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TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

Pretty Little Lyres



Summertime, and the living is easy, and always a great time to start learning a new hobby. There are a lot of folks out there who have always wanted to learn a musical instrument, but have thought themselves musically inept, or have just never gotten the drive to finally sit down and do it. This thread is specifically for goons who want to get a little off the beaten path and play something unique. Fortunately, what with the internet these days, weird instruments don't have to be expensive, or stick you with a complicated and uninformed learning process. In this thread we'll help even totally non-musical goons find and learn an instrument that will stand out from the crowd, and link you into some of music's overlooked traditions rather than keep you in the regular crew of three-chord dorm room guitar hacks.

Nothing against guitar, but for that there's a running NMD:ML discussion to go to, and if you're wanting ukulele check out our long-lived A/T thread.


I'll start out with a few instruments that are inexpensive (under $50 for winds, under $150 for strings), supported by online instruction, and easy to start sounding good on. EDIT: Overall thread advice: if you like a given instrument, do not just go on eBay and buy the first "ReAlLy AWESOME XYZ instrument! L@@K!!! No Rsrv!" you see. For most of these, you can overspend on a lovely one, or ask just a few questions and find a good deal on a good starter instrument, so please do yourself a favour and don't just buy blind.

EDIT: Running table of contents (tinwhistle and ocarina come up on every page)
Pg 1: Ocarina, tinwhistle, kantele, dulcimer, sitar, concert zither, melodica, glass harmonica, ruler, mandolin, Irish bagpipes, shamisen, necked dulcimers, mandora/bouzouki, cuatro
Pg 2: Swedish bagpipes, tiple/tres, didjeridoo, autoharp, ocarina, steel-pan drum, mountain dulcimer, double flute, bowed psaltery, alpenhorn, dungchen, hosaphone, serpent, theremin, accordions/concertinas/bandoneones/chemnitzers, Hardanger fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, erhu
Pg 3: cardboard dulcimer, Celtic harp, mbira/kalimba/thumb-piano, bowed lyres (crwth, jouhikko), serpent, Native American flute, crummhorn/kelhorn, oud, nyckelharpa, toy accordion
Pg 4: autoharp, balalaika, udu, Native American flute, euphonium/sousaphone, harmonia, kantele, berimbau, resonator/slide/Hawaiian guitar, Irish flute, band-flute, low whistle, jug, Hang drum, hurdy-gurdy, electric kazoo, stick dulcimer
Pg 5: Appalachian dulcimer, bodhran, bones, banjola, NAF, kalimba, Hapi drum, French/tango accordions/concertinas, ukulele, autoharp, dilruba, mandolin, bowed psaltery
Pg 6: fife, berimbau, dulcimer, kantele, harmonium, toy accordion
Pg 7: accordions, banjo, dizi (Chinese flute), tinwhistle, bodhran, mandolin, balalaika, hammered dulcimer, ophicleide, Stylophone, quena, toy piano, NAF
Pg 8: baglama, washboard, washtub bass, didjeribone, autoharp, didjflute, bandoneon, gadulka
Pg 9: cigar-box guitar, diddley bow, propellerhead ReBirth app, Korg Kaossilator, primitive clarinets, Casio Digisax, Yamaha WX7 controller, Chapman stick, jawharp, mouthbox, xaphoon
Pg 10: pibgorn, alboka, PVC flute, taishogoto, panpipes, sanshin, bansuri, clavinet, dolceola, melodica, ichigenkin, buffalo drum, Northumbrian smallpipes, bamboo flute, duet concertina
Pg 11: bongos, concertina, lap steel guitar, kuai ban, sanshin, subu, lap steel guitar, mandocello, Scottish smallpipe, musical saw
Pg 12: keytar, sape, accordion, electric upright bass, guitar-veena, shamisen, chromatic harmonia, miniature harmonicas, accordina, recorder
Pg 13: ocarina, valiha, lubuw, overtone flute, dombura, violin, NAF, harp guitar, harp ukulele, English concertina
Pg 14: Suzuki Omnichord (electronic autoharp), guzheng, lap steel guitar, recorder, Celtic harp, bansuri, theremin, ClearTune app, qin, fiπla, analog synthesizer gadgets
Pg 15: Scottish smallpipes, wooden flute, Tibetan instruments, cardboard dulcimer, cardboard harp, gadulka, Anglo concertina, small flutes, alternative keyboards, MIDI wind controllers, dumbek, djembe
Pg 16: early harps, MIDI wind controllers, electric violin, octave mandolin, guqin, Siberian board zithers, santur, Shruthi-1 synth, lyres (Hebrew, Greek, Anglo-Saxon/Germanic), didgeridoo, tinwhistle, low whistle, ocarina, fife and drum blues, thumb piano/kalimba, harmonica
Pg 17: harp, keyboard, NAF, Croatian instruments, gusle, clawhammer banjo, Cajun accordion, ocarina, PaIa Theremax theremin
Pg 18: theremin, lute, kantele, cittern and Portuguese guitar, lyre, piano accordion, duduk (and shvi and blul), melodica, Bowafridgeaphone, waterphone, clavichord, toy accordion, electronic toys (Ningen Gakki), cigar box guitar, Anglo concertina, ocarina, lutes
Pg 19: Cittern, waldzither, stylophone, Korg Monotron, Arab frame drums, Anglo concertina, singing with Cajun accordion, Chemnitzer concertina, banjo ukulele, cigar-box drum, ocarina duets, cigar box guitar, Pbone (plastic trombone), travel ukulele, Shape Note singing, lever harp, Anglo-Saxon lyre, African-American fife, Vietnamese guitar (luc huyen cam)
Pg 20: Viking panpipes, strumsticks, lyre and gusle, kantele, fife and band flute, shakuhachi, gemshorn, Russian garmon, Linnstrument, bajo sexto/quinto, Croatian brač, overtone flute

Ocarina

The ocarina has always been a little obscure in the US, less so in Continental Europe. It's techically a "vessel fipple flute", that is, there's a whistle-type mouthpiece that makes the initial note, and then a closed body with finger-holes to change the notes. It's an ancient instrument going back 12,000 years, so awfully close to "so simple a caveman could do it." Modern ears might consider it to have a "spacey" tone, so it's good for plaintive or trippy music, and as noted by the hundreds of YouTube clips of videogame songs, it's a coincidentally great fit for acoustic bitcore/chiptune.

I'd first emphasise that the price between a cheap no-name ocarina and a quality one are negligible, so spend the extra $5-10 and get one from a reliable maker with a good rep online. I'd also avoid any of the fun animal-shaped clay ones, as they're more decorative and less smooth players, and as a novice you want all the smoothness you can get. Unless you positively want something that fits in a watch pocket of your jeans (in which case get a Susatto pendant ocarina for $6.20) I suggest a mid-size model for easy handling and lower tone.

You have two major ocarnia layouts: "inline" where the fingerholes come straight down from your mouth, and "transverse"/"sweet potato"/"Zelda" where your hands go to the side of your mouth. Briefly: if you want to play ocarina because of Link, get a transverse, otherwise get an inline since they're a little more ergonomic. The two reliable and inexpensive brands I'd take a first look at are Mountain Ocarinas ($25 for a plastic inline) and Songbird ($13 for a plastic transverse). There's no reason not to get plastic as a novice; they sound good and are durable and affordable. Note also that ocarinas never need to be tuned, and take almost zero maintenance other than washing the spit out occasionally.



A few inspirational clips:
*Dark Overworld Theme from Link to the Past.
*Blackthorn Stick & Swallowtail Jig on Ocarina, for those digging Irish
*Bach's "Air on the G String"

Tinwhistle

The tinwhistle (or pennywhistle) has a lot of great things going for it. First off, they're like $5-9 for a good one, as in "professional musicians play $5 whistles". Compared to the ocarina, they're a bit harsher-sounding (which is good if you find ocarina too mellow), have a lot more range but a little less "chromaticity" (ability to change scales, do jazz notes, etc). Tinwhistles are ideal for Irish/English/Scottish music, also big in South African, and generally work well for about any Western European folk music, though not ideal for classical or jazz.

