1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Share tidbits of dulcimer history, or history of the songs we play on them

Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby strumelia » Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:27 pm

Robin the Busker wrote:We know that Jean wrote her instruction book in the key of C but never actually recorded the tunes within it in that key!!!


Hey wait a minute!- we have no way of knowing that. Have you gone through all of Jean's old obscure LP's, of which there were many? Not to mention the hundreds of recorded concerts and private recordings that were made by her friends and family but never released on commercial records- how can you make such a definitive statement? A very cursory Youtube search pops up Jean singing Barbra Allen in C, also singing Four Marys in C (though it's not a song from her book). You can't just pop out such broad statements based on our very limited individual knowledge. Instead, you really should say "We know that Jean wrote her instruction book in the key of C but I don't know of recordings of the tunes within it in that key!!!"

but I am having a hard time trying to find a single pre-1960s dulcimer recording in C :roll: :lol: :lol: :lol: Finding recordings in G, D, E and even A is easier!!!!! I'm sure there are some in C out there somewhere :?


Well truth be told there just aren't many dulcimer recordings from pre-1960 out there for us, period! I think perhaps?- you are finding more tunes in the other keys partly because of the very few and precious old Stamper and Melton tracks that luckily were recorded and survived and we got...of fiddle tunes.
Have you listened to all of JJ Niles' dulcimer ballad recordings? I bet he recorded some in C (sorry, I'm not prepared to sit and listen to them though...lol!)

PS I liked the "don't ever play with autoharps" reference :lol: :lol: :lol:


I liked that too- gotta make a pin button to wear to festivals... :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby Robin the Busker » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:09 am

Hey wait a minute!- we have no way of knowing that. Have you gone through all of Jean's old obscure LP's, of which there were many? Not to mention the hundreds of recorded concerts and private recordings that were made by her friends and family but never released on commercial records- how can you make such a definitive statement? A very cursory Youtube search pops up Jean singing Barbra Allen in C, also singing Four Marys in C (though it's not a song from her book). You can't just pop out such broad statements based on our very limited individual knowledge. Instead, you really should say "We know that Jean wrote her instruction book in the key of C but I don't know of recordings of the tunes within it in that key!!!"


That's a fair one! It was late here when I wrote my post :oops:
And you know that I'm happy to stir things up to see what new info comes along ;) And also more than happy to change my view based on that info!!!!!
Those two Youtube clips you point to are just vocal? We are still short of finding some dulcimer recordings in C :( I'm sure they are out there, just as they are for many other keys. My overall impression to date though is that the statement "old dulcimers were usually tuned to C not D" that I have seen in quite a few posts and articles may not be strictly the case (on both counts; both C and D :lol: ) but that tuning was actually a lot more varied and depended on lots of factors (string gauge, VSL, singing comfort etc). Do you think that's a fair point?

Robin

Mmmmm.... Jacob Miles: E flat minor, F minor, G, D, C# minor etc etc etc
Last edited by Robin the Busker on Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby KenH » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:45 am

Don't forget that the non-dulcimer-dependent Traditional "Ethnic" Keynote for Ionian Mode is C, as discussed here:

http://clem.mscd.edu/~yarrowp/MODEXh.html

and other places like The Complete Irish Fiddler

http://www.standingstones.com/modeharm.html.

The traditional Keynote for Dorian is D.
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby Robin the Busker » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:45 am

Those articles were hard work Ken!!!! :shock:

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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby rtroughear » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:38 am

Folks

strumelia wrote:I'm not too sure why there is a crack in the bridge. It looks like the front of the bridge is falling forward and the strings are vibrating off the back strip of bone that it standing taller? It is difficult to tell from the photo, but that may be extending the scale length by a couple of millimeters. The strings should vibrate off the front edge fretboard side of the nut with the slots falling away from the front edge at an angle down towards the tail.


Robin, when I first visited Jim I made some measurements and took some photos, but in a low light situation. I reported some of these observations soon after on ED at:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=15673&p=201594&hilit=+richard+t+ritchie#p201594

The bridge and nut seemed to be of bone and Morris Pickow had used an ingenious method of incorporating a bridge saddle and a string spacer in the one piece - it may be used elsewhere, but I hadn't seen it. The bridge has a slot cut along its middle, about 1/10" deep as Jim says. On the string-hitch side there are notches cut that position the strings very firmly (4-equidistant). On the strum hollow side of the bridge there are no notches and the strings rest on the flat top of the bridge, but unable to roll from side to side because they are in the slots on the back half. The nut was the same - there is no zero fret, and the frets are banjo wire. I thought it was a simple and elegant way to do things. While Jim gets his camera out, here's a picture of the other end of the dulcimer. You can see one of the string slots in the nut. (I had strung it with new strings, but not in the intended spacing slots).
Ritchie Dulcimer No212_1968_Nut.jpg

The Scale length is 27 3/4" and the side height is 2.5" (plus or minus a bit). No internal top or back bracing, but there are side linings. Fretboard is hollow.

I note in the 2008 report above that I thought the tuning was a little out on some frets, however, being post-modern, I probably tuned it to CGcc at the time, rather than CGgg, and I certainly didn't use a noter. Also, Morris Pickow may have used the Rule of 18 to calculate the fret positions rather than the Twelfth Root of Two method. This approximation to equal temperament would not have been uncommon at the time of construction and the result might be more noticable in these days of exact everything.

