Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

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Month: February 2008 Page 1 of 2


Quote – Ibn Muqla

“I like the man who cultivates poetry for self-instruction, not for lucre, and the man who practices music for pleasure, not for gain”

Quranic Illumination

– Ibn Muqla

Post-Industrial Craftsmanship

mountainbanoMany years ago I was playing a friends homemade fretless banjo and a young boy who was listening asked if I could also play a “real” banjo.

I told him that the banjo I was playing was real and if it wasn’t how could I possibly be playing it?

His response was something like “You know what I mean.”

And I did know what he meant. And I was fascinated. And I was a little horrified…

His choice of words, “Can your play a real banjo” implied that an object that is obviously homemade and lacking the slick and shiny look of something manufactured was not actually real to him.

And I don’t think he is alone in these thoughts.

Since the industrial revolution most people in the developed world expect objects to be perfect in appearance and forproductionbelt multiple copies of an object to be identical to each other.

This is a great idea for electronics, machine parts, light bulbs, etc. It is questionable if this rule applies to art and instruments.

Craftsmanship includes an appreciation of precision and perfection yet there is breathing room in the final result for the touches that come as a result of being made by a human being. Materials, especially organic materials like wood, stone and fiber will inherently have subtle or strikingly different characteristics as well.

The subtle variations and imperfections of craftsmanship are what make an item unique. This is, in my opinion, is both positive and desirable.

Please understand that “subtle variations and imperfections” are not to be confused with” major flaws and lousy workmanship.”

So what is a craftsperson to do?

It is my opinion that a craftsperson should create the finest and most satisfying work they can to meet their own standards of excellence.

An occasional item that satisfies the craftsperson’s criteria for excellence may be viewed as slightly defective by someone else.

So it goes.

There will always be people who appreciate the unique qualities of hand work.

For those who don’t there is always a factory willing to make the same item again and again and again.

Bench Shot


Most photographs of craftsman’s benches in woodworking magazines look like they were staged. There is usually a plane or chisel, a discrete shaving or two, a project in a recognizable stage of construction and a level of cleanliness adequate for performing surgery.

I think my bench looks more like what most woodworkers and luthiers typically look at all day. The bench is the heart of a small shop and everything I do when working in the shop happens there.

Added A Tune – Texas


The new album is coming along. I’ve upped a rough mix of my arrangement of a traditional North American tune called “Texas” to the “Listen” page. It features dulcimer, harmonium, Jew’s harp, tin whistle and ankle bells. I hope you enjoy it.

As long as I’m here I may as well link to the tune directly:

Texas [audio:Texas.mp3]

Dulcimers – Three, Four or More Strings?

play dulcimer with three separate strings. Many dulcimer players use a doubled top string and a single middle and bass string.

I have assumed that the doubled top string probably came about to give the melody more volume against the drones when playing in the traditional style.

mouthbow As dulcimer playing evolved and melody and chords were played using all three strings I think the doubled top string remained as a vestige of the traditional style. If playing the melody solely on the top string I think the doubled string makes sense.

I prefer the ease of action and evenness of sound from string to string that three separate strings provides.

I have heard many players do wonderful things with four separate strings.

And six strings (three courses of 2 strings) is always fun.

Any opinions? What do you prefer?

As an instrument maker I offer all string arrangements.

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Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers

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