Friday, November 8, 2013

DAD - Dulcimer Acquisition Disease

There is a longing in my heart right now that sings out to the tune of "Basketball Jones" only with Dulcimer in the place of the basketball, and I've got it bad. Last night I cleaned my dulcimer, oiled the fretboard and changed the strings. My sweet Mary Jane looks and sounds wonderful. A week from tomorrow will be my 5th Annual Fall Music Party, and I am very excited to have a bunch of friends over to play and listen. We always welcome both Pickers (musicians) and Grinners (audience) to the party. It's always potluck and BYOB and loads and loads of fun.

So in preparation, I'm taking care of my main instruments. Last week I tuned my autoharp after several months of it sitting idle, it took an entire hour. Now I've got my sweet mountain dulcimer in tip top shape. But the Jones, aka Dulcimer Acquisition Disease or DAD, did not go away because of these activities...and it is so strong. It is an instrument acquisition Jones. I recognize the symptoms.  That longing after something Other than what I already have. There are no funds for a new instrument, I have other plans for my money at the moment such as pay off my credit card, buy a love seat and rug for the living room, and the long term goal is to pay off my student loans.

I think a new dulcimer would be a suitable reward for that final payoff. Don't you? That way I can quietly look at all the dulcimer options available to me, savor the yearning for a new instrument for a good long time, and when the time is right...scratch that itch and get a new dulcimer. There are lots of options out there. Six string, baritone, hourglass, different woods, sound holes and so much more. And you know what? I found the ultimate Mountain Dulcimer porn site. Tons of photos of different models, they even have a Kantele that I can dream about acquiring. It is the same place I bought my sweet Mary Jane from, and the Folkroots travel dulcimer I reviewed last spring.

It doesn't help that I had a dream the other night that I went to a folk festival and met Bing Futch, a spokesperson for their dulcimers, and host of the Dulcimerica Podcast. I don't remember much about the dream, it was about finding my room and getting registered and stuff. So I think a Dulcimer Festival will be in my future at some point as well. I have lots of things to dream  about, like this little beauty:

This sure would make a sweet addition to my little instrument family. Learning new songs and techniques helps take the edge off the Jones temporarily, so I will do what I can to be worthy of such a beautiful dulcimer someday!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review of FolkRoots Travel Dulcimer

Last year I was lucky enough to hear about a free trial of a new model of dulcimer. The folks over at Folk Craft Instruments were designing a dulcimer based on an old FolkRoots Travel Dulcimer and were asking for volunteers to try it out and give it a review. So I signed up and many months later, the FolkRoots Travel Dulcimer arrived, with a Honduras Mahogany Body, Honduras Mahogany Soundboard, 22 Inch Scale Length, with 1 1/2 and 8 1/2 Frets.

When I opened the package and pulled out this sweet little dulcimer I was immediately charmed by it's symplicity and clean craftmanship. The color is rich and warm, and I was eager to try out the sound. Because of the short size, it fits nicely in the lap whether there are arms on a chair, or if I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor.

What I found was a crisp tone that was very enjoyable, and more volume than I expected in such a small instrument. It has a bit of a plucky sound that reminds me a little of a Ukulele, due to it's smaller size and short string length no doubt, but not overly so. The notes are not sustained as long as a full size mountain dulcimer, but the tone is quite nice, and has a pleasing warmth.

Fingerpicking gave a surprisingly rich full bodied sound, none of the pluckiness that I mentioned earlier. Vigorous strumming had more of the high silvery mountain dulcimer drone that goes great with traditional tunes. The middle 'A' string did buzz a bit when strummed with strong force, but only when left open. Other than that the action was really sweet and that made it easy to play.

Because I'm used to traditional dulcimers, I found the shallow height of the fretboard a little difficult at first, since I brace against the fretboard with my thumb for both chording with my left hand and fingerpicking with my right. But I did manage to get accustomed to it fairly quickly. I do not play with a noter, and I can see how that might be a challenge as well. I imagine with regular play adding a pickguard might not be a bad idea, as there definitely could be wear and tear over time. But if it's not played very often it would not be an issue.

All in all, the FolkRoots Travel Dulcimer is a sturdy little instrument that you can take anywhere and play. It would make a nice companion on either a hiking trail or college campus, and it is quite charming in my little studio room that I use for practicing. Sadly, it is too similar to my own mountain dulcimer (a Folkcraft FSH) to make it worth keeping; but it has been a pleasure trying out this little beauty, and I can recommend it to anyone who wants a small instrument that they can take anywhere.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Mountain Dulcimer is like a kitten

My mountain dulcimer is like a kitten, she sleeps in her stand looking all pretty, somehow more adorable each time I glance her way. A couple of days ago she even helped me find my way out of a pickle. I've been wanting to learn Joni Mitchell's "River" for some time now, and due to the variety of chords not usually found in a diatonic dulcimer, I thought my autoharp would be just the instrument. Well, it seems that didn't work quite right. I was missing a key chord, a combination chord of Dm and C, that really sets the tone for the whole song.

 My sweet Mary Jane, and the 1 1/2 fret I had added, came to the rescue. I figured out how to play that particular chord, and the song sounds much more complete. Like a kitten, my mountain dulcimer craves a certain amount of attention. This time stealing it away from my autoharp. Tonight is the night I catch up on some emails I need to write, so I was pretty excited to see an email from the folks at Folkcraft. It seems they are still sending out travel dulcimers for players to review and it's my turn to try it out! So look for my review, complete with photos here on the blog. The other thing in my inbox was a link to Dulcimerica 210 with Big Futch. A couple of sweet tunes on a baritone dulcimer, one of which I can play on my own little Folkcraft. Enjoy!