Richard T
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby Robin the Busker » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:40 am

Thanks Richard,

That's very a very neat way to cut the bridge and nut! But I can't help thinking it is a bit like Einstine's cat flap :lol:

The Scale length is 27 3/4" and the side height is 2.5" (plus or minus a bit). No internal top or back bracing, but there are side linings. Fretboard is hollow.


Very different to an Ed Thomas. I wonder how the hollow fretboard came about on the Ritchie/Picklow dulcimers? I know Ed Thomas didn't use them and I don't think they are hollow on Amburgey dulcimers or Pritchards for that matter. I wonder if they picked up the idea from talking with someone? It is a feature that has endured from the Ritchie/Picklow dulcimers into McSpadden and modern building. Homer Ledford may have had an input it this? I'm not sure?

Equal temperament fret placement does not seem to have been the 'norm' for dulcimers - even if they were made by craftsmen who also built other instruments. I recently had an email from a very well known modern workshop who are rediscoving mean tone fretting for dulcimers and I'm hoping to have a sample soon ;)

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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby Robin the Busker » Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:14 am

Back to the key of C.

I found this quote from Homer Ledford in Ralph Lee Smith's Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions (not the latest edition):

Homer tuned his instruments GGC. "This is the way that Edna told me to tune", he says. And, in fact, GGC was the traditional Cumberland Ionian tuning although the strings sound brighter if bought up to DAA which is the usual basic tuning today. Perhaps GGC was used because it caused the instrument's major tuning to correspond with the major scale in the key of C on the piano. Homer also learned about Dorian and Mixolidian tunings from Jean and Edna Ritchie when he was at Berea. (1949-51)

Mmm... tuning to the school piano sounds more pragmatic than traditional :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby Banjimer » Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:50 pm

I suspect the tuning Jean learned and used especially in her younger days was a relative tuning, such as 1-5-5, with the bass string being tuned to something that was pleasing to the ear and the other strings were tuned a fifth above. Sometimes, that tuning may have been C-G-G. Sometimes it might have been Bb-F-F. Sometimes, it might have even been D-A-A. Afterall, Jean was tuning by ear. She didn't have an electronic tuner to restrict her to any one tuning.

When the book was written it was necessary to standardized the tuning, and C-G-G was probably chosen because it created a scale with no sharps and flats ("C" Ionian or "C" Major) making it easier to understand. The same practice is used in a number of other basic instruction manuals for piano, harmonica, etc.

The point is that the actual tuning probably varied over time, but the relationship between the three strings remained constant at 1-5-5. A solo musician isn't tied to a precise tuning, and many musicians varied the tuning to suit their voice or even to get a certain flexibility in the strings that felt right. A number of mountain banjo players (an instrument normally tuned to an open "G" chord) are actually tuned down to "F" or even lower to emphasize hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and other left-hand techniques that require a more flexible string.

The question should be what is the relationship between the strings?

Of course, when Jean was playing with another musician her instrument could be tuned to a note on the other instrument to enable her to play in key with someone else.
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby JohnH » Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:10 pm

Robin! As a long time advocate of 'mean tone tuning' I welcome the fact that 'a well known modern workshop' may soon be offering instruments fretted to produce , IMO, really 'sweet' sounding dulcimers. Thanks for the heads up !
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby strumelia » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:15 pm

Robin the Busker wrote: My overall impression to date though is that the statement "old dulcimers were usually tuned to C not D" that I have seen in quite a few posts and articles may not be strictly the case (on both counts; both C and D :lol: ) but that tuning was actually a lot more varied and depended on lots of factors (string gauge, VSL, singing comfort etc). Do you think that's a fair point?


I agree that many pre-1950 musicians (especially solo or isolated rural ones) more often tuned to a comfortable note- whatever that was. But I also think it's been pretty well established that when tuning to a specific key, more dulcimer players tuned to C in the days before 1960 than tuned to D. Certainly more instructional dulcimer material was written for C than for D in pre-1960 days.
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby strumelia » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:32 pm

Robin the Busker wrote:And you know that I'm happy to stir things up to see what new info comes along ;) And also more than happy to change my view based on that info!!!!!


Ah, but Robin- the problem is that you don't identify them as 'your views'! You simply make statements, as though they are known facts, as in:
"We know that Jean wrote her instruction book in the key of C but never actually recorded the tunes within it in that key!!!"
In fact, no, we don't know that at all!
People will read these posts for years to come and accept such definitive statements as proven facts because of how they are stated. Sorry, but I'm a real stickler for prefacing or qualifying our views and theories with "I suspect that...", "It's possible that...", "I feel that...", "Current information would suggest that..."....etc.
I've seen way too many instances of people stating opinions without identifying them as such, and then the 'information' is then passed along and repeated later by others as being accepted fact. It drives me nuts!
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Re: 1968 Ritchie Dulcimer

Postby Robin the Busker » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:48 pm

strumelia wrote: It drives me nuts!


Well we can't have that can we! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Ah, but Robin- the problem is that you don't identify them as 'your views'! You simply make statements, as though they are known facts, as in:
"We know that Jean wrote her instruction book in the key of C but never actually recorded the tunes within it in that key!!!"
In fact, no, we don't know that at all!


Blimey! It was just a clumsey sentence :cry:

Please read: "We know that Jean wrote her instruction book in the key of C but I've yet to find any recordings of her playing those tunes in that key!!!"
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