For brands, start with a good $5-10 whistle like Oak, Soodlum or Feadog (or Clarke if you like the conical sound), all under $10 in the US. Get one in D, as that's the standard key, though if you're ordering online and aren't short on cash, toss in a couple more fivers to get a Bb and a F, the lowest and near-highest of the cheapies, just to have a few more options. For the odder keys, Generation is the only $10ish maker (and the grandaddy of the cylindrical style), so use them for those, but for D the newer upstart brands are a bit better and more consistent in that price-range.

Again, these come pre-tuned and the only maintenance is hosing them down every so often. There is a vast array of instructional material online, and an entire forum to get support.


Some clips:
*Tin Whistle-- O'keefe's Slide/ Road to Lisdoonvarna (a little rough novice playing, but good tunes)
*Kicking some blues in Em
*Capetown-style


Moving on to string instruments. These are slightly pricier, but have the advantage of being able to play harmonies as well as melodies, and allow you to sing along with them. If you're a novice, I would recommend that you either spend $20 on an Intellitouch clip-on tuner, or else figure out how to use the microphone on your computer to check your instrument against a free online tuner. String instruments do need to be tuned occasionally, so make sure you hook yourself up with modern technology to make learning to tune painless.

These first two instruments I picked because they are nearly impossible to sound bad on and are very easy to learn. They're both very minimalist string instruments, but their limitations mean that it's semi-impossible to go wrong, and with even a few days of practice you'll be able to play identifiable songs, and also be able to just kick back and zone out while playing. Both of these can be very "meditative" instruments; I don't 420 myself, but I understand that these are ideal for that. For me, I can definitely kick back with a beer and just wander around the dulcimer for an hour with almost no conscious though, and yet it sounds great.

Kantele

This is a particularly unusual instrument for Americans, but one really worth looking into. These instruments are native across much of Scandinavia and the Baltic, and fundamental to the area's folk tradition. Traditionally used to accompany runic songs, and even a century ago anthropologists noted that players could just get in a groove and zone out on the music:

quote:

"The player's fingers [touched] the strings according to the tune, but his eyes [did not] follow the activity, gazing blankly at the air in front of him. As the old man from Suojδrvi continued to play his endless 'summer hymn' I took a photograph, exposing the frame for a rather long time, and marveled at how he did not blink at all, nor pay any attention to my photography whatsoever. He had lapsed into his world of quiet strumming. Gradually, as the same tune continued with most subtle of variations, his body began to slump against the table, his eyelids closed, the old man played as if in his sleep. Although I listened with the ear of a seasoned observer, I felt myself being cast under a spell. After this experience I was easily able to believe Old Man Onoila when he told me of one Karelian man who played so sadly that he made his listeners cry, and so joyfully that he made them dance...."

Even the most minimal 5-string kantele can play the fundamental three chords you need to back up 80% of modern music, and can do more with some alternate tunings. There are quite a few online resources for these, and the small community is pretty enthusiastic about helping new folks.

If you're anywhere but Scandivia, get yours from Kantele.com; Henkel is a dude up in Minnesota who has won a metric rear end-ton of cultural awards and built 1,900 kanteles. His stuff is custom-made from solid woods, and yet only $135 for a brand-new 5-string. If you're in Scandinavia, Koisinen Kantele seems pretty legit, though prices start at €199 plus VAT, though they have a ton of cool options, including bass kanteles. EDIT: there's also a collective workshop in Finland that offers a variety of traditional kanteles, as well as kantele kits, at very reasonable prices: http://www.soitinrakentajatamf.fi/



Clips:
*Rainy Day Kantele, a slower tune
*Omasta pδδstδ (Improvisation) , some really fast playing on a little 5-string.
*A demo of chording and singing from Michael King's series of YT clips on how to play. If you're considering kantele, definitely watch all the clips, they're awesome.


Appalachian dulcimer

Also known as the "mountain dulcimer", this instrument is about the closest the Western world has to the sitar. The instrument is native to the Appalachian mountains, so equally up to the task of playing ballads about killing your girlfriend in a whiskey-fueled rage, or hymns about Jesus' blood covering everything.

The dulcimer can be played as a drone instrument, basically making it a string bagpipe. The great thing about it is that it harmonises with itself, so pretty much whatever melody you plan will blend with the drones. You can drone on it (again, great for zoning out), or play guitar-like chords, so lots of options.

You can get these new as cheap as $50 for a cardboard dulcimer; don't let the name deter you, the fretboard is the load-bearing part, so pretty much any body type works. The cardboard ones you just hose down with spraypaint and they're about as good as wood, so don't think the cardboard ones are just toys. If you want a nice wooden one, you can get new wooden ones for about $150. I also have a standing offer to help goons find eBay used dulcimers and help you get a good one for under $100 shipped.

Yep, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.


Clips:
*"This Road This Moment" by Bing Futch, one of the most prominent of modern dulcimer players, and owner of some awesome dreads.
*The murder-ballad "Pretty Polly", played by a really goony-looking mofo. Included though because it's an awesome ballad, he's playing the old-school drone style, and he's got this odd chubby Tom Waits thing going on.
*Little Plastic Castles covered by a geek chick in her bedroom, demonstrating the modern more guitar-like dulcimer chording style.



There are plenty more inexpensive/easy instruments, like the Native American flute, African mbira (thumb piano), etc., and I can get into those as needed. Later on in the thread I'll have sections on learning bagpipes (not the Highland pipes, but more accessible versions like the Scottish smallpipes, Irish uilleann, and the Swedish bagpipes), and on the concertina (small octagonal accordions). I'll also scare up some other goons to cover theremin (the sci-fi thing where you wave your hands in the air), traditional Indian instruments, and maybe the Arabic oud. Some of these items will be for goons who already have some basic music skills, but some are still pretty easy to learn.

At any time, feel free to jump in with "what about XYZ instrument?" and we can break it down for you. Just remember to specify what your overall interest is (jamming, meditative playing, learning a new tradition), price-range, and overall level of musical experience.

If you've always wanted to learn a cool and unique instrument, now is your time.


EDIT: Okay, made a rough accounting of goons served up to this point. A few either I missed their names or else they emailed me privately so I'm leaving them anonymous. And a few already had Instrument X so I've marked them "hauled out" to indicate they had one but resumed/started using it during the thread. There are a few folks (particularly withak) who were probably going to buy weird instruments thread notwithstanding, but whatever. Here's my rough tally, from publicly available posts in this thread:


Updated January 2014

Tinwhistle
• Exploding
• Econosaurus
• Powderific
• Im That One Guy (Blue Sweetone D)
• MrGreenShirt (Feadog)
• Withak (Freeman custom C, Chieftan low D)
• Cardiovorax (Sweetone D)
• Xiahou Dun (Feadog? D)
• RasputinsGhost (x2)
• Vomax (Feadog)
• Augster (hauled out a Cooper)
• Evil Sagan (Feadog D, Generation Bb)
• John Quixote (Feadog D)
• Longhouse
• Lavender Philtrum (Oak D)
• Luminous Cow (hauled out a Walton D)
• Mercury Hat (Clarke)
• I Greyhound (Clarke)
• Armacham ("a couple")
• Mercury Hat (Clarke)
• Tolan
• wormil (Clarke)
• QPZIL (Clarke Original D)
• Pham Nuwen (Clarke D)
• rabiddeity (Oak D)
• Sterf
• nnnnghhhhgnnngh (Clarke)
• Siivola (Generation D)
• Dassiell (tin whistle)
• The Orange Mage (Feadog)

Accordion/concertina
• Grape Juice Vampire (toy accordion)
• A FUCKTON OF WEED (iPhone app)
• withak (piano accordion, Elise Hayden duet)
• Chin Strap (toy accordion, Elise Hayden duet)
• ChurlishToff (toy accordion)
• Testro (toy accordion)
• Nuggan (toy accordion)
• thousandcranes (toy accordion, iPhone app, vintage Wheatstone 48b English concertina)
• Armacham (120-bass piano accordion)
• Lavender Philtrum (Woodstock toy accordion)
• Kevindanger (toy accordion)
• desert diver (Russian garmon, hauled out)
• Morvus (mini-garmoshka)
• Jadisan (Prodigy toy accordion)
• enthe0s (toy accordion)
• Lallander (30b Regoletta Anglo)
• Not Nipsy Russell (Barcelona toy accordion)

