Let Me Muddy The Waters…

About two thousand five hundred years ago the diatonic system was started and explained mathematically by Pythagoras. Some two thousand years later the church picked up the system and renamed a few things. If I remember correctly the upper or eighth note was named in the Greek system and the church called it by the lower tonics name?

Fast forward another five hundred years and the diatonic enthusiasts will tell you how simple the system is! It took me about three years to fully grasp the system and my “ah ha” moment was when I realized the upper tonic was a perfect fifth above the perfect fourth making it possible for reversed tuning’s!  We write our descriptions of how simple the system is and low and behold after about the third or fourth page of a dozen or so pages the readers glaze over……

Now to muddy the waters…

From the start we are combining a Greek system and the Middle Age Church system, and then we are confronted by the modern Music Theory.  The concept of, in the “key” of, can’t be differentiated from the diatonic system in most folk’s minds. Knowing the diatonic system is about the relationship between the strings and not the “key” is paramount!

The lowly Dulcimore is the product of an amalgamation of the settlers of the lower highlands of Appalachia. Cultures combined ideas and their names for things are carried on. And then there are the “dictionary folk” as described by HUBERT G. SHEARIN, M.A., Ph.D in British Ballads in the Cumberland Mountains. I believe folks can’t distinguish between dulcimore and dulcimer. Folks will try to email me and write dulcimerdan instead of dulcimoredan!  I will not get the email…..

Whether you call the name dulcimore a “colloquial name” or not, it is what “they” call it. There is no need to “correct” it! Is it a Coke, pop, or soda? Are any of these incorrect?

And then we describe the seven modes. But wait, they are also called scales, as is the description of the VSL (Vibrating String Length) set up or lay out. I’ve been asked what is it, scale or mode. The answer is “yes”, scale or mode.

Let’s briefly look at the names of the parts of the Dulcimore. Is it a top or belly? Is it a back or bottom? Is it a side or bow? “YES”!

Clear as mud……..


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