may be made of any suitable style and form, and of any suitable size. I may also make the instrument with one stringed bridge, and adapted to be played as described."

It appears to be an attempt to patent ALL dulcimers in a single stroke.

shanonmilan
@shanonmilan
6 days ago
52 posts

steve c.:

Here is a short bio on John:

1947 Born in Los Angeles, California
1950 Family moved to England
Instrument - making
1972 - 74 Training : Newark School of Violin Making. Pass with distinction
 
Music and Story-telling
1963 Met traditional music through Folk Clubs
1965 Started giving concerts, solo and in groups
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1976 Moved to Brittany

1978  LP  "Douce-Amère" : traditional songs and instrumentals
(mostly with Appalachian Dulcimers)
1978 - 82 Member of the JOHN RENBOURN GROUP (vocals, dulcimers, violin,
mandolin). Tours + 3 LPs with the group.
since 1978 Solo concert tours: U.S.A., Germany, Ireland, England,
Italy, Hungary and France.
1985 LP  "Spice of Life" : personal and traditional tunes and songs
(with Dan ar Bras, the Josquin des Prés Quartet etc.)
since 1996 Tours throughout France with the story-teller Alain Le Goff
for the story and music show ‘‘Baleines, baleines’’
2000 Creation of  " LEGENDARY AIRS " , a solo show of ‘Stories told by Music itself’ (for all, rec. min. age 7 yrs ).
         CD compilation of «Douce-Amère» + «Spice » (Kerig KCD185) : awarded "BRAVO"  label from Trad Magazine.
2002 Creation of  " WOLF ? " : a one man show, where the wolf is revealed through stories, with some music (for all, rec. min. 7 yrs ).

2018 Creation of  " DREAMCATCHER " :

 

That's a pretty colorful journey.

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
one month ago
229 posts

Strumelia:


ok so it's the fret pattern, not technically the 'pegbox' or tuning mechanisms that are opposite mirrored for duet playing. I was just assuming the peghead was usually at the 'fret 1' end of the fretboard, but there's nothing saying you can't put the tuning pins at what we consider to be the tail end of the box.


 
I saw a courting dulcimer on this site years ago and haven't been able to find it since. It had fingerboards that did not extend to any edges of the box, and both pegboxes were on one side of the instrument. When I realized that the fingerboard doesnt need to go all the way to the box edges, and that the pegbox can be at either end of the strings, I made this dulcimer
5.jpg


updated by @nate: 02/01/24 05:50:11PM
NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
one month ago
229 posts

The dulcimer played by John in the video does not seem to be a courting dulcimer, like the one in the patent document. The fingerboards are both facing the same way, and don't seem to be laid out in a way that would be easy for two people to reach both fingerboards at once. The fact that it is only one octave is the main reason I am guessing that John's second fingerboard is for lower pitch notes. It would not need the second octave, since the higher notes are already on the other fretboard.

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
2,233 posts

ok so it's the fret pattern, not technically the 'pegbox' or tuning mechanisms that are opposite mirrored for duet playing. I was just assuming the peghead was usually at the 'fret 1' end of the fretboard, but there's nothing saying you can't put the tuning pins at what we consider to be the tail end of the box.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
1,063 posts

Yes, they are mirrored. Somewhere in my files I have some photos of early courting dulcimers. I'll try to see if I can find one, digitize it, and share it here. It may take me a while to do so.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
one month ago
66 posts


in John M Own words:
Of course, what everyone wants to know about is the dulcichord, the intriguing instrument pictured on the cover of Douce Amere which looks like the result of a drunken liaison between a dulcimer and a pedal-steel guitar..... “I wanted a harpsichord-kind of sound, and studied how they were made.  The top is floating- it is only attached to the sides, and there is a gap at both ends.  It was made from very good quality guitar tone wood and was braced on the underside using the fan-bracing system invented by Torres for Spanish guitars.  It has two fingerboards, both of five single courses (DADAD) and both fully fretted.  The bridges are only lightly held in place by the strings, there is no great pressure exerted.  The levers pressed down to form barre chords on the furthest fingerboard.  I used to play organ so was used to playing foot pedals.  Unfortunately, the lever mechanism, though it worked perfectly well, was a bit noisy, and I virtually never used it, not even on the record! I still have the instrument, and in fact used it at a gig a couple of nights ago.  It looks good and gives out enough volume for an audience of 70 or so, without the need to amplify it.  The cover painting was a gift from a local artist, and is pretty accurate, even down to the wing-nuts (to dismantle the instrument for transport)”.



Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
2,233 posts

KenL- but... are those also having the frets going in the same direction? I suspect the fret pattern will be 'mirrored' if intended for couple playing on facing knees... even if the tuning mechanisms (pins, pegs) are both on the same end. Hmm, I probably should have clarified that.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
1,063 posts

Strumelia, I'm glad that you wrote "in general" as there are courting dulcimers out there that do have two fret boards with the peg heads at the same end of the dulcimer but fretted for playing by two people sitting knee to knee. I think this design makes the dulcimer shorter and easier to carry because you don't have peg heads sticking out on both ends.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
2,233 posts

NateBuildsToys:
It's hard to imagine what aspect of that dulcimer would be patented.
 

As a professional patent illustrator for a living over the past 25 years and counting, i can maybe shed some light on that.  nerd2
There are utility patents and design patents. Utility patents cover the creation of a new or improved product, process, or machine- patenting its function -how it's used and how it works. (example: a new type of braking system for a bicycle or train)  Design patents protect how an article looks - its shape, configuration or surface ornamentation. (example, a new designer backpack or lamp)


If a new invention contains both unique function/use AND unique shape, appearance, or decoration, one can apply for both utility and design patents for that article.


We'd have to see the 'prospectus' or description accompanying that 1880s patent in order to see what aspects were being applied for. Perhaps it was the first US patent for a double fretboard box zither to be played by two people (utility patent). OR, perhaps it was for having those shape-note like indicators for each note right on the fretboard, as a music reading aid system (design patent). Could be any combination of a number of things both functional and design-wise being applied for. The official Patent Office description accompanying the drawings would explain what exactly was being patented.




--
Site Owner

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

updated by @strumelia: 02/01/24 10:42:54AM
Wildcat
Wildcat
@wildcat
one month ago
22 posts

@strumelia I enjoy Bing Futch's videos. 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
2,233 posts

I think that in general, older dulcimers with double fretboards were meant to be played by a couple sitting facing each other knee to knee, playing it on their laps in duet. That means the two fretboards are mirrored (one peghead being on one end of the box and the other peghead at the other end of the box). These were called 'courting dulcimers'.

Double fretboard dulcimers that are meant to be tuned and played in different keys, tunings, or octaves by one musician tend to be more modern and can be played by switching quickly between the fretboards. Those instruments will have the two fretboards facing in the same direction so the instrument does not have to be physically turned around to switch fretboards on the fly. Bing Futch's custom double dulcimer is this way.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
one month ago
229 posts

The dulcimer in the video is very cool and relates to some ideas I've been thinking about lately (such as fingerboards that do not touch any edges of the instrument)
It's hard to imagine what aspect of that dulcimer would be patented. It is notable that the second fret board does not have strings or a bridge. My first guess would be that it is intended to have a lower register of deeper pitch strings. This seems likely, since it only has one octave worth of frets.
Another guess would be that the second fretboard is meant to play in a different key. Bing Futch has a Folkcraft dulcimer with two separate fretboards in different keys. 
Either way thanks for sharing
Nate

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
one month ago
66 posts

Pierre-Yves Donnio:

steve c.:

Great video! Thanks.  I didn’t pick up on the range of that dulcichord, the basses are rich sounding.  But, so it still makes me wonder what the other fretboard is for? It’s such a short scale.  

 

In an interview by Graham Hood, John explains that, in the original dulcichord configuration, he added a complex mechanism of pedals and levers acting on the shorter neck, but that the result was too noisy to use. This can be seen on the record sleeve.

 

great thanks!  So maybe this was more like the 1933 patent.  

Pierre-Yves Donnio
Pierre-Yves Donnio
@pierre-yves-donnio
one month ago
9 posts

steve c.:

Great video! Thanks.  I didn’t pick up on the range of that dulcichord, the basses are rich sounding.  But, so it still makes me wonder what the other fretboard is for? It’s such a short scale.  

 

In an interview by Graham Hood, John explains that, in the original dulcichord configuration, he added a complex mechanism of pedals and levers acting on the shorter neck, but that the result was too noisy to use. This can be seen on the record sleeve.

