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Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 11:07 pm
by KenH
Dulcimers tend to NOT be very sensitive to wood choices -- buy what looks good, especially until you get a significant amount of experience with different instruments. The reason they aren't so sensitive, especially concerning top wood, is that there's this HUGE brace running down the middle of the top (called a fretboard) which limits how much vibrating the top can actually do. More sound is produced by the sides and back.

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2017 9:36 am
by jakstall
Here is what McSpadden has on their site FAQ in answer to the question, "What is the best wood for a dulcimer?":
"There is no simple answer to this question as there is a lot of personal preference involved. Any good hardwood could be used to make the body and the choice of wood for the top can include softwoods as well. In the “Listen To Different Woods” we have provided some sound bites where you can listen to the various combinations of woods that we offer as the same tune is played. "

Here is a link to the recordings on McSpadden's "Listen to Dulcimers" page:
McSpadden Listen to Dulcimers Clips

I think you would be happy with either an instrument with a softer wood (redwood, spruce, etc.) top OR a hardwood. I've got both. Each has a little different tone but a lot of that is a difference in the design. In my opinion the overall design makes a lot more difference in tone than wood choice. That includes shape and size of the sound box, placement of the bridge relative to the end of the instrument and many other factors. I've got an all cherry McSpadden and one that is walnut with a spruce top. In both cases, I played several instruments and chose the one I liked best. In both cases I played both all hardwood instruments and instruments with softer (spruce and/or redwood tops). The differences were subtle and both are good souding instruments.

If you're not able to go where someone has a selection of instruments the clips on the McSpadden and Folkcraft sites can help you choose. Others may also have clips available. I know many dealers/builders will play instruments while you listen on the phone if you give them a call. During a phone call they can also ask questions about what you want and offer recommendations to help meet your needs. I would definitely recommend making a phone call and talking with whoever you think you might want to buy a dulcimer from.

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2017 11:05 pm
by Judy K
Look for a dulcimer festival in your area. There are usually vendors attending with dulcimers, tab books and more. In Lancaster, OH there will be a festival called Harmony Harvest on September 15 - 17. Usually at least 3 dulcimer builders show up. It might be a bit of a drive from the DC area but the people are friendly and can tell you a ton of stuff about dulcimers, while letting you playing one. There is even a class "for the absolute beginner" with loaner dulcimers available.

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 7:56 pm
by bret
@KenH and @jakstall - Thanks for the info on the choice of wood. I hadn't considered the fretboard as a brace, but that makes total sense! That mes it a little easier. I was able to find the videos on the Folkcraft site and can hear some minor differences in them, but not enough to really sway me one or another. That's probably a good thing as they all sounded good to me :D On the McSpadden site I couldn't figure out how to play the audio. When I clicked it seemed take me to a configuration page to set up the duclimer to buy it? I'm sure I'm missing it, but I didn't see a way to play the audio.

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 8:06 pm
by bret
Judy K wrote:Look for a dulcimer festival in your area. There are usually vendors attending with dulcimers, tab books and more. In Lancaster, OH there will be a festival called Harmony Harvest on September 15 - 17. Usually at least 3 dulcimer builders show up. It might be a bit of a drive from the DC area but the people are friendly and can tell you a ton of stuff about dulcimers, while letting you playing one. There is even a class "for the absolute beginner" with loaner dulcimers available.


Thanks for the heads up, I may be able to get to that! I found another workshop that weekend at the House of Music Traditions. If I can get away, a festival sounds like a great idea to see some instruments and get a feel for it. If not I'm planning to sign up for the at HMT and at least get a beginners course in.

---

I did find a local music store that had a couple dulcimers in the store. They're the cheap ones I'm avoiding (Applecreek, Roosebeck). I will say I found it more difficult to adjust to the overhand style of fretting than I'd anticipated! Perhaps i should really look at a more guitar/stick dulcimer style. They had a Strumstick as well, and it was ok, but I felt I could use a smaller scale length.

What might actually be perfect is if I could find someone who could add some frets to a Merlin. I find it very natural to play (granted I've been tinkering with it for a month), but it only has 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6+, and 7. If I could get 6, 8, 9 and 10 added that would make me really happy :D Is there someone who might be able to do that?

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 11:50 pm
by Judy K
bret, if you can make the Harmony Harvest festival there will probably be some dulcimer makers that could add the frets. I haven't been able to attend for the last couple of years, but the last time I was there David Lynch (Sweet Woods), Gary Sager (Prussia Valley), Ron Ewing, plus 2 or 3 others (I can't recall their names) were all there with booths. Here is a link to the Harmony Harvest festival.

You might also check any reputable guitar shop to see if they can add the frets. I live near Huntington, WV. The main 'guitar' shop is Route 60 Music. They did have a repair specialist that would work on dulcimers. He has gone independent now but is still in the area. Not really suggesting a trip to Huntington, but you might ask at the House of Music Traditions if they know a guitar shop that does repair work on dulcimers or strum sticks.

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 7:03 am
by KenH
Depending on the shop charges you may find it cheaper to get a new instrument than add that many frets to a Merlin.

Remember too that 'stick instruments' like the Merlin are not really dulcimers (because they have a neck and no true dulcimer has a neck sticking out beyond the body) and there is not that much written about or for them. As you are finding, there is a wealth of information, music and whatnot written about the true dulcimer.

The "overhand" fretting of the dulcimer is really very easy to learn because you can easily see the frets you are fingering.

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 10:38 am
by philips
KenH wrote:Remember too that 'stick instruments' like the Merlin are not really dulcimers (because they have a neck and no true dulcimer has a neck sticking out beyond the body)


Ken remember too that 'zither type instruments' with long frets that sit under all strings instead of the melody string only are not really dulcimers (because the frets lie under all the strings and no true dulcimer has frets sticking out beyond the melody string)

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 10:52 am
by strumelia
Never heard that definition before. Where is that from?

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 1:44 pm
by Skip
Tongue
strumelia wrote:Never heard that definition before. Where is that from?

Description of an [early] MD with staple frets. :lol: :twisted:

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 2:29 am
by philips
Skip wrote:Tongue
strumelia wrote:Never heard that definition before. Where is that from?

Description of an [early] MD with staple frets. :lol: :twisted:


That's it Skip. I wonder why KenH has a photo of that partial zither thing in his avatar? It's obviously not a real dulcimer. :mrgreen:

Re: Where to get a dulcimer & best way to learn?

PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 8:29 am
by strumelia
:roll: