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Yesterday I got a Ron Ewing baritone dulcimette and am really enjoying learning to play it, and love how it sounds.  I would like to know what songs everyone likes to play on a dulcimette.

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Replies to This Discussion

Sue,

Congratulations on your new RE dulcimette.  Sounds like you are really enjoying it.  I can't answer your question right now, because I don't have a dulcimette or even a little dulcimer.  However, I have a Folkcraft Travel Dulcimer on order.  I'm anticipating getting it around the 1st of April.  I do know that I'm guessing that the quick, lively songs will sound the best on it, because it is small and will lack sustain, just like the rest of the little dulcimers.  So, the slower songs that require nice sustain will be left for my full-sized dulcimers. That's my guess right now.  I'll reply back after I get my new baby dulcimer.  Enjoy yours.

That's what I am finding with the "baby baritone", the fiddle tunes that I don't like playing on my standard dulcimer are fun and there is a bell like quality that I like.  Enjoy your travel dulcimer when it arrives.

frets4fun said:

Sue,

Congratulations on your new RE dulcimette.  Sounds like you are really enjoying it.  I can't answer your question right now, because I don't have a dulcimette or even a little dulcimer.  However, I have a Folkcraft Travel Dulcimer on order.  I'm anticipating getting it around the 1st of April.  I do know that I'm guessing that the quick, lively songs will sound the best on it, because it is small and will lack sustain, just like the rest of the little dulcimers.  So, the slower songs that require nice sustain will be left for my full-sized dulcimers. That's my guess right now.  I'll reply back after I get my new baby dulcimer.  Enjoy yours.

You might want to experiment with using the bass string as your melody string and have the other strings harmonize in sort of a descant.  It sounds really pretty with some songs.  I play many fairly slow songs softly fingerpicking  on my Kirby "PaKit" (The Water is Wide, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Inch by Inch, Suo Gan, Oranges and Lemons, Turn Around and You're a Young Girl, London Bridge, Tallis Canon, Jubilate Deo, Sweet Thames Flow Softly, and lots of Christmas carols and hymns).  It has a VSL of 19" and I currently have it tuned to AEaa...that seems to be its sweet spot.

Hi Sue

Welcome to the baritone Dulcimette club.

Just love the octave mandolin/mandola-like sound...and perhaps that gives the best clue as to what works well on it.  

I use mine for Irish music and faster plectrum pieces where the shorter fingerboard means you can move around it quicker.  Also makes for a great strummed accompaniment, being bright and clear.

Thanks, I love Irish music, so I'll have to try playing some.

Geoff Black said:

Hi Sue

Welcome to the baritone Dulcimette club.

Just love the octave mandolin/mandola-like sound...and perhaps that gives the best clue as to what works well on it.  

I use mine for Irish music and faster plectrum pieces where the shorter fingerboard means you can move around it quicker.  Also makes for a great strummed accompaniment, being bright and clear.

Thanks for all the song titles, and the bass string melody idea,  I'll have to try them out.  One song that I have found that I like is Dave Haas' version of Sweet Mountain Thyme.

Jan Potts said:

You might want to experiment with using the bass string as your melody string and have the other strings harmonize in sort of a descant.  It sounds really pretty with some songs.  I play many fairly slow songs softly fingerpicking  on my Kirby "PaKit" (The Water is Wide, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Inch by Inch, Suo Gan, Oranges and Lemons, Turn Around and You're a Young Girl, London Bridge, Tallis Canon, Jubilate Deo, Sweet Thames Flow Softly, and lots of Christmas carols and hymns).  It has a VSL of 19" and I currently have it tuned to AEaa...that seems to be its sweet spot.

Sue, first I want to thank you for starting this discussion. I hope it stays alive for some time as we all explore music to be played on our little dulcimers.

I have two little dulcimers: a baritone dulcimette by Ron Ewing and an Eedy Beede by David Beede. The former is tuned to G or A and the the latter to the D above a normal dulcimer. (They are the two middle dulcimers in this group's photo.)

As Geoff has mentioned, the baritone dulcimette is great for fiddle tunes.  Because the frets are closer together you can finger a wider range on the fretboard and play faster than you could on a regular dulcimer.  Not long ago I posted an attempt at "Whiskey Before Breakfast," and that is certainly a song I could never play (or never play that fast) on a regular dulcimer. One of my goals is to develop a larger repertoire of fiddle tunes on that instrument.

Fiddle tunes in general are great on the dulcimette.  But because it is tuned a 4th or 5th above a normal dulcimer, it also gives you two different keys. If you play with other folks, you will likely need to play not only in D, but also in C, G, and A.  Your normal dulcimer can give you D, obviously, and if you tune a full note down you can play in C (I do that for fingerpicking even though I play solo).  With the baritone dulcimette, you can easily get G and A. So two dulcimers give me the most common keys of old timey and bluegrass jams.  In fact, I first got my baritone dulcimette after watching some of Mark Gilston's videos, in particular his version of "Grasshopper Sitting on a Sweetpotato Vine."  Because he plays a lot with fiddlers, he plays songs in their traditional keys, and uses his own baritone dulcimette for all those fiddle tunes in A.

Both of my little dulcimers sound great but have much less sustain than a standard dulcimer, obviously.  What that means is that slower ballads and the like don't work so well, as Sue stated in the beginning of this discussion.  On some songs you can crosspick or fingerpick to fill in the spaces in between melody notes. I tried to do that on my medley version of "The Water is Wide/Banks of the Ohio" but I'm not sure how successful it was. The trick when you try one of those techniques is to make sure you are fingering a chord at all times so that you can just pluck strings and know they will sound OK.

