Antique Cimbalom ... Please help members!!

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Antique Cimbalom ... Please help members!!

Postby JayIlisevic » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:49 pm

Good morning All,

I would like to start off by saying thank you to the ADMINS for accepting me into this group. I cannot wait to read the forums and learn exciting new things about dulcimers in general. My name is Jay from Ontario, Canada. I was doing some research online about cimbaloms because I just acquired my first one and stumbled upon your site. I am still learning about them and saw that you had a very informative site. For the last 12 years I have been playing guitar, but I also play several other instruments. While browsing through your website I want to mention that it is nice to be a part of a small community of people who share the same interest in these magnificent instruments.

Long story short, a few days ago I was given a cimbalom that I know nothing about (and neither did the person who gave it to me… at the time I thought it was a concert-sized hammered dulcimer) – what intrigued me about the one that I have, is that I knew that it was not a traditional hammered dulcimer as I generally knew them. After contacting a few people over the past few days and researching on my own I discovered that it was a cimbalom and that they are difficult to find in North America (as well as their players). Based on me being completely new to this instrument, I knew that I had to reach out to everyone who shared a common interest hoping to find more information on my instrument. I have attached pictures of mine.

To my knowledge, recently made cimbaloms (year 1874+) have been made with “dampers”, yet mine does not have any dampers or a foot pedal apparatus for that matter. I have been told that cimbaloms that do not have dampers MAY have been made before 1874. You will notice in some of the pictures that the cast-iron/steel looking “T bar” is removable and there are markings on it that show notation of each course of strings. There are roughly 131 strings, it has wooden screw pegged legs, the hardware looks to be handmade, and the framework looks extremely old but also built by hand. There are four strings per course on this instrument. With my untrained eye, I believe that my cimbalom would have 5 and a half octaves when tuned properly.

I am writing to you all to understand a little bit more about this because you are the only group of people I have found that has such similar instruments to the one that I have and I am sure that some of you are experts on here. Does anyone have any information by my uploaded pictures as what style of cimbalom this may be, who could have built it, how old it could be, or even if a piece such as this has any value. I also woodwork as a hobby and can tell that this wood is very old along with the hardware used. Links to each of the pictures can be found here:

If you want more pictures, look at the trail of the images at the upper left of the photo site there is a gallery called "Cimbalom" that I have created that shows a few more pictures.

I must highlight!! This is not a sale post! I am so grateful that I finally have an instrument in the dulcimer family and it is strictly out of my own curiosity! Even if my instrument is priceless, the history and nostalgia behind it is fascinating to me nonetheless. Mine has no stamping, labelling, insignias or markings to indicate who made it, probably because they have worn off already. I have inspected all over it.

There are no Hungarian or Romanian groups close to me to inquire with them. As a musician, I would deem this “playable” however, the tuning is off (which I believe would be incredibly time consuming to correct) and I am nervous to alter the tension in the strings as I truly do not know if the strings are original or not. I would be grateful for any information and hope to hear from you. Even direction to a specific group or person who may be able to lead me into the right direction would be much appreciated!

Thank you for your time everyone, as I said I am new to this as an owner.

Jay :mrgreen:
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Re: Antique Cimbalom ... Please help members!!

Postby kwl » Sat Aug 05, 2017 2:57 pm

Jay, welcome to Everything Dulcimer. It's good to have you aboard. Enjoy your cimbalom and have fun exploring this site. Feel free to ask any questions you may have. There is usually someone around who can provide an answer.

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
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Re: Antique Cimbalom ... Please help members!!

