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Tom Rhoads

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Posts posted by Tom Rhoads

  1. I use "Encore" music notation software, which is very user friendly, although unfortunately I'm not sure if it is available anymore (When I emailed the company to enquire about an upgrade I never recieved a response).

    The original publisher (Passport, I think) is out of business. GVox (www.gvox.com) owns Encore now and they do seem to be doing at least a little support and development. The current version is 4.5.5, which was released about a month ago.


    Morgana, when did you try to contact them?


    I had an older version of Encore, not sure which one at this moment - I haven't used it in a couple of years. I thought it was kind of clunky to use (you could do a lot, but the software could have been smarter about helping you do things), but I was satisfied with the results. Possibly the new versions(s) are slicker. I have to wonder, though, if the state of the art in music notation programs hasn't passed Encore by at this point. It looks to me like GVox is a pretty small outfit now and I wonder if they have the resources to keep up.




  2. I played one of the prototypes at the McNeill's shop in June 2001 and was favorably impressed. The action is supposedly based on that in the Wheatstone Mayfair concertinas and it's pretty good. Since then I've moved up to a Morse which is nicer yet, but of course a lot more costly too. If the Eu700 price point can be met I think the instrument will be a great value, worth the relatively small premium over a Stagi for the action alone.


    I had some more detailed comments which I can't lay my hands on right now, having had a hard disk failure since I wrote them. I can try to dig them up if there is interest, though of course they may be out of date by now.


    regards, Tom

  3. For what it's worth, I think the term "dulcimer" refers, musicologically, to the family of instruments that includes the hammered dulcimer. Except that in this country, as David says, the HD was in eclipse for decades and the term "dulcimer" just meant MD. They could both be called zithers, I think - "zither" is a rather broad term and perhaps not consistently applied, but it usually means a soundbox with strings on it, but no neck.

    As far as I know the word dulcimer refers to the Italian word dulce, meaning soft. There is no historic relation between the hammered and the mountain dulcimer.

    I didn't say there was a historic relation. That they are both zithers is a matter of classification after the fact. The history document linked to by Henk looks like quite a good compilation of information - thanks for the reference!


    The usual etymology given for "dulcimer" is the combination of Latin and Greek roots "dulce" (sweet) and "melos" (song or music).


    It is not clear to me why the American form of the fretted box zither came to be called a dulcimer. A (possibly apocryphal) explanation I have heard is that the severe Protestantism of the settlers frowned on the use of musical instruments... but a Biblical reference to a dulcimer provided a loophole. Henk's history suggests that it is because of the similarity of sound between the hammered dulcimer known in England and the other zithers (scheitholt, hummle, etc) brought by European settlers. Not sure if I buy that, but it's possible (and probably just as likely as the explanation I cite), and anyway I suspect nobody really knows.


    I'll try to shut up now, as this is all way off topic. As a devotee of the mountain dulcimer, I find it hard not to go off on a rant sometimes. :)




  4. Anyway, Helen, I was wondering if the hammered dulcimer and the mountain dulcimer are the same instrument?  I thought they were...and, then, would that ever be called a zither?  I have an album or two of mountain hammered dulcimer.

    I wrote a reply to this but David beat me to it. :)

    The pictures he links to are worth many words.


    To add my $0.02: The mountain (aka lap, fretted, or Appalachian) dulcimer is more similar to a bouzouki or guitar than anything else most people are likely to be familiar with. A few strings, a long fingerboard with frets, and you usually strum it with a pick. Distinguishing features: the body supports the entire length of the fingerboard, the fret pattern is traditionally diatonic, and as you can see from David's picture it's traditionally played flat on the lap, strings up.


    The hammer(ed) dulcimer is kind of like a cross between a harp and a xylophone, though with a different arrangement of notes from either. You don't fret the strings (though you might pluck them), there's no fingerboard, you just wail away with a pair of little wooden hammers. The strings are not damped, so the notes run together in a rush of chimey sound.


    All that said, both instruments are great for folk music, neither is very difficult to learn, and there are quite a few people who play both; dulcimer clubs and events often feature both instruments.


    For what it's worth, I think the term "dulcimer" refers, musicologically, to the family of instruments that includes the hammered dulcimer. Except that in this country, as David says, the HD was in eclipse for decades and the term "dulcimer" just meant MD. They could both be called zithers, I think - "zither" is a rather broad term and perhaps not consistently applied, but it usually means a soundbox with strings on it, but no neck. So that could include instruments that are constructed and played pretty much like either the MD or the HD (not to mention the autoharp and plucked or bowed psalteries). Some (like MD) have a few strings with frets; others (like HD) have no frets but many strings. The "Austrian" or "concert" zither has some fretted and many unfretted strings - a spectacular example can be seen here. I have a lot of respect for people who can play those things, it seems like you would need at least 3 hands. I believe this is the type of instrument famously used in the theme to the film The Third Man.


    Hope that helps,


    (who plays mountain dulcimer, but not hammer dulcimer)

  5. Darn, only three? Let's see...


    - a medium-sized chromatic button accordion (which neither my wife nor I can play, but we'd both like to learn).


