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  #16  
Old 04-24-2020, 12:06 PM
frankmcr frankmcr is offline
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Just throwing it out there that the Norwegian langeleik and the more distantly related Hungarian citera are not infrequently built with no bottom at all.
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  #17  
Old 04-24-2020, 01:22 PM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ctgagnon View Post
Makes sense to me. Vibration of strings transfers to bridge, transfers to top. Unless there's a sound post like in a violin, there's not going to be much transfer to the back. I'm not basing on any expertise, but it just makes sense.
Ahh, if only it was that simple! The nut and bridge of a dulcimer are mounted over the headstock and tail blocks - not the top. And they sit on a solid section of the fretboard about 3/4" deep above those blocks. It is primarily the energy transferred to the end blocks that vibrate the top, back and sides of the instrument. Some dulcimer makers move the bridge further inboard and this actually reduces both bass and treble and make the instrument more midrange focused.

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Just throwing it out there that the Norwegian langeleik and the more distantly related Hungarian citera are not infrequently built with no bottom at all.
Very true. But have you ever picked one up and played it on your lap? They are virtually dead. It is the table that the instrument stands on that becomes the soundboard. Those instruments traditionally had wooden feet to transfer the sound vibrations to the tables they were played on. Also the string tension is very high so the instrument generates plenty of energy.

It is a complex subject and quite counter intuitive. We are used to the instrument doing everything itself - in these cases (and with early mountain dulcimers) the surface it was played upon did half the job or more.
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I'm learning to flatpick guitar to accompany songs.

I've played and studied traditional noter/drone mountain dulcimer for many years.




Last edited by Robin, Wales; 04-24-2020 at 03:16 PM.
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  #18  
Old 04-25-2020, 02:53 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Robin, you’re clearly more of a scholar regarding mountain dulcimers than I am - from the beginning, once I got to the stage where I could keep steady time I was most definitely in the progressive camp, not only playing chordal accompaniments on the bass and middle strings while playing melodies mostly on the double melody course. Within a week of getting my first steady bar gig I had taught myself to play the dulcimer standing up, partly because it was easier to sing standing, but it was also much easier to work the crowd when I wasn’t seated.

I don’t play with the dulcimer flipped down and pressing against me the way Force and D’Ossche used to, but down on top of it with back of the instrument parallel to the floor, the way dobro players hang their instruments.

There’s a very slight difference in the sound between when I’m standing or sitting to play, but it’s not the least bit noticeable, really. The times I’ve been in recording studios I’ve played seated because I have the best control over my playing that way. But if the dulcimer actually sounded diminished by my playing seated, I would record while standing (I’ve always recorded my vocal tracks while standing because I simply sing better that way.)

I also think you’re making more of a generalization about the way dulcimers were being built in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma back in the 1970’s and 1980’s that isn’t universally true. Yes, most dulcimers built in the region back then were intended for the tourist trade and featured traditional construction designs, notably most of the McSpaddens. But some builders in the region were pushing the designs forward, and I was lucky enough to get Waterman dulcimers that freed up a lot of space in the top between the bridge saddle and the end of the fretboard. Waterman dulcimers also had bridges that stepped over into this opened up area, and weren’t above the tailblock.

Most Blue Lion dulcimers are actually more conservative in terms of their design than the Waterman dulcimers and some others built during the same period. I use the Blue Lions onstage because they sound great plugged in and over a microphone, but they’re quiet - when I want to be heard in acoustic jam sessions or won’t have a PA to play through when I perform, I use my Waterman.

In all seriousness, it can be heard in large groups when there are Gibson Mastertone banjos being played at the same time. That simply won’t work with the traditional style dulcimers with the wispy little strings and all-walnut construction.

So I respect your scholarship but find some of your conclusions to be a bit more sweeping than I can agree with.

Hope that makes more sense.


Wade Hampton Miller
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  #19  
Old 04-25-2020, 03:56 AM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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Thanks Wade,

I like to hope that am always prepared to change my mind when new information comes to light. I've never seen a Waterman dulcimer. It sounds like a great instrument for stage work. I have seen a few designs where the fretboard stops short or flies over the top with the bridge (sometimes flat top guitar style) attached direct to the top - which then is definitely a soundboard.

I've not paid that much attention to contemporary mountain dulcimer makers so my perspective is limited. You are right to question my generalisations and I accept your experience and have learned from it.

My experience has been with the earlier pre-revival dulcimer playing styles and makers. I got into dulcimer by playing because an old time banjo player I knew suggested I get a dulcimer so we could play together. I bought one over the web from a shop in the US and started at first playing from DAd chord melody style like most videos on youtube. But he kept saying, that's not how its played!!! So I started to research and discovered noter drone playing. The more research I did the more I realised how few folks still used that style. So I looked back at the early makers and players and started collecting old instruments to play on (which no one in US seemed to want so they were cheap to buy and import to the UK!!!).

From there I began to explore specific regional playing style and players like Raymond Melton and Phyllis Gaskins - both Galax players. Nettie Presnell who was related to the Hicks of N Carolina, The Glens, who also built dulcimers for Frank Proffitt, I.D.Stamper, John Mawhee and of course Charles Pritchard, Ed Thomas, Jethro Amburgey through to Jean Ritchie from the Hinderman School era. I have dulcimers made by most of these folks or I've had replicas built from originals held in museums in the Appalachians.

I used to sit in and play traditional noter drone dulcimer with a lot of Appalachian old time jams at festivals and loved the drive of the music. The Galax dulcimer, with its 4 strings all tuned in its traditional high d,d,d,d, and whipped with a goose quill provides a cutting rhythm above the other instruments that dancers can hear and follow.

