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Dulcimer Capo
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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DanielB
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December 7, 2012 - 2:37 am
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I know there's a few dulcimer players here, from talking in the chatroom.  I mentioned dulcimer capos and somebody or other hadn't seen or heard of them, as I recall.

I just finished putting one together for my dulcimer, so I figured I'd put up a pic.

 

100_0351.JPGImage Enlarger

 

  You can get storebought ones, but they aren't really hard to make.  This one is just a couple little blocks of hardwood I whittled and sanded and drilled and put together with a bolt and a couple washers and a wingnut from the hardware store.   I paid a dollar something for the hardware and the wood was just scrap I had around.

If you maybe play a bit of dulcimer but haven't ever tried using a capo, you can just use something like a pencil and a big rubberband to hold it on to get the idea and mess with it a bit and see you think it's worth getting or making one. 

Dulcimers aren't designed traditionally to be chromatic instruments, so it takes a bit of retuning and sometimes swapping some strings to play in some keys with them.  Or you can use a capo. 

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"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Ferret
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December 7, 2012 - 4:48 am
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Hi Daniel

Nice work. I've always, in my 62 years, dabbled in woodwork. It's always better when you can make your own.

I've never had any experience with the instrument. Could you post something so that I can hear it? smile

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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Fiddlestix
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I've played guitar for fifty some year's and this is the first time I've ever heard the technical name "capo",, we alway's called em "cheater bars". 

You're never too old to learn.    Good one, Dannyboy.  clap

                                christmascandle

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RosinedUp
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@Ferret: type 'dulcimer' into the search box at http://www.youtube.com/

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DanielB
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RosinedUp is quite correct.  If you hit youtube and look for dulcimer vids there a lot of them.  They some in quite a variety of shapes, and there's a lot of different ways they can be played.  You can find much more there than I can show. 

 

@Fiddlestix:  Considering what Barry said in that other thread about "player" meaning something different these days, would we even want to know what a "cheater bar" is?

LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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RosinedUp
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Since the capo doesn't go around the neck like a guitar capo would, I guess you have to press the bolt downward to compress the strings, then tighten the nut so that the position and downward pressure are maintained by clamping against the sides of the fretboard.

If someone used a pencil as you mention, I guess the rubber band would have to go around the body, not just the neck.

Just checking,

(signed) Mr. Obvious.

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Ferret
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DanielB said

RosinedUp is quite correct.  If you hit youtube and look for dulcimer vids there a lot of them.  They some in quite a variety of shapes, and there's a lot of different ways they can be played.  You can find much more there than I can show. 

True, but I was hoping to hear 'you' play it banjo-1207

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DanielB
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@RosinedUp:  You really only need it to press down slightly, enough to fret the string, not all the way to the board like most guitar capos do.  One of the reasons I made mine instead of buying it is I wanted it to not clamp the string too hard to the fretboard, so I can touch up or change tunings when it's on. 

I don't care for capo on guitar, but guitar is a chromatic instrument and doesn't really need one in most cases.  Using capo on dulcimer is also pretty good for exploring modes and some of the harmony relationships in them.

And yes, when using a pencil as a makeshift capo the rubberband pretty much has to go around the back of the instrument.  It isn't very optimal, but it works in a pinch and would let someone try capo on dulcimer before they go and buy or make one.

 

@Ferret:  Oh.  Duh.  Ok, I'll see if I can get some time today or tonight when it is quiet enough to record a little something on it.  I used dulcimer for one of my tracks for the "Bile dem cabbages" project, but it would be hard to hear in the mix.

Mountain/Appalachian dulcimer (there is the other sort of dulcimer that has more strings and is played with with little mallets) is a fun instrument.  A very easy one to start sounding good on for most people as compared to violin which is considered challenging. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Picklefish
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December 7, 2012 - 5:24 pm
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my book says you can use a chop stick and a rubberband. cheap and easy.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Ferret
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picklefish said

my book says you can use a chop stick and a rubberband. cheap and easy.

Will only end up in tears. beg

You reach a very technical part of the piece you are playing. You Dulcimer begins to overheat and the next thing you know..... (ping), the elastic bad gives way and you end up with a chop stick through your head.

I woudn't want "death by dulcimer " on 'my' death certificate roflol

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DanielB
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I don't see a lot of functional difference between a pencil and a chopstick, but if Pf does, then that's ok.

The problems I actually found with using a pencil and a rubber band come from what happens when you take a thin stick, support it in the middle and pull down on the ends.  (The support in the middle being the dulcimer fingerboard and the pressure on the ends being from the rubber band pulling it down.)  It bends a little. 

That makes the pressure on the strings unequal, and also results in the strings on the outside being pinched down hard onto fingerboard.  That could maybe leave grooves eventually, but the problems with them being pressed down too tight are more immediate.  It interferes with being able to touch up the tuning on those strings, and (depending on how high your frets are) may pull those strings slightly out of tune since it can press down harder than your finger would.

That is why I went to the bother of making the little capo I put together.  So far as being cheap and easy, mine cost me less than 2 bucks and took maybe a half hour to make.  I think of myself as "notoriously frugal" and "not overly industrious", so if you can beat me on those qualities Pf, you def have accomplished something.  LOL

It is also a personal thing.  I like my gear to look like gear.  Like something that was maybe intentionally made to work as part of a musical instrument or as an accessory made for a musical instrument.  A rubber band and a pencil didn't have that look to my way of thinking, and I doubt I would have liked a chopstick better.  But like I said, that is a matter of personal style and one performer may go onstage with stuff that another performer wouldn't be caught dead being seen playing on.  I have known players who played perfectly well on assorted instruments that actually liked things to look a bit "rigged up" and considered it a plus for being more "rustic" or "folksy".  I just was never one of them. LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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December 10, 2012 - 9:03 am
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And here's a little dulcimer playing because Ferret asked.  To keep it on-topic, the first bit is played without the capo and the second bit is played with the capo on at the first fret. 

Not my best playing, it was a "one take" shot.  But as you can hear, doesn't take more than a couple seconds or make any appreciable amount of noise to put the capo on. 

Unlike capo-ing a guitar or something, putting a capo on a dulcimer changes the "mode" you are playing in, as well as the key.  Definitely much faster than retuning the instrument between songs.

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"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Almandin
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That's lovely, Daniel! What a special sound that thing has. Nice impro on GRYMG! smile

And don't forget: I'm still hoping for a video of you and your autoharp. beg

~ Once you've ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true. ~

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Ferret
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DanielB said

And here's a little dulcimer playing because Ferret asked.  To keep it on-topic, the first bit is played without the capo and the second bit is played with the capo on at the first fret. 

Not my best playing, it was a "one take" shot.  But as you can hear, doesn't take more than a couple seconds or make any appreciable amount of noise to put the capo on. 

Unlike capo-ing a guitar or something, putting a capo on a dulcimer changes the "mode" you are playing in, as well as the key.  Definitely much faster than retuning the instrument between songs.

Thanks for that Daniel. Sounded nice.

The string setup surprised me.

The only instrument that I've had any experience with is the violin but I'm interested in others. I almost bought a Ukulele yesterdayamuse

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coolpinkone
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Daniel that was so good!!!! What is the name of the first song...I humm it all the time but don't know it's name. Bravo!!! That was kewl.dancing

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ratvn
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That is very lovely and beautiful playing, Daniel.

I also admire people who can play harp, lol, maybe it was my impression looking at pictures of old performance centuries ago, where lute and harp were played together.

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Annon
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December 10, 2012 - 11:45 pm
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Many years ago I almost bought a dulcimer to take aboard ship to learn music, but for some reason I bought a mandolin instead (they are both small and easily transported and stored).  I dropped the Mandolin fairly quickly as it did not lend itself to the direction I wanted to take in music.   I wished then that I had bought the dulcimer.  

 

Now that I'm into violin, flute, recorder, fife, and the latest, harmonica, I'm still drawn to the dulcimer.  One day, if I ever get back to the states, I am going to seek one out.  they are playable and rhythm-y, and they have a better sound, IMO, than a banjo or other plucked string instrument within the range of extreme portability.

I'd like to see a poll which asks violin players which other instruments they are attracted to.  the responses might prove interesting 

 

good work Danial...please post more audio of the instrument.crossedfingers

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DanielB
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Glad folks enjoyed it.  Dulcimer is a simpler instrument to play than violin in some ways, and rather quiet compared to a violin, so it is one of my instrument choices for evening when the household is quieting down.  Like any instrument, there are folks that can be just amazing on it.  I settle for trying to be reasonably competent, so there are many excellent dulcimer players that can blow me out of the water.  But I know it well enough and have played it enough over the years to be able to enjoy playing it.

 

@coolpinkone:  The first song is "Angels We Have Heard on High", an old trad Christmas carol. 

@Ferret: Yeah, the string setup can seem kind of odd, since traditionally the melody is mostly carried on the pair of high strings and the lower strings work as drones.  The more modern way of playing it involves chording on it, which can also sound really good.  I usually pick it up when I am in the mood for an instrument with some drone, though, so I keep my playing rather simple compared to some folks out there.

@ratvn: My harp isn't currently in playable condition.  I've been trying to decide whether to put the priority on repairing the old one or building a new one.  I ran across some really neat "nitrogen bent" wood that would make an interesting frame.  My old one is something someone put together mostly from furniture parts, probably during WWII or the Great Depression.  Some points of their design weren't as robust as one might have hoped.

@Annon:  Harmonica is one of the instruments I've never gotten good on.  I have a typical Hohner Bluesband C.  I play a bit of woodwinds, like you, though.  I have a bamboo flute, a rosewood fife, and a blown glass piccolo as well as a couple of recorders.

@Almandin: Ah, you haven't forgotten about the autoharp.  LOL  Ok, I'll see if I can manage to get a take of a bit of playing on that.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Annon
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December 11, 2012 - 1:54 am
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Here is an electric dulcimer with capo on 4th fret.

Not too shabby.

 

 

And with this video I can now play a dulcimer, and I've never before learned how to play one.

 

I cant believe how excited I am about the dulcimer......THANKS A LOT, DANIEL.

My wife is looking at me crossed eyed.  "What?  Another instrument?" she says.facepalm

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