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Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks

20 Feb 02 - 04:24 PM (#654179)
Subject: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Zhenya

I've been using plastic fingerpicks with my dulcimer but I find I get this annoying "clacking" sound (for lack of a better word to describe it) along with the music.

I'm wondering if it would help to buy metal fingerpicks instead, or if anyone has any other suggestions for getting a clean sound.

Thanks for any advice. Zhenya


20 Feb 02 - 05:40 PM (#654231)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: wysiwyg

I dunno if this will apply to dulcimer, but I get a wonderful sound on my autoharp with the lightest Jim Dunlop pick-- .013. Even with the pickup magnifying things, it sounds pretty clear. The downside is that they are so light they have some trouble staying on-- the wrap part is as light as the pick part so it wants to bend open. I use a dab of Mortite under the place where the wrap overlaps, to help it stick, and one of these days I'll break down and set up a few with filament tape. The nickel and the bronze (brass???) sound very different-- might want to try both.

Cheap experiment anyhow.

~Susan


20 Feb 02 - 05:57 PM (#654244)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Sorcha

I can't fingerpick, but the lady I know who does says you have to wear the fingerpicks backwards whatever that means. She gets no pick noise at all.


21 Feb 02 - 02:58 AM (#654473)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au

As I recall, Jean Ritchie used a quill when I last saw her--or am I thinking of another instrument? She tended to strum and play melodies and didn't really play harmony and melody at the same time.

Murray


21 Feb 02 - 03:30 AM (#654477)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Auxiris

Hi, Zhenya. There is a type of pick called Alaskapik (I think) that goes around the finger front to back and part of the pick goes underneath the nail. I've been using them to play clawhammer style banjo and they stay on just fine and sound quite natural. I believe they exist also in metal, but I'm not sure. . . Elderly Instruments has them, at any rate.

cheers,

Aux


21 Feb 02 - 01:01 PM (#654735)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Zhenya

Thanks all for the suggestions! I started thinking about this as I was going through a catalogue for Andy's Front Hall and got to the page with the picks. I thought I should finally do something about this problem. Since the picks are inexpensive, I might try one of all of the above!

The quill is used for the mountain dulcimer, but I thought, for some reason,it was mainly used for strumming, not picking individual strings. But actually, now that I'm considering this, I'm not sure....I'll have to investigate that further.

I think I may already be wearing the picks in the intended backwards fashion, but I'll see if it makes any difference turning them around. I suspect it's the pick material itself that is causing my problem, so the Jim Dunlop or Alaskapik may just do the trick.

Well, I'm off to try out all your ideas! Zhenya


21 Feb 02 - 02:05 PM (#654775)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: wysiwyg

I guess to melody pick with the quill would be like flatpicking the guitar. If you are already fingerpicking it, you'd want to stick with that, right?

~Susan


21 Feb 02 - 03:37 PM (#654817)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Zhenya

Actually, I have heard dulcimer flatpicked, so that's another technique. In fact, some people even use a bow on it, usually just for a novelty tune. So far I've only done strumming or fingerpicking myself.

I've been spending most of my musical time trying to learn the fiddle, but I love to use the dulcimer to back up songs. I hope to learn more dulcimer melody playing, including flatpicking, at some point…perhaps when I get the new picks. For now, I'll be happy if I can solve the extraneous noise problem! Zhenya


21 Feb 02 - 03:50 PM (#654821)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Bobert

All natural'... Not bright but clean. My two mountain dulcimers are bright enough with those .011's so I just use what the Good Lord gave me. But then again, I'm going through one of those phases where everything that ain't flatpicked gets picked that way. Including my steel bodied resonator, which I am told is sinfull...


21 Feb 02 - 04:01 PM (#654827)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: harpgirl

...just use your bare fingers, gal! that's the folky way!


21 Feb 02 - 09:50 PM (#655019)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: GUEST,leeneia

I guess Zhenya has enough suggestions, but if anyone else is interested, I play mountain with a Herco Light thumbpick. Using only a thumbpick brings out the melody. This pick is red, almost heartshaped, and rather flexible, so it cuts down on twang.


