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Ghost of Gray Goose (Go Tell Aunt Rhody...epinette in Dorian mode)

musician/member name:
Duration: 00:04:03
This is a lovely epinette des Vosges, a zither instrument of French origin which is one of the several ancestors of the American mountain dulcimer or Appalachian dulcimer. This charming epinette was made for me by John Henry Crocker of Bristol England. I love its sweet clear jingling voice- I think of it as a little nightingale bird. Here you can see John Henry playing his own creative version of Aunt Rhody on a 'sister' epinette he made:
Note that I have set the little epinette on top of a long wooden box for the video- the lower box is not part of the instrument. This epinette has a mere 21" VSL scale length, thus would be tuned higher than the typical 27-28" scale mountain dulcimer. Don't try tuning your mountain dulcimer this high at home!Here I begin playing Go Tell Aunt Rhody in the key of B flat, tuned f-f-Bb-Bb-f-f (Bb meaning b-flat) and playing in ionian mode. But wait! Then I re-tune to the plaintive Dorian mode by tuning my pair of f-f melody strings DOWN a whole step from f to 'e flat'. That puts my tuning in f-f-Bb-Bb-Eb-Eb (Eb= e-flat). Changing the tuning of the melody strings changes the location of the melody tonic note- the melody 'home' becomes centered around the fourth fret (dorian mode) rather than around the third fret (ionian mode) as before. When the melody tonic moves to the 4th fret, the diatonic fret spacings create the more haunting lonesome sound so typical of Dorian mode.On a regular sized mountain dulcimer, you can try this fun experiment too! Start by tuning DAA and playing Go Tell Aunt Rhody in the key of D ionian mode based around the 3rd fret for the 'home' tonic note. That may well feel very familiar to you. Then re-tune the melody strings only down one whole step to G for a tuning of DAG, and try playing your own lonesome dorian version of Rhody. Be inventive and don't worry about wrong notes. I like to call this spooky version "Ghost of Gray Goose". Sort of goes with the sad lyrics anyway, don't you think?
06/07/12 05:02:35PM @sam:

Ghost of Gray Goose would raise the hair on the back of Bella Lugosi's neck!!!!!!!!! Love the little eppinette. Your likening it to a little bird is very appropriate.

03/12/12 12:50:47AM @phil:

the more I here these little things the more I want one.

Shhhh Don't tell my wife about his. I find a good sit of planes and I'll be building me one. If not I may end up sleeping out in the dog house while the dogs move inside, after I buy oneGrin.gif

03/11/12 11:27:52PM @strumelia:

Robin, that's terrific!! Boy, that John Henry sure knows how to make 'em !!!! And you know how to play 'em !!!

I love the jangly sound of these little epinettes- like tiny sleigh bells. They are really perfect for playing old folk tunes.

I think the next tune I play on mine will have to be ionian too....something a little more cheerful than the dead goose theme! I still have to get used to playing mine- it's a different experience than playing a typical mountain dulcimer, even though I play both with a noter.

Thank you for playing such a lovely tune on JH's 'Twa Sister #3'. (mine being Twa Sister #2 I believe) Or maybe they are the 'Tra Sisters' since there are 3 of them now?

Robin Clark
03/11/12 11:00:06PM @robin-clark:

Hey I got to play your epinette's sister today. Ionly had a couple to minutes toget used to the scale so I'm having to concentrate like mad to play it40.gif I thought a little Welsh polka called "Machynlleth" would be appropriate - as I'd driven over the mountain road fromMachynlleth to get to Katie'shouse for our dulcimer meetSmile.gif A lot of the Welsh tunes are similar in feel to those from Bretton, so it sort of fitted the instrument's heritage.

John HC has done a wonderful job building these little beauties Grin.gif

I'm not sure what tuning I'm in? I think it is G,d,d or there abouts. I just twiddled the tuning knobs until I got what I thought was a reasonable tension on the strings and was in tune with everyone else! 36.gif

Macy Jayne
03/11/12 10:54:11PM @macy-jayne:

gave me goosebumps girl!

03/11/12 03:45:10PM @folkfan:

What a dramatic difference. I would have had no idea what you were playing if you hadn't have posted it. Sounds like tune appropriate for an old murder ballad. Something that should have "Evil News" or " Ah, Woe Betide Ye" in the title. Smile.gif

john p
03/11/12 12:21:41PM @john-p:

Loved that Strel Grin.gif

Like Randy, the thing I notice most in your playing is the amount of in strumming you do.

This seems to be much more of an Appalachian thing and provides a different rhythm than the approach which uses an in strum as an accent as we tend to do in the UK.

john p

03/11/12 09:15:11AM @strumelia:


Randy, I quickly realized that i could not play this little epinette as though it were some big honkin' Galax dulcimer, wanging away on all strings constantly. I watched how John Henry plays it, with more delicacy and using the drones as accents. I can't do it as well as he yet, and that is definitely part of the learning curve for me, but I have managed to incorporate a little bit of that technique so far. Working on improving it!

One would think it would be easy as pie to transfer from mtn dulcimer to epinette, but there are a few challenges to it that keep me on my toes!

Randy Adams
03/11/12 08:49:58AM @randy-adams:

Like it Lisa. Not only the tuning but the way you reach over and play the drones slightly behind the beat..just like the rappers been listening to hip hop huh?... : )....nice effect....makes the tune brand new!

03/11/12 07:56:31AM @sam:

Diabolical !Tongue.gif

Dusty Turtle
03/10/12 11:56:24PM @dusty-turtle:

I do indeed think you've captured that haunting dorian sound perfectly here. I hearthe forest primeval. And what a pretty sounding instrument.

03/10/12 11:03:22PM @mandy:

Haha, I knew you'd have a vid for me! Thanks. Bookmarking it now and will watch when I can. Gotta try that one, I'm sure I'll be hooked. That one is right up my alley.

03/10/12 10:58:17PM @strumelia:

Mandy, so little time....but the good news is that there are only four most commonly used modes that you might want to experiment in tuning to. If you really want to try it out, see my video on re-tuning between the four common modes , starting from DAd.

Thanks everyone for your very kind comments!

I'm really enjoying John Henry's little epinette. I feel so.... French ! lol!

03/10/12 10:49:22PM @mandy:


I must try this Dorian tuning. I'm gonna have to have a go at it. That was totally AWESOME! I can't get over how amazing that 2nd tuning sounds. I definitely need to do some homework. So little time....

Karen Keane
03/10/12 07:58:49PM @karen-keane:

That was lovely!Grin.gif

Rob N Lackey
03/10/12 07:00:01PM @rob-n-lackey:

Beautiful, Lisa, especially the 2nd version. I do "3 Bind Mice" that way on the guitar: 1st major; then minor.


03/10/12 04:15:55PM @strumelia:

Hey Robin, you should record yourself playing a little ditty on John Henry's epinette- it'd be like the 'Twa Sisters' epinettes are sending musical postcards to each other across the sea!

Robin Clark
03/10/12 04:12:19PM @robin-clark:

That's lovely Lisa!

What a great instrument and beautifully demonstrated Smile.gif

I'll be seeing JohnHC tomorrow so hopefully I'll get to play his eppinette Grin.gif

John Keane
03/10/12 03:39:17PM @john-keane:

Super cool! Just a heads up...if John Henry likes that chair, he may come after it...just sayin'... 3.gif

Robin Thompson
03/10/12 03:33:05PM @robin-thompson:

Yay, Strumelia & John Henry! Oooh, that spooky version is a most special treat-- evokes a long ago time.