Robin Clark


Location: Tywyn, Gwynedd, Wales
Country: GB

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Higher Ground - DAdA tuning

musician/member name:
Duration: 00:01:58
Here is the hymn Higher Ground played in noter drone style using a quill and reed noter. The dulcimer is a standard cherry McSpadden (without a 6+) and the t...
Robin Clark
03/12/14 04:20:10PM @robin-clark:

Hi Maryann - I'm glad you enjoyed the tune Smile.gif DAdA is played the same as DAA except I spread the strings out to be 4 x equidistant spacing. I only play the 'A' melody string like you do in DAA (although you may have two close set strings tuned to 'A' as a melody pair on your dulcimer). So in DAdA I have 3 drones - D, A and a high d. For some tunes (but not all) I find that the high d drone can smooth out the sound a little. It is not my idea; I stolethis style of 4 string equidistant noter drone playingfrom Jean Ritchie Grin.gif

Maryann Lang
03/11/14 08:06:58PM @maryann-lang:

Thank you Robin for sharing the tab as well as the video -- I love this hymn,it sounds celtic when played on the dulcimer. DAA is my preferred tuning, have not tried DAdA (still get confused about tuning to different octaves)

Robin Clark
03/11/14 06:08:32PM @robin-clark:

Thanks James - I love playing old style noter drone Smile.gif

Brian G.
03/19/13 07:49:47AM @brian-g:

Very nice Robin! I was unfamiliar with the tune, but really enjoyed this.

Macy Jayne
03/15/13 10:15:44PM @macy-jayne:

Lovely playin Robin, thanks for the sheet music and the nice camera angle tooSmile.gif

Nancy Holthus
03/14/13 06:00:15PM @nancy-holthus:

beautifully done and soothing to the soul...I have been practicing a lot of old hymns lately and they are bringing back some fond memories of times with my parents.

Gayle Maurer
03/14/13 05:52:11PM @gayle-maurer:
I see you answered my question earlier. I wondered if it wasn't equidistance strings.
Gayle Maurer
03/14/13 05:50:01PM @gayle-maurer:
Lovely! How does the DAdA tuning work? I see the tabs below is regular DAA. So much to learn!
Robin Clark
03/13/13 06:09:57AM @robin-clark:

Thanks everyone Smile.gif

I find that slower tunes, particularly those in 3/4, are quite hard to get sounding good in noter drone. Higher Ground is a little awkward because each phrase starts on the one and a half beat of a 3 beat measure and finishes with a dotted quarter note 109.gif

I play noter drone from an in-strum lead as it tends to emphasise the melody stringas the melody string is the last string you come off on the stroke out to in. Here you can see that I have to pick up the first note ofeach phrase on the out stroke as it is one and a half beats into the measure. The last phrase is a little different at the end as they are not dotted quarter notes and so the rhythm changes from lilting to straight.

Here is the TAB that was written by Dave Holeton. I've had to change it to a jpeg to post it here so it is not very clear. The TAB is available as a .pdf here in Dave's post-


Rob N Lackey
03/13/13 05:15:31AM @rob-n-lackey:

That was really pretty, Robin. Now, I have to decide which one of mine goes into that tuning.... decisions, decisions!

John Keane
03/12/13 09:02:59PM @john-keane:

Very nice job! Great camera angle as well!

Karen Keane
03/12/13 07:50:18PM @karen-keane:
Very well done. I love the camera angle too. It is a great overhead shot.
Robin Clark
03/12/13 06:58:12PM @robin-clark:

Hi Patty,

Gald you liked itSmile.gif

Because the quill isn't flexible I put the 'flex' into my wrist instead. That way I can easily contol the volume and tone and not have the quill 'trip up' on the strings.

James Phillips
03/12/13 06:57:16PM @james-phillips:

Nice video Robin! I like this a lot and I think this definately shows what you mentioned in response to my posting about Jean's 4 string quidistant set-up.

Patty from Virginia
03/12/13 03:33:22PM @patty-from-virginia:

Robin, very nice113.gif . I love this vantage point because I can learn the hymn and I can see your quill technique. Thank you! Of course I'm showing my ignorance when I say this but I never thought of using a "flopping" or "weaving" (not sure if I'm describing that correctly) motion with the quill.

Robin Clark
03/12/13 12:18:30PM @robin-clark:

Thanks Wayne Smile.gif

I've been experimenting with Jean Ritchie's 4 string quidistant set-up on that McSpadden for the last few weeks and I really like the sound. I'm using DAdA for this video but DAAA also sounds nice. The string set is just the regular McSpadden ionian set (0.022w, 0.012, 0.012, 0.012). I think that DAdA has some advantages in that the high d seems to smooth out the transition to the 4th chord and just fill out the whole sound. I though that the drones may have overpowered the single melody string but this is not the case at all.

Seeing as how every McSpadden is built to take this set-up I couldn't resist trying it out. In fact, I have a hunch that the extra slots in the nut and bridge were placed their because of Jean Ritchie and the popularity of her playing style at the time Lynn started building. Those extra slots appear even on the earliest McSpaddens. I've never really got on with twin double melody strings for noter drone playing (excepting a wide spaced Galax pair)- they seem like a'fudge' to make the instrument look balanced - I like the clarity of a single melody string so I have just run that cherry McSpadden as a 3 string up to now. But I'm going to keep it in that 4 string format from now on.

I sat on the seafront a week ago and played the instrument noter drone in that 4 string set-up and it sounded wonderful Smile.gif

The camera sound in this clip doesn't do the instrument justice at all - I must get a better video system Frown.gif