Dulcimer (hammered and plucked)
• TheBeardedCrazy (appears to be Cedar Creek or TX Dulcimer Company)
• ? (hauled out)
• Lacerta (cardboard)
• The Letter A (Apple Creek)
• Econosaurus (no-name wooden)
• radium's grandmother (Here, Inc.)
• withak (carboard)
• wormil (built 3-string cigar-box strumstick)
• Tolan (Cripple Creek)
• Samahiel (cardboard)
• Blue Screen Error (small Hungarian cimbalon)
• Breakfast Burrito (Black Mountain)
• Visteri (Applecreek)
• Lhet (hauled out)
• Fenrir

Ocarina
• Xenpo (Mountain Ocarina)
• Shine (STL)
• Nuggan
• Lavender Philtrum (Peruvian handmade)
• SatansOnion (alto C sweet potato)
• Jackard (hauled out)
• LeJackal (hauled out)
• sans pants (hauled out)
• Sterf (Schwarz)
• Centripetal Horse (sweet potato)
• Anoulie (Stagg)


Flutes
• Etheldreda (made PVC flute)
• HELP, MY ARM— (bamboo in D by Erik the Flutemaker)
• Longhouse (Indian bansuri)
• Base Emitter (made PVC flute and shakuhachi)
• Sjurygg (xiāo Chinese bamboo flute)
• Pham Nuwen (3D printed one)
• FelicityGS (Hall crystal fife)
• Dulkor (Tipple Irish)

Melodica
• In It For The Tank (hauled out)
• ashgromnies
• Planet X (Hohner)
• SatansOnion (Hurrican Harps)
• Blue Star Error (melodica)

Diddly-bow (homemade)
• Xiahou Dun (have we heard from him since his planned night of bourbon-fueled DB-making?)
• Stoca Zola
• Pham Nuwen
• Butch Cassidy

Mandolin
• ? (hauled out)
• Ratatozsk
• Pham Nuwen (hauled out)

Autoharp
• BigHustle (15 bar Chromaharp, Q-Chord electronic, Omnichord)
• Paramemetic (21 bar Oscar Schmidt)
• Chin Strap

Recorder
• StealthStealth (alto)
• Sliderule (baroque soprano, alto recorder)

Bagpipes
• QPZIL (GHB practise chanter)
• Zuph (built electronic bagpipe chanter)
• Red87 (Gibson Scottish smallpipes, Hamon Swedish bagpipe)
• Roke. (Irish uilleann)

Analog and electronic
• BigHustle (theremin)
• zachol (Korg Monotron Duo and Delay)
• MrGreenShirt (Stylophone)
• Base Emitter (building electronic hurdy-gurdy)

Percussion
• thomawesome (Meinl bodhran, bones)
• RasputinsGhost (Meinl doumbek/darbuka)
• legsarerequired (27-note glockenspiel)

Kantele
• I Greyhound (Henkel 5-string kantele)
• Avynte (Henkel 5-string kantele)
• Hedningen (kantele)

Harmonica
• Powderific
• ? (chromatic)
• sliderule (Hohner, Leo Oskar)
• RoeCocoa (tremolo)
• deepshock (chord)

Native American flute
• Angra Mainyu
• Nuggan

Harp
• FelicityGS (lap harp)
• Arsenic Lupin (Triplett Sierra 30-string lever harp)

Kalimba/Thumb piano
• Mercury Hat
• sans pants
• lambeth

Bowed psaltery
• Black Griffon (bowed psaltery)
• psaly (bowed psaltery)

Other fretted/fingered strings
• Econosaurus (dombura)
• Carbon Thief (Chinese qinqin banjo)
• desert diver (Okinawan sanshin)
• SecretSquirrel (Lunacharsky balalaika)
• Heath (Puerto Rican cuatro)

Misc
• Nuggan (violin, bongos, banjolele, Croatian brač)
• Bolkovr (Xaphoon bamboo sax)
• Wampa Stompa (didgeridoo)
• platedlizard (Hardanger fiddle, converting violin to Hardanger)
• Paramemetic (Thai mouth organ)
• lambeth (lap zither)
• Paper Clip Death (German jager horn)
• Hedningen (talharpa)
• Pham Nuwen (Nogy jouhikko)
• Paladin (lapsteel)


TapTheForwardAssist fucked around with this message at 05:39 on Jul 16, 2014

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Mradyfist
Sep 3, 2007

People that can eat people are the luckiest people in the world


Personally I'd never tell a beginning pennywhistle player to get a Generation, because the variability in manufacturing means that they might get a dud and have a lot of trouble playing in the right octave. Susatos are a little pricier, but they're much more consistent, sound great, and you can pick up additional bodies for the same head if you want to try other keys.

denzelcurrypower
Jan 28, 2011


Any chance on a write-up about the zither? I'm a jazz guitar music student and wouldn't mind trying one out sometime. Haven't seen any in a music store though and they look pretty difficult to play. Not sure if they're something easy to improvise on or what.

My only zither experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te9fqm6rUPY

In It For The Tank
Feb 17, 2011

But I've yet to figure out a better way to spend my time.


Please tell me what I can do with my Melodica.

Mradyfist
Sep 3, 2007

People that can eat people are the luckiest people in the world


In It For The Tank posted:

Please tell me what I can do with my Melodica.

Play it ironically in a hipster band?

Yiggy
Sep 12, 2004

"Imagination is not enough. You have to have knowledge too, and an experience of the oddity of life."


Take a plunge, ask me which weird instrument you should spend the next many summers learning. The sitar! From an old newbie thread I threw together awhile back.

Tuning your Sitar

Here is a diagram for tuning your sitar to C#. It might be easier to play with other instruments if you tune your Sa to C, but C# will sound better. More tension on the sympathetic strings means they'll ring out easier. The instrument just sounds a little crappier in C.

code:
Sa = C#
Re = D#
Ga = E#/F
Ma = F#
Pa = G#
Dha = A#
Ni = B#/C
In Indian Classical Music accidentals are handled differently. Not every note can be flat or sharp like it can for Western Music. There are only 4 possible flat notes: Komal Re, Ga, Dha and Ni. Ma is the only note that can ever be sharp, Tivra Ma.



If you follow this diagram to tune your sympathetic strings then you will be prepared to begin practicing in the bilaval thaata (essentially a parent scale). It is analagous to the ionian mode or major scales. While in the last few decades its become the "standard" scale, historically the kaafi thaata (dorian mode/minor scale) was the standard scale, and you can practice in this if you'd like but you'll need to shift one of your upper frets (your Ga fret) down a half step (to komal Ga). Or in western terms you need to shift the high E# fret down to an E. For the lower registers there are individual frets for komal Ga so you don't need to worry about that. To play in Kaafi you'll play komal ga and ni.

At some point it would be helpful to acquire a tanboura. If you have an ipod or ipad just get the itabla-pro ap. Its 20 dollars but it has everything you'll need, tablas and tanboura. I've got a little digital raagini that I got off ebay from India and it puts out a great sound but it was a little pricier.


Old sitar thread thats archived, w/ some info on finding your first sitar.

mastur
Mar 26, 2007

queefing the ice beard.


If it is nice, give or sell it to me. I want a melodica.

TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

Pretty Little Lyres

MoosetheMooche posted:

Any chance on a write-up about the zither? I'm a jazz guitar music student and wouldn't mind trying one out sometime. Haven't seen any in a music store though and they look pretty difficult to play. Not sure if they're something easy to improvise on or what.

