Just beginning

Help for new mountain dulcimer players of all ages!

Just beginning

Postby AbingdonGirl » Tue Jul 19, 2016 5:01 pm

So glad to be a part of this site at last. I have just acquired a 1982 Bob Mize dulcimer, with wooden tuning pegs, no 6 1/2 fret, and 4 equidistant strings. It is a lovely dulcimer with a great sound, but obviously not the best choice for a beginner like me. My instinct is to leave it just as it is and hope I will be good enough to play it eventually. I also have a Walnut Valley dulcimer with dual melody strings and all the extra frets I need. So far, the Mize has held its tune very well, in spite of all the stories I have heard about uncooperative wooden pegs. Does it make sense for me to continue to play them both? Is there a lot of difference between playing a dulcimer with 4 equidistant strings and one with dual melody strings? Can I just let one of the melody strings be a sort of drone? Excuse all these questions. I am so very excited to have discovered the mountain dulcimer and to have the opportunity to own two of them. Your blog is great, and I would appreciate any advice you can give me. Thanks!
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Re: Just beginning

Postby Frimp » Tue Jul 19, 2016 5:48 pm

Congratulations on owning a Bob Mize dulcimer. They are very nice instruments.
As to what to do with the extra string on it, you can just remove it, or if you're handy with such things, put a small nail or HO model railroad spike in the side of the fretboard to hook it around, away from the playing area. Then you can leave it on your dulcimer, but off the top of the fretboard.
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Re: Just beginning

Postby Steve Smith » Tue Jul 19, 2016 6:52 pm

Or, as you mentioned, you can leave the "extra" string as a drone and it will make the sound even fuller. I still do that with mine from time to time.
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Re: Just beginning

Postby KenH » Tue Jul 19, 2016 10:09 pm

Welcome AbingdonGirl;

It make perfect sense to work at playing both dulcimers as they are different. You can convert the 4-equidistant instrument to a 3-string by removing the innermost string; or as mentioned, play the inner string as a drone. 4-equidistant dulcimers are really intended to be play as 4-eq, which is a distinctly different set of tunings, music and other things, although basic skills of strumming and fretting apply. But until you get some experience and skill you might as well use it as a 3-string.

You may want to look at the article I wrote here some time back called I Just Got A Dulcimer, Now What? It's an illustrated glossary of dulcimer terms, plus answers to many beginner questions on the tuning, playing, care and feeding of your new friend(s). Here's the version of the article I recently updated:

I Just Got A Dulcimer 2016.pdf
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Re: Just beginning

Postby Robin the Busker » Wed Jul 20, 2016 3:56 am

One of folk music's greats, Jean Ritchie, played a 4 string equidistant with no extra frets and wooden pegs - I expect this Bob Mize, given its age, was originally built as a copy of Jean's spec. Jean would play noter drone using the closest string as a single melody string and having 3 drones. Her basic tuning was DAAA. She would retune the melody string to DAAC for Aeolian minor tunes and retune the bass string to EAAA for mixolidian (sometimes DAAd depending on the song).

It is definitely worth keeping your Mize just as it is and using it in Jean's playing style, which is what it would have been originally made for. I would then use your modern dulcimer with the extra frets for contemporary DAd style chord melody playing.

Here's a video of Jean playing her 4 string equidistant dulcimer with no extra frets:

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Re: Just beginning

Postby asterhunter » Wed Jul 20, 2016 3:23 pm

I might consider: you can file notches in the bridge and nut to move the inner top string closer to the outside string so that you then have the "modern" DAdd set up. (Since you are not removing the original notches, you can always move that string back to its original spot whenever desired). I know, the general consensus these days is to have just one top melody string. That is probably the best solution if using a noter, but my wife prefers having two unison strings at the top. It gives a bit more "punch" to the melody when played on the top strings, and it's easier on the fingers for fretting (two strings distribute the pressure on the fingers over a wider area for more comfort).
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Re: Just beginning

Postby Titus2woman » Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:56 pm

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