Bowed "dulcimer"?

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

Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby Dr_H » Mon Mar 07, 2016 5:36 pm

Hi. I hope this doesn't sound too impertinent; I am genuinely curious:

As a multi-instrumentalist and composer, I am well used to seeing conventional instruments played in unconventional ways. Bows have been applied -- with varying degrees of success -- to guitars, electric basses, mandolins, vibraphones, cymbals, and even music stands. So the concept of applying a bow to the mountain dulcimer seems perfectly viable, and as I cruise around the web I find a number of people who are doing exactly that.

What I also find, is a number of examples of what appears to be some kind of hybrid instrument -- sort of a "Weissenborn" version of a viol da gamba. These instruments have narrowed upper bouts, radiused fingerboards, radiused free-floating bridges, and appear to have been primarily designed to be played with a bow. Other than the hollow body extending under the full length of the neck, these instruments seem, to me, to be far closer to viols than to dulcimers. Indeed, the only obvious link these hybrids seem to have to the mountain dulcimer is the presence of diatonic frets.

If I had to put a Sachs–Hornbostel classification to them, I'd most likely put them under 321.322-71 (necked box lutes) with the viols and violins, rather than under 314.122-5 (board zithers with resonator box) with the dulcimers.

So . . . how are these "dulcimers"?
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby danc9 » Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:49 pm

A part of history really!

DAN
www.dulcimore.com
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby GrantOlson » Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:28 pm

It does seem to be a pretty far stretch. I wonder if anyone has made a dulcimer-mandolin? Here's how I imagine it: size of a dulcimette, hourglass shape but the top still curved, played on your lap, lowest string furthest from you, and 4 double strings still. Mabye chromatic too. Mabye that would just be considered a lap mandolin :? Anyway, I love the sound of a mandolin and this would be way easier for me to play.
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby Judy K » Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:59 pm

Ken Bloom is the best to answer this question. Until he replies enjoy the video below which shows 2 bowed dulcimers put to excellent use.

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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby danc9 » Tue Mar 08, 2016 7:57 am

Dr H,
to correctly answer your question as to "dulcimore", as in Hornbostel-Sachs;

Chordophone (3)
Simple chordophones or zithers (31)
Board zithers (314)
With resonator box (.122)

314.122

The frets are not included in the classification, so being diatonic is not a factor. Another aspect that has crept into the miss classification is the notion of the fret board extending beyond the sound box, again a miss classification. Zither is a simple chordophone. One example is the box (European) and another is the stick or board (American). In correct classification, if it is not a simple chordophone, it is a lute (complex chordophone). Many contemporary dulcimer can be classified as this.

DAN
www.dulcimore.com
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby Ken Bloom » Tue Mar 08, 2016 9:37 am

Hi Dr. H,

I began developing my version of the bowed dulcimer in the late 90's. When I began, they had diatonic frets and a simple teardrop shape. Over time I began to search for a richer tone and easier playability. What I do now is indeed more of a viol as it has a flat back, a soundpost plate, an arched fingerboard and chromatic frets. Over time I had many requests for something different other than the three stringed DAD version and so I did my best to satisfy people's requests. I now make six different versions of the bowed dulcmer. You can check all of those out at http://www.boweddulcimer.org. We have a bowed dulcmer festival here in Pilot Mountain, NC every year. This will be the twefth year and is happening the weekend of April 8, 9, and 10. I'll be very happy to answer any questions you might have about any of this. It is nice to speak with someone that has your background.

Ken Bloom
http://www.bowedducimer.org
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby Dr_H » Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:04 pm

Judy K wrote:Ken Bloom is the best to answer this question. Until he replies enjoy the video below which shows 2 bowed dulcimers put to excellent use.



Hi Judy K,

Are these chromatic instruments?
The one on the left appears to be, but I can't quite make out the fretting for the one on the right.