22 Feb 02 - 02:00 AM (#655113)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Kaleea

if you dislike the sound of a plastic pick, I hardly think that fingerpicks are your answer. harpgirl has the idea with using your fingers. Since our American ancestors played the mountain dulcimer with fingers or a feather, then consider this: 'mer' from the latin for 'music' and 'dulci' from the latin "dulce" which means: sweet--therefore if you are to have sweet music, the clicking of metal & plastic picks will not create a "clean sound." Also, the feather was used as follows: The feathery portion of the quill was removed for the top 4 or so inches, and then the feather was held by the part of the quill which is thought of as the end with which one writes, and the cleaned off part of the feather was used to "whip" across the strings in a quick back & forth motion, and sometimes tapped on the strings. Small bows were also sometimes used; a psaltry bow might be close, but be sure to keep the rosin cleaned off the instrument.


22 Feb 02 - 01:04 PM (#655422)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Zhenya

I'm glad to have all the suggestions here. I do play at times just using my fingers and I like that sound, but sometimes want something a little louder...hence my interest in various types of picks.

Thanks for the details about using a quill, which I never knew.

Zhenya


22 Feb 02 - 01:41 PM (#655450)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: catspaw49

I'm with harpy.....Although I've seen quite a number of players using picks, in general it tends to detract. Owing to the sheer simplicity and size, they are not meant to be loud and tend to respond badly to attempts to make them so. Of course you have to remember that the biggest tradition in Appalachian Dulcimers is NOT to be traditional!

Zhenya, we have a member here, goes by "kytrad," who seems pretty well informed about these things and I've never seen her use much in the way of fancy picks. Matter of fact, she doesn't go in much for quills either....."Kytrad" wrote here at the 'Cat regarding picks: I cut a very large triangle out of a plastic lid (ones with writing are a little stronger, and they're not too stiff, as I find commercial picks. My favorite says, "El Pico," in the middle of it, and others, "Diet Mazola." .......If we must have plastic, this is a good way to recycle it.

Spaw


22 Feb 02 - 01:55 PM (#655463)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: GUEST,Russ

Zhenya,

Me too.

I fingerpick almost exclusively now. I also really enjoy jamming with non-dulcimer playing old time musicians. Hearing myself can be a problem in such situations. I could get more volume by strumming, but I don't really do that anymore. Also, non-dulcimer players (at least the ones I play with) tend to get annoyed by the constant whacka whacka of a strummed dulcimer.

I have tried various types of finger picks but do not currently use them for three reasons.
1. Don't care for the clacking either.
2. They change the "geometry" of my fingers substantially. Thus, playing with fingerpicks is always more awkward for me. Playing with fingerpicks is NOT just like playing with fingers, only louder. I figure that if I ever went the fingerpick route, it would have to be an all or nothing proposition. Fingerpicks all the time for at least as long as it takes to become 100% comfortable with them. Not willing to make that commitment yet.
3. If I put them on tight enough to stay on, they are too tight and hurt.

So what do I do?
I have spent years looking for (and finding) loud dulcimers. I have several that hold their own in small groups of guitars, fiddles, and clawhammered banjos. (Nothing can stand up to a bluegrass banjo.)
I take the time to find a "sweet spot" in a jam circle, i.e., the place where I can actually hear myself relatively well and there is a chance that the other musicians can hear me. This obviously depends upon the other instruments and their placement. It is really helpful to play regularly with musicians. They can learn about your sonic limitations and work with you. The most thoughtful ones will actually mute themselves a bit when it's my turn for a break.
I am resigned to the fact that occasionally only me and the musician next to me will be able to hear me.


22 Feb 02 - 02:03 PM (#655471)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: catspaw49

Excellent post Russ.....All very fine points.

When played in a group, the App is at a significant disadvantage, but as Russ points out, there are louder instruments and if you are going that route (group) they are well worth the hunt.

I still prefer it as a accompanying instrument, strummed or picked. Several pickers BTW, also play with a flatpick held between the index and thumb and also pick with the middle and index. Not a bad sound either.

