CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > 'British' dulcimers 1800-1945

Printed tutors

Overview of characteristics - 1 of 3

1. Description of the instrument: only Mason gives a detailed description of the diatonic instrument, although Roylance discusses the chromatic instrument. Webber's introduction touches briefly on many interesting aspects, including different diatonic models - a "G. Dulcimer", "F. Dulcimer" and "C. Dulcimer" - the tuning and use of the chromatic model, and description of 'an invention which has lately come to the front', 'the new vamping chord dulcimer'. Details under Webber.

2. Chromatic/Diatonic: Ihlee & Sankey refer only to the diatonic; Roylance discusses them in two separate books, while Mason and Webber discuss both in one volume; the earlier works, Roylance and Mason, use the single-bridge chromatic system, where the strings are divided to produce adjacent semitones (patented by Low in America in 1860); Webber calles this the 'old' system, and favours bridges at the sides, the strings undivided, with white notes on the right, black notes on the left. The latter is similar to that of Gray (1883), but he had the white notes on the left and produced them from divided strings. Webber also shows a more complex three-bridge chromatic form, but does not recommend it. Thus it seems that chromatic forms were fairly well-established, if not widely used, and that a wide variety of systems were tried.

3. Tuning of diatonic forms: Ihlee & Sankley, Roylance and Webber all specify a tuning, with a constant 5th across the treble bridges, even though chessmen are indicated in every case; thus all are of type yy.2; only Mason uses a system in which the ratio is varied, that quoted in Design and Work (1877), by Hasluck (1906), and Pulver (1923), and used in East Anglia, i.e. type zy.2.

4. Note names to stick on: Both Roylance tutors include strips of paper with the notes printed on the same size as the instrument, with instructions for cutting them out and sticking them on the soundboard under the strings: none of the others have this. Although the lhlee & Sankey chart looks as if it were intended to be used in this way, the size does not correspond with any known instrument, unless each note were to be cut up separately. Ian Dunmur's 'Dulcet' had notes pasted on, apparently from a Webber tuto or another similar, which must have been cut up for the purpose.

The same idea has been used on at least one Chinese instrument.

5. Rudiments of Music are dealt with in a fairly standard way in all four tutors, but not in the chart.

6. Exercises & Scales - cont.