I have also played traditional noter drone style but in a contemporary setting. I played a concert at Halsway Manor, the English Centre for Folk Music a few years back of Appalachian tunes on historic dulcimers accompanied by Indian tambura and tabla.

We have never had a traditional fretted zither within the British Isles, despite nearly every other European country and the US having them. So I now build and play the Bocs Cân Idris (Idris Music Box) which I designed for playing the old Welsh dance tunes from the region where I live. I have stolen aspect of the design from both European and US dulcimers plus adding features not seen in either. I play with a local guitarist and just before the lockdown we won a prize at the local Eisteddfod, we were hoping to go to the International Eisteddfod this year but that will have to wait.

Thank you again for the perspective you have provided - I need to update my knowledge!
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I'm learning to flatpick guitar to accompany songs.

I've played and studied traditional noter/drone mountain dulcimer for many years.



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  #20  
Old 04-25-2020, 05:03 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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When I first started playing dulcimer I also used a noter. But without my realizing it the noter kind of held me back for a while - I had a song repertoire of ten or twelve songs that I played, and couldn’t seem to progress beyond.

Then one day after I’d been playing dulcimer for about six or eight months, I lost my noter. I only had one, and couldn’t find it anywhere. So I started playing dulcimer with my bare fingers instead of using a three inch piece of dowel rod to fret the notes.

All of a sudden my song repertoire of dulcimer instrumentals expanded rapidly! What I came to recognize is that I was getting various chord patterns and positions into muscle memory, and these patterns in turn suggested more patterns, with new songs suggesting themselves almost every time I picked up the dulcimer to play.

I’ve come to believe that what stymied me from learning more songs while still playing with a noter is that every song felt exactly the same when using it. It wasn’t until I made a more tactile connection with the instrument by using my fingers to fret that I was able to move on and progress.

I found my noter a few months later, but by that point I had completely changed my playing style, and so never used the noter much after that.

Once in a blue moon I might dig out my noter and play a little bit, but I don’t keep noters in my dulcimer cases and don’t play using them onstage.


whm
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  #21  
Old 04-25-2020, 08:46 AM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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Hi Wade,

I understand what you are saying about using a noter holding you back. When I first started playing noter drone was seen as a beginners way to play and then folks quickly moved on to chord/melody. I did it the other way around simply because of the situation I was playing in - old time sessions suited noter drone because I could run heavy gauge strings for volume and retune with the banjo players and fiddlers as the session moved through various blocks of tunes.

Beyond that I sort of stuck with noter drone playing because I liked the sound. But I've had to think really hard about how to progress. I do still dabble with chord melody playing and sometimes just mess around with my McSpadden trying out different improvisations in different tunings like this one:



To get noter drone sounding interesting I really have to think about the composition. I have so little to play with (literally just one string and then fixed drones) that I have to be conscious about everything, timing, tone, touch, and arrangement. I like playing older instruments because the builders tended to use more natural temperaments. Note drone can be a little harsh sometimes in equal temperament, particularly if the 3rd of the scale features in a tune - I'm sure this is what puts folks off playing in the style on modern dulcimers - they are not really built for it anymore.

Here is an old Sacred Harp tune played on a Jethro Amburgey dulcimer with noter and simple thumb strum (a popular playing method pre-revival). I took the tune and the harmony part from an old hymn book. It gives an idea of the raw simplicity of working with a noter.



And just for a bit of fun here is a clip from my favourite activity - sitting in the pub with a few friends and jamming on my Galax dulcimer.

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I'm learning to flatpick guitar to accompany songs.

I've played and studied traditional noter/drone mountain dulcimer for many years.



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  #22  
Old 04-26-2020, 04:36 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Robin - your insight about fretting temperament is interesting; when I recorded my solo vinyl LP (“In The Days I Went A-Courting,” under the name of Wade Hampton Millar - in a fit of ethnic self-righteousness I had changed the spelling of my last name back to the original Scottish spelling,) I tried to overdub a noter part on one of the tracks - “The Ballad Of Jesse James” I think it was. But when I listened to what I’d recorded, it was noticeably out of tune with the chordal dulcimer track I’d already laid down.

I assumed that there was just more to playing noter style than I’d realized, and that I wasn’t good enough at it to go inflicting it on the record-buying public. So that noter track never saw the light of day.

But perhaps the problem was with the temperament of the frets.

Interesting thought.


whm
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  #23  
Old 04-30-2020, 03:53 PM
darylcrisp darylcrisp is offline
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Hey Will
don't know if you've heard of these fellows before, but David is an excellent builder and player, he does chromatic and diatonic scales, you can find him playing on youtube also. He might be able to offer some advice

http://www.davidbeede.com/


and Tony Vines, world class guitar luthier, lives about 1.5 hrs from me, he has been building dulcimers for a while now also, he might be a good source if you have some questions

http://belladulcimers.com/index.php/about-tony-2/

keep us updated, I love Mt Dulcimers and have plans to build one or two myself one day soon.

Aaron Orourke plays David Beede's builds, amazing flatpicker. Aaron has a very good book/CD for this style playing
(Secrets to successful flatpicking)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SFjbMK9U2s



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrU2S8fzLGM


nylon string prototype-this is very cool

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPClQt6v0Z0


d

Last edited by darylcrisp; 04-30-2020 at 04:04 PM.
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  #24  
Old 05-05-2020, 08:44 AM
Taylorplayer Taylorplayer is offline
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Thanks to all for the excellent information provided! Very much appreciated!

Will
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