Double Bass Dulcimers!
These instruments are made of mahogany with turquoise inlay, have polyurethane strings and sound in the range of a concert stand up double bass, hence the name "Double Bass Dulcimers."
Not to be confused with some "bass" dulcimers out there that actually only go down to a "drop D" on a guitar. Those can be fun for playing an octave below your normal dulcimer, but not to be confused with a double bass instrument.
The reason nobody makes an actual acoustic double bass dulcimer is the size box needed to support those low notes won't really fit on your lap. So mine is solid body and can be played through a variety of bass amps. [More on amps below.]
This is a clip of Aaron O'Rourke accompanying me on the Dylan song Buckets of Rain. This was on the first prototype and Aaron had seen it about an hour before we did this little house concert.
It's being played through a little $80 bass amp by Behringer.
|This is a quickie tutorial I recorded to get folks started on their bass dulcimer. Some more will be available in the future.|
A demonstration of my "Acu-fretless" bass dulcimer. They are neither fretless nor fretted but live in between those instruments. Instead of frets a series of grooves allows for precise intonation of each note, while at the same time allowing all notes on the "landing" between the grooves to be accessed as well, allowing the expressiveness of a fretless instrument and the intonation accuracy of a fretted instrument.
for your bass dulci...
It's important to note that BASS amplifiers are quite different from regular amplifiers. Trying to play a bass instrument through an amplifier not designed for it [Like the Roland Micro-Cube] will definitely sound terrible, but worse than that, you can harm your amplifier, as in blow out your speakers. So just know that if you want to play one of my double bass dulcimers it will require investing in a bass amplifier.
All that being said, it is often possible to play a standard dulcimer through a bass amplifier. I often play standard dulcimer through my Roland MCB-RX and with a little tweaking it sounds fine.
There's a wide variety of bass amplifiers available but most beginning bass players are wanting portability and value.
As I mentioned above these instruments can sound fine through pretty basic amps like the BT108 by Behringer for $80. (Got mine for $50 - shop around.)
They also make a BXL 450 for $180 that has more wattage and can fill a larger venue. It is rather heavy though.
One of my favorites is the Roland MCB-RX because it is small, very portable and runs on 6 AA batteries for hours. Great for playing around camp fires at festivals. You do pay more for those features at about $280.
These are the same folks who make the Micro-Cube that so many dulcimer players use now. As I mentioned above, please don't kill your Micro-Cube.
|I use Ping bass tuners and Pahoehoe polyurethane strings custom formulated by Road Toad Music.|
I make two models:
The fretless model seen above cost $525 - the inlay lines are positioned like a diatonic dulcimer fretboard with the 6 1/2 fret. Technically speaking these are fully chromatic instruments since you can play the notes between the fret lines.
My "acu-fretless" "out lay" model costs $625 - these use slots instead of frets - like inlay grooves without any inlay in them. The string actually gets "fretted" on the forward edge of the groove. You get the accuracy of a fretted instrument and the expressiveness of a fretless. More on that model soon.I've discontinued my fretted version for a number of reasons.
It was necessary to fret precisely between the metal frets to avoid a "buzz." Since the size of the grooves in my "acu-fretless" are .280" wide they are as easy to hit precisely and also more forgiving.
Also the fretted version had no option of bending a note either for expression or to grab an accidental.
While both the fretless and the "acu-fretless" can easily be played diatonically just like your standard dulcimer, they can also be played chromatically since the notes between the frets are also available.