I Love It When A Plan Comes Together
Sorry for the absence in posting; I've been knee-deep in resonator dulcimer.
Folkcraft Instruments sent me this gorgeous signature-model resonator a couple of weeks ago and I just can't keep my hands off of the beast. She's made of Honduras Mahogany and African Mahogany with a Sugar Maple fingerboard and Ebony overlay. The dolphin tone holes are my standard choice along with the new addition of dolphin fret markers and this dulcimer marks the appearance of the first official Bing Futch signature model inlay on the headstock. I've got a Fishman Prefix Pro pre-amp installed and this baby is fully chromatic.
No name as of yet, we're still getting to know each other, but - wow - what a fantastic sound! The nut is cut with six slots, three for low action and three for high. I haven't even taken it up to the high action for slide playing because it's possible to slide in the low action, just as it should be. I've been having a monstrous time just pickin' and grinnin' like a fool because this is part of the sound that I'm taking to Memphis in January when I go to compete in the International Blues Challenge.
I've owned a Folkcraft resonator before (had to sell it to raise money for Rita repairs) and experimented with different kinds of slides; from ring slides to bar slides used for pedal and lap steel playing. The problem with this, as mountain dulcimer players, is that our hands are pushing down on the fretboard to form chords while guitarists clutch the fretboard towards them. Using a ring slide on the ring finger allows for the trailing of the pinkie to quiet clatter and that leaves two fingers to fret. This doesn't work on a mountain dulcimer.
The bar slide certainly works for that style, but only lateral chords are possible with some individual notes reachable by using the end of the bar. To get that awesome dynamic between fretting notes and then sliding has been ultimately frustrating as I continue to find a way to wring more colors out of the resonator dulcimer set-up. Last week, however, I stumbled across a little piece of gear that is absolutely a game-changer for resonator dulcimer players everywhere.
It's called a Shy Slide and it's made by Jim Dunlop. It's a U-shaped chrome bar with adjustable velcro straps that you can wear on your finger like a ring. Unlike the ring slide, this is designed to cover just three strings of a standard guitar. For typical mountain dulcimer string spacing, this translates into two strings. Since you can wear it on your finger, there's no cumbersome bar to fiddle with. You go ahead and fret your chords and melodies as you would normally do, but when it comes time to slide, you just lay your finger down (I use my index finger for better control) and drag the other fingers behind it to smooth out the tone. I also got a nice set of Dunlop steel finger-picks that sound killer.
Absolutely astonishing and a total deal-breaker. This really does change everything and it offers mountain dulcimer players the same awesome flexibility that guitarists have in relation to their instruments. Here's a quick demo video with more to come later but, right now, I'm just tickled.