Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

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Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby Wellspringsing » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:46 am

BS"D

Hello All!

I've been playing (around!) on the dulcimer for a few months now, as a second instrument for my songwriting. I have two songs written for it-one fingerpicking and one strumming, And I'm noticing that the strumming one...is not going too smoothly. When I play, there are often sounds I don't love coming out at intervals, like let's say when a chord is a bit of a stretch for me... The sound is not coming out clean. I have less of this problem with the fingerpicking song.

I sure hope my dulcimer is okay for strumming and it's just a matter of practice... how can one tell? How can one tell if one's dulcimer is not good for strumming?

I mean, I play the harp and that requires some finger-stretching at times, so I don't think that should be such a huge problem on the dulcimer. :? :|

Any thoughts?
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby KenH » Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:12 am

Unlike traditional noter & drone instruments, there really aren't instruments optimized for strumming vs fingerpicking unless you custom order one from a builder (not necessarily a mega-buck cost). However there are things you could look for in a dulcimer that would make fingerpicking or strumming easier.

Some people find problems fingerpicking a dulcimer with doubled melody strings, or with narrower than common fretboards which make the strings overly close. You might look at a dulcimer with only three strings and a fretboard at least 1.5" wide.

In the situation you mention however I suspect it is "operator error" that is giving you problems. "Unclean" sounds could mean that your fretting fingers are not being placed correctly (stretch or ???). It could also be that the strum pattern/timing you are using just doesn't give your fingers time to go from one chord to the next accurately (practice? timing? chord choice?). You say you've only been at dulcimer "a few months as a second instrument..." I suspect that that is the real issue -- the learning curve for a new instrument.
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby Wellspringsing » Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:00 am

BS"D

Thanks, Keith. You seem to know what you're talking about :) Hopefully you're correct, because I am not in a position to buy a different dulcimer just for strumming! guess I'll just keep practicing and try to find ways to make it work better.
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby KenH » Wed Oct 26, 2016 12:14 pm

Even though I'm a hardcore traditional noter & drone stylist, I have been "messing about" with dulcimers for 40 years (one of these days I'll get it right). So I'[ve seen and heard a fair amount about all the aspects of playing dulcimer, including those I don't particularly practice.

Does you dulcimer have doubled melody strings? If so, you may find it better, for what you're trying to do, to remove the outer string of the melody couplet. Test it out by slacking the string 'way off (don't completely remove the string yet) and temporarily taping the loose string to the top in a couple places. Play a little bit now, both fingerpicking and strumming. If you like the effect, you can then remove the errant string completely.
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby Skip » Wed Oct 26, 2016 3:00 pm

Let's sort a couple of things so I can understand; the song for fingerpicking is written so that the notes distinctly follow one another, played across different strings [although you could 'strum' across all of the strings in one motion at chosen points], the song for 'strumming' is written ?????????? Are the strums simply a series of chords, a melody played across different strings, a melody played just on the melody string [noter/drone/finger dancing] or?

Another thing to take into account is Dulcimers are not strung like a harp, with the successive chromatic notes of a harp. The strum is across a selection of three notes determined by the tuning and some of the note combinations may sound dissonant or off/odd.
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby Banjimer » Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:11 pm

1. In fingerpicking the melody is usually emphasized, but additional notes may be added to fill in the space on notes of longer duration.
2. Sometimes, a bass or alternating bass pattern is played simultaneously with the melody. (alternating bass style, Travis style, Country Blues style)
3. However, you can also fret multiple strings creating chords and fingerpick arpeggios (patterns) following the chord progression. (pattern-picking)
4. With a flatpick, you can pick out individual melody notes. (flatpicking)
5. With a flatpick, you can pick arpeggios (patterns) with the flatpick while chording. (pattern-picking)
6. With a flatpick, you can strum across all the strings while fingerdancing or noting the melody string while the middle and bass strings drone. (melody-drone)
7. With a flatpick, you can strum rhythmic patterns with your strumming hand while chording with your left hand. (rhythmic back-up)
8. You can also flatpick bass notes and alternate them with strums of chords. Add some bass note runs leading from one chord to the next for a bluegrass-like style. (Carter style)

There are no hard and fast rules. All of the above are just options. You are an artist. Feel free to create whatever sounds good to you. There's a lot of leeway for creative expression. All of the above assumes you have a dulcimer with full frets (frets extending all the way across the fretboard). If your dulcimer has frets extending only under the melody string(s), the chording options are pretty much out. Of course, the options can be combined for even greater effect. As you play you will begin to copy or develop favorite patterns (riffs) that you can use over and over again.
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby strumelia » Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:18 pm

Be sure that when you fret your fingertips are coming straight down on the string, not at a slant. Don't fret with the fatty pad of your finger- use the hard tips of your fingers to fret whenever possible. In general, don't lift your finger off the fret until you are ready to move to the next note...as soon as you begin to lift your fretting finger, the sounded note will start to mute. Fret directly behind (but not ON) the fret that is making the note....avoid fretting down in the middle between two frets (unless they are high frets that are very close together anyway). Try strumming in various places up and down the finger board- you dn't 'have to' strum right at the 'strum hollow'.
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby Dulci_Lifer » Sat Nov 05, 2016 11:54 am

Hello, Wellspringsing!

It occurs to me that you might actually be having a problem with damping, rather than a problem with strumming. If you don't want strings singing into some spaces of your song, you can tip your strumming hand over a bit and stop the ring with the heel or side of your hand.

Of course, if your first instrument is a guitar, you probably already know this, but just a thought.

Hope you keep playing till it sounds right, in any case!
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby strumelia » Sat Nov 05, 2016 12:16 pm

strumelia wrote:Be sure that when you fret your fingertips are coming straight down on the string, not at a slant. Don't fret with the fatty pad of your finger- use the hard tips of your fingers to fret whenever possible. In general, don't lift your finger off the fret until you are ready to move to the next note...as soon as you begin to lift your fretting finger, the sounded note will start to mute. Fret directly behind (but not ON) the fret that is making the note....avoid fretting down in the middle between two frets (unless they are high frets that are very close together anyway). Try strumming in various places up and down the finger board- you dn't 'have to' strum right at the 'strum hollow'.
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby Wellspringsing » Sun Nov 06, 2016 5:08 am

BS"D

Thanks all! The issue is really getting a clean sound out of the chording hand. Something I'm doing with the left hand isn't producing clean tone when I strum with the right. Maybe it's what one user said before, that i have to choose easier-transition chords...
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby KenH » Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:15 am

Choosing easier transition chords may be part of the solution, when it works, And you may not be able to always find an easier chord. I'd wager that practicing more correct finger finger position, as Lisa suggests,plus the timing and speed of finger lift will stand you in better stead.
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Re: Types of dulcimers for: Strumming vs. Fingerpicking

Postby strumelia » Sun Nov 06, 2016 2:16 pm

If you are suspecting you are getting less than ideal clarity due to something your left hand fretting fingers are doing, you may also find something useful in my blog post here:
http://dulcimer-noter-drone.blogspot.com/2012/07/lazy-fingers.html
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