diatonic for a 5-year old?

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diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby Dusty Turtle » Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:53 pm

I have a question and I hope it will not engender those ubiquitous debates about whether chromatic dulcimers are real dulcimers.

My daughter is 5 years old, and we are about to start piano lessons for her. But she also sees me playing guitar, mandolin, autoharp, dulcimer, ukulele, and basically anything with strings that you pluck or strum. She saw a picture of one of David Beede's Eedy Beede octave dulcimers and has asked for one. Since I also find those instruments irresistible, I am inclined to get one.

But the question is, should it be a standard diatonic (with the 6+ fret) or should I go chromatic. Keep in mind that my goal right now is simply my daughter's musical development.

On the one hand, the diatonic fretboard will make it easier for her to pick out the melodies of all those kids songs she already knows. On the other hand, she does sing some complicated stuff already, and once she starts playing the piano, she will not be limited to the diatonic scale. I don't want her to lose interest in the dulcimer because it lacks the notes she wants to play.

I am not trying to create a musical genius here. I want my daughter to benefit from the increased ability for abstract thinking that musical instruction at a young age engenders, and, of course, to develop a love of music, something that has given my life enjoyment and meaning even if after decades of playing instruments I am still but a mediocre amateur.

So the question comes down to this: would the limitations of a diatonic fretboard stimulate or discourage my daughter's interest in music?

Any thoughts?
Last edited by Dusty Turtle on Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby Acmespaceship » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:57 am

This is my son 8 years ago (age 11). He insisted I photograph him with his dulcimer. I think he was inspired by some tab books I showed him. Smart boy: planning ahead for his author photo. The dulcimer is an old Walnut Creek "Arkansas Traveler" model with 6-1/2 fret.

Image

At the time, DS was playing Mozart in piano competitions. He is currently a jazz studies major. His interest in dulcimer has waxed and waned over the years, but he never saw the diatonic fretboard as a limitation, only an interesting puzzle. Since he already had a chromatic instrument, adding a diatonic provided a different perspective on music. When they hit Dorian Mode in middle school jazz camp, he was right at home.

YMMV of course. I think most beginning pianists would enjoy a diatonic (after all, the diatonic fretboard has a direct analog in the white keys on the piano). Also, FWIW, I have a little chromatic dulcimette (by Ron Ewing) and I love it dearly but it is pretty cramped having all those frets on such a short fretboard. If the siren call of those Eedy Beedes ever overwhelms me, I think mine will have 6-1/2 and 1-1/2 frets. And dolphins :)
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby Dusty Turtle » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:28 am

Acmespaceship wrote:This is my son 8 years ago (age 11). He insisted I photograph him with his dulcimer. I think he was inspired by some tab books I showed him. Smart boy: planning ahead for his author photo. The dulcimer is an old Walnut Creek "Arkansas Traveler" model with 6-1/2 fret.

Image

At the time, DS was playing Mozart in piano competitions. He is currently a jazz studies major. His interest in dulcimer has waxed and waned over the years, but he never saw the diatonic fretboard as a limitation, only an interesting puzzle. Since he already had a chromatic instrument, adding a diatonic provided a different perspective on music. When they hit Dorian Mode in middle school jazz camp, he was right at home.

YMMV of course. I think most beginning pianists would enjoy a diatonic (after all, the diatonic fretboard has a direct analog in the white keys on the piano). Also, FWIW, I have a little chromatic dulcimette (by Ron Ewing) and I love it dearly but it is pretty cramped having all those frets on such a short fretboard. If the siren call of those Eedy Beedes ever overwhelms me, I think mine will have 6-1/2 and 1-1/2 frets. And dolphins :)



Well, if your son played with a diatonic fretboard and is now studying jazz, it certainly could not have stunted his musical growth!

I think you may be right about the diatonic fretboard being a puzzle, and perhaps it would indeed aid in the understanding of modes, as you suggest.

