Thursday, April 14, 2005
Where Does The Day Go?
Since you've already met Halcyon (and I just met her myself), here's the final introduction in my family of mountain dulcimers. Her name is "Angelique" and she got her name from a combination of the words "angel" and "unique."
She's an angel because she winged her way into Mohave at a time when the band was ready to push upwards into the next level. Joline was handling all of the chores, doing just fine as an acoustic instrument pushing electric power, but it was time to fine-tune the control I had over both tone and volume. After a few false-starts waiting for a custom solidbody out of Cripple Creek Dulcimers, I finally decided that an interim model would do. Approaching Patrick McKinney at the Winter Park Guitar Center, I asked him if he could fashion a shallowbody (not a solidbody, but not a full-bodied instrument either) out of an acoustic kit. Being the skillful guy that he is, he said "sure", and was excited about the prospect since he'd never built a dulcimer before.
So I ordered a walnut kit from Cripple Creek (Bud gave me a "family" discount, for which I was much appreciative) that featured sound hole designs by Donna Ford and when it was delivered, took it over to Patrick and we talked specs.
We'd want to diminish the size of the voice-box (the hollow chamber of the instrument) to cut back on sound levels that would prove problematic once amplified, but with enough resonation (is that a word?) left to color the tone with the distinctive dulcimer sound. We'd use an under-the-saddle pickup that would transmit sound from the strings through a built-in jack more efficiently than the stick-on transducer I had been using since the beginning of the band.
Two knobs, one for volume and one for tone control, would be situated on the lower right-hand side, easily within reach during performances. I also requested that the bridge and nut be cut to allow for equidistant stringing, to allow for different positioning of the strings. Patrick expressed a can-do attitude about the project and said that it would take perhaps a month or so to complete as he continued with his busy guitar repair business.
He delivered early. And to explain the second part of her name, she was certainly unique.
Patrick had done an excellent job converting an acoustic kit into an electric shallowbody dulcimer - cutting an access panel into the bottom so that the electronics could be reached easily. Her tone unplugged was warm and carried a good distance. Switched on and pumped through an amp, she was equally dainty and sweet, then forceful and commanding. A whole new world of playing styles had opened up.
Angelique set Mohave on a new course and changed, for the better, our sound. Sound engineers who had worked with us in the past marvelled at how clean her signal was, how controlled the tone was, how groovy the distortion was. Fans of the band loved her look and sound as well. By all accounts, she was a smashing success. It's been a little over a year now since she debuted, and she's still on active duty. Since Halcyon's Humbucker pick-up is better suited for the more aggressive rock songs, but her solidbody nature steals a little of the acoustic nature, Angelique will serve as the instrument I switch to for gentler songs. Also, since she's got equidistant capability, she'll also be the go-to dulcimer for new and exciting tunings.
Patrick and I are currently planning a sister for Angelique - a solidbody with custom specifications that will combine the best of both worlds. Until the eighth member of the MD family comes around, you can plan on seeing and hearing lots of Halcyon and Angelique as Mohave looks forward to a busy summer touring schedule!
Next in the family, a completely different instrument altogether, my 16/15 Chromatic Hammer Dulcimer! Stay tuned (heh-heh.....)