Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday's Muse

Leap year!
Famous leapers: If you were born on leap day, you share a birthday with composer Gioacchino Rossini, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, jazz musician Jimmy Dorsey, actors Dennis Farina and Antonio Sabato Jr., and rapper/actor Ja Rule.

Ladies, here's your chance!
Leap year traditions: It's acceptable for a woman to propose to a man on Feb. 29. The custom has been attributed to St. Bridget, who is said to have complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for men to propose marriage. Patrick supposedly gave women one day to propose.

Friday, February 26, 2016

CTO ... Our State Magazine reports on the hammered dulcimer

Check This Out ... Article featuring the hammered dulcimer, North Carolina's premier dulcimer store, and my favorite builder. Check it out!
published February 12, 2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

String Replacement ... Continued

My 8 o'clock student showed up this morning with a length of .025 wire in hand and a dulcimer minus its low F# course of strings. Time for a string replacement demo!

We ran into some obstacles, which has inspired me to make an addendum to the article posted on Wednesday, February 17 concerning string replacement.

First, in addition to the missing string ...
I noticed the piece of delrin was gone. That's the little rod that sits on the dulcimer bridge under the strings, sometimes called "bridge caps." Some instruments have a continuous black rod along the length of the bridge. Other instruments, including the one in question, have a separate piece of delrin for each course of strings. These separate pieces of delrin are often color coded black or white to correspond to "marked" and "unmarked" courses. Typically loose - i.e. not glued down - without string tension the delrin may fall to the ground. Do not lose your delrin! If you do, no worries. You can buy more. Check with your builder. Or check with other builders, such as Dusty Strings or Master Works.

Luckily, I have many instruments around the house, including one that has been retired because of structural defects. I guess it is now officially being used for "parts"!

Second, my student's instrument was originally strung using one continuous piece of wire per course of two strings. I hate that. If you break "a" string, you've got nothing! Both strings are gone. Alternatively, if you put on two separate wires and one breaks, you still have one string to play on.

Third, this morning's available wire was long enough to replace one length of dulcimer string 4 times over. That's GOOD, because we needed two strings on that course and sometimes strings break while replacing them. That's BAD because we did not have pre-cut, pre-looped wires. Believe me when I say, it's much easier to put on individual strings that have been pre-cut and pre-looped.

I will spare you all the gory details, but suffice it to say that I did break the supplied wire several times. Ended up using a wire I had on hand, pre-looped, size .026 ... close enough! Successfully installed that wire without incident. I finally was successful in looping a length of the provided wire by hand and installing it as the second string. Woo hoo!

Then tonight, I read this:
"Besides the tensile strength of the wire itself, the next most important thing about the wire is the loop that goes around the hitch pin. If you do not get this exactly right, you will never get the higher tension wires to tune. You also have to consider how many coils you want to take for each loop. If you take too many coils then you will weaken the loop or the loop will cut into the side bridge when the wire is tightened. If you take too few, the loop will un-twist."  ~ from Stringing the Dulcimer, Everything Dulcimer

"Exactly right"? Ha ha! I guess we'll see how long that second string lasts!

Let's review.  What have we learned?

  • Hang on to your delrin
  • Order pre-cut, pre-looped wires from your supplier

Please do share your own stories of stringing adventure!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday's Muse

Young people can learn from my example that something can come from nothing. What I have become is the result of my hard efforts.  ~ Franz Joseph Haydn

Friday, February 19, 2016

CTO ... Steve & Ruth Smith Release New CD

Congratulations to Steve and Ruth Smith on the release of their newest CD, "A Good Life."

Check This Out ... This newest CD is comprised of 13 mostly original cuts - both vocals and instrumentals - that speak of things that contribute to "a good life." I'm always pleased to find accompanying liner notes, and Steve & Ruth do not disappoint! The story behind each song / tune and its significance to the idea of a good life is included.

