Bowed Dulcimer Basics

It's a bow! It's a dulcimer. Now what do I do? :-)

Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby dulcimer52 » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:46 am

I have a Ultra Beginner's question: with all the chromatic b.d.s out there - I'm wondering if b.d. tab is the same as mountain dulcimer tab with a bunch of + or 1/2's in the tab?
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Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby Ken Bloom » Sat Feb 12, 2011 11:09 am

Hi there Ultra beginner,

If you go to the Yahoo discussion group site you will find tab in both diatonic and chromatic systems. Most people these days have chromatically fretted Bds and we are gradually moving to chromatic tab to make it more logical for beginners so that the first fret is actually the first fret instead of the 1/2 fret. Thanks to one of our members, the tab gets posted in both formats. Please feel free to ask any questions you want about any of this because there are some folks out there with the same questions but feel uncomfortable asking. I want all the BDers to play better, so please ask!

Ken Bloom
http://www.boweddulcimer.com
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Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby dulcimer52 » Sat Feb 12, 2011 12:21 pm

OK. I have my McSpadden m.d. with a raised piece under the middle string so that I can attempt bowing. I have a decent cello bow. I don't know anything about how much rosin I should be using, nor how much pressure I should be placing as I bow. Question is, when I bow the bass string, I'm getting a harmonic 5th or octave to much of the time. Is this rosin problem, pressure problem or improper string (it's wound)... ? I'm not accidentally hitting middle string, which would give 5th tone.. I do not, however have this problem when playing the middle string. Oh, my gosh, I'm SUCH a beginner....
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Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby Ken Bloom » Sat Feb 12, 2011 12:56 pm

Hi Beginner,

The problem has several sides. First of all, the wound guitar string is most likely too light. Try a .026. Then, it's a guitar string which tends to do this kind of harmonic jump. I use a D'Addario Helicore cello D string on all my bowed dulcimers.Next, you are using aMcSpadden which tends to emphasize higher harmonics anyway.
Possible solutions. When you bow the string, do so with the bow moving faster and with a little more pressure. Rosin is the least of your problems. Also, place the bow about and inch and a half or two inches from the bridge. There is sweet spot for bowing that will help this problem a lot. Try the bowing fix and if that isn't completely satisfactory, get back to me.

Ken Bloom
http://www.boweddulcimer.com
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Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby carebear » Wed Jul 20, 2011 1:29 pm

I don't know whether to laugh or cry! I took out the bowed dulcimer and started to pass the bow over the strings and the dogs came in and started to howl at me! My 10 year old said "that is harsh mom!" I guess my bowing technique still needs work! That means more practice to work through the "Moose in heat" imitations that are emanating from this dulcimer or sell it!

The dogs sit right by me when I play my lap dulcimer. They love it. My daughter knows that I am rather good on the lap dulcimer. She even lets me play it in front of her friends. I have now been banished to play behind closed doors with the bowed! Any suggestions?

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Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby Ken Bloom » Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:03 pm

The big problem at the beginning is just getting a nice tone. So, here are the basics. Be sure your bow has rosin on it and you are holding it GENTLY. A death grip on the bow produces awful sounds.
Bow the string about 1 1/2"-2" from the bridge. That is the sweet spot. Most awful sounds come from using too much pressure and moving the bow too slowly. The bow may have been tightened down too much. Too tight and it bounces around causing you to use more pressure producing dying rabbit sounds. Have the mental image that as you draw the bow across the strings you are drawing out the sound. Just work with the open strings until you can get a reasonable steady tone. Try to bow each string in a single plane, getting a single string to sound from frog to tip.
If you are still having problems, let me know.

Ken Bloom
http://www.boweddulcimer.com
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Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby strumelia » Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:31 pm

carebear wrote:have now been banished to play behind closed doors with the bowed! Any suggestions?
carebear


I think they should be the ones to banish themselves and close their doors. :lol: Just kidding!

Seriously though, one little tip I've found to be helpful for bowing my tagelharpa is to play in front of a full length mirror a little- this showed me how the angle of my bow was not perpendicular to the bridge. I thought it was, from my visual perspective while playing, but the mirror showed me that my bow was drawing quite slanted, which was not helping my tone at all.
The mirror doesn't lie! :shock: I have learned to not wear my glasses when looking in the bathroom mirror if I can help it. then I'm 10 years younger! :lol:
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Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby Robin T » Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:24 pm

carebear,
You can't help it if everyone's tastes aren't as refined as yours! :lol:

Strumelia's suggestion to play in front of a mirror is a good one. Keeping that bow in the sweet spot on the strings and perpendicular to the strings is not something that's come easily to me.

Something magical happened to me a few weeks ago, though. Overnight, I became a better bowed dulcimer player? How? I got a new bow! (It's a CodaBow Custom violin bow for my 3-string Pardessus-- Ken's smallest BD.) The thing I notice about this bow is how well-balanced it is. 8)

Have fun!

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Re: Bowed Dulcimer Basics

Postby Ken Bloom » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:56 am

Most people don't realize how important the bow is to getting a good sound. It's not like flat picks. No matter the pick you use, the instrument will still respond in some predictable way. A change of bow can dramatically change the response of a bowed instrument, so much so that serious players make an effort to march the bow's tonal characteristics to that of the instrument.
Ask a great player would they rather have a great bow or a great instrument and most of them would choose a great bow. Personally, my playing has taken two great leaps. The first is when I went from my cheap wooden Chinses bow to a mid-level Coda bow. My wife immediately heard the difference and I immediately felt the difference. Notes that were balky suddenly cleared up. It was amazing. I went along for several years doing just fine. Then, a dream came true. I was presented with my dream bow, an Arcus Conservatory model. The night it was presented, everyone immediately heard the difference. It took me a month to get used to it but I can never go back. The interesting thing is that, now that my bowing technique has improved so much with the better bow, I can now get that sound with a lesser one if I need to. It is a constant and never-ending quest. I think that's what keeps me doing it.

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