My only zither experience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te9fqm6rUPY

In brief, that's a "concert zither", which is generally an instrument with five fretted strings and around 20-some open zither strings:



Don't know your nationality, but proceeding on the assumption you're American. The good-ish news is that these are extremely out of style in the US, so there are tons of these tucked away in closets nationwide that never get used. I would imagine that if you haunt eBay you can find one in great shape for under $100. I would just read up first on which brands were good, be really picky about condition (bug the seller with detailed questions if necessary), etc. Do note that the strings will probably be decades old and need replacing. An "official" concert zither string set from this one specialist seller is like $130, though I would imagine you can do some careful measuring and figure out a way to use more common strings (maybe improvise with an autoharp set?) to cut costs. New zithers are like $1500+, so you really want to shop around on used.

There are quite a few websites on concert zither, surprisingly more than I thought. If you can speak German there are probably quite a few more, but here are some I've found thus far:

http://www.zither.com.au/ - kind of minimal but a good FAQ
http://www.zither.us/ - some good basics, sells some books, etc.
http://www.zithers-usa.com/Anton%20Karas.htm - site for the main US zither newsletter, note also article on the musician from "The Third Man"

I would also check out any YouTube footage out there; there are a few tutorials, plenty of tunes showing close-ups of players' hands, etc. Given that it's somewhat of a niche instrument, I wouldn't be shy about contacting any of the folks who run these pages for advice, get some info on finding a good used one, on re-stringing for less than a fortune, etc. I would positively get a good electronic tuner though, as with that many strings you don't want to dick around. EDIT: if you can find a good/working zither for like $100ish, $130 for strings isn't actually insane since the total instrument is still cheaper than even a low-end guitar. But I would definitely get some of that string polish/preservative stuff to keep those new strings fresh as long as possible. Also, while you have the old strings off is the perfect time to thoroughly (carefully) clean decades of gunk off the instrument.

I've played quasi-related instruments, so my overall assessment is that as a jazz guitarist you shouldn't have any real trouble learning this instrument. It's pretty much a guitar played in a funny position, with some extra open strings to provide harmony. The main challenge will be acquiring a decent used one, getting new strings on it, and getting used to the tuning and different position from guitar.

It is a pretty interesting instrument that's much overlooked these days. Good on you for pondering something new, and definitely let us know what you find out as you look into it.


Flat-out baller

TapTheForwardAssist fucked around with this message at 23:12 on Jun 4, 2011

WAFFLEHOUND
Apr 26, 2007


Oh hey, this looks like a fun thread. TTFA you have the most varied loving interests.

I've played an Ocarina for years, mostly just songs I've figured out or memorized when I was 13 and just never forgot. It's an instrument that has been almost loving destroyed by Zelda and I'm loath to mention that I play it simply because of that and how easy it is to play. Nonetheless, I've been looking for a while at branching out into a double ocarina ever since I saw one played.

For beginners looking for something good, Clazeness makes the best ocarinas I've ever seen in my life. They're quality is inversely proportional to the quality of their website. Don't bother buying the Zelda styled ones because then I will hate you and feel bad inside. I have two of the raindrop model ones, the smallest and the largest. All of them sound good, but personally the more bass-y an ocarina sounds the less annoying it is to me. If you live in Seattle then they're based out of Pike Place and you can just go pick them up, the guys who make them are really nice and they've literally given me a free ocarina for standing in the middle of Pike Place loving around with a medley of Beatles songs for five minutes.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


I've talked with TTFA about this in the uke thread and PMs, but I might as well join this thread now.

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

Bowed psaltery: these have the advantage of being extremely inexpensive, durable, and relatively easy to play, with a good scattering of players online, and some intro books/videos. Plus I think 99.9% of players learned outside the formal system. We can probably track you down one of these for under $100 used if you want: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKeFa1LgCZc



I tried this in the local weird music store today, and I'm in love. The one I tried didn't have a plug or something for a mic stand, but the dude in the store (very knowledgeable guy who's been dealing with weird instruments for fifty years or something) told me it would a an easy job to handle. Price tag is 450 dollars, but stuff is more expensive in Norway, so it would be closer to 250 in the US. He's put it aside until 6/11, when I get my paycheck, but I'm still not sure I'll be able to afford it. Youtube does not do it justice, it's a beautiful sound.

TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

Pretty Little Lyres

Black Griffon posted:

Price tag is 450 dollars, but stuff is more expensive in Norway, so it would be closer to 250 in the US. He's put it aside until 6/11, when I get my paycheck, but I'm still not sure I'll be able to afford it. Youtube does not do it justice, it's a beautiful sound.

$US450? Even with shipping and customs, you might get off a fair bit cheaper buying from the US, particularly if you can get a used one (from a good, recognised maker) on eBay or off the Sales section of some folk-music forum.

If you like the exact one at the store, sure, go for it. But if cash is going to be a deciding factor, these instruments are sufficiently inexpensive in the US that you may come out ahead ordering overseas.

Chicken McNobody
Aug 7, 2009


I'm going to be learning the hammered dulcimer this summer! I used to play xylophone so I figured it wouldn't be too hard to learn, so I went to a dulcimer festival this spring and was able to try it out and discovered that it fits me perfectly. I have a Celtic harp in my closet that I need to learn too, but the learning curve will be a little steeper for me, I think.

I love these "unusual instrument" threads--I always find a million new things to try.

Black Griffon, the bowed psaltery is really beautiful. I guess you're in Norway, but if anyone else is near the southern or eastern US, seek out the local dulcimer, Appalachian, or folk music festivals and you'll get to experience a range of instruments including psalteries, mountain and hammered dulcimers, Celtic drums, and autoharps and zithers. It's usually cheap to get in but if you don't mind hanging with some old white people you can learn a lot The groups seem to be small on the whole, so you can get some one-on-one instruction and some nice jam time too.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


TapTheForwardAssist posted:

$US450? Even with shipping and customs, you might get off a fair bit cheaper buying from the US, particularly if you can get a used one (from a good, recognised maker) on eBay or off the Sales section of some folk-music forum.

If you like the exact one at the store, sure, go for it. But if cash is going to be a deciding factor, these instruments are sufficiently inexpensive in the US that you may come out ahead ordering overseas.

The biggest problem is that I'm not sure how to gauge quality. I trust the guy in the store, and from my own standpoint, it's a well made and good sounding instrument. But I can't be sure that one ordered from the US would be of equal quality. And customs can be a loving bitch.

RICKON WALNUTSBANE
Jun 13, 2001




I'd appreciate any comments on the glass harmonica. I want to perfect my Benjamin Franklin by the end of the summer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQemvyyJ--g

TheBeardedCrazy
Nov 23, 2004
Beer Baron

I'm laid up right now with a torn MCL, learning how to play a dulcimer sounds like a great way to keep myself occupied. Where are some good resources for beginners? I've been playing the piano forever so I can read music already.

TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

Pretty Little Lyres

quote:

Please tell me what I can do with my Melodica.
In all seriousness, if you can actually play some basic stuff on it decently, you can put an ad up on Craiglist and offer to play backup for a band if they want to include melodica in a show. Who knows, maybe some local garage india band will want you to learn to back one of their tunes and come up on state with them. In the meantime, I'd just chuck on some shoegazer rock recordings and learn to play along with them for practice.

For those unfamiliar, he's talking about one of these:



It's basically either a harmonica where you use keys to free the reeds to vibrate, or conversely an accordion where you blow into it rather than use bellows. Just depends how you look at it.

quote:

I've played an Ocarina for years, mostly just songs I've figured out or memorized when I was 13 and just never forgot. It's an instrument that has been almost loving destroyed by Zelda and I'm loath to mention that I play it simply because of that and how easy it is to play.

I was wondering what the ocarinist opinion on Zelda was. How "destroyed" exactly? More that it drew in talentless hacks, or that people stopped thinking about all the other stuff ocarina can do and just focused on videogame music? In whatever case, on some degree there is still some goodness in just more people learning to play music.

quote:

I'd appreciate any comments on the glass harmonica. I want to perfect my Benjamin Franklin by the end of the summer.

Sure, they start around $7,000. And apparently one of the only makers mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. Not like "we haven't heard much from him", but as in "walked out the door, never got where he was going, never seen since." Guess that freaky glass harmonica finally did him in.

