Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1 1/2 Fret - or more than you wanted to know about a Mountain Dulcimer

As I struggle to play C as a bar chord on the 6th fret, my Mountain Dulcimer teacher took a moment to mention to me, that my life might be easier if I have a 1 1/2 fret added to my dulcimer. What's that you might ask? It's an extra fret between the 1st and 2nd fret. This would enable me to play a C chord as an easy transition from Em, AND play an F chord, which does not exist on my lovely diatonic dulcimer tuned to D A D. I told you it was more than you wanted to know. Why do I love obscure zither instruments anyway? Why couldn't I have just tried taking up the guitar...again.
Well the guitar route failed me twice, and I do so love the sound of an Autoharp, the drone of the Mountain Dulcimer, and the ringing of a Kantele. So here I am, learning a song that would be so much easier with a 1 1/2 fret. For now I must do it the hard way, but once my music party is over, she might be put into the hands of a luthier to make my life that much easier. Because I want to play in the key of C as well, without having to re-tune. Call me crazy, but I think that variety is the spice of life. The instrument pictured above has both a 1 1/2 and 8 1/2 fret.

Also, an instrument doesn't have to be hard to learn to play to make beautiful music. The mountain dulcimer provides that, and as it turns out, allows for a little more customization in order to play it the way you want it. My first custom change was to remove the second melody string, turning my four string into a three string, it simplifies chording and allows equal play on all three strings for the melody. Now I want to add an extra fret. Technically, I already have 2 extras, the 6 1/2 and the 13 1/2 which are very common on modern mountain dulcimers. Heck, you can even get a fully chromatic one these days, which is kind of like taking up a guitar.

So, I will check with Hoffman Guitars, and see how much they would charge to add an additional fret...or two.

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