Robin Clark


Location: Tywyn, Gwynedd, Wales
Country: GB

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Mountain Dulcimer advanced noter techniques

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Duration: 00:18:35
This video shows some of the more advanced techniques for using a noter when playing mountain dulcimer. The dulcimer in the video is a replica of an Ed Thoma...
Robin Clark
03/02/19 02:16:12PM @robin-clark:

Thank you Mary!

I've not been on FOTMD much recently.  I don't know where the time has gone since Christmas shrugger Although I have been in Austria ski touring for a few weeks (back out there again to the Stubai mountains at the end of next week grin )

I did play dulcimer at a concert last night though.  It was St David's Day here in Wales and we had a concert at a local hotel with the Welsh male voice choir I'm a member of.  To break up the concert we have slots for other items so I played a medley of three Welsh folk tunes - Bwlch Llanberis, Cadair Idris and Corbet of Ynysymaengywyn's Delight - noter drone style on dulcimer with a friend playing wonderful DADGAD guitar accompaniment.  It was a last minutes idea for the gig but great to get back into the discipline of playing concert pieces in front of an audience.

Mary Barnsdale
03/02/19 12:36:48PM @mary-barnsdale:

This was a total revelation. Thank you so much!

Rick Kennedy
01/05/13 12:14:53PM @rick-kennedy:

Thanks for the additional info, Robin. I hope recording proves fruitful!

Mary Z. Cox
01/05/13 08:50:34AM @mary-z-cox:
Like the way he uses his thumb -- much easier to come by than a good turkey feather :)
Robin Clark
01/05/13 06:03:19AM @robin-clark:

Thank you everyone for your comments - I'll try and answer your questions here:

John P - It would be good to have a common terminology and perhaps we can make a start here. Unfortunately, I think though it is something that will take quite a lot of time and a lot more noter drone players to developa commonvocabulary. We probably need a couple of books, some professional DVDs and a workshop tour by pro players to get the ball realy rolling - and I can't see any of that happening in the near future Frown.gif BTW - that John Pearce dulcimer you very kindly sent to me has been sitting on my sofa right over Christmas, played every day (mostly carols!!!!). I'm waiting for a sunny day to get some photos of it and I'm still searching for a 'first tune' to record on it. It has a lovely tone and playability, and I've been working on my fingerdancing as I want to play it in the style used by JP himself.

Robin T -You play beautifully - I really don't think you need to add anything to your style. And you'll probably find that you are naturally adding lifts in to a lot of your tunes without realising it. I got the idea that this was a specific technique from watching the close-ups of ID Stamper on the Sourwood Mountain DVD and realising he was lifting to play some sequences.When I analysed what I was doing I realised that I did it as well, really without thinking about it, when I wanted to sharpen up a passage.

Randy - I have learned loads from watching you play!!! That Angled Noter Technique came from a combination of reading old articles and watching you play fretless. That's the great thing about FOTMD is that we share stuff and so all progress way faster than we could just on our own Smile.gif

Rick - That Ed Thomas is set up with just standard piano wire - 2 x #4 (0.013 plain steel wire) and a #8 (0.020 plain steel wire). The narrow string spacing is certainly an advantage when using the thumb strum. I took the technique from both Jean Ritchie's book (1963)and an articleabout Bill Graves written in 1973 that is in the Springfield County Library archive. When I first read The Mountain Dulcimer Book by Jean Ritchie I didn't pay much attention to the technique as I'd not seen any video of contemporary players using it. BUT when I stated to really listen to the early Jean Ritchie recordings made about 1953 by Alan Lomax I realised that she was using the technique on a lot of those tracks. I couldn't understand how she was getting such clarity with her melody string - but I now know it was because she was thumb strumming. It is a technique that needs practice to master. BTW - I have booked a week next month at a small cottage on an Estate in the Scottish Highlands to start the process of recording my next CD. My plan is to do the whole project on the Ed Thomas and Charles Prichard repro dulcimers I have.

Robin Clark
01/05/13 05:08:19AM @robin-clark:

I've added the video as a new page in the 'Old Style Drone and Noter' section so folks should be able to find it in future. There are 5 lesson pages up in the section now - they are listed in a column on the right of the main group page.

I thought it would be helpful to add a few definitions of the terms I've used. Like I said earlier in this thread these are just my own names for the techniques I use - not noter drone Gospel 109.gif So feel free to use other terms if they are more useful to you.

Lifts - Lifting the noter just slightly so it 'kills' the note being played and allows sequential notes to be played discretely.

Pushing - sliding the noter to the next note position before the pick strike and so 'pushing' the tune along.

Dragging - sliding the noter to the next note position after the pick strike and so 'dragging' the tune back.

Grace Notes - using a flick of the noter to momentarily catch an adjacent note that is not a part of the tune, for the purpose of augmentation.

Hammer-ons - Striking one note and then landing the noter quickly to sound a higher note. Usually done from an open string strike.

Pull-offs - Striking one note and then pulling the noter off sideways towards you to sound a lower note. Usually the lower note sounded is the open string.

Extended finger technique - Extending the little finger behind the noter from an overhand noter grip to give a second 'noter' running parallel and a couple of inches behind the noter. Hammer-ons, pull-offs and fast note jumps can be achieved by rocking between the two 'noters'

Angled Noter Technique - Sounding notes on the bass or melody string through the noter touching the string and fretboard rather than fretting a note. This enables notes between the frets to be played.