On the bright side, there's always the glass harp, which cost you about 1/1000 of what a glass armonica (the official term, apparently) costs you, if you stock up on old wine glasses at Goodwill and fill them with free water. Not loving with you, it would seriously be a fun skill to learn, and there are various online tutorials to get your started.



quote:

I'm going to be learning the hammered dulcimer this summer! I used to play xylophone so I figured it wouldn't be too hard to learn

In a weird way, that's a surprisingly appropriate instrument to transition to. If you want to post up a little blurb on HD, maybe using the same format as I used for the instruments in the OP, folks might enjoy hearing about that.

TheBeardedCrazy posted:

I'm laid up right now with a torn MCL, learning how to play a dulcimer sounds like a great way to keep myself occupied. Where are some good resources for beginners? I've been playing the piano forever so I can read music already.

The fundamental hippie classic is now free online, In Search of the Wild Dulcimer. The surviving author is just a cool guy and released it to the public domain, which is awesome.



Fundamentally, all you really need to know for dulcimer is how to tune it different ways to get different scales. It can only play in one scale at a time, so depending how you tune it it'll only play in a Major scale, a Minor Scale, Dorian (Celtic minor), Mixolydian (a kind of Scottish/Appalachian minorish-major), Phrygian (a kind of Latin/Gypsy minor), Lydian (a kind of wistful sounding overly-major major), etc. Once you're stuck in that key, you can wander freely around the fretboard, and the drone strings will automatically harmonise with whatever you're playing.

Alternately you can also just do standard chords on it like a guitar, at which point it's like playing a guitar with only half as many strings and half as many frets, so still pretty dang easy.

It's the easiest string instrument to sound really good on, and I've taught several dozen people how to play. Most people can go from zero experience to playing a slightly clumsy "Amazing Grace" in about 20 minutes. Reading music is completely unnecessary to dulcimer, but I suppose it never hurts.

For you, and anyone else interested in dulcimer, shoot me a PM or whatever letting me know sort of what you're looking for and what price range and I can help you find one. For $50-75 you take a little risk of getting a fixer-upper off eBay, for $100-200 you can almost definitely get a pretty nice used one on eBay, or decent new student model. $300-400 can get you most any dulcimer on the market except for a few top-end makers that are mostly charging for non-functional frills.

For context, I own one of these and it's drat amazing; pros play this model, and it only cost around $450.



Bradley Fish rocking out on a Ewing baritone dulcimer.


Note too there are tons of different dulcimer tutorials online, a dedicated forum (Everything Dulcimer), and that dreadlocked dude Bing Futch is up to #100-something of a semi-professional quality video podcast called "Dulcimerica". Here's his blues tutorial; a bit more advanced, but it gives you a rough idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_1P8eWR2eY .

WAFFLEHOUND
Apr 26, 2007


TapTheForwardAssist posted:

I was wondering what the ocarinist opinion on Zelda was. How "destroyed" exactly? More that it drew in talentless hacks, or that people stopped thinking about all the other stuff ocarina can do and just focused on videogame music? In whatever case, on some degree there is still some goodness in just more people learning to play music.

Because people don't learn to play music and they just learn Zelda songs and then are like I PLAY AN OCARINA HURF DURF and it's gets really annoying to have everyone make assumptions about why you play the ocarina.

Even if they're true it totally started with Zelda for me I'm a raging hypocrite.

frump truck
Aug 10, 2004
this is my text



You don't happen to play the shamisen, do you? I'd like to know more about them.

TheBeardedCrazy
Nov 23, 2004
Beer Baron

After talking with the OP over a few PMs, I ended up picking up this dulcimer off ebay:



It cost a little less than $100 and came with the case and a few books. I did see a lot on there for cheaper, and the OP knows how to fix them up if you're not looking to spend that much.

I decided to learn the dulcimer because I tore my MCL and am going to be laid up for the next few months. I've played the piano for about 20 years, so hopefully I'll be able to pick this up fairly quickly.

Epoxy Bulletin
Sep 7, 2009

delikpate that thing!


Looking forwards to the bagpipe writeup. I have a chanter that I put a few months into some time ago, but the lessons took place at 7am on a saturday, which didn't have much pull with the young and footloose me. Hopefully this'll help me get back to it like I've been meaning to!

Excavation
May 18, 2004

FEED ME CRAYONS

TapTheForwardAssist posted:

In all seriousness, if you can actually play some basic stuff on it decently, you can put an ad up on Craiglist and offer to play backup for a band if they want to include melodica in a show. Who knows, maybe some local garage india band will want you to learn to back one of their tunes and come up on state with them. In the meantime, I'd just chuck on some shoegazer rock recordings and learn to play along with them for practice.

For those unfamiliar, he's talking about one of these:



It's basically either a harmonica where you use keys to free the reeds to vibrate, or conversely an accordion where you blow into it rather than use bellows. Just depends how you look at it.


Or you know, if you're familiar with the keyboard it's great for music on the go. For instance, I'm going to a party thing next weekend at the house of a friend's friend, full of music, painting, surfing, etc. Being an impoverished tool on the lowest rung of the company I work at, and being incredibly lazy, I don't have a car so the only alternative is to take the train. Long story short, I'm not taking a cumbersome 61-key electronic keyboard across the state and back over multiple forms of travel, so obviously I'm getting my friend to take his BUT I'll jam my melodica in my bag anyway. I made the zygote of my aborted point so long ago that hipsters have stopped buying the recordings of the first phrase of my post and it is now passι, there are no longer internet macros devoted to things being "great for music on the go" and the Youtube videos of fat nerds in fedoras playing the sentence slowly and diatonically on acoustic guitar have long since dried up. As for my work since then, naturally the rest of the words in this post up to and including this sentence are blatantly derivative of my earlier successes and show no indication of artistic growth. Sad really, since I am still under obligation to tour and play variations of the first sentence of this post on, you guessed it, a melodica.

Ah well, at least it's not an ocarina.

Decoy Badger
May 16, 2009


I want to learn the ruler. Right now finding the correct lengths to get the right pitch is hard, mostly because I'm tone-deaf and my guitar tuner won't pick up the sound. Any tips? Besides "practice more," I'm working on that. Suggestions for ruler-friendly songs as well, chords are downright out - currently trying the can-can.

Xiahou Dun
Jul 16, 2009
BUTTS





First, this is a really awesome thread and I really look forward to the bagpipe discussion ; if there's a cheap way to get some uillean pipes up in this, I might have a new instrument to learn.

Also, I can recommend the mandolin. It's small, easy to carry and can be used in a lot of different genres. Playing Irish music with it is relatively easy (Haha, I will never, ever have to leave first position under any circumstances, gently caress yes.) Plus, Rogue sells a good one for about a buck and a half.

In addition, the whole mandolin-family/guitars tuned to fifths are pretty good, bazoukis, mandolas, mandocellos, and are really cool. Most big guitar/music stores will have an old zouk that no one has touched forever that they'll sell you for a song.

The only down-side for newbs is that playing courses instead of single strings is really hard on your fingertips for the first bit, but after a week or two you will have scary monster death calluses.

Boneitis
Jul 14, 2010


Does anyone have any resources on learning to play a djembe? If not, what about a pair of bongos.

I found a pair of Schallochs a couple of days ago and just ordered the missing lug that attatches the two rims and the head. The head and lug should be here in a couple of days.

I've had the djembe for a while on the other hand. I guess i just bought it to be a hipster.

So do you play any instruments?
Just some obsure african membranophone you've never heard of.

Sanguinary Novel
Jan 27, 2009


Xiahou Dun posted:

First, this is a really awesome thread and I really look forward to the bagpipe discussion ; if there's a cheap way to get some uillean pipes up in this, I might have a new instrument to learn.

Also, I can recommend the mandolin. It's small, easy to carry and can be used in a lot of different genres. Playing Irish music with it is relatively easy (Haha, I will never, ever have to leave first position under any circumstances, gently caress yes.) Plus, Rogue sells a good one for about a buck and a half.

In addition, the whole mandolin-family/guitars tuned to fifths are pretty good, bazoukis, mandolas, mandocellos, and are really cool. Most big guitar/music stores will have an old zouk that no one has touched forever that they'll sell you for a song.

