Strings & Things

How Not to Buy a Dulcimer

Denny and I sat in the studio of David McKinney in Batesville, Arkansas settling in on her new “Modern Mountain Dulcimer”. In truth, the decision had already been made before we even got there. Denny had told him the day before what she wanted. He said, “I think I have just the thing!” But, then she and he both said simultaneously, “But, You need to play it before you buy it!” Denny got off the phone and looked at me. We have been married 45 years now. I knew at that point there was only one thing for me to say. Two words actually, “Let’s go!” Thus began a rather interesting saga of a 30 hour “road trip” to Batesville, Arkansas. Some would have considered this to be a bit impulsive and insan

Irish? Old Time? Bluegrass?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the definitions of “bluegrass” “old-time” and “Irish” music. These three genres seem to be deeply connected, yet distinctly different. This article is an attempt to summarize the modern-day uses of these terms as they relate to jam sessions. There is no way to fully define these genres in one page, but it seems helpful to be at least generally aware of what each session may include. First, Irish music sessions generally play tunes that come from Ireland, but may also include Scottish, English, French-Canadian, and American tunes. The sessions are generally “led” by fiddlers, though the lead instruments may also include accordion, mandolin, banjo, or

It Starts with a Tree

Perhaps it starts on a cold winter day and a tree is harvested. I say "harvested" because there are trees that are simply "cut down" and disposed of and then there are trees that are harvested. This means that their wood is used for something. And, that something could be anything useful from a work of art to a pallet. For our discussion, that "something useful" term takes on a whole new meaning if it is a musical instrument! When wood becomes music, something wonderful happens. Don't you think? I think I told you before how I received my baptism into lutherie. And, as is frequently the case with many new converts, I immediately became a backslider. My first musical creation was soon relegat

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