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Carla Maxwell

Making It Up As You Go Along

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Looks like we need to start the conversation about chromatic dulcimers! Mine is a baritone built by Bob Magowan in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2008. I love playing it! 

Here's a picture and a sound clip of my improvisation on it (2008). I play tunes on it, too, and I enjoy its lower voice as a change from what I hear when I play a standard dulcimer.

 

IMG_5346.jpg

 

Baritone Dulcimer Improvisation Link

 

Edited by Carla Maxwell
Changed download file to link.

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Great looking (and sounding) dulcimer Carla!  I have been considering both a chromatic and a baritone to increase versatility.  I play in the praise team at my church, and the song leader is always wanting to perform at least one song in a key that does not work well on a dulcimer.  I think this combination would give me a lot more options.  It also gives me an excuse to buy another dulcimer!

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The nice thing about a chromatic is you can play chords in any key. All that is required is learning the chord patterns in your tuning. Using a 1-3-5 tuning, a capo, or 4 equidistant strings,  can help. 

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Absolutely!  I have been playing a resonator guitar, which is has 1-3-5 tuning, and can find most of the chord shapes I need by just hanging out over the fret for the root chord.  

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I have had a chromatic dulcimer for many years and it is not played much. If you have a dulcimer with a 1½ fret and you can bend strings to get half-notes, you will be able to play in the following keys: D, Bm, G, Em, Am, Dm, some F, Some C, some A.  My experience is that when a string bend is required in a song, there are usually only 1 or two notes that need a bend.

Both baritone and bass dulcimers are in my opinion ensemble instruments. Yes, you can play a lead solo. They tend to be overwhelming, even when finger-picked. At our club jams, we usually have 8 or more people and my baritone/bass is still pretty loud so as to drown out the other players.

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I have a chromatic dulcimer built by David McKinney of Modern Mountain Dulcimers.  I keep it tuned to DAE.  I prefer this tuning because the chord shapes are very compact and work well for my small hands.  

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