by Steve Eulberg
A common question heard from and debated among hammered dulcimer players is: “What is the best angle to use for playing?”
From the images I’ve included here of my friends, you can tell the answer varies widely from player to player, and even (within the player) from situation to situation and day to day. These are the extremes that you can readily see.
But I’ve seen each of these players also choose to play use different angles to play, depending upon their situation.
Bill tells the story of playing at an event and the table leg or the stand leg of his dulcimer collapsed in the middle of a tune, which is why he began playing with the dulcimer strapped to his body. “That way I know it isn’t going anywhere without me!” he states with a confident grin. Bill also will play with the dulcimer on a stand, but facing away from his body. “That way people can see what I’m doing,” he recommends.
But!–what about you? Which angle will work best for you?
In my 27 years of playing, I’ve tried nearly every angle (except Bill’s–my poor back can’t handle that!) and find my opinion changing based on whether I’m standing or sitting, what kind of posture I use, whether I’m in a gig or a jam session or teaching a class.
My advice to you: Experiment!
I’ve had students use big books beneath or #10 cans on top of non-adjustable stands. Others have chosen adjustable stands or Tri-Stander systems to give them more flexibility. Others prefer the portability of a simple folding stand and
adjust themselves and their posture to fit their stands.
But in the end, most seem to prefer a more relaxed angle, as demonstrated from this jam session at the Evart Funfest in Michigan.
Try different angles, keep your mind open and when you feel stuck or a little bored, try a different one and see how that livens things up in your playing!
And write back and let us know what works for you and why!