Postby Ken Bloom » Sun Aug 06, 2017 9:44 am

HI Jay,
That does indeed look like an early cimbalom. It is missing some of the very highest notes that are common on modern cimbaloms. They usually go up to a high E and this one is missing those upper notes. It most likely is a Schunda. There should be a plate or label somewhere that would give some indication. I don't know an awful lot about these instruments but you might try to get in touch either Stu Brotman or Alexander Eppler. Stu would be a better bet. He has played cimbalom for decades and is very knowledgable about them. Alex is a fine musician and a very talented instrument maker but his personality can put some people off. You can most likely get in touch with Stu through the website of a group he plays with called Veretski Pass. If you do manage to get in touch with him, tell him that Ken Bloom says hi. If anyone can help you, he can.

Ken Bloom
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Re: Antique Cimbalom ... Please help members!!

Postby Don O. » Sun Aug 06, 2017 11:29 am

There is a well known dulcimer maker in Virginia named James Jones who has a detailed web page about a cimbalom he acquired that looks very similar to yours. Just Google "James Jones Cimbalom" and you will find the page easily. He has tons of detailed pictures and specifications, along with a tuning chart. Please take note of the fact that Mr. Jones is an accomplished instrument maker, and yet he feels that rehabilitating the cimbalom is beyond his abilities. And his looks like it's in better shape than yours. Yours has a corner that looks like it's pulling apart. Also, notice the two short wood slats on the upper top, on either side. There are supposed to be bridges up there, two on the left and three on the right I think, and they are missing. That said, it would be neat to get it playable again. If you study the tuning chart you will see that the cimbalom is a fully chromatic instrument, not unlike Mr. jones' Linear Chromatic dulcimers, with a somewhat quirky layout.

Unfortunately, I am dubious about getting it playable. You might want to get a piano tech to look at it. They are not unlike pianos sans keyboard. He may be able to tell you whether it can be tuned or not. It may need a piano tuner's wrench instead of a zither pin wrench.

In communities with large populations of descendants of Hungarian immigrants, cimbalom is quite the thing. Hungarian wedding bands often have one. In the U.S.these communities are concentrated in Pennsylvania (where many settled for coal mining and steel mill jobs) and, oddly enough, Montana, where many settled for railroad related jobs.

There are many videos on YouTube of cimbalom players. Their playing technique is different from playing our American style dulcimers. It seems to be more pianistic, with independant hands. But sort of the opposite of piano, with the left hand doing mostly melody, right hand doing accompaniment figures, and alternating with both ands for fast runs.

Hope all this helps some. Good luck.
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Re: Antique Cimbalom ... Please help members!!

Postby JayIlisevic » Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:13 pm

Hi all,

Thank you so much for the reply! All of your information helps and I really appreciate it!

Ken - Wow I was reading up on Schunda cimbaloms and that would be pretty neat if it was indeed one of them! I will inspect closer for a plate or insignia; however, when I gave it a quick once over the other day when I was brushing the dust off of it in my shop I could not see anything. I will try to contact Stu Brotman first given your tips, I cannot believe how helpful everyone who I have contacted so far about this is and welcoming to someone new to this as I am.

Don - It is funny that you mention James Jones because as I was researching about this I did come across his name and website and I am currently in contact with him. He is on vacation right now but will get back to me when he has access to more information. Upon looking through his site, I noticed that his cimbalom that he has posted is the most similar to mine that I have seen a picture of on the Internet so far. He was very welcoming, a skilled instrument maker, and I highly suggest anyone take a browse through his site if you are interested in something new. Anyway we discussed about the weak points in each of our instruments - he stated that it seems that both of ours are in similar shape and that the weak point is throughout the tuning knobs (probably due to the constant tension on each string). You are right, it seems that the one corner of my frame is beginning to separate, I plan on spending some time with it today seeing if there is something small that I can do just to tighten it up. I am quite surprised of the instrument history and what you said about the early immigrants and descendants, very neat to learn about that yet it does make sense with all of those jobs that would have been booming at the time. I will talk locally with some piano techs to hear their opinions on its condition and in general.

As I stated earlier - thank you everyone for being humble and offering your expertise. It is really appreciated and when I find some more answers along my quest I will update my thread!

Have a great day,

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