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Playing an Instrument!

I remember recently having a conversation with one of our club members about the sound quality of a certain Mountain Dulcimer. I remember stating a comment, which at the time seemed to make perfectly good sense, and then once I said it; I realized there was quite a double entendre.

I remarked, “You know, I think I've discovered that some instruments sound better the more that you play them. In other words, an instrument that is neglected does not seem to have as good a sound as an instrument that is played all the time.”

At least that was my intended meaning when I said it. However, once I said it, I realized what I really said.

Of course, an instrument sounds better the more we play it! Because the more we play it: the better we get.

It may not necessarily be the instrument itself, but it certainly is our playing of it.

Now, I do believe that there is something about playing an instrument that causes it to have better resonance and therefore a better sound. In a way that I don't understand; I am sure it has something to do with the constant vibrations and combination of wire and wood.

Yes, I know that such a discussion is perhaps going too far in the direction of the weirdness.

And yet, is it not true?!

This then brings me to another related point.

Sound quality comes from the hands of the musician and not necessarily from the instrument.

In the same time frame, I saw this acted out in another artistic medium in conversation with our daughter regarding woodworking. I said to my daughter something that I have known for decades. There is a wide range of quality in woodworking tools. Some are good and some are just pieces of junk that just look like a tool. The woodworker must learn to make the best use of whatever tools are available. The sign of a true artist is the person who can make true art regardless of whatever tool is present. I think something similar applies musical instruments.

Now granted, I am quite aware that some instruments will indeed sound better than others simply because they are initially a better instrument at the onset!

There is no discussion there. Yet consider this: original dulcimers were made from firewood, nails and wire. And they were played with turkey feathers as a pick. Compare that with any dulcimer made today. What is the difference?

Don't answer that question from an academic perspective. Answer that question from an artistic perspective.

Perhaps you all see what I mean?

Keep on pickin’

Gary Bell

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