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  • Dulcimers: What do I need to know?

    Hi all,

    Since I won't be getting a guitar this year, I am thinking of getting an Appalachian Dulcimer (as opposed to a hammer dulcimer). I've got the basics, but does anyone have any tips on what to look for, good or bad?

    Also, in my research, I've come across the 'Merlin' from Godin, which is basically a dulcimer played like a guitar. Does anyone have experience with these?

    Any thoughts, tips greatly appreciated!

    Glenn
    "The Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."

    Karl Marx

  • #2
    Glenn, I'm far from an expert on dulcimers but I did build one a long time ago (my first home made instrument) and I have noodled around enough to at least have some understanding of them. As you probably know, they have diatonic fretboards, meaning that they don't have all the sharps and flats of a normal chromatic layout. They are tuned and played in different keys, usually called "modes" (which I have never totally figured out). Most of them have four strings, the top two are tuned in unison, some only have three. They are played lap style and can be fretted with fingers or with a wooden stick called a "noter" - usually just the first pair of string and kind of like a slide instrument. They are usually strummed with a pick, altho I think the traditional plectrum is a turkey quill feather.

    There are two main shapes, teardrop and hour glass - I don't think that makes any difference. They can be made out of all kinds of woods - mahogany and walnut are common - again, I don't think it makes a huge difference. One thing to consider might be building a kit - they are one of the easiest stringed instruments to build and kits are plentiful

    http://www.stewmac.com/Materials_and...cimer_Kit.html

    I live in the PNW and we have a wonderful folk dulcimer player who I have taken from lessons from

    http://www.heidimuller.com/

    And for what it is worth, here is mine

    http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f3...r/IMG_2035.jpg

    http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f3...r/IMG_2034.jpg

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Freeman,

      Thanks for your reply. Your dulcimer looks great! Unfortunately, I am not the 'DIY' type, as can be seen in the picture. Last time I tried to build a model airplane, it ended up pretty much like Calvin's....

      One thing I found about the 'Merlin' is that it has fewer frets than a real dulcimer. So, that's out. Another issue I've come across is that they are so light, it is difficult to keep them placed in the lap properly.
      Last edited by Glenn F; 10-22-2017, 05:59 AM.
      "The Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."

      Karl Marx

      Comment


      • #4
        I new of a couple a girls I worked with that played hammer dulcimer.

        Here's some of the best USA hand crafted ulcimers I know off.

        Like anything else you can spend 100 bucks or you can spend much more.

        I like the look of the Seagul, by they way.

        Made in Arkansas

        https://www.mcspaddendulcimers.com/s...lts.asp?cat=29

        Made in Indiana

        https://folkcraft.com/products/folkr...number-8112262





        _____________________________________
        Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

        Join Date: Aug 2001
        Location: N. Adams, MA USA
        Posts as of Jan 10th 2013: 82,617

        Comment


        • #5
          Similar to the Seagul Merlin

          Ashville, NC

          http://thewoodrow.com/contact-woodrow-instruments/
          _____________________________________
          Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

          Join Date: Aug 2001
          Location: N. Adams, MA USA
          Posts as of Jan 10th 2013: 82,617

          Comment


          • #6
            Joni Mitchell. Now she could really coax a tune from a dulcimer.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mikeo View Post
              I new of a couple a girls I worked with that played hammer dulcimer.

              Here's some of the best USA hand crafted ulcimers I know off.

              Like anything else you can spend 100 bucks or you can spend much more.

              I like the look of the Seagul, by they way.

              Made in Arkansas

              https://www.mcspaddendulcimers.com/s...lts.asp?cat=29

              Made in Indiana

              https://folkcraft.com/products/folkr...number-8112262




              Hi Mike,

              Those look really nice, but the major issue is I am in Europe. I've been searching online for a place that has some decent instruments here, and there are not many choices that I have come across. They are usually in the €100-€200 range, and I wouldn't expect much for that money. After reading about the Merlin, I've decided that, if I actually can find one, I will go with a traditional instrument.


              "The Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."

              Karl Marx

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Glenn F View Post

                Hi Mike,

                Those look really nice, but the major issue is I am in Europe. I've been searching online for a place that has some decent instruments here, and there are not many choices that I have come across. They are usually in the €100-€200 range, and I wouldn't expect much for that money. After reading about the Merlin, I've decided that, if I actually can find one, I will go with a traditional instrument.


                I bought a bodhran from a guy that hand makes them in Ireland. It took a while (3 weeks), cause the chap had some family issues. I did the PayPal thing and everything was cool. His stuff was very nice and the price was very reasonable. I knew about Cooperman Drums out of Bellows Fall VT, which isn't far from me, however. I thought that they were really pricey for what you got. Most of the other stuff I saw for bodharns here in the USA where novelty wall hangers.

                I had good luck ordering from the UK. You might be able to order a fine dulcimer and have it set to where you live.

                Best wishes.







                _____________________________________
                Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

                Join Date: Aug 2001
                Location: N. Adams, MA USA
                Posts as of Jan 10th 2013: 82,617

                Comment













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