The only down-side for newbs is that playing courses instead of single strings is really hard on your fingertips for the first bit, but after a week or two you will have scary monster death calluses.

I was given a mandolin a long time ago from a friend and this thread reminded me that it is a terrible shame that I have not done anything with it. Its been about, oh, 5 years since I received it. Should I take it into a shop and have someone check it out? I'm sure I at least need to purchase a new set of strings. Besides a tuner, can you think of anything else a beginner should have?

I can read sheet music, but I have never tried reading tabs or played a stringed instrument, so this shall be interesting.

edit: Also, thanks to this thread, I can identify a lot more instruments when listening to background music and movie soundtracks. It's a shame that there's so many to try and so little time.

Sanguinary Novel fucked around with this message at 18:44 on Jun 2, 2011

Xiahou Dun
Jul 16, 2009
BUTTS





Picks would obviously be good. Get a range of sizes and thicknesses and see what you like, but, as a rule of thumb, the bigger your hands the bigger your pick.

Definitely shell out the cash for a real tuner ; with 8 strings it makes your life so much easier, plus it means you're less likely to gently caress yourself up at the beginning. (I still don't understand people who learn without a tuner and do it right. Do they just have better ears than me? Until I got a tuner I just made my girlfriend tune it for me or used hers, so I have no idea.) I like the kind that clip on, especially if they glow in the dark or whatever ; makes playing in bars/at sessions/at sessions easier.

O, and you'll probably want some kind books of tunes ; although, depending on genre, a lot of it might be open source. (https://www.thesession.org is great for Celtic, for instance, and Mandozine is just amazing.) Mel Bay makes some pretty good stuff, and they almost always have a CD so you can hear the tune.

TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

Pretty Little Lyres

Sanguinary Novel posted:

I was given a mandolin a long time ago from a friend and this thread reminded me that it is a terrible shame that I have not done anything with it. Its been about, oh, 5 years since I received it. Should I take it into a shop and have someone check it out?

Not really; it's either probably going to be fine, or if he gave you some piece of junk there's no point paying money just to find that out. Can you give us a name off it, and/or a pic?

New strings are always good. Coupla caveats: change the strings one at a time, don't take off all the old ones and then put on all the new ones. You keep the pressure consistent and also minimise bridge movement that way.

Speaking of bridge movement (the bridge is the raised piece between the soundhole and the tailpiece which holds the strings up, it's counterpart up at the end of the neck is the "nut"), there's a chance your bridge may have shifted. This is easily fixed by checking the harmonic against the 12th fret. If that term means nothing to you, give a shout here in the thread once you get new strings on it and we can walk you through it.

quote:

I'm sure I at least need to purchase a new set of strings. Besides a tuner, can you think of anything else a beginner should have?

If the shop has a bucket of those little "string winders" at the front counter for $2, grab one of those. It's an extended lever so you can tighten the tuners with a big hand motion instead of tiny finger motion. It's not for daily use, but for the times you put new strings on so you don't have to make 40 little twisty movements to get the new string up to pitch.

Definitely a tuner, I recommend a little clip-on Intellitouch, around $20.

The single most awesome book I've ever seen for mandolin is Nile's Hokkanen's Pocket Guide to Mandolin Chords. It's not so much a starter book, but I'd say once you are able to play three-chord songs, you'll quickly be able to make use of the book. It's not a simple "A chord, B chord, C chord" reference book, but a conceptual book showing how all the chord formations are related and can be segued into each other. It's $4 and pocket-sized, so no reason not to get it.



For picks, get a small assortment at first: I'd say three of each main type, the broad leaf guitar picks, and the tiny teardrop picks mando-players favour. I'd get one medium-light, one medium, and one medium-heavy of each. If you're not sure, just describe what I just typed to the shopkeep, and he'll know just what I mean.
I can read sheet music, but I have never tried reading tabs or played a stringed instrument, so this shall be interesting.

quote:

edit: Also, thanks to this thread, I can identify a lot more instruments when listening to background music and movie soundtracks. It's a shame that there's so many to try and so little time.

It's a huge world of music. And while there's nothing wrong with learning guitar, there's no reason not to check out all the options before deciding.


quote:

First, this is a really awesome thread and I really look forward to the bagpipe discussion ; if there's a cheap way to get some uillean pipes up in this, I might have a new instrument to learn.

I don't play UP myself, but I've read up a little on it. I can tell you the one single maker of affordable student UPs, and I can tell you what the main discussion site is:

Chiff and Fipple - Uilleann subforum

Also check out Uilleann Obsession for info.


If you're interested in scoping out UP, your best bet it to spend some time reading through threads on C&F, especially the FAQ.

If cost is an issue, the first thing you need to know is to not buy any Pakistani clone UPs off of eBay or some general online music shop. People generally buy a "practice set" first, which is just the bag, bellows, and chanter (melody pipe). Later they add several drones to their original settup, making it a "half set". And then you can add the "regulators", several big pipes with keys you hit with your wrist to make chords, to equal a "full set". Though I'm under the impression a lot of folks just stick with a half-set.



For affordable "practice sets", the main affordable makes are David Daye (all synthetic, DIY kits for $388, assembled for $568), and Pat Sky (wood, $750). EDIT: Seth Hamon now makes a cast-resin polymer chanter for $350 for a practice set minus bellows (bellows run $150 and up generally). Alternately, if you ask around you may be to scrounge up a good-quality chanter, and then get a new bag and secondhand bellows to match it up with. Note that a "practice set" isn't the same as a "practice chanter", it's a full-on real UP just without the various accompaniment pipes. It's actually semi-common to play just the chanter in environments where you already have other instruments harmonising, and drones would be redundnant-ish. UP is pretty popular for film soundtracks, and for that it's almost always just the chanter, so don't feel you're missing too much getting a PC. Note: Daye pipes tend to be a bit on the louder side, but he does make an "apartment chanter" variant with a softer sound. UPs were historically softer until mid-20th C tweaks to the design, so the softer pipes aren't untraditional.

That's about all I can do for you on UP, but unlike many obscure instruments, the UP has a relatively strong online, English-speaking presence, so should be easy to chat folks up and get info. If you learn anything interesting, feel free to drop by here and share it.


For the other bagpipe folks, this weekend I'll aim to do an intro to Swedish bagpipes (my personal favourite and main pipe I play). For Scottish pipes, I'll cover them, with the caveat that if you want to play Great Highland pipes (the big loud ones where you march in a kilt), you do not want to teach yourself, you want to join a band as a noob. However, if you want to play Scottish/Celtic music in general, as in jamming in pubs, playing along with fiddles and guitars, you want the rather different "Scottish smallpipes" or "Lowland pipes". More on these later.



If you recall nothing else I say about bagpipes, recall this: do not buy Pakistani bagpipes off of eBay/random website/catalog/at all. They're cheap, but total false economy since they're basically unplayable, especially for a noob.

TapTheForwardAssist fucked around with this message at 01:48 on Mar 11, 2012

Czech
Apr 21, 2009


After watching the last third of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD9hfB9kIUA
I'm pretty intrigued by the stick dulcimer. The closest i could find to what he made is on ebay: http://cgi.ebay.com/Strum-Stick-Str...43239%26ps%3D54

What do you think about the quality of that one?

TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

Pretty Little Lyres

sata andagi posted:

You don't happen to play the shamisen, do you? I'd like to know more about them.

I do not; I think I've messed with one a couple times, but that's about it.

There is, unfortuantely, not a ton about shamisen online in English. That said, apparently a really good book came out recently in English about it, and there are a few serious teachers in California and in Colorado.

Nice shamisen are really drat expensive for such a simple-looking instrument (thousands), but apparently decent student ones can be had around $450. I do see cheaper ones on eBay, like $200, but as a general rule don't buy random eBay instruments without having clear knowledge of the reputation of the specific make, or specific seller. The very similar Okinawan sanshin seems to go for cheaper, but I don't know if good shansin are similarly cheaper than good shamisen.