    - The requisite concertina: a Suttner A5 (35-key anglo) in C/G.


    - a nice old reed organ in perfect condition. I've wanted one for years, but it just doesn't seem like I'll ever feel that I can really justify the expense.


    Runners-up: a Boesendorfer grand piano, the same type Craig mentioned, was actually one of the first things I thought of (even before I read his post) and would be on the list if I was more serious about playing the piano. (There was one at my college. The closest thing I've seen to the ultimate musical instrument; they are truly amazing, but too big for our house.) A top-grade small-to-mid-size steel string guitar. A Hayden duet for me, and a set of Northumbrian pipes for my wife.


    In the fridge: vegetarian samosas, fresh Royal Gala apples, and Dove Bars.

    And by the way, a Bronx cheer to asking for the most expensive thing you can think of, instead of what you really want. :P



  6. braxton,


    The setup I've most often seen on concertina in a band context is a pair of small condensor mics, one attached to each side of the instrument. In particular, two notable pros I've seen, Jody Kruskal and Niall Vallely, have the mics extending out over the keyboards on goosenecks that mount to the front corner of the instrument. (In Vallely's case the goosenecks are fairly long and curve inward, and another member of Nomos introduced him to the audience as playing the "double cheeseburger with wing mirrors.") Since it sounds like you're playing in a pretty loud environment, you may want to look for directional (cardioid is probably best) rather than omnidirectional mics and set them up to point at the keyboard, as John Nixon describes.


    As both a concertina player, and a longtime guitar gearhead who also plays (tho' not concertina) in a band with a drummer, I'd suggest that you try outboard gear to apply some EQ (equalization) and compression to the concertina sound. This would help to smooth out the imbalances you're experiencing - EQ to get the loud higher notes under control, as Alan Day suggested, and a little compression to kind of generally even things out, and also make life easier for the sound engineer. The downside of a compressor is that it can also "smooth over" the dynamics and articulation of your playing a bit, but most "electric" bands don't have a really wide dynamic range anyway, so you will probably find it worth the tradeoff. You don't need to get real pro audio stuff - there are quite a few multi-effect pedals out there that could do the job for you, most are aimed at the guitar market and are fairly affordable considering all the functions they offer. I would suggest that you look at units intended for acoustic guitar, since odds are they will have more flexible EQ than those made for electric guitar, and they will probably have a more transparent sound. Most of them will have other sonic effects that you might find useful - one thought that strikes me, since you say you're playing blues, is running the 'tina through a rotary speaker (Leslie) simulator, to get an organ-like effect. Or, you could just get a couple of "stompbox" effects, a compressor and an eq, and not have to worry about programming. Even just a compressor with a tone knob could probably help. Feel free to write me off-forum because I love to chew the fat about gear (as you probably noticed). Or perhaps the guitarist in your band can help.


    I can also second the endorsement of the AKG C1000S as being a very good mic generally and a good value - I have 2 of them - but I have no experience with it on concertina (yet).


    Good luck, and I hope that if you find a solution you're happy with, you'll post it.



  7. I don't remember when I first learned what a concertina was. Probably some time in high school. Then when I was in college, I formed a band that included an English concertina player (actually, it was Rachel Hall) in its initial lineup. For a long time after that, I mused every now and then about getting a concertina. I loved the sound, but I couldn't convince myself to lay out the money for something that I wasn't sure I would use, or be able to play well. I took up the mountain dulcimer instead (also inspired by an erstwhile bandmate) - I knew I could get around on that because I played the guitar, and they're relatively cheap.


    Then about 3 years ago, I stumbled across a used Bastari 30-key Anglo in a local music shop, for an irresistibly low price. I bought it on the spot and got completely hooked in just a few days. It's just so much fun! Like some others who have posted here, I found that my experience with the harmonica, which I've played on and off since I was about 10, gave me a head start on the Anglo. (Not only that, but playing the Anglo has helped to revive my interest in the harmonica.)


    So, my thanks to whoever sold that under-used Bastari that was collecting dust in their closet - it was just what I needed to get going.



  8. So far the oddest place I can recall playing was the upper (outside) deck of the ferry going from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Port Jefferson, Long Island.


    The performance was partly inspired by an old Andrews Sisters song (heard from Kallet, Epstein and Cicone) called "Ferryboat Serenade" which includes the lines "I love to ride the ferry/Where the music is so merry/There's a man who plays the concertina/On the moonlit upper deck arena." It wasn't moonlit yet when I was playing, I had to settle for sunset (which was quite nice).


    Not all that odd, really, I must resolve to do better! :)

  9. Like Roy, I know a lot more concertina players now that I've attended one of Noel Hill's classes. Outside of the folks I met there, I can only think of 6. Of these, 3 play English system and 1 plays MacCann duet. And the two who play Anglo, I've never heard them actually play, merely know them from other contexts. And one of them I haven't seen in a few years... for all I know he may have given up playing.


    regards, Tom

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