Spaw


22 Feb 02 - 02:18 PM (#655495)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: GUEST,Russ

Spaw,

Thanks.

I developed my fingerpicking style to accompanying my singing. I wanted something more flexible and subtle than strumming. I tried flatpicking but wasn't satisfied enough with my initial endeavors to keep it up.

I play in old time jams just for giggles and exercise. That's why I don't worry much if no one can hear me but me. It's fun to try to keep up with the fiddles. I often succeed.

I once sat in with five guys flatpicking big Martins because I knew a couple of the participants. At one point the guy taking the break looked at me and nodded. I started my break and almost lost it when they all quieted down enough to hear me. They even let me start a coupla tunes. It really helps to play with people who know you and understand dulcimers.


22 Feb 02 - 02:32 PM (#655502)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Mary in Kentucky

I don't want to steal Jean's line here...but she hasn't checked in on this thread. I'll just repeat what she said in a concert...

RE: quills...they don't make 'em like they used to.


22 Feb 02 - 04:37 PM (#655581)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: Zhenya

More interesting comments! Russ, thanks for taking the time to put all that down. When I play tunes with other people using the dulcimer, (fairly rarely) I'm just doing back-up chords, strummed or picked and not really trying to be heard individually. In terms of volume, I was just thinking about getting a sound I like when I'm singing myself or with a few friends.

I agree it helps to play with others who look kindly on the dulcimer and give you some sonic space. My own experience in occasionally bringing the dulcimer to an Irish session is that people either are fascinated with it and want to try it, or absolutely can't stand it. I have some trouble understanding that, as I think it sounds a fair amount like a bouzouki, which these same people seem to like. Oh well...

Spaw, I seem to recall that quote of kytrad's. Was that on a Mudcat thread, or did I read it in her dulcimer book which I have at home? (and perhaps should have consulted before I ever started this thread...but then maybe I wouldn't have gotten all these other interesting comments.)

I find myself usually in the middle ground with music in terms of keeping it "pure" or "experimenting" with the tradition. (while trying to still keep it sounding traditional.) I think I'm usually not a complete purist about it, but then I'll hear someone who sounds too non-traditional for my tastes, and go in the other direction. At any rate, I haven't really thought my view through clearly with regard to the dulcimer, but simply played what I enjoyed. I probably will still mostly do that, but the comments here have certainly given me food for thought on this issue. Zhenya


22 Feb 02 - 04:46 PM (#655585)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: harpgirl

..what not just amp the dadgummed thang with a pignose? that makes em louder!


22 Feb 02 - 10:23 PM (#655792)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: GUEST,Russ

Zhenya,

You're welcome.

If it's just yourself or a few friends I'm a little surprised that volume is an issue. I mentioned old time jams because that's the only time volume is an issue for me. I assumed you were talking about similar situations.

I am a thoroughly modem dulcimer player. I learned to play traditional style from my wife. Her family is from the same neck of the woods as Jean Ritchie and Jean Ritchie is still a deity in my personal pantheon. But I haven't tried to sound traditional in many years. Once I heard people like Richard Farina, Howie Mitchell, and Kevin Roth there was no going back. I make the sounds I want to hear. Why bother doing it otherwise?

I have a friend who plays an amplified dulcimer. The amplifier effectively makes it sound like a very bad electric guitar.


23 Feb 02 - 03:32 PM (#656258)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: RolyH

After reading Jean Ritchies post on recycled plastic picks I tried one (Anchor Spreadable) and got the best results.Also tried electric dulcimer.Not Good.


23 Feb 02 - 09:45 PM (#656495)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: GUEST,leeneia

yada yada yada. try the Herco light on your thumb while your index and middle finger remain natural. It only costs a quarter.


23 Feb 02 - 11:22 PM (#656553)
Subject: RE: Mountain dulcimer fingerpicks
From: wysiwyg

You may be an innovator-- go with what works for YOU, for what you are trying to do with your instrument.

"You stand on the shoulders of the past but your path is your own."

~Susan