If you are seriously interested, I'd dig around a few of the English language sites about the instrument, ascertain what your odds are of finding a teacher, or how comfy you feel getting a book/CD tutorial and giving it a shot. And if cash is an issue, find out how cheap a shamisen you can buy without it being cripplingly shoddy.

Probably the best video I've seen explaining US shamisen issues is this one, so I'd take a hard look at as many of this guy's videos as you care to, and maybe email him for some advice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWHhrTbKy-4&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

It's a cool instrument, and (in a purely mechanical sense), it seems to be a combination of guitar, banjo, and violin, so in terms of just physical motion not unduly hard to learn. The real trick will be wrapping your mind around Japanese musical styles (unless you already listen to a lot of Japanese folk music), or else deciding to just use it for Western music.

EDIT: As a totally off the wall suggestion, if you want something shamisen-esque, but a bit more affordable/durable, I know a guy or two who might be talked into making you a fretless banjo with three strings, kind of a hybrid banjo-shamisen. Drop me a line if interested in that; it'd almost certainly be a decent bit cheaper than a decent shamisen, and if you're mostly wanting something shamisen-esque to play with rather than getting truly into the scene, it might serve you even better.


quote:

After watching the last third of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD9hfB9kIUA
I'm pretty intrigued by the stick dulcimer. The closest i could find to what he made is on ebay: http://cgi.ebay.com/Strum-Stick-Str...43239%26ps%3D54

What do you think about the quality of that one?



General caveat: strumsticks are pretty easy to build, so there's a temptation for guys with not much real luthier skill to knock some out and sell them. I have one sitting in the corner of my room right now that I got for $50 on eBay. It looks great, but the neck is simply too narrow to play comfortably, and I'm not thrilled with the nut angle and general headstock.

If you want something strumstick-ish, I'd check the archives and/or start a new thread at https://www.everythingdulcimer.com to find out what makers have a good rep.

Do note too that most strumsticks have rather small bodies, so somewhat lacking in tone fullness compared to larger instruments. For an instrument with the same concept and fretboard but a full-size body, check out the "walkabout dulcimer" from Olympic Musical Instruments. I've messed with their stuff since the mid-1990s; they do nice work and at $450 you're getting a lot for your buck. It can't compete for cheapness with a strumstick, but something to bear in mind if you upgrade later, or if cash isn't a major problem right now.



Clips:

6-string walkabout
8-string chromatic walkabout

Note that the 8-string chromatic is getting far enough from dulcimer that it's essentially identical to an octave mandolin, also called an Irish bouzouki. A similar 10-string instrument is called a cittern (not to be confused with the medieval cittern). If you like the overall big/drony sound, and you aren't dead-set on the diatonic (one scale only, like having just the white keys on a piano) of the upright dulcimers, consider a cittern/bouzouki/octave mando.

Here's a guy playing Breton Celtic tunes on a bouzouki

Here's my favourite Scots ballad, "Twa Corbies" on octave mando.



quote:

I want to learn the ruler. Right now finding the correct lengths to get the right pitch is hard, mostly because I'm tone-deaf and my guitar tuner won't pick up the sound. Any tips? Besides "practice more," I'm working on that. Suggestions for ruler-friendly songs as well, chords are downright out - currently trying the can-can.



I really don't think that most people who claim to be "tone deaf" actually are. It's about as drat silly as self-diagnosed Aspergers. You probably just need to sack up and apply some confidence.

That said, if nailing the right length to get the right pitch is your issue, you need to be a) taking your time and b) playing against something so you can hear how close you are. Pick a song that has some really slow background notes (maybe a song with a bass part that's only like one note a measure) and try to match the slow accompaniment, and play along with it on your stereo. If you try to do fast melodies you'll trip yourself up, and if you don't play along with something else you won't be able to easily tell if you're on-pitch or no.

Trying to accompany a recording is a great way to practice; not as good as live jamming, but definitely a useful technique, especially since it forces you to improve both your sense of timing and your pitch, both of which can be hard to track when it's just you by yourself.

TapTheForwardAssist fucked around with this message at 05:46 on Jun 4, 2011

Xiahou Dun
Jul 16, 2009
BUTTS





Slight derail, but someone should make a trad-thread in one of the music forums. I'd do it, but I'm not that good of a musician, nor an expert. There should be somewhere we can talk about Child ballads, right?

Edit : Since you made the pennywhistle-post, I have some random retarded questions as someone who only plays stringed instruments so far : How in the hell do you play something like King of the Fairies that has sharps and naturals in the same key? Also, coming from Irish music, where that instrument is incredibly prominent, how do you recommend anything but keys of G and D? That's 90% tunes where I come from (Including minor-equivalents, because I'm a bad person) . This is honest confusion, not condescension ; I can't name a single tune in F of the bat, although this is quite possibly a genre thing.

Double Edit : Live jamming is the best method for just about anything related to music, and I will fight that point to the death. The only exception being rear end-tons of practice. Although, again, I suck, so I'm a terrible source of information.

Xiahou Dun fucked around with this message at 06:05 on Jun 3, 2011

Marcus Gravy
Apr 7, 2010

by Ozmaugh


In It For The Tank posted:

Please tell me what I can do with my Melodica.
Play roots dub with it. Seriously.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9yROUGe2Zc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiaekG1Q0UE

The Cleaner
Jul 18, 2008

I WILL DEVOUR YOUR BALLS!


I taught myself circular breathing on the Didgeridoo if anyone has any questions on that. I'm not a pro but just learned it quick and it's really not hard as some make it out to be.

Mradyfist
Sep 3, 2007

People that can eat people are the luckiest people in the world


Xiahou Dun posted:

Slight derail, but someone should make a trad-thread in one of the music forums. I'd do it, but I'm not that good of a musician, nor an expert. There should be somewhere we can talk about Child ballads, right?

Edit : Since you made the pennywhistle-post, I have some random retarded questions as someone who only plays stringed instruments so far : How in the hell do you play something like King of the Fairies that has sharps and naturals in the same key? Also, coming from Irish music, where that instrument is incredibly prominent, how do you recommend anything but keys of G and D? That's 90% tunes where I come from (Including minor-equivalents, because I'm a bad person) . This is honest confusion, not condescension ; I can't name a single tune in F of the bat, although this is quite possibly a genre thing.

Double Edit : Live jamming is the best method for just about anything related to music, and I will fight that point to the death. The only exception being rear end-tons of practice. Although, again, I suck, so I'm a terrible source of information.

You can technically play a chromatic scale on any pennywhistle, as long as you get really good at half-holing - covering only part of a hole with your finger to get an in-between pitch. You probably wouldn't want to play something that required it constantly, but for occasional notes it becomes pretty natural. Otherwise, many whistles have some cross-fingerings that let you get notes out of the scale. The most common is usually 0XX000 (middle and ringfinger down on the left hand, everything up on the right) which would give you a C-natural on D whistles. Some brands need 0XXX00, some just plain don't like cross-fingerings and really should always be half-holed.

Honestly, G and D are also 90% of the whistles out there. And since a C-natural on a D whistle is probably the easiest half-hole/cross-finger to play, you don't even really need a G most of the time. I'd just buy a D, and get as comfortable with it as possible before trying other whistles. Other keys can be nice for different styles of music though.

HELP, MY ARM--
Oct 12, 2006
Oh, accept the pain, Frank!

WAFFLEHOUND posted:

Oh hey, this looks like a fun thread. TTFA you have the most varied loving interests.

I've played an Ocarina for years, mostly just songs I've figured out or memorized when I was 13 and just never forgot. It's an instrument that has been almost loving destroyed by Zelda and I'm loath to mention that I play it simply because of that and how easy it is to play. Nonetheless, I've been looking for a while at branching out into a double ocarina ever since I saw one played.

For beginners looking for something good, Clazeness makes the best ocarinas I've ever seen in my life. They're quality is inversely proportional to the quality of their website. Don't bother buying the Zelda styled ones because then I will hate you and feel bad inside. I have two of the raindrop model ones, the smallest and the largest. All of them sound good, but personally the more bass-y an ocarina sounds the less annoying it is to me. If you live in Seattle then they're based out of Pike Place and you can just go pick them up, the guys who make them are really nice and they've literally given me a free ocarina for standing in the middle of Pike Place loving around with a medley of Beatles songs for five minutes.




