Monday, July 07, 2008

Yes, We Have Not Bloggedy

Well sir and well ma'am, got halfway through the month-long tour and suddenly, time sped up. That and connectivity continued to be sort of off and on throughout the Roscoe Village and Kentucky Music Week forays, so needless to say, I'm catching up with it all now. Sort of.

EverythingDulcimer Discussion :: View topic - Just A Dulcimer Geek Musing
So, I'm sitting here thinking about Dulcimettes and Eedie Beede's and other soprano mountain dulcimer creations and how little tiny they are - so cute - dainty things. Then I think about your bass and baritone dulcimers, always a little, if not a lot, bigger. I'd say honkin', even. And if you've ever played Mike Oliver's legendary bass dulcimer "The Blue Whale", then you've known that whole "bigger is better" thing rings true.

And then I started geeking out and thinking: "what about a super-big body for a dulcimer strung soprano?" Say for example, it's the same scale length and body length as a Dulcimette or Eedie Beede (am I spellin' that right? Dennis has got one, so that's what I"ve got pictured in my head), but instead of it being shallow - you extended the body straight down, like a platform shoe. You could even make it like a Sitar, where you have to be seated on the floor, and the amount of extension brings the dulcimer to a comfortable spot in your lap. Small scale, big sound box = I'm thinking, some kind of cool extra vibes that would open up the soprano dulcimer sound, like natural reverb.

I dunno. Just geeking out.

It was this thread that inspired Paul Conrad to explore the possibilities of a bigger, roomier soprano dulcimer:

EverythingDulcimer Discussion :: View topic - Just A Dulcimer Geek Musing
aaahhh, Bing you would have to go and mention something like this. Once upon a time, I had a train of thought very similar to yours and actually built a soprano dulcimer with a proportionally wider, deeper body. I ended up naming it Squeaky, and thought I was being pretty generous at that.

But the idea has taken root in the back of my mind (along with half a dozen other sorta non-standard designs I'd love to explore someday, when i get the time) and I keep thinking about it. I'm wondering what would happen if six strings were used and you went to the outer limits on the thinness of material. . .one of these days. . .

paul c

It was in Lisbon, Ohio this past May that Paul presented his creation to me, a soprano dulcimer unlike anything constructed, with a large voice box, floating fretboard, guitar bridge and six strings. It was a prototype, he said. "I'd like to build another one and let you take it for a test drive."

The prospect of being a test pilot for a new form of mountain dulcimer was high on the uber-cool scale, so I happily agreed. It was in Coshocton, not long after I finished my concert set, that Paul presented the instrument to me, wrapped in swaddling clothes that just happened to be a bath towel.

He had made some changes based on specs discussed at Dulci-More 14 in Lisbon; since I tend to anchor when I play, he lowered the fretboard and added a piece that allowed me to anchor comfortably.

It had the familiar Conrad wooden quilt design and an adjustable bridge. And odd-looking creature, but the sound was exactly what I thought it should sound like, what had inspired the muse in the first place. It's a much bigger sound than the usual tinny tone that comes from the small-bodied instruments, much more sustain and resonance. With the six strings, it bears an aural resemblance to a mandolin, but is unmistakably dulcimeric in tone quality.

It also has a L.R. Baggs pickup system installed and it's wired for sound. Since I just got home, the tests have only now begun and I'll post some sound samples here in a little while, but it's pretty cool - another great voice for the album.

Paul's website, Timbre Hill Dulcimers,
is filled with lots of cool eye-candy and a philosophy that comes with the manufacture of each instrument. I'm pretty stoked to be working closely with Paul in developing a new step forward for mountain dulcimers!

There's more to come from the road - such as the wildness of GOBA peeps and the week-long to-do that was this year's Kentucky Music Week, but I've got to get the DP News Online podcasts finished and posted before the night's over, along with Dulcimerica, and hopefully somewhere in there, a little practice and/or pool time if, no - not if but when time allows.

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