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I have noticed that some dulcimer players have a spot on their dulcimer where they can kind of rest/balance their hand while strumming.  Does anyone know what this is called?

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Do you mean an actual object like a pickguard, or just a location somewhere on the top?  I have seen the occasional dulcimer with a designed "wrist rest" at the tail end -- a sort of wooden arch over the the bridge area.  Most players, certainly the expert players who I know, don't anchor or rest their wrist when strumming.  We're moving up and down the fretboard with the pick, so that the strum is happening closest to the center of the vibrating string as its length changes.  Personally, I'm an 'outie' strummer more than an 'innie' or back-and-forth strummer, so I often use my little finger to tap the instrument back on my lap during the 'backstroke' from my out-strum.

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I heard Bing Futch talk about a place he anchors his hand while strumming ( becuase he is moving all around when he plays with his band).  The reason I am asking is because flatpicking and crossoverpicking is very difficult for me.  I was wondering if I had some place I could kind of anchor my hand then maybe I would sense where the strings are more easily.

I can strum and fingerpick just fine, but I feel like flatpicking is my undoing.  Any suggestions?

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I don't think there is any "standard" anchoring place.  Each player finds whatever works for him/er self.  It could be the edge, or a sound hole, or the side of the fretboard.  The "anchor" is just resting a finger, or the edge of the picking hand.  Experiment and see what works for you.   Start by watching several of Bings videos without the sound, so you focus on his hand technique, and see what you can discover where/how he is 'anchoring'.

 

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My hands are very small, so I can achor my pinkie when flatpicking, but it doesnt work when I have to strum.  Suggestions for small handed players?

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Hi. There's 2 ways to anchor your hand whilst flatpicking and crosspicking.

(1) Place the right side of the base of your picking hand on top of the strings behind the saddle (some people call it the 'bridge'). Make sure it's behind the saddle so as not to mute the sound of the strings. Your hand is now still free to pick individual strings with ease.  It's also very easy to strum across 2 or more strings in this position. Make sure you don't press the hand down hard; just very lightly rest it in that position as that enables the picking hand, and your arm, to freely  move. Also, if you wish to occasionally play the strings further up the fret board in order to get a more mellow tone in certain passages, it's easy to simply lift up your hand and play for a while further up the fret board, then return to the original position.

(2) Place your little finger against the side of the fret board, just gently rest it there. You can then very easily slide your picking hand up and down the fret board whilst you play in order to get different tonal qualities from the dulcimer. This works beautifully for individual string picking and crosspicking.  If you wish to sometimes  strum across all strings for some seconds then you can easily do a wider strumming motion by merely not pressing the little finger against the fret board side, then when you're ready to return to the little finger placement you merely return to that hand position. With a little bit of practice it starts to feel very natural and easy.

You can also combine the 2 anchoring methods together. Also, both anchoring and not anchoring throughout a tune enable you to have lots of choices depending on the tone and feel you wish to create. Anchoring also steadies the dulcimer on you lap; the dulcimer will barely move at all and that lack of movement will make your playing a bit  more accurate.

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Good ideas, DulcimerJim.  Although your #1 won't work if there is little or no instrument "behind the saddle" like some of my instruments.  Otherwise, I suspect this is what Melody is referring to.    The drawback -- to my ear -- is that your picking is so close to the bridge that you get a 'sharper', more tinny sound.

Your #2 idea seems to me to be the most all around useful.

 

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Anchoring can be useful for better control of the pick.  You'll see it most often with finger picking or flat picking styles of play, though there are some performers, like Bing Futch, who anchor when they're strumming as well.   I think most players don't anchor when strumming though.

I've seen some anchor with their thumb on the side of the fret board for finger picking.  Another common way is for the pinky or ring finger or both to anchor on the far side of the fret board or on the top.  I've seen that both with flat picking and finger picking styles. 

I find that technique helpful especially when flat picking to easily locate the strings without looking. 

Some dulcimers do have wrist rests built in, and some vendors like McSpadden offer them as an add on for their dulcimers. 

Try some things and see what works best for you 🙂

This is a recent video on the McSpadden wrist rest if you're curious:

 

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I would like to express my gratitude to this site's administrator and all of the fellow dulcimer players who contribute to this site.  Whenever I come with questions, there are always people willing to offer helpful suggestions and solutions.  Also, the site is so neatly organized. It is very easy to navigate, follow previous threads, and has a wonderful TAB library.  Thank you all for all of the help you have given me over the past few months.

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