How in tune is the raindrop? What major/minor key is it in? I'm thinking about getting one because I love how it resonates and I prefer deeper tones, but it sounds kind of off on certain notes and I'm not sure if that's just me.

edit:
http://www.clayz.com/catscales.html
This sounds really flat on certain notes so I"m not sure if it translates to their other models as well. Also, what does this mean if it's not a bother? "CHECK FOR SPECIFIC TUNING."

HELP, MY ARM-- fucked around with this message at 05:33 on Jun 4, 2011

Scherzo
Dec 1, 2000

Jazz is not dead...it just smells funny

Xiahou Dun posted:

How in the hell do you play something like King of the Fairies that has sharps and naturals in the same key? Also, coming from Irish music, where that instrument is incredibly prominent, how do you recommend anything but keys of G and D? That's 90% tunes where I come from (Including minor-equivalents, because I'm a bad person) . This is honest confusion, not condescension ; I can't name a single tune in F of the bat, although this is quite possibly a genre thing.

You're right about the keys, most Irish trad is in D and related keys like Bm, Em, G, A etc... That being said there are parts of Ireland where they tune to Eb instead of D, plus in Scotland the Highland pipes are in Bb so tuning your fiddle/flute to Eb works a lot better.

In regards to playing chromatic notes on a diatonic instrument like the pennywhistle, it is possible to both crossfinger and half-cover holes to get extra notes. For instance on the common whistle in D, you can get C natural by covering the 2nd and 3rd holes with your left hand middle and ring fingers while leaving the top hole open. You can get the same C (and with a good ear get it really in tune unlike the x-fingering) by "peeling" your index finger off the top hole halfway to bend the note in tune. This is hard to do but it's the most expressive, plus you can get G#, F natural and Eb with other fingers.

quote:

Double Edit : Live jamming is the best method for just about anything related to music, and I will fight that point to the death. The only exception being rear end-tons of practice. Although, again, I suck, so I'm a terrible source of information.

I would have to agree with the last sentence of this paragraph the most. Live jamming is fun for the musicians, but you're kidding yourself if you think it's more productive than practicing by yourself.

WAFFLEHOUND
Apr 26, 2007


HELP, MY ARM-- posted:

How in tune is the raindrop? What major/minor key is it in? I'm thinking about getting one because I love how it resonates and I prefer deeper tones, but it sounds kind of off on certain notes and I'm not sure if that's just me.

edit:
http://www.clayz.com/catscales.html
This sounds really flat on certain notes so I"m not sure if it translates to their other models as well. Also, what does this mean if it's not a bother? "CHECK FOR SPECIFIC TUNING."

I'll be honest I have no loving clue. None of it has ever sounded flat to me, they're all handmade so there might be issues. I'd suggest contacting them, they're fairly upfront about everything since they seem to thrive on repeat business. Frankly, I love mine and have no problems with it. If you're in the position for a new one then you might as well take a shot in the dark on one of those since I've literally never seen any better.

Chin Strap
Nov 24, 2002

I failed my TFLC Toxx, but I no longer need a double chin strap

Pillbug

If you want something more flexible and chromatic than a tin whistle but still pretty cheap for a decent one and fun to play, get a recorder! This is surprisingly playable for a plastic recorder, and is what I started with. The alto version of that I think sounds better (less squeaky more rich range) but it is bigger so it is harder to play.

Sanguinary Novel
Jan 27, 2009




The mandolin is an A-style Johnson, and like you said TapTheForwardAssist, it wasn't that expensive. From the reviews on Amazon it sounds like its a decent and cheap beginners mandolin.



One of the biggest complaints is that the action (which I believe this is a photo the right part) is too high. If you can't read the ruler due to the blurry-rear end pic, it's about 5/8ths of an inch off the body of the mandolin. Not too concerned, it's probably something a newbie wouldn't notice anyway.

I'm going today to pick up the strings, tuner and of course, some music! I'm really excited to play tonight.

The only thing I'm not excited about is that drat string cover plate thing at the end of the mandolin; it will not stay on at all. When I turned the mandolin on it's side it promptly fell right off. Is it just a cosmetic thing?

sithael
Nov 11, 2004
I'm a Sad Panda too!

Anyone familiar with Puetro Rican Cuatros? They are like a cross between a mandolin and a guitar, 10 strings with 5 courses, tuned BEADG so guitar chords work, just in different voicings. I got mine for less then 100 bucks off ebay and love it.

I keep mine in my work truck, along with a mbira usually. I really need to find a case.

sithael fucked around with this message at 15:08 on Jun 4, 2011

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TapTheForwardAssist
Apr 9, 2007

Pretty Little Lyres

Sanguinary Novel posted:



One of the biggest complaints is that the action (which I believe this is a photo the right part) is too high. If you can't read the ruler due to the blurry-rear end pic, it's about 5/8ths of an inch off the body of the mandolin. Not too concerned, it's probably something a newbie wouldn't notice anyway.

I'm going today to pick up the strings, tuner and of course, some music! I'm really excited to play tonight.

The only thing I'm not excited about is that drat string cover plate thing at the end of the mandolin; it will not stay on at all. When I turned the mandolin on it's side it promptly fell right off. Is it just a cosmetic thing?

Johnson is nothing fancy, but should be a solid starter. If you play seriously for about 6mo or so and still plan to continue, that may be a good time to upgrade. Also, if you're not short on cash, it may be good karma to gift the Johnson to some poor friend, same as how you got it.


Good initiative on checking action but note that height above the body is of little significance, the issue is height of the strings above the frets. On a lot of instruments you can quick-check action without tools by using coins. In the case of a mando, the measure appears to be a dime set atop the 12th fret:

quote:

A dime makes a reasonable gauge to judge the height of the strings on a mandolin at the 12th fret. A dime measures about .050 inches thick. A mandolin that is setup properly with the frets level and properly crowned and a straight neck or a neck with slight relief (very slight bend) can have low action. The height of the string from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string can easily be .050 inches on the bass side at the 12th fret and .040 inches on the treble side at the 12th fret. So a dime should just about fall out when put under the bass strings at the 12th fret and hold snug under the treble strings at the 12th fret. #Please keep in mind that a mandolin setup includes all of the factors like angle of neck to the body of the mandolin, straightness of the neck, how level the frets are, how deep the slots on the nut are, where the bridge is positioned and its height, so these are just general guidelines and a good setup really involves interpretation of all the factors together. That's my dimes worth.

Also, YouTube video on dicking with mando action.

If you're curious about it, spend a little Google time checking "mandolin action" to get a feel for different ways. Fortunately, you have an adjustable bridge; those little serrated-coin dealies raise and lower the bridge. I say be bold and try to get it where you want it. If you start getting fret-buzz you're too low, but otherwise low action is generally a good thing.

quote:

Anyone familiar with Puetro Rican Cuatros? They are like a cross between a mandolin and a guitar, 10 strings with 5 courses, tuned BEADG so guitar chords work, just in different voicings. I got mine for less then 100 bucks off ebay and love it.


I keep mine in my work truck, along with a mbira usually. I really need to find a case.

If you're okay with a soft case, any medium-sized "gig bag" should do. You can sometimes get those really cheap from panwshops. If you want a harder case, you might need to either find a specific quatro case (not sure how standarised they are), or else get a square case and some foam and cut out an interior padding for it.

I haven't had one, but I have had a couple of the very similar Colombian tiples, which is the same as guitar/ukulele tuning, but with tripled metal strings. The Cuban tres is another fun member of the family, and plays a very distinctive role as the main backing instrument of Cuban son music, and old school salsa.

Most of these Latin American guitar-ish instruments are pretty affordable and have good basic instructions and YouTube tutorials online. These can be a great option if you want something kind of close to guitar or mandolin, and something where the skills are all very interchangable, but still want to mix it up a little bit.

As the above poster mentioned, this is actually one of the instruments it can be okay to buy on eBay. Just make sure you're buying a brand that has good word-of-mouth on Google, and is sold by a seller with lots of good feedback.

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