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Just saying hello

PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 5:14 pm
by Jim J
This is only my second post to this forum, being new to the hammered dulcimer fraternity. I have been lurking for awhile and noticed that this is not a very active board, but I assume that it's just because people are just hammering away trying to get better at this marvelous instrument. By way of background info - I have been a musician my entire life - since I was 8 yrs. old anyway. I played trombone for about 10 years as a kid, took a couple of years of piano, then at the age of 15 I took up the guitar. Have played rhythm, lead and bass guitar in several bands over the years - none famous - and also did a stint as a drummer. After 50 years of guitar playing I was broken hearted when, due to arthritis in my hands I could no longer play as my hands would sieze up after a few minutes of playing (think leg cramp in your fingers and hands). Painful. Then one evening my wife and I were watching our local PBS affiliate and saw a program featuring a NC hammered dulcimer builder and player. My wife said that maybe I should try to learn this instrument to replace the guitar. A friend of ours had bought a 13/12 from Jake's Cabin a couple of years ago so that he and his son could learn to play an instrument together, but his son was not all that interested and he just didn't have the time - life got in the way. He offered to let me borrow his dulcimer to see if it was something I could do - and I immediately fell in love with this funky little box. After much research on the inter-web I settled on a builder and placed an order. Just Wednesday I recieved my Songbird Phoebe Chromatic and what a fine instrument it is. I am really looking forward to learning all that this instrument can do. Cheers to all and happy music to the world.

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:27 pm
by Steve Smith
Hi Jim, and welcome! I suspect there are two reasons this board is relatively quiet. One is the ratio of mountain to hammered dulcimer players. The second is that mountain dulcimer tablature is very consistent and very easy to read and use, so people hunt for it. There are multiple tablatures used for hammered dulcimer, and none is particularly intuitive or easy to use, especially for sight-reading. Standard music notation works better for sight-reading for me, and I only use tab to find out how someone likes to hammer a particular line.

All that to say I think lots of mountain dulcimer players use the internet to search out tab, and then they find communities. I think hammered dulcimer players tend to just try to figure it out on their own, and starting out with smaller numbers it just makes them/us look even less active. My opinion, of course!

Central NC, huh? You'll find several good players around the Triangle area if that's where you are. There are players around Greensboro, too, or at least enough to hold a festival. I'm not sure if it's still happening, though. And if you ever want to head toward Asheville, I'd like getting together, too!

- Steve Smith

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 5:00 pm
by asterhunter
Hi Jim, I too live in central NC, near High Point. You're going to love that Songbird, I have two of their models myself.

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 8:13 pm
by Jim J
Thanks folks. I actually live in the Pinehurst area - a little ways away from just about everything. I don't get the opportunity to travel much - job, life, chickens, everything - but I do plan a trip to the mountains sometime soon to check out some of the shops there (Song of the Wood, and a dulcimer shop in Banner Elk). The more I play around with my Phoebe the more I like it. Been working with the Dickenson dulcimer free lessons and am starting to understand things pretty well - I'm just not very fast yet, but that will come with practice I hope. The Mel Bay Teach yourself book has also helped a lot. Well, gotta go - it's hammer time! :D

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 9:13 am
by spineloccio
Welcome, Jim! I'm glad you found this forum and added another HD player to the mix. I think Steve Smith is correct; there seem to be far more MD players than HD players in this site, but I've found that a question will always get a thoughtful and supportive answer.

I've been learning on my Songbird Phoebe for a little over a year now, and I've found that I can learn new songs both by watching instructional videos (like those from Jess Dickenson) and by reading sheet music. And I've also found a wealth of sheet music available for free online. I just have to look persistently, sometimes. I've also found some really wonderful sheet music from people like Ted Yoder and Steve and Ruth Smith - available on their websites.

Happy hammering!


Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 7:41 pm
by elmasula
Welcome to the hammer dulcimer world. I've spent many years teaching beginning hammer dulcimer players at festivals and had great success with my instructional materials. If you're looking for simple, hands-on instruction, check out my materials on Ebay. I have chord, embellishment, how to read music, and song booklets for hammer dulcimer players.

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 6:10 pm

I'm about to implement the hammered dulcimer on TablEdit.

The idea is to have a fully customizable tablature. It allows you to freely define how the fingerboard, table or keyboard of the instrument is physically organized. You can define a hammered dulcimer, an instrument with partial capos, a chromatic harmonica, etc.

You will find attached a screenshot of the configuration dialog for a basic hammered dulcimer with two bridges.

For further details see:

And a pdf of a score written for this custom instrument. In this example, I've selected the option to display note names instead of fret numbers.

The Old Oaken Bucket$.pdf
(37.45 KiB) Downloaded 144 times

But I'll send another pdf with course numbers.

I'm waiting for your comments.


TablEdit for HD

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 6:13 pm
Here si the example with course numbers:

(37.15 KiB) Downloaded 113 times

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 9:30 pm
by Skip
I have an HD and have friends who play also. Most of them don't read or edit music, they do, however, know where the notes are on their HD's. I think they will be more apt to use your sheet music using the note names. The numbers may be more useful to those stIll learning where the notes are.
I think they will have a problem with the numbers on the left side starting with '0'. HD's don't have a '0' fret, so to speak, all of the strings are 'open', so the bottom string should be '1'. I would recommend you have an option to count from '1' upwards along with '0' upwards. Other than that, I think your new custom tab can be very useful.
Do you have a plan on how to identify the extra bridges on some of the large HD's?
By the way, I've used Tabledit for years and really lIke it.

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 12:17 am
by cboody
Interesting start on the tab system. If I read the numbers correctly though there are some problems, assuming you have the notes defined correctly and they seem to be. Mostly it seems to revolve around octaves chosen. Pm me if you want to discuss it.

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 9:09 am
by inomini
John McCutcheon had and interesting tab similar to what you are using. It was based on position on which side of the treble bridge the note is found. It has always seamed to me just learn how to read sheet music and enjoy the rest of your musical life

Re: Just saying hello

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 10:13 am
by Skip
First off, that's not as easy at it is to say. Second, most of the folks I play with are very resistant to learning to read SMN so anything that may help is worth a try. I know I'be been trying for a long time and just barely progressing.