They sound kinda like viols to me, too. ;)
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby Dr_H » Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:25 pm

danc9 wrote:Dr H,
to correctly answer your question as to "dulcimore", as in Hornbostel-Sachs;

Chordophone (3)
Simple chordophones or zithers (31)
Board zithers (314)
With resonator box (.122)

314.122

The frets are not included in the classification, so being diatonic is not a factor. Another aspect that has crept into the miss classification is the notion of the fret board extending beyond the sound box, again a miss classification. Zither is a simple chordophone. One example is the box (European) and another is the stick or board (American). In correct classification, if it is not a simple chordophone, it is a lute (complex chordophone). Many contemporary dulcimer can be classified as this.

DAN
http://www.dulcimore.com


Hi Dan,

Yes, I understand where that classification comes from.

But it could be argued that the raised, radiused fretboard and free-bridge place this instrument into the composite chordophone class, as follows:

Chordophone (3)
Composite chordophones (32)
Lutes (321)
Necked lutes (.32)
With resonator box (.322)
Played using a hand-bow (-71)

321.322-71

The only questionable point is the attachment of the neck -- and it seems to me that if a Weissenborn lap-steel is a guitar, then the modified bowed dulcimer is a viol.

Or would you perhaps argue that the Weissenborn is, in fact, a zither?
Last edited by Dr_H on Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby Dr_H » Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:33 pm

Ken Bloom wrote:Hi Dr. H,

I began developing my version of the bowed dulcimer in the late 90's. When I began, they had diatonic frets and a simple teardrop shape. Over time I began to search for a richer tone and easier playability. What I do now is indeed more of a viol as it has a flat back, a soundpost plate, an arched fingerboard and chromatic frets. Over time I had many requests for something different other than the three stringed DAD version and so I did my best to satisfy people's requests. I now make six different versions of the bowed dulcmer. You can check all of those out at http://www.boweddulcimer.org. We have a bowed dulcmer festival here in Pilot Mountain, NC every year. This will be the twefth year and is happening the weekend of April 8, 9, and 10. I'll be very happy to answer any questions you might have about any of this. It is nice to speak with someone that has your background.

Ken Bloom
http://www.bowedducimer.org



Hi Ken,

Ah, so you do acknowledge the viol resemblance. The new instrument is more a 'dulcimer' by virtue of association and evolution, than by construction. Thanks.

And there are also people playing more or less conventional mountain dulcimers with bows, out there.
Is this forum intended for both tribes? :)
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby Ken Bloom » Mon Mar 14, 2016 5:54 pm

Hi Dr. H,

Anyone is welcome here. I do my best to help folks do what they want to do. One suggestion for a name for the instruments I make is Nouvelle Rebec but at this late date bowed dulcimer has definitely stuck. I am familiar with some of the older ways of bowing a dulcimer and did that early on in my dulcimer playing career decades ago. I am a failed fiddle player and the bowed dulcimer makes it possible for me to play in a fiddle-like manner and not empty the room. I have found that the instrument works well for jazz, blues, klezmer and my meager attempts at early Baroque. My focus is on expanding the repertoire and application of the instrument as well as making better sounding ones. I don't worry a lot about classifications etc. I have seen these types of arguments in too many other places with similarly unsatisfying results. I'm very happy to talk about any aspect of playing with a bow and to try and help where I can. Just my 2p.

Ken Bloom
http://www.boweddulcimer.org
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby Judy K » Mon Mar 14, 2016 7:42 pm

Dr_H wrote:
Judy K wrote:Ken Bloom is the best to answer this question. Until he replies enjoy the video below which shows 2 bowed dulcimers put to excellent use.



Hi Judy K,

Are these chromatic instruments?
The one on the left appears to be, but I can't quite make out the fretting for the one on the right.

They sound kinda like viols to me, too. ;)


Dr_H, I'm fairly sure that both instruments in the video are chromatic, although Ken Bloom has made some diatonic bowed dulcimers. When I bought mine from Ken he said that a viola da gamba was about the closest relative of the BD, more so than a mountain dulcimer, IIRC.

(I'm not playing my BD. Want to buy one for your own, with a Coda bow included?)
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Re: Bowed "dulcimer"?

Postby GrantOlson » Tue Mar 15, 2016 9:57 am

I have found it very interesting to read about a bowed dulcimer. I didn't know that there was a different design for it. My teacher uses a regular dulcimer and bows all the strings, it sounds sort of like bagpipes.
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