Douce-Amère.png
Douce-Amère.png  •  135KB

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
one month ago
66 posts

Here is a short bio on John:

1947 Born in Los Angeles, California
1950 Family moved to England
Instrument - making
1972 - 74 Training : Newark School of Violin Making. Pass with distinction
 
Music and Story-telling
1963 Met traditional music through Folk Clubs
1965 Started giving concerts, solo and in groups
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1976 Moved to Brittany

1978  LP  "Douce-Amère" : traditional songs and instrumentals
(mostly with Appalachian Dulcimers)
1978 - 82 Member of the JOHN RENBOURN GROUP (vocals, dulcimers, violin,
mandolin). Tours + 3 LPs with the group.
since 1978 Solo concert tours: U.S.A., Germany, Ireland, England,
Italy, Hungary and France.
1985 LP  "Spice of Life" : personal and traditional tunes and songs
(with Dan ar Bras, the Josquin des Prés Quartet etc.)
since 1996 Tours throughout France with the story-teller Alain Le Goff
for the story and music show ‘‘Baleines, baleines’’
2000 Creation of  " LEGENDARY AIRS " , a solo show of ‘Stories told by Music itself’ (for all, rec. min. age 7 yrs ).
         CD compilation of «Douce-Amère» + «Spice » (Kerig KCD185) : awarded "BRAVO"  label from Trad Magazine.
2002 Creation of  " WOLF ? " : a one man show, where the wolf is revealed through stories, with some music (for all, rec. min. 7 yrs ).

2018 Creation of  " DREAMCATCHER " :

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
one month ago
66 posts

Great video! Thanks.  I didn’t pick up on the range of that dulcichord, the basses are rich sounding.  But, so it still makes me wonder what the other fretboard is for? It’s such a short scale.  

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
1,063 posts

Thanks for that link. Although I don't speak French, I found the video interesting. I'll search among my friends to see if anyone speaks French to do some translation for me.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Pierre-Yves Donnio
Pierre-Yves Donnio
@pierre-yves-donnio
one month ago
9 posts

A link to a 1979 French TV program (in french, sorry...) in which John introduced the dulcichord (watch from 9 minutes 30 seconds)

Douce Amère : John MOLINEUX - YouTube

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
one month ago
66 posts

Any earlier patents than 1880 out there?

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
one month ago
66 posts

All your comments make a lot of sense!  

Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
one month ago
1,063 posts

If you read lines 27 through 31 in the patent description, it appears that the instrument is intended to be played by two people like a courting dulcimer. It appears to be nothing like the dulcichord (five string table dulcimer) the John Molineux is playing in the video. I did enjoy the video. Very nice playing.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
one month ago
2,233 posts

Cool to see the patent drawing from 1880.  yes




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Wildcat
Wildcat
@wildcat
one month ago
22 posts

That patent art needs to be on a t-shirt! Terrific stuff !

Wildcat
Wildcat
@wildcat
one month ago
22 posts

@ken-hulme , "The instrument doesn't look like the 1880 patent..."

Agreed.

original

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
one month ago
2,103 posts

Beautiful playing.  The instrument doesn't look like the 1880 patent, but I think it may embody the same concept -- an "extended" fretboard that allows notes below the "low do" of the normal fretboard...   

An old dulcimer building friend once built an instrument with 4 frets below the low-do on a single fretboard.  You tuned it by capoing at the 4th fret from the nut and then tuning to DAA or DAd...You then removed the capo to play.  

Wildcat
Wildcat
@wildcat
one month ago
22 posts

That was wonderful 👏 thanks for sharing.  What talent and what an instrument!

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
one month ago
66 posts

Robin Thompson:


Beautiful!  The sound hits my ears like it's a lute being played. 


 


I agree Robin, the sound is lute-like.  I have an album of his music.  What is interesting is that somebody made a comment that he built a replica of a patented dulcimer.  I thought it was the pedal dulcimer from 1933, but I think it might be this one from 1880 although the second neck looks unfinished.  
https://73decb.a2cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Patent-1880-Double-neck-Dulcimer.pdf


updated by @steve-c: 01/28/24 11:15:59AM
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
one month ago
1,404 posts

Beautiful!  The sound hits my ears like it's a lute being played. 

steve c.
steve c.
@steve-c
one month ago
66 posts

https://youtu.be/sdAg3B5gAx4?si=4SW3rZFGlF9U-0a9

sounds good and interesting playing.


updated by @steve-c: 02/27/24 08:58:08AM