Peter W.
01/05/13 03:25:57AM @peter-w:

Your playing in noter-drone style is so "clean" and clear. Thanks for your explanation and that great instruction video!

Rick Kennedy
01/05/13 01:36:00AM @rick-kennedy:

Yet ANOTHER excellent, helpful video--and truly kind of you to post. I've come across a couple of these techniques just by watching and listening to your other posts (and your CD that I loaded onto my Ipod for my listening pleasure). It is sooo helpful to see them enumerated in this video, too. I have watched your thumb strumming video also, but I really noticed the melody ringing out on this one. I have tried the thumb strum technique on my MD which is not, unfortunately, on the same scale as the Ed Thomas--mine is an avg. modern MD w/ a wider fret board, I imagine, and a deeper body--but I cannot get the melody notes to ring--are you using wound piano wire here? It is also enlightening to see the noter on the bass string technique that we can hear on your Arkansas Traveller recordings. (On the CD, my ear is not good enough to tell if you are both playing those notes or only the banjo.) If you ever go into the studio again, I will be a willing buyer...

Randy is so right--this is a very generous thing that you do for us.

Randy Adams
01/04/13 10:33:35PM @randy-adams:

This is so cool that there is, like, lessons here at fotmd. This is a very generous thing you are giving here Robin.

Brian G.
01/04/13 09:12:11PM @brian-g:

Robin, I thought this was an excellent presentation. Very informative. Thanks for sharing it.

Robin Thompson
01/04/13 06:50:53PM @robin-thompson:

Robin, you've demonstrated these techniques beautifully. The lifting is something I've never really thought about or tried and now want to! And while I can always use practice with the various techniques, I've never been any good at using the angled noter so need to work with it more.

John Keane
01/04/13 06:11:39PM @john-keane:

This is great stuff! You are to be commended!

Karen Keane
01/04/13 05:40:36PM @karen-keane:

This was very educational and helpful. I learned a lot from watching this. Thanks so much for taking the time to post this video. Grin.gif

Ken Longfield
01/04/13 05:18:58PM @ken-longfield:

Robin this is a great addition to noter/drone playing information. I really like what you did here. Thanks.

john p
01/04/13 05:00:17PM @john-p:

Great video Robin, if you can establish a common vocabulary for these techniques it will be well worth the effort you've obviously put into it.

I play with a finger, rather than a noter and use some of these techniques all the time. In particular I use slides and pushes a lot, what distinguishes these from h/on and p/off for me is that there is no need to strike the string, the note will sound even if you don't, I can get three notes without plucking the string on some tunes.


Dusty Turtle
01/04/13 04:09:45PM @dusty-turtle:

It is surprising, Robin, that there is no established set of terminology for these techniques. But I think the terms you've used are perfectly reasonable.

Robin Clark
01/04/13 04:02:52PM @robin-clark:

Thanks Kevin and Dusty.

Dusty - you are right in that it is a musical technique to either move then strike a note (push early into the new note) or strike a note then move (drag late into the new note). With a noter, I don't have a choice about hammering-on, pulling-off, or sliding to the next note - I have to slide. That's why I think it is a technique worth highlighting in its own right as it replaceshammer-ons, pull-offs and slides avaialable to fingerstyle players. I wanted to show the techniques of ariving at the next note with the strike, before the strike and after the strike. Although this is a musicalconcept Iknow that I still need to physically understand andaction a technique to deliver the result.

I don't think that the terminoligy I'm using for any of these techniques is greatbut as there is nothing out there to benchmark against I'm floundering a bit for names for these concepts Frown.gif Still, I hope that folk will get the gist of these ideas and build on them from there.

Dusty Turtle
01/04/13 02:48:53PM @dusty-turtle:

This is outstanding, Robin. We all owe youa debt of gratitude for putting this together. That trick with your pinky is brilliant, as is the angle noter technique. Really impressive. Many of us have long remarked at how nuanced and expressive your playing is, and this video reveals some of the reasons why that is the case.

Please permit me one minor point of contention. The practice of moving to the next note early or late is indeed a common one among advanced players and can be employed effectively ina variety of contexts. But those musical ideasshould be differentiated fromwhatever technique one might employ to achieve them. Your terms "push" and "pull" are just describing a slide with the noter, after all. Playing with one's fingers, one might, as you suggest, use a hammer-on or a pull-off to achieve that effect, but one might also simply slide. I would guess, in fact, that sliding toachieve that effect ismore common in slower tunes than is the use of hammer-ons and pull-offs which result in a morerhythmic, staccato effect.And really fast crosspickers just play the next note early or late with no change in technique at all.

I guess what I am saying is that moving to the next note early or late is not really a technique in the sense of something to do with the physcial manipulation of the instrument. Instead it is a musical idea that can be achieved by a number of different techniques, at least a couple of which you highlight here.

Kevin Messenger
01/04/13 02:36:47PM @kevin-messenger:

Very well done Robin, Although im not that advanced , it is nice to see how you achieve the sound that you do. Many people will definitely benifit from this video.

Robin Clark
01/04/13 02:01:10PM @robin-clark:

Remeber to swich the quality up to 480p to watch this video.