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best fretted dulcimer?

GUEST,leeneia 28 Aug 09 - 11:34 AM
Bill D 28 Aug 09 - 11:55 AM
Dan Schatz 28 Aug 09 - 12:13 PM
ClaireBear 28 Aug 09 - 12:25 PM
Arkie 28 Aug 09 - 02:30 PM
GUEST,Will Fly on a new computer 28 Aug 09 - 03:24 PM
Jack Campin 28 Aug 09 - 03:24 PM
catspaw49 28 Aug 09 - 05:53 PM
GUEST,Russ 28 Aug 09 - 09:12 PM
catspaw49 28 Aug 09 - 09:23 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 09 - 09:35 PM
catspaw49 28 Aug 09 - 10:12 PM
GUEST,Russ 28 Aug 09 - 10:26 PM
GUEST,leeneia 29 Aug 09 - 12:40 AM
GUEST,leeneia 29 Aug 09 - 12:56 AM
GUEST,Russ 29 Aug 09 - 02:01 AM
GUEST,homer ledford-dulcibro 09 Apr 12 - 06:46 PM
GUEST,leeneia 09 Apr 12 - 11:02 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 10 Apr 12 - 06:52 AM
GUEST 10 Apr 12 - 02:38 PM
ollaimh 11 Apr 12 - 01:06 PM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Apr 12 - 10:09 AM
Arkie 12 Apr 12 - 03:15 PM
GUEST,leeneia 13 Apr 12 - 10:26 AM
Arkie 13 Apr 12 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Apr 12 - 09:30 AM
GUEST,Carole Bannister 14 Apr 12 - 10:05 AM
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Subject: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 11:34 AM

I just passed my stress test - heart's functioning well. Ta da!

I deserve a reward, and that reward will be a new fretted dulcimer, one with the richest, mellowest tone to be had and that plays in tune all the way up.

We travel quite a bit, and suggestions for dealers and makers anywhere in the U.S or Canada are welcome.

Also, I'm not far from Branson but have never been there. What are the dulcies like in Branson?


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 11:55 AM

Well....dulcimers are some of the most variable & 'personal' instruments around. There are many 'makers' but few companies. You need to find out what basic requirements YOU have for one....size, stringing style (spacing), setup for capo or not, friction pins vs. mechanical pins (winders)...lots more.

My dulcimer was made by Keith Young, who used to do only friction winders, but with fine tuning adjustments at the tailstock...a very 'classic' setup, but tricky to learn for some. He now does regular geared tuners also.
At the festival our group presents each June, we usually have Carl Gotzmer, of June Apple Dulcimers who is also a fine maker.

Both of these make a variety of styles.
DON'T BE IN A HURRY to choose...play a bunch of them and make your decision on what is comfortable.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 12:13 PM

I'd second Bill's recommendation of Keith Young's dulcimers. He makes very fine instruments. I have the concert model, which I've recorded with a couple of times, but I'm thinking of investing in a teardrop, for it's lower register and depth of tone.


Keith is a fine luthier and a good guy. In addition to his dulcimer, I have two of his autoharps (which he doesn't make anymore).

Dan


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: ClaireBear
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 12:25 PM

My primary dulcimer is a high-end vintage CapriTaurus, which doesn't help you as you can't get them anymore. However, why I'm telling you this is that it's a double-course six-string dulcimer with an especially deep body, and those two things give it the kind of richness you describe. Good luck with your search, and congratulations on passing your test!

C


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: Arkie
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 02:30 PM

McSpadden Dulcimers are built in Mountain View, Arkansas, about three hours south of Branson. The McSpaddens are well crafted and note true all the way down the fretboard. They also carefully set the height of the strings which can affect noting tone as well as playability. Their baritone dulcimer have a rich sound. A trip to the shop on the northern edge of Mountain View would allow you to try out any number of instruments and styles but they also mail order around the world.

