Introduction

Help for new mountain dulcimer players of all ages!

Introduction

Postby Mitch4ging » Thu Jun 16, 2016 2:55 pm

Greatings, all! My name is Dennis, and it's a pleasure to be here! I do have a couple of guitars and try to play more now that I am retired. We went to Branson last month, and last time we enjoyed the dulcimer booth. This time my wife wanted one so we could play together, so we purchased one of the Cedar Creek hour glass shape, walnut body, but don't know what the sound board is.
Then yesterday, we were at a junk / Boutique store locally, and hanging on the back wall was a walnut teardrop shape dulcimer. It was in great shape, but had wood peg tuners, the nut and bridge both are slotted with six slots, and was strung with base string on top, like a guitar, and all strings evenly spaced. Price was $35, so I thought why not, and picked it up.
Once I got it home, I was able to see the label inside, and it reads:
The Dulcimer Shoppe
620 E. Broadway
Forrest City, Ark
Signed Lynn McSpadden
Date 1969. No. 281
Model 4T-34W

A quick check on Google showed the new store location, and several links to here. Reading some threads, it seems to be a good brand? This one is almost in new condition, especially since it's 47 years old, so a good price?
Is the six slots on the bridge and nut normal?
The neck is noticeably narrower than the Cedar Creek, but is it still ok to string, which guess is typical, with the two rhythm string, then single, then base on bottom (away from players body)? It does have four (4) posts on the end for the string loops.

Tuning is a bear with the tuning pegs, any secrets to tuning with this setup?
And considering the age, any other cautions I should consider?

Look forward to visiting you guys more, and A LOT more reading.
Thanks!
Dennis in Oklahoma
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Re: Introduction

Postby Robin the Busker » Thu Jun 16, 2016 5:33 pm

Hi Dennis

It sounds like you have got a very early McSpadden there!

Does it have a 6+ and 13+ fret? It would be quite an early dulcimer with that feature if it does.

Wooden pegs take a little getting used to but they usually work OK on dulcimers because of the long scale and relatively low tension. It could be that you dulcimer was designed for DAA tuning rather than DAd given its age. It is a little easier with wooden pegs not to have to take the melody strings up to high 'd'. Also, it can be easier with wooden pegs to tune the instrument to itself rather than an exact pitch. So get the bass string as close as you can to D and then tune the other strings relative to that.

The six slots are to facilitate either the set-up you have at present of twin melody strings, a middle string and a bass string - or equally spacing the 4 strings to give one melody string, then two spaced middle drone strings and a bass drone string. This 4 string set-up was favoured by Jean Ritchie and at the time (1969) the way she played would have been quite influential so I expect a good number of customers would have wanted her set-up having seen her in concert etc. She would have tuned D,A,A,A and fretted just the single melody string with a noter, the other strings being drones. The set-up of twin melody strings, a middle string and a bass string was a relatively new concept in 69 as would have been using DAd tuning and playing chords across all strings with the fingers.

Is there any chance you could post a couple of photos here? There's a size limit of about 1000 x 700 pixels for photos posted here and the easiest way of reducing the size is using 'Paint'.
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Re: Introduction

Postby Mitch4ging » Thu Jun 16, 2016 8:00 pm

Image
Robin,
Thank you very much for your reply, great information! I was not sure if the previous owner filed the slots in the bridge/nut for their own setup, but that makes sense what you said, and after looking at their website, they sell replacement nuts and bridges with similar configuration. Thanks for the info on the tuning. My wife's is set up was tuned to Ebb (?), but hers has the geared modern tuners.

"Does it have a 6+ and 13+ fret? It would be quite an early dulcimer with that feature if it does."

From my understanding of the fret counts, no it does not, compared with the Cedar Creek.
I am going to attempt to attach a photo, I hope it works...


Thanks again, Robin!
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Re: Introduction

Postby joe sanguinette » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:22 am

you have a very early mc spadden made shortly before the move to mountain view arkansas. this instrument was a bargain and would have a collector's value if you don't modify it.
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Re: Introduction

Postby Robin the Busker » Fri Jun 17, 2016 6:47 am

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for the photo. It looks most likely that the instrument was built prior to the growth in popularity of DAd tuning as it has a traditional pure diatonic fret pattern so D,A,A,A or D,A,AA would be appropriate tunings. You could go to E,B,B,B or any other key that the strings and pegs can cope with. You could also try other modal tunings like D,A,A,G dorian or D,A,A,C Aeolian or E,A,A,A mixolidian which will move the starting point of the scale to different positions on the fretboard.

Joe is right that you have a bargain as the instrument could have an element of collector value. It is rare to find a McSpadden from the 1960s particularly one with wooden pegs and no 6+.

Enjoy playing it. It should sound lovely when played in the styles popular at the time it was made.

Robin
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Re: Introduction

Postby strumelia » Fri Jun 17, 2016 8:37 am

joe sanguinette wrote:you have a very early mc spadden made shortly before the move to mountain view arkansas. this instrument was a bargain and would have a collector's value if you don't modify it.


What Joe says.
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Re: Introduction

Postby Mitch4ging » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:28 am

joe sanguinette wrote:you have a very early mc spadden made shortly before the move to mountain view arkansas. this instrument was a bargain and would have a collector's value if you don't modify it.


Joe, thank you for the reply! I do not plan on mod'ing or changing anything with it, except cutting the hideous blue ribbon tied to the scroll for hanging! :)
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Re: Introduction

Postby Mitch4ging » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:32 am

Thank you again, Robin, for such informational replys! I do think I will just leave it in B,A,AA, and just drop my wife's tuning, and guitar tuning to play along. Thanks again!
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Re: Introduction

Postby Mitch4ging » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:36 am

strumelia wrote:
joe sanguinette wrote:you have a very early mc spadden made shortly before the move to mountain view arkansas. this instrument was a bargain and would have a collector's value if you don't modify it.


What Joe says.


Thank you, Strumelia, for your reply!
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Re: Introduction

Postby strumelia » Fri Jun 17, 2016 8:02 pm

Mitch4ging wrote:Thank you again, Robin, for such informational replys! I do think I will just leave it in B,A,AA, and just drop my wife's tuning, and guitar tuning to play along. Thanks again!

You probably should make that D, A, AA. Not B.
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Re: Introduction

Postby Mitch4ging » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:05 pm

strumelia wrote:
Mitch4ging wrote:Thank you again, Robin, for such informational replys! I do think I will just leave it in B,A,AA, and just drop my wife's tuning, and guitar tuning to play along. Thanks again!

You probably should make that D, A, AA. Not B.


Typo or autocorrect, but yes! Thanks Strumelia! :D
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Re: Introduction

Postby KenH » Sat Jun 18, 2016 6:49 am

You may want to check out an article I wrote several years back, called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What? It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms (so we all talk the same way about the same things); plus answers to many beginner questions about the tuning, playing, care and feeding of your new friend. Here's a revised version of the article:

I Just Got A Dulcimer 2016.pdf
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