Note-bending noter technique

Jud Barry
07/02/14 08:03:50AM

I posted this as a blog. Another member suggested it might be seen more as a discussion. Since it involves noter technique, I figured this would be the appropriate group. Hope so,anyway! Just wanting to share something that some of you might have fun exploring. Even though I present it in a dulcimer-harmonica combination, it works great on the dulcimer alone.

I grew up listening to the western North Carolina banjo-harmonica duo of George Pegram and Red Parham. One of the tunes they did was "Cackling Hen." I always liked the harmonica's cackling chorus and managed to teach myself how to do it. In the early days I'd just play the harmonica with the dulcimer as a drone. Then I figured out a way to "bend" the dulcimer notes with the noter to double the harmonica. It involves bending the noter (either a dowel or a popsicle stick) down at a slight angle in the rear of the fretted territory. It's a fun extension of noter technique that produces a bluesy sound. Technically I suppose it's an intra-fret glissando?

This is a little video illustrating all of this, beginning and ending with "Cackling Hen." If you don't want to hear the harmonica by itself or with the dulcimer drone, just play from 1:04 or thereabouts.

By the way, this isn't bottle-neck technique. There might be some similarities, but the action on my dulcimers has always been low, and whenever I've tried bottle-neck or slide, the frets intrude. Since the bent noter technique works "inside" the fret, it doesn't have this problem.