The octave dulcimer would also be nice as an accompaniment to other instruments, in which case you might indeed be able to play slower tunes since your role would only be that of adding accent and filler.  You could take a minimalist approach and allow the chime-like quality of the sound to really shine through without having to worry about keeping a steady rhythm to drive the music forward. I have never taken my Eede Beede to a dulcimer jam, but I hope to someday.  Then I'll be able to try out that strategy.

Thanks again for all of the dulcimette ideas.  I listened to some YouTube versions of Grasshopper on a Sweet Potato Vine on a variety of instruments and love that tune.  Do you know where I can find tab for it?  

I went to a wonderful Dave Haas workshop yesterday and learned alot and also brought some music home that might work on my baby baritone including a new tab book by Mike Clemmer.  Dave gave an awesome concert  with his 10 year old nephew who did some incredible renditions of fiddle tunes.  The concert should be on the Pickin' Porch website in a few weeks if you want to listen.   Here is the link.

http://www.clemmerdulcimer.com/

Thanks again for all your help.



Dusty Turtle said:

Sue, first I want to thank you for starting this discussion. I hope it stays alive for some time as we all explore music to be played on our little dulcimers.

I have two little dulcimers: a baritone dulcimette by Ron Ewing and an Eedy Beede by David Beede. The former is tuned to G or A and the the latter to the D above a normal dulcimer. (They are the two middle dulcimers in this group's photo.)

As Geoff has mentioned, the baritone dulcimette is great for fiddle tunes.  Because the frets are closer together you can finger a wider range on the fretboard and play faster than you could on a regular dulcimer.  Not long ago I posted an attempt at "Whiskey Before Breakfast," and that is certainly a song I could never play (or never play that fast) on a regular dulcimer. One of my goals is to develop a larger repertoire of fiddle tunes on that instrument.

Fiddle tunes in general are great on the dulcimette.  But because it is tuned a 4th or 5th above a normal dulcimer, it also gives you two different keys. If you play with other folks, you will likely need to play not only in D, but also in C, G, and A.  Your normal dulcimer can give you D, obviously, and if you tune a full note down you can play in C (I do that for fingerpicking even though I play solo).  With the baritone dulcimette, you can easily get G and A. So two dulcimers give me the most common keys of old timey and bluegrass jams.  In fact, I first got my baritone dulcimette after watching some of Mark Gilston's videos, in particular his version of "Grasshopper Sitting on a Sweetpotato Vine."  Because he plays a lot with fiddlers, he plays songs in their traditional keys, and uses his own baritone dulcimette for all those fiddle tunes in A.

Both of my little dulcimers sound great but have much less sustain than a standard dulcimer, obviously.  What that means is that slower ballads and the like don't work so well, as Sue stated in the beginning of this discussion.  On some songs you can crosspick or fingerpick to fill in the spaces in between melody notes. I tried to do that on my medley version of "The Water is Wide/Banks of the Ohio" but I'm not sure how successful it was. The trick when you try one of those techniques is to make sure you are fingering a chord at all times so that you can just pluck strings and know they will sound OK.

The octave dulcimer would also be nice as an accompaniment to other instruments, in which case you might indeed be able to play slower tunes since your role would only be that of adding accent and filler.  You could take a minimalist approach and allow the chime-like quality of the sound to really shine through without having to worry about keeping a steady rhythm to drive the music forward. I have never taken my Eede Beede to a dulcimer jam, but I hope to someday.  Then I'll be able to try out that strategy.

Sue, I took a couple of Skype lessons with Mark Gilston specifically to work on the baritone dulcimette, and I requested "Grasshopper Sittin' on a Sweet Potato Vine." But he suggested that it was a bit complicated and I should work on some simpler stuff first. He would be a good person to contact, though, and if you peruse his videos on YouTube you'll notice a lot with the baritone dulcimette. He has posted a free lesson for "Cold Frosty Morning." He plays it on a normal dulcimer with a capo on the fourth fret, but if your baritone dulcimette is tuned AEa, you'll be able to follow exactly what he is doing.  You might need to do some subtraction, though, for when he refers to the fifth fret, you'll want to play the first and so forth.

 

Here is the first part of the lesson: http://youtu.be/apQXz367rm4

 
Sue Thornton said:

Thanks again for all of the dulcimette ideas.  I listened to some YouTube versions of Grasshopper on a Sweet Potato Vine on a variety of instruments and love that tune.  Do you know where I can find tab for it?  

Thanks for the link, I'll give it a try.

Dusty Turtle said:

Sue, I took a couple of Skype lessons with Mark Gilston specifically to work on the baritone dulcimette, and I requested "Grasshopper Sittin' on a Sweet Potato Vine." But he suggested that it was a bit complicated and I should work on some simpler stuff first. He would be a good person to contact, though, and if you peruse his videos on YouTube you'll notice a lot with the baritone dulcimette. He has posted a free lesson for "Cold Frosty Morning." He plays it on a normal dulcimer with a capo on the fourth fret, but if your baritone dulcimette is tuned AEa, you'll be able to follow exactly what he is doing.  You might need to do some subtraction, though, for when he refers to the fifth fret, you'll want to play the first and so forth.

 

Here is the first part of the lesson: http://youtu.be/apQXz367rm4

 
Sue Thornton said:

Thanks again for all of the dulcimette ideas.  I listened to some YouTube versions of Grasshopper on a Sweet Potato Vine on a variety of instruments and love that tune.  Do you know where I can find tab for it?  

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