Doug Berch

Dulcimer Maker And Musician

cropped Dulcimer Builders and Makers 1 23

Music I’d Like To Hear #168

Vielle à roue et cornemuse.
Vielle à roue et cornemuse.

What’s On The Bench – June 14th, 2019

This chromatic dulcimer in walnut will have a zircote fingerboard and spruce soundboard.

On the bench is a chromatic dulcimer having reinforcements glued in to lock the ends of the braces into the sides. The reinforcements add strength to the joinery and makes the inside of the dulcimer look neat. The reinforcements are shy and happy to be hiding under the clamps where they can’t be seen.

While the glue was drying I carved the ramp that goes from behind the bridge (shown by a pencil line) to the end of the dulcimer. I start the ramp by sawing off the waste and continue shaping it with rasps, files, and scrapers. When I placed the fingerboard on the body to double check the length it asked me to take the above photo. Unlike the reinforcements mentioned earlier, the fingerboard is not shy.

I’m currently working on two bespoke chromatic dulcimers. The one above will be in walnut, spruce, and zircote, the other is in oak, spruce, Spanish cedar, and zircote.

I am regularly receiving requests to make fully chromatic dulcimers and they seem to be becoming popular.

Music I’d Like To Hear #167

Musican playing a Taishogoto
Musician playing a Taishogoto

Playing Hammered Dulcimer Seated Or Standing Revisited

Cloud Nine hammered dulcimer made by Michael C. Allen

I wrote a post about playing hammered dulcimer seated or standing nine years ago. A few things have changed since then.

I firmly believe life throws us many adventures beyond our control but we can usually take control of how we choose to deal with those adventures.

Though I preferred standing while playing hammered dulcimer, some musculoskeletal problems caused me to learn to play while seated. After a number of years I found some helpful treatments and was able to play standing again.

I prefer playing hammered dulcimer while standing because I am able to use more of my body while playing. I can move closer to the dulcimer when reaching for high notes and further away when going towards the low notes and I can shift my body towards the left or right side of the dulcimer as needed. Doing so enables my upper body to work less at getting the hammers where they need to go and makes it much easier to for my hands and arms to control the hammers.

This is what has worked best for me. Your mileage may vary. There is no “right or wrong” or “better or worse” when it comes to playing while seated or standing.

In 2012 my lower back developed some serious problems and standing and walking were difficult, let alone standing to play the hammered dulcimer. I had two options; learn to play while seated again or stop playing hammered dulcimer. Once again, I adjusted to playing while seated.

After seven years and three back surgeries I felt it was time to try playing standing again. I started working out on the hammered dulcimer while standing a few weeks ago and though I find it much easier to play it is taking time for my technique to adjust. I’m getting there.

Today I played my first hammered dulcimer gig in seven years as a vertically upright player. The Cloud Nine hammered dulcimer made by Michael C. Allen in the photo above is a magic bus of a dulcimer. It was a hoot to play it while standing again!

I’m still working out how to best use the damper pedal now that I’m standing again. I have no worries that it will all come together.

Music I’d Like To Hear #166

Salvation Army Band - Four women playing guitars autoharp and a portable reed organ
Salvation Army Band – Four women with two guitars, an autoharp, and a portable reed organ.

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Doug Berch & Dulcimer Makers