Yes, those dolphin soundholes on the Eedy Beedes look pretty nice. That is exactly what my daughter and I both want.

Thanks for your comments.

D.T.
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby jakstall » Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:19 am

I would think that a diatonic instrument would be ideal for a young child. The diatonic arrangment makes it easy to start playing recognizable music quickly as you noted. If she continues to play music, your daughter might or might not want a different instrument, but you can cross that bridge when you get to it.

FWIW, someone has an Eedy Beede offered on eBay right now:
eBay Listing: "David Beede "Edie Beede" Octave Mountain Dulcimer"
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby Dusty Turtle » Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:31 pm

jakstall wrote:I would think that a diatonic instrument would be ideal for a young child. The diatonic arrangment makes it easy to start playing recognizable music quickly as you noted. If she continues to play music, your daughter might or might not want a different instrument, but you can cross that bridge when you get to it.

FWIW, someone has an Eedy Beede offered on eBay right now:
eBay Listing: "David Beede "Edie Beede" Octave Mountain Dulcimer"


Thanks, Jackstall. I guess one advantage of getting her an Eddy Beede is that if she did decide she didn't want to play it anymore, I would still love to!

I am "watching" that Eedy Beede on Ebay, but the "buy it now" price is not much less than having David build a custom one, and those dolphin soundholes look just beautiful . . .

Thanks for your comments.
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby kwl » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:09 pm

Like Acmespaceship's son, my son was not hindered by the diatonic scale. He played my dulcimers yet managed to graduate from Berklee College of Music with a major in film scoring and guitar as his principal instrument. I think he even used the mountain dulcimer in the first short film that he scored. At my retirement he played mountain dulcimer for our church. He is currently Minister of Music at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, CA where he plays piano, organ, guitar and percussion as well as directs the Senior Choir, handbell choir, and two praise bands. He also teaches guitar to 6th, 7th and 8th grade students at the school affiliated with the church. Having had a diatonic dulcimer while he took piano lessons was never a problem.

Ken
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby Dusty Turtle » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:32 am

kwl wrote:Like Acmespaceship's son, my son was not hindered by the diatonic scale. He played my dulcimers yet managed to graduate from Berklee College of Music with a major in film scoring and guitar as his principal instrument. I think he even used the mountain dulcimer in the first short film that he scored. At my retirement he played mountain dulcimer for our church. He is currently Minister of Music at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, CA where he plays piano, organ, guitar and percussion as well as directs the Senior Choir, handbell choir, and two praise bands. He also teaches guitar to 6th, 7th and 8th grade students at the school affiliated with the church. Having had a diatonic dulcimer while he took piano lessons was never a problem.

Ken
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Thanks, Ken, for another story of an accomplished musician who had early exposure to the dulcimer. I guess my concerns about the diatonic scale were unfounded.
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby Stephen Seifert » Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:58 am

The diatonic will be the quickest route to effective and passionate personal expression. Get the music going and then branch out. That's my advice.
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby modulcimer » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:37 pm

My daughter learned to play several years ago.. on a diatonic .. at the same time she was learning keyboard and flute.. she now is a Music Education major. The exposure to a diatonic just helps expand their music learning.. :lol: so I would say go diatonic..
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby Acmespaceship » Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:59 pm

Wow, we raised a lot of music majors! That's either a great endorsement for the diatonic fretboard ... or a cautionary tale. :lol: Ken, it makes me so happy every time I hear about a grad getting a good job, thanks for telling us about your minister of music.
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Re: diatonic for a 5-year old?

Postby Dusty Turtle » Sat Aug 28, 2010 12:15 am

Thanks so much to everyone who replied here, and yes Ken, everyone who did has a child that has gone on to do something with music. Love of music must be some sort of genetic disorder!

None of you believe I should have any hesitation about introducing my daughter to a diatonic fretboard. I guess my apprehension was unfounded. I just sent David Beede an email, and both my daughter and I are really excited.

Thanks again,

D.T.
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