As promised, here is the link to the first tune I've recorded with Alberto, the Dulcitar. "Cotton-Eyed Joe" is the only song that has made the jump from dulcimer to Dulcitar, so I decided to have some fun with it. I used a world beat drum loop from Garageband 3 and then arranged the tune so that it built up with slow, dramatic chords and then launched into a fiddle-style riff. Except for the drum loop, everything you hear is Dulcitar, including the bass. I'm using a DigiTech GNX2 effects module to get the different sounds, but left the main lines pretty clean to let the Dulcitar shine through. It's only two minutes long and was thrown together in about forty minutes.
Despite the first named tropical storm of the season swirling around outside, I went to work for a half-day and came back in time to meet the UPS truck. With rain spattering down upon the big brown box, I came back into the house and opened it up.
First off, Doug was going to include a soft case with my purchase, but Jae sneakily contacted him and asked for an upgrade as an anniversary present and let me tell you, it's a mighty impressive case. I opened it up, caught a beautiful whiff of "new case smell" and let it wash over me, looking down at my new axe.
What can I say except, "he's beautiful." Going back and forth throughout the day about what to name him, and at one point actually figuring that he would be a she after all, and with the storm sending the rain sideways, was going to call her "Wendy" (you know, "who's walking down the streets of the city", etc.) - but once I plugged this bad boy in and started cranking through some riffs, it was clear that it was indeed a boy, and the name that had been circulating through my head and heart was "Alberto." They arrived on the same day, didn't they?
Doug did a fantastic job - enclosing a note which gave me some technical pointers and suggestions for future routing and electronics work. Man, what a sound! With one pickup, it's pretty solid, but with two pickups kicked on, he fairly screams "ROCK ME BABY, ROCK ME ALLLL NIGHT LOOONG!" A tone that's crisp and clear, fat and frantic - especially running through the GNX2 module, which was finally up and running thanks to the delivery of an adapter yesterday. I tried tuning it to DDad (the bass strings are doubled instead of the melody and they are in reverse order) and went for the test - could I play standard dulcimer tunes in standard fashion? It wasn't coming easy, so I flipped him over and played it like a guitar. Thruummmmmmm. Much fun noodling that way for awhile.
Then I tried tuning it the way Doug had suggested: EEbe, which he said made it easier to jam along with guitarists. Just this whole step bump brought new life into the chords and, placing him on my lap, played Alberto in standard style and, what do you know, I found myself jamming "Cotton-Eyed Joe" after running through the diatonic scale a few times to orientate myself with the chromatic set-up. It'll take some getting used to. After doing that for awhile, I took a tour through the sound module patches and just went for it. Ahhhh, what a blast! I cranked through a rockin' version of Scooter Jennings' "Electric Rodeo" and decided "oh yeah - me and this boy is gonna have some fun here."
So, I'm tickled silly and, mindful that I've got a lot of cleaning around the house to do in anticipation of our new sofa that's being delivered on Thursday, I took a few pictures and promised Alberto that I'd haul him back out tonight after stopping by Guitar Center and picking up a proper strap. Below are a few photos of the new arrival and hopefully soon, I'll post the first little ditty that springs from the wood and steel.
To quote Walt Disney, "I'm so happy I could just bust." The Dulcitar has been completed and is currently en route from New Hampshire, scheduled to arrive Tuesday, according to the UPS website. When Doug sent the final pictures and I got that first look at the completed instrument, an electric shock ran through my body and I had to stifle a yelp of euphoric glee (euphorically?) Due to arrive on Monday is a power cord for my Digitech GNX2 effects board that I bought a few years back, played with for a couple of days and then promptly shelved when I bought the Line 6 Spyder amp. I never truly investigated the possibilities with the GNX2 and methinks that I wasn't quite ready for it back then anyway. Now that I've realized that tube amp is the only way to go in my search for tone, it seems the discontinued GNX2 is going to become my new best friend for awhile. (I have a talent for buying gear that quickly becomes obsolete.)
Below are the final pics that Doug took, which includes the placing of the frets on the neck. In the last picture, he stands with the completed treat, which he admitted was such a beauty that he was loathe to let it go.
Earlier on the phone today, Doug said that the Dulcitar was just about ready and would be shipped probably "by Tuesday." Which means that I won't be making any plans to do anything outside of the house next weekend, just making a mental note of that at this point.
As an anniversary gift, Jae contacted Doug and made an upgrade on a component that will come in really handy. He said that it sounds incredibly good, which is enough to get me salivating all the more. Though this is the second Dulcitar ever made (making the distinction of a Doug MacCormack Dulcitar, as opposed to some of the other instruments referred to as "dulcitar"), it is the first one with dual P-bass pickups. We talked a little bit about the mix between the two single-coil pickups and the Piezo pickup that's also installed to give the solid-body instrument an acoustic setting. It was real neat talking to him, he really does love the craft of creating and the gift of performing. Doug seems as excited as I am to get her out there in front of people and I promised some recordings of early test runs, when I open her up and see what she can do. We also talked about string gauges, what he's been using and what I'm used to using, so that he can cut the nut and bridge into equi-distant optional stringing. Being a solidbody, the body can take more string pressure - he says he's using .052 gauge for the bass string. This might give me the chance to try out a violin or ukelele tuning as well. Nice.
More pictures to come, but the wait is almost over. I could just dance.
The only electronic device that I spent any real length of time with was my tuner, while down in Key West. Joline and Angelique came for the ride. Kicking back is always a major priority when we go down there, so this time around featured more "kicking back with a dulcimer." The first time Jae and I went to Key West and during subsequent visits, I ended up playing short sets at the American Legion on Stock Island or providing pre-Thanksgiving dinner entertainment. This year, my sister-in-law Sherri asked me to play some tunes before our cookout on Wednesday for some members of the American Legion, which resulted in an invite to come play for the Legion after they finished repairs following Hurricane Wilma. The post got smacked up pretty good (pictures of a refrigerator stuck to the ceiling spring to mind), but the downstairs bar was coming along sweetly.
I've been all about the practice, trying to get my chops up for Kentucky Music Week, which is June 25th through 30th. The room's booked, the enrollment form and check sent in - it's Bardstown, Kentucky or bust!
We left for Key West on the 27th, blew down the state in roughly seven hours and didn't look back.
Today, we returned to Orlando but we're not yet back from vacation. Hell, it's still Friday.
We had a blast; Jae and I enjoy the same things about the island, so we just flit about, as some of these pictures show. The traditional sailing on the Liberty schooner took place on May 30th, our second anniversary. The PT boat attacked us again, guns a-blazing, though we saw it coming. It always scares a few people.
Mainly we just lost ourselves in love for a week in one of our favorite places, tuned in and dropped out. We are now in the re-entry phase of "dropping back in."