As a bonus the visit to Mountain View, a town of less than 3000 people at the southern tip of the Ozarks could be very interesting. The Ozark Folk Center provides craft exhibits and concerts of the the old time music played traditionally in this area and folk gather daily and nightly on the courthouse square and other locations in town to play music together. Also the traffic is far less congested than Branson.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,Will Fly on a new computer
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 03:24 PM

I have a great friend - Dave Sewell - in Baltimore, who makes wonderful instruments. Check out this:

Dulcimer


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 03:24 PM

I just passed my stress test - heart's functioning well. Ta da!

Congrats. (I failed mine on Wednesday about as badly as it was possible to and still walk from the bus stop to get it).

I deserve a reward, and that reward will be a new fretted dulcimer, one with the richest, mellowest tone to be had and that plays in tune all the way up.

The most awesome tone I've ever heard from a dulcimer was one that Lindsay Porteous adapted for himself a few months ago. It's a cumbus-tanbur from our local bellydance and Middle Eastern musical instruments shop, with the original microtonal nylon frets taken off and metal diatonic frets put on. That was the only modification, I think. It has a huge scale length for a dulcimer, so your left hand will need to work hard.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: catspaw49
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 05:53 PM

I play my own but for a really beautiful sounding, looking, and unique dulcimer, you need one from Warren May in Berea, Kentucky. Warren started out with dulcimers but now also builds beautiful furniture.

You can get larger shots by clicking on the photos on his WEBSITE. Have a look at his asymetrical he calls "Hourbean" and note the "Knot-Hole" soundholes on some. He uses all native woods and works WITH the wood as opposed to just woodworking if you get my drift. He's an artist.


Spaw


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 09:12 PM

Leeneia,

What Bill D said

Dulcimers are the most highly variable stringed instruments I am familiar with.
I have three friends who are dulcimer makers and they will be the first to agree with that statement.
You can build two identical dulcimers with the same design and wood, and their sound will be completely different.
So the first rule:
Do not buy a dulcimer until you have played it.

In terms of design dulcimers are the least standardized stringed instrument I am familiar with.
They are not like guitars, banjos, and fiddles
The variety of sizes, shapes, string configurations, fretting, tuners, etc. is mind-boggling.
So the second rule:
Do not buy a dulcimer until you have given it a thorough test drive.

Unfortunately what this means is that you cannot make an intelligent decision about a dulcimer until you have become fairly familiar with dulcimers and dulcimer playing.

Dulcimers are not easy to buy.
You cannot walk into your local music store and expect to find a wall of dulcimers.
If you find one the strings will be rusty and it will probably never have been tuned.
The sales person noodling around with the strat won't know what it is or how to tune it.

I will make the same recommendation that I make to everybody who asks me where they can get a dulcimer.

The path of least resistance for a first dulcimer is
What Arkie said.

McSpadden is as about as close as you can get to a widely and easily available "brand name" dulcimer.

I have played many McSpaddens and never played a bad one.
Many of my dulcimer playing friends at all levels play McSpaddens and they are as happy as clams.
It is clearly feasible for you to visit McSpadden Central and play their dulcimers.

For the record, I do not own a McSpadden myself and have no connection with the company.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and dulcimer player since '68)


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: catspaw49
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 09:23 PM

All true pretty much Russ and the greatest tradition about Appalachian dulcimers is that there is no tradition.

McSpaddens are fine dulcimers I agree and the safest bet around I'm sure in an upper tier instrument.

But if you're around Berea, drop by Warren's shop right on College Square (at the opposite end from Boone Tavern) and play one of his. Beautiful instruments and the ones I have heard or played all were wonderful sounding as well. Although Warren offers Grover tuners, his hand made friction pegs are exquisite in operation and looks.

Sorry......I just love his work.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 09:35 PM

Spaw,

I agree with your assessment of Warren's dulcimers.

I can think of way worse travel destinations than Berea.