"A Good Life" will be available for sale on February 20, 2016. Check it out!! That's tomorrow!
For cut list and to place orders, go to their website:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The thought of breaking a string on the hammered dulcimer is terrifying to many players. It does happen, but truly, it's typically a rare occurrence.

I broke a string a couple of weeks ago. Finally got around to replacing it the other day. It was the Bb string at the upper end of the super bass bridge on my 4-1/2 octave JRS concertmaster. Not so surprising, as that is the most likely string to break on my instrument. What I find hard to believe is that three of my students have broken strings in the past month. For one guy, it was his first ever broken string, and he's been playing for 16 years! Must be something in the air.

The breaking of a dulcimer string is usually an unexpected event and can be quite startling. But replacing a string isn't that scary, or difficult. It's a rite of passage. Just do it!

  • Contact your builder to request a new string. Or, call the folks at North Carolina's premier dulcimer store, Song of the Wood. I recommend getting at least two replacement strings. Sometimes the first try doesn't work out and a string is ruined beyond use. 
  • You'll need to request the proper size string. Consult your tuning / string size chart that came with the purchase of your instrument. Or, provide the make / model of your instrument and the note that is produced by the string. If you're talking to dulcimer people they should be able to figure out what is needed.
  • Watch Dan Landrum's tutorial: "Changing a Hammered Dulcimer String" on youtube. He gives essential tips, such as "back out the tuning peg before you wind on a new string!" His instructions are concise and clear, and you can look at it as many times as needed.

Good luck!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday's Muse

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.  ~ Charles M. Schulz

Friday, February 12, 2016

CTO ... Love playing music with friends?

In case you haven't heard, Sunday is Valentines Day. It's also the 2nd Sunday of the month ...
Slow Jam day!

Check This Out ... Slow Jam of the Triangle meets this Sunday, February 14, 2:00 - 4:00pm, St. Giles Presbyterian Church5101 Oak Park Road, Raleigh.

  • Meet new friends
  • Learn new tunes
  • Practice repertoire in a relaxed setting
  • Share your love for making music
Check it out! And feel free to bring a friend. All acoustic instruments are welcome.

Now, who's got the chocolate??

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday's Muse

“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.” 
~ Maria von Trapp

Friday, February 5, 2016

CTO ... Constellation Celebrates CD Release

Constellation, the Triangle-based duo comprised of Helen Wolfson (hammered dulcimer) and Eric Thomas (guitar), have announced the release of their newest CD, "Altogether Too Splendid." They will be celebrating with a CD release party / concert this weekend.

Check This Out ... In Helen's words, "This CD is a milestone for us — all the music, except for one traditional reel that we couldn’t bear to exclude from the usual medley we play it in, is our own original stuff. You’ll find both lively and lyrical instrumentals as well as evocative vocals and a number of unusual compositions that we can only classify as our “eclectic acoustic” genre."

Saturday, February 6, 7:00pm

Saladelia, 4201 University Drive, Durham, NC.

If you can’t make it to the release party, you can hear the whole thing (and download any or all of it) on CD Baby. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

She sets her alarm to go off every 30 minutes!

We know we must practice.

While we practice, we must take care NOT to hurt ourselves.

Be sure to build in time to stretch, look up, look down, get a drink of water, throw laundry in the dryer, stir the soup ... you get the idea. Take a moment to step away from the dulcimer and move your body to avoid aches and pains.

I typically take a break every 30 minutes. Sometimes that time goes by so fast! If left to my own time perceptions, I'm afraid hours would go by, my neck would seize up, my shoulders would find a permanent home next to my ears, and my lower back might go on strike.

So I depend my own devices ... my iPhone, to be exact. I simply ask Siri to set an alarm for "30 minutes from now," then I go at it for half-an-hour. The alarm goes off. I take my break.

Refreshed, I get back to practice!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monday's Muse

Art is how we decorate space.
Music is how we decorate time.  ~ Anonymous