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SharonA Blues on hammered dulcimer??? (31) RE: Blues on hammered dulcimer??? 31 Jul 11


Hi, Arthur_itis! I'm not sure if you were responding to something Leeneia said, or to my original question, but if it's the latter, I must say that I find Dizzi's style to be improvisational but her tunes are not in what I would consider the blues genre. I'm on the left side of the Pond (in the US), and my sense of what constitutes "the blues" is very close to Bobert's.

Here is my dilemma: the incongruity (to my ear) between the very sound of the hammered dulcimer, as an instrument, and what (to my ear) is "the blues" or even a swing version or jazz version of "the blues". To give an example, compare the following YouTube videos:

"Limehouse Blues" by Django Reinhardt (in the Quintette du Hot Club de France)

"Limehouse Blues" as performed on hammered dulcimer

See what I mean? The HD player is playing the tune, but without syncopation, and in an Appalachian performing style complete with two-note chords, rolls (where the hammer bounces on one note), the arpeggio at the end of the phrase, etc. Her rendition sounds "sweet" but IMO it ain't blues.

Of course, the Hot Club of France version contains improvisations with a lot of chromatic notes that are not found on the standard diatonic HD. I have what is called a "chromatic hammered dulcimer" which is basically tuned like a diatonic HD but has extra bridges that give me access to sharps and flats not found on the standard instrument -- but it is not tuned like a "piano dulcimer" or a Hackbrett (where one plays up the chromatic scale by literally playing "up" the strings from the bottom of the instrument to the top). With my HD, I could play the single notes that Django plays on guitar (but, of course, not anywhere near as fast 'cause I'm not that good!) (and, of course, imitating the guitar chords would be out of the question because one can't hit that many notes at one time with hammers), but basically it would sound like a syncopated version of what the lady in the video played because of the timbre and the sustain of the instrument.

What Bee-dubya-ell said on 23 Jul 11 - 11:17pm is so true: "Some [blues] styles lend themselves to the HD, others don't.... Also, how effectively you can transmit the emotional content of blues is going to depend a lot on the sound characteristics of individual instruments. Some HDs have a dark, piano-like sound that's probably be more suited to blues than a bright mandolin-like sound. And dampers would be a big plus as well."

For anyone who doesn't know what HD dampers are, here's a video where they can be clearly seen "in action", though briefly, and their effect can be heard. They are above the strings along the two "sides of the trapezoid", as it were, and a foot pedal is used to push them against the strings to dampen the strings and allow for a staccato effect. Dan Landrum (using glow sticks on his hammers)

You'll hear that Dan can even do a little bit of note-bending (at 0:50 in the video).

To see the damper pedals in action, see "Billie Jean/Moondance" performed by Dan Landrum and Stephen Humphries (with note bending by Stephen at 1:38). The "Moondance" segment of this medley, from 2:55 to 3:47, is the closest thing I've seen/heard to what I'd consider HD blues... but it's still sooooo... I dunno... "clean"-sounding.


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