Does your May dulcimer have friction pegs? I have a Homer Ledford dulcimer with friction pegs that work beautifully and a Bill Birmingham dulcimer with friction pegs that are a bit cranky. But for my main dulcimers it's planetary geared tuners all the way.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and opinionated dulcimer player)


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: catspaw49
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 10:12 PM

Russ, I don't have one of Warren Mays but I wish I did. I play one of my own slightly wacky looking things that I built about 11 years ago when I was building Hammered Dulcimers. I love WM's and of course I agree about Berea since I went there....LOL

May has the Grover option but he makes really fine friction pegs. I would guess that over time they would become a pain.....they all do. His are very well fitted from the gitgo which should help but I can't imagine a friction peg not needing some care and feeding over the years. But hell....fiddles use them and if it was good enough for old Stradivarius......LOL.......Look at the pics though...pretty ain't they?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 10:26 PM

Spaw,

Gorgeous dulcimers. Reasonable prices. What's not to like?
Why not treat yourself to one.
My experience is that the purchase most regretted is the purchase not made.
A friend of mine likes to justify his hyper-acquisitiveness by saying that a person can never own too many fine musical instruments.
I have a preference for cherry myself.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and dulcimerically polygamous)


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 12:40 AM

Thanks, everybody. Keep the ideas coming.

I was looking for that store that has a whole wall of dulcimers to try. By the way, I'm an experienced player.

I'm in McSpadden territory, but I've outgrown my McSpadden. I'm tired of the thin sound, and one of the frets is off by just enough to set my teeth on edge.

Keith Sewell makes a dulcimer which is twice as deep (measuring down the side) as my present dulcimer. It's good that he has a video on YouTube. I don't understand why more makers' websites don't include sound samples.

Spaw, I shall keep Warren May in mind. Also June Apple.

Russ, I agree that it's good to test drive an instrument before buying.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 12:56 AM

Jack, I'm so sorry to hear about your bad test results. Can they do anything?


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 02:01 AM

leeneia,

My apologies for replying to you as if you were a novice.
I hope I didn't sound too patronizing.

I must admit that while I've never played a bad McSpadden, I've never played a McSpadden that lit my fire.
However, a friend plays a high end McSpadden with excellent tone, but a bit lacking in volume.

My wife plays a Bill Taylor dulcimer with excellent tone, bass, and volume. A friend liked his dulcimers so much he bought several. Unfortunately Bill does not seem to be making dulcimers any more.

A couple of my friends play Jerry Rockwell dulcimers and swear by them.
IMHO the sound is good by the appearance is off-putting. They look homemade but not in a good way.

You might check out
Mountain Dulcimer Week at Western Carolina University

They have something they call
The Dulcimer Marketplace

If I remember correctly the week used to be at Boone, NC. I have never attended but my friends who have speak of it in glowing terms.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,homer ledford-dulcibro
Date: 09 Apr 12 - 06:46 PM

do you make a dulcibro?
if not do you know were i can find one? tks linda

silverwings4309@aol.com


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 09 Apr 12 - 11:02 PM

I have yet to make a trip.

Just thought I'd mention that I get more volume from my dulcimer by putting plasti-tac on the bottom edges and putting it on a table. It resonates more that way. We have a rather high table called a 'pub table,' and it is just the right height for me to play while standing.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 10 Apr 12 - 06:52 AM

I made my first dulcimer from a Camac kit back in '76 & it sounded amazing. Then I started buying luthier built instruments none of which came close to the sound of my triangular plywood original. I finally found what I was looking for in 1980 with a vintage Swedish Hummell and struck gold in 2005 with two top notch Hungarian Citeras (circa 1900 & 1980) not to mention the cheap Apple Creek dulcimer bought in from the USA which sounds as good as any I've heard, with the exception of the Sobells played by the late Phil Ranson (which you can read about HERE, including a picture with what looks one of the old Camac kits!).


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Apr 12 - 02:38 PM

David McKinney's Modern Mountain Dulcimers is also in Arkansas, but I can't say how far from you. The depth of tone and volume are superlative.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: ollaimh
Date: 11 Apr 12 - 01:06 PM

a lot of people have made dulcimers. i've played odd ball home made ones that were great. if you have the chance to look around it's worth it. mcspaddens are always reliable. however i have been pleasantly surprised by the home mjade ones over and over.

the apple creek ones made in eastern europe are also great for a cheap price. locally i got one for $90 with a soft case. i sold it to a friend who wanted to start aa i bought a handmade off ebay. i liked the koa back and sides and the good looking cedar top.it was also six string, a sound i prefer, althought the old four string style is worth playing and listening to.it also had friction pegs which makes it ren faire friendly as well as modern. i play some early instruments so i am not afraid of pegs. it sounds wonderfull--a real steal at $200 including shipping.

i friend m, jay witvche, makes humels , and i might get him to make one some day. his bass humel is great but he is the top wire strung harp maker in the world so his stuff isn't cheap.

my advice is get an apple creek or the best odd ball you can find and play for a while. then you'll have a good idea what sound you want to make for little money. then buy an expensive beauty.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Apr 12 - 10:09 AM

I've been playing since 1994, first a Black Mountain, then a more-powerful McSpadden. As I mentioned just above, I get more volume by playing on a table

I'm still intrigued by Spaw's friend Warren May in Berea and by Modern MD's in Batesville, AR. (They must have picked Batesville because it is about the hardest town in Arkansas for potential buyers to get to.)

In my atlas, the roads to Batesville are all marked with dots. You know what that means? Scenic road. Allow plenty of time. Bring your tent.

Perhaps I can persuade my husband to schedule several days for us to get to Batesville, enjoying the scenery and geology (will it be Ozark or Ouchitan, I wonder) and perhaps the birdwatching along the way.

Sorry, Spaw. Berea is so much further away...


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: Arkie
Date: 12 Apr 12 - 03:15 PM

Leeneia, from previous posts I assume you have been to Mountain View. Batesville is about 38 miles beyond Mtn. View. McKinney's shop is not actually in Batesville. I think it is closer to Deshea which is located between Mtn. View and Batesville. It may only be about 30 miles beyond Mtn. View. There are several ways to get to Batesville but if it were me I would take Hwy 66 at Leslie into Mtn. View where Hwy 66 becomes Hwy 14 at some point. And continue on toward Batesville. There are a few hills and curves but if you really want scenic you should take Hwy 9 at Clinton and approach Mtn. View from that direction. Hwy 14 intersects with Hwy 25 (Heber Springs Road)at Locust Grove which boasts a stop sign, and a rundown building in the corner of the intersection with 250 lawnmowers in the yard. It will not be all that far to McKinney from that point. His shop is on the left with a noticeable sign on the road.

Batesville is a nice little town of about 10,000 people and located on the White River. I do most of my birdwatching from the window to my backyard so I cannot be much help in that department. I have not eaten at Josie's in quite a while and it has changed hands since, but it does have a nice location right on the river.

The Highland Games at Lyon College start tomorrow.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Apr 12 - 10:26 AM

Thanks for the info, Arkie. My husband and I looked at the map of Arkansas yesterday, and he came up with Plan B. He's always wanted to visit Memphis, so we think we'll fly to Memphis, be tourists, rent a car and go the Batesville.

Someday.

If the sellers ever put up their schedule, we just might catch them at a festival.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: Arkie
Date: 13 Apr 12 - 04:50 PM

Though it is not that far, I know very little about Memphis. Was there a couple of times for Folk Alliance which kept me occupied and several times to catch or meet a plane. Did get to Beale Street which has been cleaned up a lot from the old days and there are some interesting music clubs. The trip to Batesville is mostly over flat delta land and takes about 3 1/2 hours depending on route and driving habits. The route through Wynne and Bald Knob has straighter, less challenging roads. The route through Newport may be a little shorter, but the strip between Newport and Batesville does wind around a bit.

If you have a fondness for BBQ Ribs, the Rendezvous has quite a reputation. They have a website and reviews, some good, some not, are posted online.

The Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View is holding their annual Dulcimer Jamboree April 26-28. Win the contest or place in top three and you can win a dulcimer made by the Dulcimer Shoppe. The Dulcimer Shoppe is the sponsor and only Mountain Dulcimer vendor on hand but David usually shows up for the event.


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Apr 12 - 09:30 AM

Well, well! Thank you very much!


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Subject: RE: best fretted dulcimer?
From: GUEST,Carole Bannister
Date: 14 Apr 12 - 10:05 AM

I have 2 hammered dulcimers from Tim Manning in Frome, Somerset and they're lovely to play! You can contact him through Facebook or musicmagic. Hope that helps.


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